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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, given that cue, I think that I should speak next. We are keen to support the Human Rights Act. I am sure that we shall return to that legislation when we deal with the other amendment tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Brittan. However, I am not sure that this amendment is very attractive to us, except in a superficial way. Perhaps I may explain to noble Lords the problems that we have with it.

The amendment would encourage landowners to seek individual solutions every time that there seemed to be a problem or a cost involved. When we discuss the issue of wardens later, I believe that we shall begin to realise why an individual solution to every situation may well be less desirable than having a warden appointed to deal with the problems that will arise as a result of open access to land. It may perhaps be clearer if I give noble Lords an example.

An individual may well have already suffered as a result of granting open access on his land prior to this legislation coming into force. That may well be in the form of path erosion, especially if the land in question is popular. Where you have an access authority that is both active and responsible, the solution may be to form a partnership. Here I must declare an interest as I am vice-president of the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV). That partnership could be formed between, say, the voluntary sector, the private sector--for example, the hotels in the

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area--and the public sector. I think of the example of a national park authority. I should declare another interest as I am married to the chairman of Exmoor National Park Authority. I suggest that a successful partnership can be established to deal with the problem of path erosion.

Many other solutions would be more effective than simply paying an individual to solve a problem. That would be expensive for the public purse and may not prove to be the best solution. I certainly believe in looking after the interests of the public and the landowner in terms of ensuring that the public do not behave in an irresponsible manner. I believe that a warden scheme is likely to be the most effective solution to the problem we are discussing rather than a landowner employing someone to deal with it. I fear that Amendment No. 80 might lead us too far down the individual solution path. Therefore, we do not support it.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Brittan of Spennithorne: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, does she agree that, in the absence of the solution that she proposes and in the absence of any kind of guarantee of proper wardening, individuals will incur costs and expenses and it is right that those should be met? Only if she were completely confident that all of those costs and expenses could be met some other way would there be any justification for rejecting the amendment.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, if our amendments on local access forums had not been accepted and therefore landowners in the areas concerned did not have a strong voice, I might agree with the noble Lord. However, those amendments have been accepted and landowners will be strongly represented on local access forums. Given that landlords will have a strong voice and will have an input as to how public money will be spent in their interest as well as in that of the user groups, that solution should be the right one.

Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, I think that she has misunderstood the purpose of the amendment. It seeks to compensate for expenses, costs and loss reasonably incurred as a result of the right we are discussing. It does not mention preventing damage through wardening. I fully accept what the noble Baroness said in that regard but I am talking about the situation where harm has occurred--for example, where one's sheep have been killed and one cannot find the man responsible; or where one has had to repair a stile; or where one's wall has been knocked down. None of that can be stopped by a warden. I fully accept that, where the access authority can deal with a situation, the damage will not be considered to be reasonably incurred. The amendment does not concern wardening or prevention but compensation or indemnification

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against out of pocket expenses. The noble Baroness mentioned human rights but is she confident that the amendment on compensation will be accepted?

Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, the provisions appear to be tightly drawn and do not relate to the kind of circumstances which the noble Baroness mentioned, for example, where there is already some erosion on paths and where schemes are already in place. The amendment deals specifically with instances where additional costs and expenses fall to the occupier as a direct result of the right given by this legislation, or the circumstances that the noble Viscount has just mentioned where some loss or liability results directly from the exercise of the right which is given under the Bill.

The purpose of the Bill, after all, is to give the public rights of access which they did not previously have. The burden of those rights of access must necessarily fall on landowners. Legislation which is intended to benefit us all should surely be paid for by us all. Few costs may result from the provisions. Other agencies or in some cases individuals may be responsible for the costs. But where a private landowner necessarily incurs out of pocket expenses in order to provide rights which all the rest of us can enjoy, there must surely, as a matter of fairness quite apart from any legal justification, be some provision in the legislation for those expenses to be met; otherwise, fairness goes out of the window.

Earl Peel: My Lords, I too support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Brittan. Again I declare an interest here. It might be worth remembering that when the Peak park authority drew up its access provisions--I believe that that occurred some time in the 1980s--it sought the services of the senior district valuer from Scotland whose job it was to assess what costs landowners were likely to incur (by "costs" I mean management costs as well as direct costs) as a direct result of the management agreements that were drawn up between that national park authority and owners and occupiers. Interestingly enough, they arrived at a figure of £4 an acre, notwithstanding any special costs that might have been incurred--to which the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, referred--or indeed the additional costs that landowners would have to incur on fencing mine shafts and so on which we discussed on a previous amendment.

Therefore a precedent has already been set. I am surprised therefore that the Government are taking what I might regard as a rather cavalier attitude towards this whole question of compensation. Incidentally, in addition to the £4 an acre which was paid to the owner and occupier as a direct result of the intervention of the district valuer from Scotland, it was assessed that the local access authority was likely to incur a further cost of £6 an acre. That would, of course, include the costs of wardening.

On the question of access forums and wardens dealing with these matters, I am afraid that the noble Baroness is wrong. They will have a role and play a

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part but they cannot be involved in any agreements that are likely to be drawn up between owners and occupiers and the access authority. Those agreements take time to draw up and they are expensive, as many of us already know to our cost. Certainly any direct costs that are incurred have nothing to do with access forums and wardens. As I say, a precedent has been set. I should have thought therefore that my noble friend's amendment is all the more relevant.

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, will the Minister explain what happens when access leads to the need for a change in a farming system? I have a particular example in mind. On many hill farms it is still the practice to lamb on the hill. It is believed that lambs grow up hardy as a result of that exposure. On the hill there is much rough country, and lambs and ewes can get behind tussocks of grass for protection. For a variety of reasons many farmers lamb on the hill. The hill may be situated two, three or four miles away from a farm. If people come on the hill with dogs during lambing, or during the period when ewes are heavy in lamb--one must recognise that the shepherds will already be walking the hill in question three times a day--there is a real possibility that on some farms lambing on the hill will cease to be possible. Let us assume for the sake of argument that that is the case. If farming is to be sustained on those farms, it will then be necessary to put up a lambing shed. Who will pay for that lambing shed?

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, on a somewhat smaller but important point, I do not think that my noble friend Lord Brittan mentioned insurance--although I missed the first half-minute of his speech and apologise to him.

Landowners and occupiers have an insurance policy against people being injured on their land in the general way. In England and Wales there is at present the law of trespass. That is, presumably, mainly an insurance policy against people being damaged by, let us say, a fallen tree on a footpath. My experience is that that is a quite low premium. However, that premium is bound to increase when people can roam across the land in many directions. That will be a cost. Surely that must be recouped in some way because it is a cost expressly imposed by Parliament on people who are running their business. That seems to me an additional reason why the amendment is important.


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