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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I referred to Amendment No. 96 in discussing the issue of wardens before we adjourned for dinner. I hope that the House will accept that the amendment fulfils our commitment specifically to provide in Clause 18 that wardens may be appointed to enforce any restriction or exclusion imposed under Chapter II. It is sensible that access authorities should be able to appoint wardens for these purposes, and the amendment makes it possible. Let me make it clear to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, that this includes enforcing restrictions on dogs.

We do not believe that wardens' powers should be extended, as proposed in Amendment No. 95, to enable them to enforce the law generally. Access authorities may appoint anyone as a warden. Such people could be part-time or they could be volunteers. There could be a dedicated number of paid wardens: they could be gamekeepers or members of a local conservation body. It would not be appropriate to set them up in effect as a new general police force, which would be the effect of the amendment. They will be able to deal with those who trespass on the land, for instance, because trespassers will be in breach of a restriction. They will be able to enforce by-laws, but they should not be expected to carry out law enforcement more generally. That should be the job of a police officer.

To be precise on the issue of dogs, the headings in Schedule 2 will be altered when the Bill is next printed. All the restrictions are general restrictions that can be enforced.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I should have spoken to Amendment No. 96 in moving the amendment. I thank him for coming forward with Amendment No. 96, which clarifies the position we discussed in Committee.

I understand why the Minister is not too happy about the thrust of my Amendment No. 95, particularly with reference to volunteer or part-time wardens. I should like a chance to reflect on the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh moved Amendment No. 96:



("and any other restrictions imposed under Chapter II,
(aa) to enforce any exclusion imposed under Chapter II,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Viscount Bledisloe moved Amendment No. 96A:


    After Clause 18, insert the following new clause--

FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH SCHEDULE 2, CHAPTER 2 OR BYELAWS ON ACCESS LAND

(" .--(1) Where it appears to an access authority that a person has repeatedly or persistently failed to comply with Schedule 2 or with any restriction imposed under Chapter II, or committed an offence or offences and acted in contravention of byelaws on any access land, the access authority shall take such steps as appear to it to be appropriate to prevent or reduce future such failures, offences or breaches.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), an access authority shall be entitled to all such remedies and reliefs as would have been available to the owner of, or any person interested in, that land.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, on the first day of the Report stage, we had a series of debates as to what was to be done about people who persistently disregarded the rules controlling the right of access. Everyone in this House recognises that most of those exercising the right of access will want to obey the rules, that any transgression will be inadvertent and that when it is pointed out to them they will apologise and obey.

Equally, everyone--certainly the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh--accepts that there will inevitably be a few people who will transgress, who will not mend their ways when the rules are pointed out to them and who will be deliberately and persistently unco-operative. They will undoubtedly be relatively few, but they are the ones who will cause the aggravation and resentment. We have debated at some length the question of what is to be done about such persons.

The fact that most people obey the law does not mean that we do not take steps to stop those who do not. The vast majority of people do not commit murder; but that does not mean that we need not do anything about the few who do. I do not suggest that this is comparative. What I am saying is that one needs some form of mechanism to deal with people who persistently flout the rules.

The Government in their wisdom have determinedly refused to accept that flouting the rules could constitute either a criminal offence or provide grounds for an exclusion order. They say that this is a matter for the civil law of trespass and that the proper remedy in relation to someone who persistently flouts the law is an injunction. I am not wholly convinced by that argument. However, in this amendment I bow wholly to it, accept it and advance a method of dealing with the situation. It is in a genuine spirit of compromise that my amendment accepts the government position but says that, where there is a persistent offender, it is for the access authority to take the steps which it thinks appropriate. That is important to stop further breaches and to deal with the persistent offender who shows no signs of giving up his conduct.

No doubt, if the amendment were enacted, the first step of the authority would be either a letter to the offender or a visit by, let us say, a warden, or both. As the visit or the letter would come from a public authority, no doubt in many cases it would be sufficient to deter the offender and cause him to mend his ways. But in circumstances where it did not, the

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amendment is backed by the final resort: the access authority being able to seek an injunction against a persistent offender and being entitled to such relief wherever the occupier of the land would himself have been entitled. In my respectful submission, my amendment is better and fairer in all respects in enabling and requiring the authority to do this. First, obviously, the authority will have a lot more clout than an individual owner. Secondly, the authority will know how to deal with the matter. It will have legal advisers and so on, who will be able to point it in the right direction to obtain an injunction if it needs to do so, and to write suitable letters.

It is a daunting prospect for some tenant farmer whose sheep are being regularly chased or whose land is regularly being used for rave-ups, or whatever it may be, to see a solicitor and to be told that he must take injunction proceedings but that they will cost a great deal and the court may not give him the costs, that he will have to swear affidavits and so on. A tenant farmer, especially in the present climate of farming, has got better things to do with his time; and, indeed, probably does not have the money to do what will be required.

Surely it would be much fairer if the costs of dealing with a persistent offender were borne by the authority rather than by the individual. He did not want people on his land in the first place: it is the Government who have decided to let them go there. But if those people decide to misbehave, surely the public authority should take steps to deal with the situation.

I have wholly accepted the Government's position that this matter must be dealt with under civil law. I am simply saying that it should be for the access authority to take the steps that it believes to be "appropriate" to deal with the situation. If the offence is merely minor or technical, the authority can say to the owner, "Look, we know that that is strictly a breach, but it has not done any harm so let's forget it". If the matter is deemed to be more serious, the authority can approach the person concerned and try to persuade him to stop. However, if nothing will stop conduct that is seriously harmful, then, as a last resort, the access authority could apply to the courts for an injunction to which the occupier would have been entitled.

I sincerely hope that the Government will accept that this as a serious, mid-way solution to trying to deal with this highly intransigent problem. As we have repeatedly said, unless the problem is solved in some way it will haunt this Bill for all time. If nothing can be done about a persistent offender, that will be a running sore that will wreck the co-operation that would undoubtedly, in everyone's mind, be the best way forward for this Bill. I beg to move.

Earl Peel: My Lords, I shall speak briefly in support of the noble Viscount's amendment. As he said, we have failed to persuade the Government that there should be some resort to criminal sanctions against those who persistently disregard the arrangements under Schedule 2 and Chapter II. As the noble Viscount said, it seems to be an extremely modest

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amendment. If the access authorities were given the powers afforded to owners, I believe that people would perhaps take them more seriously. Indeed, we might go some way towards overcoming this deep-rooted problem within the Bill. Unless we can resolve it in some way, shape or form, the opportunities for conflict and bad feeling--something that we must try to avoid--will not be covered.

The noble Viscount also referred to the question of costs being borne by the authorities. That, too, is a most important consideration. There are undoubtedly quite a number of owners and occupiers who may be affected by those who persistently ignore the restrictions under Schedule 2 and Chapter II, but who simply do not have the resources to pursue a civil action. I hope that the Government will accept this amendment. It is a modest compromise but one which I believe would go quite a long way towards solving a problem that, quite frankly, needs to be solved if the Bill is to be effective.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, I support the remarks made by the two previous speakers. There should be some point of last resort--some sort of provision--to deal with the situation, or one or two people could bring this legislation into disrepute by continually disobeying the rules because there is no sanction to stop them doing so. Bad publicity in press reports featuring those people would do the legislation an immense amount of harm. River wardens have much stronger powers than those that we are offering to wardens in this Bill, but they have the same sort of objective: they are stopping poaching, whereas our wardens will be stopping people from misbehaving on access land.

As my noble friend Lord Peel said, this is a modest sanction. However, it is a provision that can only do good. I cannot see any reason that it could be accused of causing harm. I know that the Minister will talk about criminalisation, and so on, but this amendment would not do that. All we are asking is that the access authority should use its authority to deal with the transgressor. We do not suggest that that should be done by way of taking the offender to court to face a fine or worse. The fact that an authority would be able, with the full backing of its powers, to write a formal letter, or, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, to send a warden to see the offender, would surely have more effect on an individual than just saying, "Look here, you mustn't do that again for 72 hours".


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