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Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, my Amendments Nos. 112 and 115 are in this group, so perhaps I may speak to them as well as to the amendment spoken to by the Minister.

As the Bill stands, without the government amendment Clause 21 gives an owner the right to serve an exclusion notice closing the land for 28 days. But at present none of those days can be a Saturday, Sunday or Bank Holiday.

A number of noble Lords pointed out in Committee that the world of nature and agriculture does not recognise weekends--that birds do not stop nesting and hatching and sheep do not stop lambing merely because it is Saturday or Sunday. No doubt joined up government will teach birds and sheep to recognise the calendar soon, but for the moment it has not achieved that. Therefore, the concept of a closure that suddenly stops at weekends is curious.

In Committee the Minister opposed any attempt to extend the 28-day period, and in my amendments I totally accept that restriction. However, he recognised that within the 28 days some days could be at weekends. He was, however, worried that if one merely removed the provision relating to Saturdays and Sundays there was a danger that a landowner might use all of his 28 days over, let us say, 14 successive weekends or for the entirety of August, which he rightly pointed out is the main holiday month.

I have therefore sought to spread the 28 days equally over weekends and Bank Holidays and nonesuch days. Eight Saturdays or Sundays in 28 days are a new proportion, and a Bank Holiday makes nine. I confess that nine seemed to me a remarkably silly figure and therefore my amendment suggests that 10 days can be a Saturday, Sunday or Bank Holiday. But if the noble Lord would give me nine, or even eight, I would settle for that. It is just that nine seemed an odd figure. Also, by means of a separate amendment, Amendment No. 107, I have sought to deal with the problem of holidays by saying that no more than 14 of the 28 days can be in August.

My amendment is in no way specifically connected to shooting. The closure could be for any reason. It could be to protect breeding, to allow operations on the land, or whatever one wants.

Amendment No. 117 to which the noble Lord has just spoken, on the other hand, gives only four days out of the 28 which can be either a Saturday or a Sunday. I do not understand how he can say that that is a proper balance unless he has a very curious approach to mathematics. If you have 28 days, and you allow Saturdays and Sundays, that must allow eight days, not four. It leads to the very curious

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position that the Minister accepted that there would be only 19 continuous days. The noble Lord is half recognising that birds and sheep do not know about weekends, but he is not recognising that fact totally. I do not have any of this land, but if an owner wants 28 continuous days, why on earth should he not have that time? Why must he have a shorter period at weekends than at other times?

Birds do not hatch; they sit for more than 19 days. Similarly, an entire flock of sheep does not lamb within 19 days. If the Minister is serious in his desire for proportion, he must allow eight or nine days out of the 28 to be weekends, or bank holidays. I fail to see any form of justification for his four days. Moreover, if one is using this time for shooting, or for a similar activity, I do not see why the days cannot all be Saturdays, with none of them being Sundays. As noble Lords have pointed out, one cannot shoot on a Sunday but a walker can just as well walk on a Sunday as he can on a Saturday. Therefore, I do not see why the landowner cannot have a discretion as to which of the days he uses as Saturdays or Sundays.

My fundamental point is that the Minister has only gone half way and that he has stopped at a wholly illogical mathematical point. If he is to accept what he said he would accept in Committee--namely, that the 28 days should be spread fairly, but not disproportionately--he must allow at least eight or probably nine of the 28 days to be Saturdays, Sundays or weekends. He must not chop it off at a wholly illogical half-point.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, perhaps I may comment briefly on the noble Viscount's points. Many people wish to spend their holidays in this country rather than take a package holiday to, say, the Costa Brava. Unfortunately, August is the month in England--the Scots are a little wiser--when children are not at school and families have to take their holidays. It would not be at all reasonable for half of August to be devoted to shooting, thus interfering with the family holidays of those who, wisely, prefer to take their vacations in this country. It is a beautiful country and the areas that those families may wish to walk through are similarly beautiful. I would not like to see a proportion of August devoted to that purpose. Indeed, it might encourage people to go abroad. I believe that they would be much healthier and happier in the United Kingdom.

Lord Monson: My Lords, although the noble Earl has not yet spoken to it, perhaps I may express my support for his Amendment No. 114, which seems to me to be an extremely reasonable compromise. I should also like to express regret that the Government have got their Amendment No. 117 wrong, at least as regards Subsection (7)(a). I have no quarrel with the other two subsections.

I can only suppose that the Government and their advisers have been watching too many Merchant Ivory costume dramas set in the closing years of the 19th century or the first decade of the 20th century, in

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which the extremely rich individuals of no fixed occupation spend all their daylight hours every day of the week, except Sundays, hunting and shooting. They spend the hours of darkness in somewhat different indoor pursuits, but that need not concern us.

Admittedly, I have no interest in the sort of land to which Part I of this Bill applies, but I do not suppose that the social patterns there are very different from those in the part of the world in which I live, where virtually all those who shoot are hard-working men, and, increasingly, women, who are fully occupied for at least five days a week and who, therefore, can shoot only on Saturdays. But even if that were not the case, beaters can be secured only on Saturdays because, in general, most of them have jobs from Monday to Friday inclusive. If Amendment No. 114, or something like it, is not accepted, it will be extremely unfair and unreasonable. Indeed, it may present enormous difficulties for many shooters.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I should like quickly to follow the noble Lord's contribution. My experience relates to Scotland, not England and Wales. I have in mind the farm where I live. I am not the farmer--I have not been for many years--but an increasingly important part of the farm's income is derived from the small syndicate which comes on Saturdays--eight Saturdays this year--to do rough shooting. It has nothing to do with grouse. It takes place from October to the end of January. To ask that farm to undertake shooting only on four Saturdays--it has to take place on a Saturday for the reasons the noble Lord, Lord Monson, has given--would be wrong. The farm I mentioned is not affected by the provisions of the Bill, although it may be affected by other legislation which may be modelled on it. I do not think that it is fair to restrict shooting to only four Saturdays a year. I believe that the amendment of my noble friend Lord Peel would allow shooting on eight Saturdays.

Earl Peel: My Lords, having heard what my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Monson, have said, I now feel obliged to speak to my Amendment No. 114, about which I have some doubts. I have doubts about my Amendment No. 114 and that of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and that of my noble friend Lady Byford. Here I have some sympathy with the Government in that if these amendments were accepted one could have in effect eight, 10 or virtually any Saturdays consecutively closed during the various seasons that are mentioned in the various amendments. I can understand that that would be unacceptable to the Government.

Having said that, the points that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, made are valid. I believe that many shoots operate only on Saturday because the people who organise them cannot take any other day of the week off. As the noble Lord said, it may be difficult to get beaters on a week day. From a commercial point of view--my noble friend's amendment specifically refers to this--many people who are prepared to pay for a one-off day's shooting can also do so only on a

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Saturday. There is a problem here. I acknowledge that the amendments would create difficulties in terms of the access proposals.

I wonder whether we could not reach a compromise whereby we could close the land in question on eight Saturdays--as my amendment suggests--during the season if we were to restrict that to, say, two Saturdays a month. I hope that I may have the noble Lord's attention for a moment. I do not know whether the noble Lord would regard as an acceptable compromise the suggestion to restrict the Saturday closure to two Saturdays a month with a closure of eight in total. As I say, we have a problem here. As noble Lords have said, there is no question about that. I am in two minds about the matter. I sympathise with the Government about not having closure on eight, 10 or 15 consecutive Saturdays. I think that that would be unreasonable. However, we must bear in mind that many people participate in shooting on Saturdays. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, said, plenty of other activities also take place on Saturdays and Sundays. Will the Minister consider the compromise I have suggested?


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