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Lord Brittan of Spennithorne: My Lords, I find the Minister's response deeply disappointing but, frankly, not surprising.

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Perhaps I may deal first with the question of the general balance. In any society that values the right of the individual, it is no answer to say that there is a broad balance between this group of citizens and another group of citizens where a particular individual is able to show loss. In this country we have always had the view that a person should be regarded as an individual, not only as a part of a group. If, as an individual--even if he is of that beleaguered class, the landowner--he has suffered loss, as a matter of justice, quite apart from all the provisions of English law and human rights law, we would believe, think, assert and say that that individual should be entitled to compensation, even if the group of people of which he is a member has been treated fairly or has been given concessions. The question only arises if an individual has suffered loss and can prove it. It is not right that in a civilised country that loss should be sustained and no provision made for compensation for that loss.

As regards the law and the Convention on Human Rights, I am wholly unpersuaded by what the noble Lord said. He did not address at all the Chassagnou case on which I laid particular stress. The House might recall that I said that it was ironic because that was a case where hunters were allowed by statute to go on people's land against the owners' wishes. It was held that even though there was compensation a breach of the convention was made in giving the right to people to go on other people's land. There was no question of the taking of property, but merely allowing other people to go on other people's property. That was held to be sufficient to cause a breach of the convention. I am sure that the Minister has obtained advice in the usual way, but I doubt its validity in this particular case and regret that he has put us into the position where it may need to be put to the test.

Finally, perhaps I may say a word about the position of the Liberal Democrats on this issue. Frankly, I was shocked to hear from that part of the House a speech in which it was said that it is for the state to decide what balance to make and for it to decide the process to be followed. Gladstone and John Stuart Mill would turn in their graves to hear that cavalier view expressed about the rights of the individual. It also shows a complete misconception of the way in which the convention works, and which I joined the Liberal Democrats in welcoming, contrary to the views of some members of my own party. Its whole purpose is to avoid a situation in which the court, uniquely as a result of that convention, has to decide whether the Government have got it right. It is not a question of saying that the Government do it and then the court looks at it. If the Government get the balance wrong, the consequence is that the whole legislation is regarded as being contrary to the convention. If they wish to be true to the convention which they have recently enacted, they have to put fresh legislation before the House. I find that approach disappointing and shocking from a party that regards itself at the forefront of the supporters of the incorporation of that convention into British law.

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The hour is late and we have not received satisfaction. I propose to withdraw the amendment at this stage in the hope that when we come to Third Reading wiser counsel may even then prevail and we can have another look at the whole question.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12.45 a.m.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 146:


    After Clause 38, insert the following new clause--

REVIEW OF EXERCISE OF POWERS AND DUTIES IN RELATION TO ACCESS LAND BY COUNTRYSIDE BODIES

(" .--(1) Each countryside body shall, within five years after the commencement of this section, and subsequently at intervals of not more than ten years, prepare and publish a statement containing its assessment of--
(a) the adequacy of its management, in exercising its duties and powers under Part I of this Act, of each of the matters specified in subsection (2), and
(b) the action it proposes to take, if any, to improve its management of these matters.
(2) The matters referred to in subsection (1) are--
(a) the maping of access land under Chapter I,
(b) discretionary and permitted closures and restrictions under Chapter II,
(c) the making of directions under Chapter II,
(d) the provision of information to the public in relation to Part I, and
(e) any other matters that may be specified in regulations.
(3) Before preparing a statement under this section each countryside body shall consult such persons as may be prescribed in regulations.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 147. As I believe we are all aware from the various debates on the establishment of this Bill to give access to everybody, there will be teething problems. These two amendments require a review of the exercise of the powers and duties in relation to the access land by the countryside bodies. Amendment No. 147 proposes a review of the exercise of the powers and duties of the access authorities within five years in both instances.

I hope that the Government will be able to support these amendments. I believe that they will consider them to be very wise and sensible.

Turning to Amendment No. 147, at earlier stages there were objections to what was then Amendment No. 301 relating to access land management strategies on the grounds that local authorities already had enough plans to prepare and that some of the matters to be covered in the plans lay outwith the remit of the access authorities (Official Report, 9/10/00; cols 11-18).

The amendment responds to those criticisms by requiring the authorities to prepare statements, not just plans as such, setting out how they have exercised the special functions and how they plan to improve the provisions in relation to these functions. My parallel amendment requires the same from the countryside bodies. Indeed, these are enormously important amendments.

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In Committee, the discussions around the proposal were well supported by the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, who is unfortunately no longer in his place; and the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, indicated that we should return to the matter on Report, as indeed we have. My noble friend Lord Peel will also speak to these amendments.

The Government may realise that they have failed to estimate the impact that the right of access may have on land management practices. There is nothing outrageous in these amendments. If the Government do not like the wording, I hope that at least they may feel able to support the thrust of the amendments, which require the countryside bodies to review the exercise and functioning of the provision they have made and to come back with statements on where they stand and where they see matters going in the future. I beg to move.

Earl Peel: My Lords, I strongly support these two amendments. This legislation takes us into uncharted waters. There is no question that it will have a considerable implication for the way in which access land is managed.

There are new opportunities for walkers, and with those come new responsibilities. We shall have to watch closely to see how those responsibilities are regarded by those with the new rights and how the access authority manages the balance--the word "balance" has recurred so often in discussions during the course of the Bill--between the two interests. That will be a crucial test as to how effective the legislation will be in practice.

The ability of the access authorities to get the right messages to the public is essential. Let us not forget--and it is a major fault in the Bill--that there are no statutory requirements for people to go on to access land via access points. It is essential that the messages get through on restrictions, on by-laws and on the ability to implement the provisions in Schedule 2 and Chapter II. It will need to be asked whether all the various constraints, the messages and the whole raft of information that is essential in making the Bill effective is getting through and whether the public are responding effectively.

We have discussed many times the question of dogs and the question of night-time access. All these issues bring new challenges to the countryside. It is essential that we keep close tabs on how the legislation is working in practice.

There is another essential part to my noble friend's amendment; namely, the whole question of the financial provisions. Will they be sufficient to allow the access authorities to carry out their responsibilities? We shall have to wait and see. But without this amendment I do not believe that the structure is in place for us to look carefully and with due consideration--from everyone's point of view, not just that of the landowner but also of the walker--to see whether the Bill is working effectively.

The Government maintain that local authorities already have enough plans to prepare and that, therefore, they do not want to burden them with any

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more. But, quite frankly, that is a pretty weak excuse. If there is a good reason for further plans--or, indeed, for a "statement", as specified in the amendment--then so be it. It is only right and proper that such considerations should be taken into account. I strongly support these amendments. They relate to an essential part of seeing how effective this Bill will be. As I have already said, its implications will be very significant.


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