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Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am very grateful for the many contributions to this important debate. My noble friend Lord Caithness was right to raise the whole question of litigation. The fact that the incidence of litigation is increasing on the part of people in every walk of life is something of which we are not proud; it is a sad reflection on our times. I would hate to think that in 10 years' time we shall say to the noble Lord, "We told you so". That would not bring us great joy. I hope that the noble Lord considers that I am genuine in those remarks.
My noble friend Lord Jopling described the difficulty that arises when animals, particularly sheep and lambs, stray on to the roadside. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, spoke of a place where that problem was so great that people were required to fence off the relevant land. That is not a new problem.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that we tried to produce an amendment which we considered would help in practice and would be acceptable. It constitutes a halfway house and would be less restrictive than the measure in the Bill. We are anxious to ensure that where people have a genuine right of access to common landin some places that has not been possible beforethey should be able to access it and feel confident that they will not experience difficulties due to works being carried out on the relevant land. I hope that answers the question posed by the noble Lord. There is no doubt that we all wish to ensure that the measure works.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, for his half-support for the word "material", although he and I both accept that that may not be the right word. I am not wedded to it, but I am disappointed that the Government have not made any other suggestion to lessen the bureaucratic way in which the measure will operate. I believe that on Monday the noble Lord, Lord Bach, launched deregulation, or less regulation, for farmers, yet here we are passing still more legislation
Lord Bach: Not deregulation, my Lords, but better regulation.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, deregulation would be even better than better regulation, but that is another
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matter. I have not read the noble Lord's speech in full but I shall certainly do so. There is a serious problem with the current situation. I am grateful to the noble Lord for quoting again from his letter. I believe that he referred to an 1899 Act that applied to urban commons. However, in those days it was considered a mild march to travel five miles up the road to gain access to a common. Nowadays people are mobile, and those who are lucky enough to be able to do so can gain access to areas of the country they would never have dreamt of visiting in the past. We should introduce legislation that is relevant for today and for the future, rather than thinking about the past. I am slightly disappointed that on this occasion the noble Lord did not even try to meet us halfway.
Disabled access was mentioned. We shall debate that matter on the NERC Bill. I refer to the issue of 4x4s in connection with that Bill.
Clearly, there are disabled people who need to have access to be able to enjoy some parts of the countryside that they would not otherwise be able to enjoy; so there is a longer-term question.
As I said earlier, the original Act was based on urban commons, and it was intended to make a far greater area of the land available to people as time went by. It is not relevant to us today. It is with a very heavy heart that I say to the Minister that he has not answered us. If we are not lucky enough tonight to win the Division, which I feel I must call, I hope that between now and when the Bill passes through another place the Government will give greater consideration to what I think is the crux of the Bill. I am disappointed with the noble Lord's response, and I beg leave to take the opinion of the House.
On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 46) shall be agreed to?
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 98; Not-Contents, 137.
[Amendments Nos. 47 and 48 not moved.]
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