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Mr. Hogg: The Minister is robust about that, but does he recognise that rolls of wire may have been left in the heather for many, many years, and that there is no realistic prospect of a farmer or landowner now discovering rolls of wire that have been left in the heather for the past 10 or 15 years?

Mr. Mullin: There is no getting away from the fact that someone who leaves barbed wire in a concealed position must take responsibility for the consequences. That example was given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and as he said, I respond to it robustly. That is my view.

Do we want to eliminate all liability for things that are dangerous, particularly if hidden from view where people, including children, are known to walk? I do not believe so.

Mr. Grieve: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Swayne: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Mullin: If hon. Gentlemen relax for a moment, there will be an opportunity for them to get in.

I consider that it is right to retain some liability--albeit at a minimal level--so as not to encourage landowners to disregard the safety of those on their land.

Mr. Grieve: I am grateful to the Minister. Can he reassure me that the liability will remain the same as it was previously, and that it is the liability that a landowner would have towards a trespasser on his land? As long as that is the position, I for one would be wholly content. If the liability is being changed because there is to be a right of public access, the argument of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) is entirely valid.

Mr. Mullin: I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks. He has put his finger on the fact that the measure does not change the position, and I am grateful to him for pointing that out.

13 Jun 2000 : Column 859

The courts have found that occupiers owe a "duty of common humanity" even towards those uninvited on their land. That is reflected in the Occupiers' Liability Act 1984. No prizes for guessing who was in government then.

We must remember that the duty of common humanity is set at a very low level. Let us take the National Trust as an example. The trust has extensive experience of managing nearly 1,000 square miles of open countryside and millions of visitors annually, and it has had only a handful of claims in any year.

The figures suggest that in 1997-98, the trust had about 50 million visitors, from which only 10 claims arose. We are not moving into uncharted waters. There is already access to millions of acres. We are not attempting to change the liability that applies. It is mistaken of hon. Members to conjure up dire problems that are likely to arise. They do not arise on the millions of acres to which there is already access, and there is no reason to suppose that they will arise on the land that will later be opened up to access. There is no evidence--

8 pm

Mr. Green: The logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument must apply to natural features as well as man-made features. If it is true about man-made features, it should be true also about natural features. Why are the Government moving all their amendments on natural features? The Minister cannot have it both ways, which he is seeking to do in deploying his argument.

Mr. Mullin: I am not seeking to have the argument both ways. We are not seeking to change the level of liability. We have no evidence that those who currently occupy open country subject to statutory rights of access are required to pay higher insurance premiums than others who occupy such land from which the public are excluded.

The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) talked about the encouragement of perverse behaviour by landowners. In my view, most landowners are reasonable and responsible people. However, I accept that one or two are perverse. The name of Mr. Nicholas van Hoogstraten comes to mind. We should not allow ourselves to be swayed because there are a few extremely difficult customers, and we shall not be. Overall, I think that once the provisions are bedded in, most landowners will be pleasantly surprised to discover that they do not face any serious problems.

The Government's decision to remove all occupiers' liability in relation to natural features will place occupiers of access land in a more favourable legal position than other landowners. Given that and the minimal duty of common humanity in relation to man-made features, I believe that we have struck the right balance between the interests of occupiers and the need to provide reasonable protection for the public. I believe that making a distinction between natural and man-made features is the right place to draw the line, and I therefore ask that the amendment--

Mr. Bennett: May I take my hon. Friend back to town and village greens? I suggest that he should have further mature reflection. He is saying that there will not be possibilities for registering more town and village greens

13 Jun 2000 : Column 860

in future, and that that does not matter because people will have access under the Bill, when enacted, as they would have had access under registration. The one advantage of registration is that it stops development. By leaving the amendment as it is, my hon. Friend is making it impossible to register new greens, and it will be possible for land to disappear for development. I think that my hon. Friend should reconsider the matter.

Mr. Mullin: On most issues, I take my hon. Friend seriously, including the general issue that is before us. I give him the undertaking that he seeks, and I shall reconsider the matter. I shall write to him after further reflection has taken place. I can make no commitment. I have concluded my remarks and I ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: For the benefit of the--

Mr. Mullin: I may have misled you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. [Interruption.] No, I think that I was right the first time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Amendment No. 8 will be taken after amendment No. 141 has been put to the House, which is a Government amendment. I am dealing now with amendment No. 141.

Mr. Green: The Minister has withdrawn it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I think that the Minister asked the Opposition to withdraw amendment No. 8. [Interruption.] Order. The Opposition expressed a desire to vote on it. The Question now is that amendment No. 141 be made.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed: No. 8, in page 8, line 7, leave out "natural".--[Mr. Green.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 149, Noes 282.

Division No. 229
[8.5 pm


AYES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Ballard, Jackie
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Clappison, James
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
(Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cran, James
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan Smith, Iain
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Garnier, Edward
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gibb, Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hammond, Philip
Harvey, Nick
Hawkins, Nick
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Major, Rt Hon John
Maples, John
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Moore, Michael
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Sanders, Adrian
Sayeed, Jonathan
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Soames, Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Webb, Steve
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Stephen Day and
Mr. Peter Atkinson.


NOES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Banks, Tony
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Bennett, Andrew F
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbett, Robin
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
(Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Galloway, George
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Godman, Dr Norman A
Goggins, Paul
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
(Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McIsaac, Shona
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
McWalter, Tony
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
Organ, Mrs Diana
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Joan
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Wray, James
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:


Mrs. Anne McGuire and
Mr. Robert Ainsworth.

Question accordingly negatived.

13 Jun 2000 : Column 863

Clause 13

Occupiers' liability


Amendment made: No. 142, in page 8, line 8, at end insert--
'(6B) For the purposes of subsection (6A) above, any plant, shrub or tree, of whatever origin, is to be regarded as a natural feature of the landscape."'.--[Mr. Kevin Hughes.]

Clause 15

Rights of access under other enactments


Amendments made: No. 143, in page 8, line 32, leave out "or".

13 Jun 2000 : Column 864


No. 144, in page 8, line 35, at end insert--
'or
(d) the public have access to it under subsection (1) of section 19 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 (public access to monuments under public control) or would have access to it under that subsection but for any provision of subsections (2) to (9) of that section.'.--[Mr. Kevin Hughes.]

Clause 16

Dedication of land as access land

Mr. Paice: I beg to move amendment No. 110, in page 9, line 1, leave out "90" and insert "21".


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