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Mr. McNulty: I am told that "long-distance route" is the legal definition of national trails, which clearly include the Ridgeway. As I intended to make clear, the Ridgeway is the only long-distance route with significant rights of way for motorised vehicles. The assurance that I gave earlier would therefore cover specific anxieties about the Ridgeway. However, I believe that the same law would prevail if greater rights of way and greater access by motorised vehicles impinged on any other national trail or long-distance route.
Mr. Collins: That is an exceptionally helpful clarification, which those who study our proceedings will read with interest. However, the Minister will acknowledge that his point simply reinforces mine: national trails are enormously significant routes but they are not the only important routes in the countryside. It would be helpful if the Government undertook to consider, in the context of national parks, whether some of the restrictions that they will examinethe Minister suggested earlier that they would seriously consider restrictions for national trailsshould apply elsewhere.
Will the Minister also consider whether it is wholly appropriate for such matters to be left purely to the Secretary of State's discretion? The amendment provides that the new clause will apply when the Secretary of State thinks that members of the public cannot safely and conveniently enjoy the amenities because of use of a long-distance route by vehicular traffic. When the matter was considered in the other place, Lord McIntosh, who spoke on behalf of the Government, suggested that the wording, for which another place subsequently voted and which has effectively become new clause 108, was defective. He believed that it might fall foul of the provisions of the European convention on human rights, because the wording made no provision for a right of appeal.
That is an interesting and possibly valid point. However, if it is valid, its logic should apply to amendment (a). If the Bill needs to refer to appeal rights to ensure that it is covered by the constraints of the European convention on human rights, it would be
It was curious that a Minister in another place believed it necessary to include a specific right of appeal in the Bill, given that the principle was not applied throughout the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Perhaps the Government have revised their view, but clarification would be helpful.
Mr. Collins: The hon. Gentleman is right, but, as he will know, the original wording of the amendmentwhich was then new clause 108also referred to a traffic regulation order, as defined in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. My point is this: if a Minister in another place said that that was defective because it did not refer specifically to a right of appeal, how can the present wording be more satisfactory, given that it does not do so either?
The new schedule consequent on the Government amendments includes an interesting reference, which has been mentioned to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh). Incidentally, my hon. Friend apologises for not leading for the Opposition tonight, as she did with admirable aplomb in Committee, on Report and on Third Reading. That is because she was attending the Yorkshire Show, which for a Member representing a rural seat in the fine county of Yorkshire was a huge priority today. She did, however, do me a great service today by pointing out that there was considerable debate in Committee about the wording imported into the Government's new schedule. New section 6 (7) says:
Mr. Don Foster : The hon. Gentleman certainly missed out on the delights of the Committee's deliberations on this matter. As he was not present then, perhaps he will tell us now whether he thinks a policeman in uniform would be required to wear a helmet. I assure him that that was the subject of much debate in Committee.
Mr. Collins: I am advised by my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York, who had the enormous pleasure of attending every Committee sitting and hearing every speech made by the hon. Gentleman, that he was responsible for considerable debate about the presence or otherwise of a helmet. I am also advised by her not to allow myself to bein her immortal words"sucked into" that particular issue. I gather that it was a subject of some interest in Committee, and I look forward to rereading those sections of the debate.
Although the Minister was no more present in Committee than I was, I am sure that he has been briefed thoroughly by his officials. He will no doubt know that a number of outside organisations have expressed interest in the possibility of new tests involving mouth swabs. It might be established, through the application of various scientific techniques to samples of saliva, whether someone was over the drink or drugs limit. Perhaps, either later tonight or in correspondence, the Minister could clarify whether new section 6C in the new schedule indicates that the Government have revised the view that they expressed in Committee on the practicality and early availability of mouth swab tests on which criminal proceedings could satisfactorily rely.
The amendments before us today are in large part the product of a Government who have for once listened. It is incumbent on Opposition Members to place on the record those unusual but none the less welcome occasions when the Government listen to representations. We should congratulate them and point out that in doing so, they have improved what was already good legislation. Although we continue to have some slight feeling that the original wording relating to national trails had much to commend it, we recognise that even on that matter, the Government have sought to address some important concerns. So I hope that before long, this Bill will become an Acthaving at all stages enjoyed clear cross-party supportand that we in this House can together express the hope that those who will subsequently enforce its provisions can do so in the knowledge that they have the full support of all of the parties.
Mr. Don Foster: I begin by congratulating the Minister, the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) on his new post, and on the excellent way in which he introduced what is almost the final stage of our deliberations. I agree with the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Collins) that this is a very important Bill, the vast majority of whose measures have fortunately enjoyed cross-party support. The Minister was absolutely right to refer to the important role played by the other place, and to the productive and substantive debate that took place there. The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale is absolutely right to say that although the Bill was extremely good when it left this place, it has been improved even further as a result of those deliberations.
Liberal Democrats welcome the amendments from the other place, and we are also conscious that the Bill has been improved not only by them, but by the fact that the Government have been given the opportunity to provide greater clarification of certain issues. For
I am also grateful to Baroness Scott, who introduced amendment No. 10on national trails, or long-distance routes, as the Minister rightly describes themin the other place. The Minister will be well aware that she enjoyed support throughout the other place for her proposal. Even though the Government will not accept her specific wording, she will be delighted to discover that the alternative amendment and the clear assurances given by the Minister tonight address the concerns that she and many others in the other place raised.
I am delighted that the Minister made it clear that the Countryside Agency is to be given a 12-month period to establish whether it can sort the matter out. In the event that it cannotI am sure the whole House hopes that it canit is clear, subject to the obvious caveats, that the Government intend to take action.