Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Paddy Tipping: I agree with the substance of my hon. Friend's argument, but wish to clarify one point. The desert, which lies partly in my constituency, is in private ownership and the activities that take place there are illegal.

John Mann: I thank my hon. Friend for that clarification, which shows that we should be tackling the menace even more vigorously. The police in my area have argued that areas such as the desert can be a legal magnet, which will draw people into one place. They seem to think that people will go to the area—perhaps in smaller white vans—to participate in a legal activity. However, whether the land is public or private, that argument is fallacious. People going off road do not want to participate in organised events on certain tracks; they want to go off road. Such a magnet simply attracts people into breaking the law, whether deliberately or inadvertently.

We should also consider the growth in quad bike ownership. In the constituency of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire, I saw farmers on quad bikes going about their lawful business, but many of the quad bikers in my area terrorise the community. Now, quad bikes are explicitly advertised for sale to under-seven's. They are a growing menace that requires additional action under crime and disorder legislation.

Mr. Robert Walter (North Dorset) (Con): The hon. Gentleman will recall that in the last Session I introduced a ten-minute Bill on this very subject. Does he agree with me that many drivers of off-road vehicles, whether quad bikes or other vehicles, get most enjoyment from their so-called sport by going when the lane is at its muddiest, and that they utterly destroy wildlife and the enjoyment of others who might want to use the lane afterwards?

John Mann: The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point, which is exemplified by some of the websites. I have received quite a large number of hostile e-mails, some of them helpfully directing me to websites, and some of the websites I have looked at glorify the creation of such problems. For some people, though not all, the    creation of particularly large—one might say spectacular—ruts in a footpath or bridleway is exactly the enjoyment that they are looking for. I walked the Pennine way last summer. As one crosses the north Yorkshire section, one sees where motorbikes have deliberately created routes that are perhaps more exciting to ride, but a great danger to a mere pedestrian, never mind a horse-rider.

Mr. Roger Williams: The hon. Gentleman's presence in my constituency and his knowledge of the problems gives me cause for concern, particularly if he was there at election time. All I can say is that his presence did not do his party much good. In promoting areas where activities such as he describes can take place legally, I was thinking not of small private areas, but of Forestry Commission land where the effect on the landscape could be hidden and the noise muffled. On state-owned land there are opportunities for motorised activities.

John Mann: I have no objection if a farmer in my constituency wishes to set up a route for people to go
6 Jun 2005 : Column 1051
round on mini-bikes, larger bikes or quad bikes. If it does not disturb any of his neighbours, I am more than happy for that to take place. What I am against is specific routes that take one across an entire area—places such as Clarborough Hill farm, where the entire farm is surrounded by applications for an upgrade that would allow motorbikes to create a rat-run—a race track—around the farm. Such an unbridled increase in opportunity is the loophole that needs to be absolutely and, as others have said, immediately removed by the Government.

I have two final points to make to the Minister, who I hope will respond specifically to them. The first concerns existing applications. The Bill could get rid of future applications, but there is the problem of existing applications. As has been said, there are many thousands across the country. How does my hon. Friend intend to ensure that we are not bedevilled by the problems through any legal loophole because of existing applications?

My second question to the Minister, whom I should congratulate both on his excellent election result and on his promotion to his position, concerns the approach and correspondence of his predecessor, the present Minister for Industry and the Regions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Alun Michael), who identified the use of traffic regulation orders as a short-term measure to restrict the use of motorised vehicles, should any motorised use have been inadvertently accepted because of the loophole in the law. Will that still be relevant in the context of the proposals in the Bill, or will the Bill be sufficient to remove the future menace and the current one?

7.24 pm

Mr. Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con): As the new Member for Scarborough and Whitby, I am grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech on a subject of key importance to many of my constituents who, like me, live and work on the land. Before I do so, however, I shall respond to the comments of the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) with regard to trail riding. As we heard, trail riding is often illegal and certainly takes place without the landowner's permission. It desecrates many of our rights of way, and it is rightly to be condemned.

However, the exhortation in Trials and Motocross News to vote Conservative was in connection with trial riding, the sport of Yorkshire hero Dougie Lampkin, which is done with the landowner's permission and is a sport that should be encouraged. The problem with that was not the use of green lanes, but the DEFRA guidelines on cross-compliance on the single farm payment. I am pleased that Ministers have seen some sense and relaxed those rules. There are still one or two outstanding issues relating to waterlogged land, where we need further clarification. Also, people who wish to practise on their own land are currently restricted to 28 days per year, so we need a little more flexibility from the Government.

I am blessed to have been elected to represent such a magnificently beautiful constituency. I am sure many right hon. and hon. Members have had occasion to visit
6 Jun 2005 : Column 1052
Scarborough and Whitby. Scarborough is the classic family holiday resort, with the combination of Victorian elegance and 21st century excitement—[Laughter.] My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) has obviously been there—possibly on a Saturday night. Scarborough is the home of the oven chip. A thousand tonnes of potatoes are processed every day, which, combined with the harvest of our sadly much depleted fishing fleet, provide the quintessential seaside fare that so many come to enjoy. Forty-five miles of magnificent countryside contain such gems as Robin Hood's Bay, Cayton and Staithes, but the jewel in the crown must be Whitby, the home port of Captain Cook, the place where Dracula made landfall, and the resort voted No. 1 weekend holiday destination by the readers of Saga Magazine, a publication with which, I am sure, many hon. Members and certainly many Members in another place are familiar. There is friendly rivalry between Whitby and Scarborough—the editorials in the Whitby Gazette invariably refer to my constituency as the Whitby and Scarborough constituency.

Recently, my constituency received national prominence as the location for Yorkshire Television's series "Heartbeat". Aidensfield is in fact Goathland, which is served by the north Yorkshire moors railway, and the railway itself features as the Hogwarts express in the Harry Potter films. Sixty per cent. of the north Yorkshire moors national park lies in my constituency, where the north Yorkshire moors railway travels.

Being such a beautiful part of the world has its downside. The average price of a house in the north Yorkshire moors national park is £235,000, well beyond the reach of many working people in the countryside.

My predecessor, Lawrie Quinn, is a railway engineer, and in the House he took particular interest in rail transport. Lawrie Quinn was the first Labour Member to represent Scarborough after nearly a century of Conservative representation. I am pleased to say that none of the name-calling and personal vitriol that sometimes characterised the national campaign spilled over into our local campaign in Scarborough and Whitby, which was carried out in the best traditions of British democracy. Lawrie Quinn was a hard-working Member of Parliament and loyal to his party. Perhaps that was his problem. On behalf of my constituents, I put on record their gratitude for all he has done over the past eight years.

Lawrie Quinn's maiden speech was on the subject of agriculture. I was a candidate in the 1997 election in Leicestershire, and I wish I had 10 bob for every time a farmer said to me in that election that farmers always do better under a Labour Government. I did not hear those comments in 2005. The Yorkshire countryside, which is often gold with fields of wheat, green with shoots or yellow with the oil-seed rape that has recently become part of our countryside, in 2005 was blue with the posters of my supporters in the countryside.

Farming has seen many changes since my family came on to our farm in north Yorkshire in 1850. In my own lifetime, we have seen deficiency payments replaced by intervention buying, which in turn was superseded by the integrated administration and control system—IACS—and set-aside. Now we have the chaotic birth of the single farm payment. In her response to Lord Haskins' report, the Secretary of State heralded the report as a less bureaucratic framework for applicants.
6 Jun 2005 : Column 1053
I wonder how many hard-pressed staff at DEFRA regional service centres would agree. Given the choice between an area-based scheme and a history-based scheme, the Secretary of State opted for both, giving us double the number of forms to fill in.

The single most exciting event on my farm in the past century was the construction of a land army hostel, which was very popular with the local lads, during the second world war. We now have a new kind of land army in the countryside: it is not made up of sturdy lasses from the west riding driving Standard Fordsons; it is a new army of bureaucrats with clipboards clutched to their chests. I know that the Bill promises to cut red tape, but having read the entry-level stewardship handbook, which relates to a scheme that natural England will administer, I know that the reverse will be the case, and I wonder how many anoraks the author of that document owns.

The entry-level scheme makes the Domesday Book look like an unambitious project. DEFRA's new Domesday Book will log every tree, ditch and hedge in the United Kingdom, but what will be the environmental gain? Shortly after I was elected, I attended a roadshow organised by DEFRA. I went incognito as a farmer and sat at the back, where I was interested to hear that under the entry-level scheme most farmers will not have to do anything that they are not already doing—other than filling in forms to qualify for the £30 per hectare payment. Surely such a scheme should produce a greater environmental gain. Farmers who attended that roadshow questioned the value of a scheme by which we fill in forms and continue to do what we are already doing in order to qualify for money.

Farmers and sportsmen have created the British countryside—I am a pro-hunting campaigner who has entered this Chamber by more conventional means than some—and the people who create the countryside environment that we enjoy need less red tape, not more, which I fear that this Bill will deliver.

7.31 pm

Next Section IndexHome Page