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Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): I entirely endorse the remarks of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry). We all have many constituents who are keen cyclists and it is important that an otherwise good Bill does not affect their access to the countryside. She and my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) were right to suggest to the Minister that the appropriate time to put the problem right would be by amendment in the other place. I hope that her eloquence will be heeded in the other place and that the matter will be satisfactorily resolved.

I have another problem in that several of my constituents have entirely inadvertently been caught up in the crossfire of the Bill and will be hugely damaged by it, if it is not amended. I refer, of course, to people who live on RUPPs—roads used as public paths. Many such people, especially those in the Finchampstead part of my constituency, have lived on RUPPs for many years and assumed that they had vehicular access. They are now all being told that they cannot sell their homes.

I know of an extreme example of an elderly couple in their 80s. All medical advice states that they should go into a residential home. Their only substantial asset is their house, which is potentially worth £500,000. Their family would like them to sell it so that they can move into a residential home, but the house is totally unsaleable, as is every single house in my constituency that is on a RUPP. Agents and solicitors tell the owners of such houses that it is not worth while even going to market.

I took up the matter with the Secretary of State, first on behalf of my constituent, Colin Macey OBE, who is chairman of the Heath Ride residents' association,
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which covers the area in which many of the RUPPs are situated. I wrote to the Secretary of State on 4 August and she kindly replied in some detail exactly a month later. With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall quote from her letter because it is relevant.

The Secretary of State set out the background to the case succinctly. She wrote:

The letter continued:

I must say that that was the understatement of the month—

The Secretary of State then said:

In other words, my constituents and their visitors will not be able to drive their vehicles to such houses, which will be effectively land-locked.

The letter continued:

That was another nail in the coffin. The Secretary of State then said:

It thus seemed to me that the fault might lie with one of my two local authorities—Wokingham unitary authority—so I took up the case with its chief executive, Doug Patterson. I shall again crave the House's indulgence for a few moments because important issues are contained in his response to me dated 26 September. He wrote:

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6.45 pm

The chief executive went on to refer to the elderly couple whom I have already mentioned and then wrote:

Mr. Drew : Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the whole area is becoming problematic? The Government's rights of way legislation has made the situation with regard to easements more complicated in many respects. Additionally, the Commons Bill has been introduced. Does he agree that we need to sit down to try to solve all the problems relating to access, and who owns the right to access, rationally? The easements seem to involve issues relating to the National Trust. I know that the problem affecting RUPPs is slightly different, but the issues are all interconnected and need to be examined properly.

Mr. Mackay: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. The situation has led to unintended consequences, although, as I hope my remarks about my poor constituents have illustrated, they are not trivial.

May I continue for a few more moments to quote from the letter from the chief executive? He wrote:

He continued by naming several of them, and then wrote:

That is the crux. No one is really to blame. I do not believe that the conveyancing solicitors and estate agents who sold those houses—often a long time ago—thought that there were any problems. My constituents who bought such properties have carried out due diligence and behaved responsibly. I do not believe that
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Wokingham unitary authority and other local authorities throughout the country should necessarily have changed their policy, because doing so would have been extremely expensive and thus costly to council tax payers. We all know that expenditure is a matter of priority for local authorities, as it is with the Government. It was thus reasonable that the situation was not a priority until now.

I do not think that the problem is especially the fault of the Government because like virtually every hon. Member, I am strongly in favour of what the Bill is trying to do. The points made by my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire and the behaviour of people who have been using such rights of way wrongly show that legislation is necessary. My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Robert Key) vividly illustrated what is happening in Wiltshire.

I am not in the business of blaming, but I am in the business of ensuring that my constituents have a right to live in the houses that they have purchased and that they can sell them without an unreasonable restriction suddenly being put on them. There is little more unreasonable restriction than being told that there is no vehicular access to a property for homeowners and anyone who legitimately wants to visit them, including tradesmen. It makes that property unliveable in and unsaleable. That cannot be right. It cannot be what the Secretary of State and the Minister wanted when they and their officials drafted the Bill. New clause 10, which I hope to put to a vote, would resolve the problem.

One or two people have contended that explanatory note 28 solves the problem. It states:

mechanically propelled vehicles

However, clause 62(1) does not apply to my constituents because they do not meet the requirement of clause 62(1)(b) that the rights are used mainly for the purpose for which restricted byways are used.

I estimate that 90 per cent. of the movements on RUPPs in my constituency are by MPV. Therefore, clause 62(3) does not apply and, presumably, nor does the explanatory note. I hope that the Minister does not hide behind explanatory note 28. If he does, I most certainly will want to press my new clause to a vote.

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