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Lord Whitty: Although we specifically debated this matter before dinner, we partly dealt with it previously. The noble Earl, Lord Peel, was not totally convinced by my reply and I suspect that we shall return to the matter at a later stage. Clearly, a good deal of land will be contiguous and have some form of access to it. In other respects the right of access may need to be addressed, but the principle of the right of access for designated land is not altered by the fact that there is a surrounding area of land to which no access rights apply. There may be ways around that through the process of negotiation before the final position is

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established. In the particular context of fast-track land, I do not believe that this issue will arise very frequently. However, the noble Lord has just raised a more general issue to which we shall no doubt return.

As to the amendment itself, we are all agreed that it would be useful for the countryside agencies to identify the best point of access and provide information, education and so forth at that point. Therefore, we are all in favour of designated access points. I am also in favour of the countryside agencies having responsibility for identifying those designated access points in consultation with others. The question of making them mandatory will be addressed later. Therefore, we have no problem with the amendment in principle: we want the countryside agencies to identify designated access points.

The difficulty is: on what maps should they be identified? The role of statutory maps for the conclusive definition, as the amendment implies, is to show what is mountain, moor, heath and down registered common land. That is the sole, essential purpose of the statutory maps. However, those maps are unlikely to be the ones that the average hiker carries in his rucksack. Walkers tend to use maps and guides which are produced by commercial organisations, their own associations and so forth, which show the area of local countryside. I expect those kinds of user-friendly maps to show the main access, information points, markings and so forth so that access to that land is dealt with in as detailed a way as possible. It is important that the access points are marked on that kind of map rather than on something that sits in the local library and which is the statutory map that designates the land as such.

There is nothing to prevent the countryside agencies indicating the location of access or information at the same time as they produce the statutory maps. That is what the countryside agencies propose to do. There is a difference between the statutory map and the guidance map which indicates preferred or designated access areas. Although I understand the intention of the amendment as it stands and agree with it--I do not necessarily agree with some of the consequences to which it paves--to identify that as being on the statutory map itself is the wrong approach.

Lord Glentoran: I thank the Minister for his agreement. If it is on the statutory map I believe that it will end up on all others. Those who produce the user map (for want of a better word) will get their legal base right from the statutory map. I hope that in due course they will appear on statutory maps.

Perhaps at this stage I may voice a complaint. Tonight I have moved three groups of amendments. The problems with all of them have been appalling. It was extremely difficult to move the first group of amendments, which made no sense. As to the second group, Amendment No. 33 should not have been there and has not been moved. I totally agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, that Amendment No. 15 standing on its own is silly. Considering that those who arrange these groupings have had the whole of the Summer Recess in which to deal with it, the list

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indicates that they do not understand the Bill. I hope that any further groupings of amendments will be significantly more realistic than those with which we are trying to work.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I believe that the normal procedure, which has been followed, is that a proposed list of groupings is provided. It is then up to those who have tabled amendments to deal with it. If a problem has arisen and that list has not been available I apologise. I can only believe that it happened because the House did not sit until today.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I was not consulted either. I expressed my view privately earlier. I assumed that this arose because it was the first day of the sitting. We have found the list unhelpful, particularly in relation to our amendment about firearms and night access. Some of the other groupings have not been helpful. I am sure that in future we shall be consulted.

Baroness Byford: From these Benches perhaps I may clarify the position for the benefit of the Minister who has just intervened. The draft list was made available and it was really up to us to go through it and ensure that the amendments were grouped as we believed they should be. The problem in sorting this out is perhaps in part attributable to the fact that we have literally returned today. It will not happen in future. I do not want the Government Bench to understand that the groupings have not been made available to us; they have.

Lord Glentoran: Having said all that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 not moved.]

9.15 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 18:

    Page 2, line 12, at end insert--

(""local access forum" means a body established under section (Local Access Fora) and references to a local access forum mean the local access forum established by the relevant access authority;").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 102. The purpose of these two amendments is to put local access forums on the face of the Bill. The first amendment establishes a definition for them; the second amendment provides a mechanism by which they can be set up. The theme running through the Bill is that local people will be consulted. That is a wide definition of people. It will include not only landowners and users but also--unlike the amendments grouped with it, to which I am sure those who put them down will speak--climbers, wild life group interests where they have no de facto rights,

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riders with horses and so on. We would like to keep the definition of "local access forum" as wide as is suitable locally.

There is a definite need to set up these forums. I think that that has always been agreed by the Government, because when they published their proposals for improving access to the countryside in March 1999 they recognised that local access forums would play a key role. There has been no disagreement between these Benches and the Government on the importance of the role the forums would have to play. The difference has been that the Government have been hoping that the forums would be able to be non-statutory bodies. Of course at the back of that issue is the resources which would be made available to them because the Countryside Agency, when discussing its role in producing draft guidance, stated:

    "The cost of setting up and running local countryside access forums will fall to the local and national park authorities responsible for them".

Further on in the same paper it said:

    "The Agency will not be able to contribute to the development of local countryside access forums if additional funding is not provided by the Government".

As the Minister indicated earlier, the Government are beginning to think that these forums should be on the face of the Bill. I hope that that recognition will be reflected in providing the funding for them. The time and effort of setting them up will--and rightly should--fall on local authorities. They will be desperately needed if the Countryside Agency is not to be judge and jury at the same time on a number of issues, from the very initial stage of producing the draft map right through to how this will work in practice.

In its briefing of 4th September 2000 the Countryside Agency said:

    "There is an opportunity for local forums to be used as part of local government's long term arrangements for liaison and consultation with local interests on the provision and mmanagement of recreation and access".

That is a very important point. They must be much wider than simply being a mechanism by which the legislation can be put in place. But that of course would be their first and very crucial role. These local forums need to be established rapidly if they are to play a useful role because of the speed with which the mapping will need to be started, a point touched on by the Minister and other noble Lords earlier this evening.

In the Commons Committee debate on 4th April, Mr Mullin said:

    "In some cases, it might not even be necessary to have a forum"--

but I think that generally it is accepted that those moments have passed. He continued,

    "but many areas will urgently require such a body".

When my friend David Heath pressed the point as to who would establish the local access forums Mr Mullin said:

    "it is for the Countryside Agency to insist on the establishment of such bodies where they are thought to be desirable".--[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee B, 4/4/2000; col. 97.]

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However, without the mechanism in the Bill I think it would be very difficult for the Countryside Agency to insist that they should be established, especially where there are no resources to do so.

Contrary to the fears that may have been around initially that the access forums may be a mechanism by which the whole process would be slowed down, I think that they will play a key role in making the process workable and streamlining it locally. Clearly, if interests groups began to use them for those purposes that would be quite wrong. It is for those reasons that I have drafted all our amendments very carefully so that the access forums should be consulted. There is a duty on the agency to consult the access forums but there is not in my amendments a mechanism by which the access forums can bring the whole process to a grinding halt. I think that is right. I hope that the Minister will be able to elaborate on what he said earlier in terms of feeling that they are a very good idea now. I beg to move.

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