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I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment. I understand that in the other place the Minister said that there was an intention to include land used for hay and silage-making, but that is still not covered in the Bill as it now stands. Perhaps we may have some reassurance that that matter will be covered.
Baroness Byford: I apologise for not having spoken earlier to Amendment No. 52 which is part of the same group. Amendment No. 52 deals with the particular point just mentioned by my noble friend. It is concerned with,
The Minister stated in Standing Committee B on 6th April 2000 (at col. 170) that he did not expect rotation leys to be mapped as open country. He has also indicated that land which has been improved in some way, or land which is used more intensively than
Lord Rotherwick: I should like to support my noble friend Lady Byford on Amendments Nos. 49 and 52. I think that the Minister would be anxious to learn that on the grounds of safety there are concerns. These grasslands use husbandry techniques which include fertiliser and herbicide sprays. It is not appropriate for dogs or humans to go on those grounds after these techniques have been used. There is no way of knowing within an hour or so that those techniques have been used. Not only will certain fertiliser spays burn the feet of dogs, but it would give rise to problems for a farmer if, when conducting such an operation on his field, he were to find people walking across it being intoxicated perhaps with the sprays. It is very difficult for a farmer of limited means on a small farm if rubbish is left by walkers. Only this weekend I picked up off footpaths two or three cans that were certainly not there last week. Such cans cause considerable damage to silage machinery.
I also have the same concerns over grassland which should be down for one year or five years. It could be said that farmers should perhaps go to short-term leys rather than long-term leys in order to keep those lands from being excluded lands. If that were the case, it would deny the wildlife considerable benefit from the longer leys.
Lord Hardy of Wath: I have a certain amount of sympathy with some of the arguments advanced by noble Lords opposite. But for a long time some of us have argued that we could achieve the same benefit in the hill and rural areas of parts of these islands if agricultural support was reasonably generous but based on the principle of acreage rather than headage, because in some areas there is over-production as farmers try to maintain living standards and produce more animals for meat than can be sold. In order to sustain life in areas like that there is no point in over-production. There is a point in keeping farmers there. It may be that the economy of those particular areas would benefit if rather less grass was produced and there was rather more grazing to enable the character of the area to be retained, thus avoiding all the disadvantages of over-production, while at the same time providing the income which is necessary to retain the rural population.
Lord Jopling: The noble Lord, Lord Hardy, said that he prefers rough grazing to modern grassland managed crops. I have to say to him respectfully, because he knows a great deal about country matters, that in the present economic circumstances
I support my noble friend Lady Byford, particularly on Amendment No. 50. I say as a former student of the great grassland improver, Professor Martin Jones, who did so much of his work at Aberystwyth and at Newcastle, where he taught me, that I could imagine him turning in his grave at the thought that there should be provisions in a Bill giving the green light to one year leys in our uplands rather than leys for three, five or even more years. I hesitate to give the Committee a lecture on agricultural practices, but I shall do so. A single year ley is used only in arable areas where corn crops are undersown with a one-year ley to grow grass and clovers in the following year to be turned usually into hay or silage. It is in the upland areas where long-term leys are very much more the practice.
I referred a few moments ago to Newcastle. I feel that I must draw attention to the work that has been done over a great many years at the experimental farm of Newcastle University, Cockle Park, and the celebrated Cockle Park mixture. It is a seed mixture of three or five year leys which in the early years of the last century did a huge amount to improve the grassland management of our upland areas and make it possible for farmers to farm those upland areas with some degree of prosperity. Single year leys do not happen in the upland areas. Where a farmer wants to improve the grassland--he ploughs it out or directly seeds it--he will do it with a three or five-year ley. It is nonsense to suggest that only a one-year ley should be the credential for having exempted land. I can provide the Minister with reams of scientific agricultural research to bear out the point I am seeking to make and which was made so ably by my noble friend when she spoke to Amendment No. 50. I hope passionately that the Minister understands the point and will agree to change the Bill to extend the 12 month period to five years.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: Our Amendment No. 53 is grouped with these amendments. The first part of the amendment seeks to clarify the extent of land classified as cultivated. The amendment seeks to include among the cultivated land that grassland which is reseeded on a greater infrequency than the five years referred to in Amendment No. 50. The inclusion of the amendment would be of particular benefit to smallholders. The Bill seems to be orientated towards estates and larger farms. Disturbance of livestock will potentially have a greater effect on the few animals held on a smallholding than on a larger unit.
The second part of the amendment seeks to include in cultivated land that land which is in set-aside at the point of mapping. It is hoped that the fact that set-aside usually takes place for only one year and is
I should like to be able to declare an interest as I am a farmer with a certain amount of land over 600 metres, a great deal of which would be called "access land" under the provisions of the Bill. However, I am not able to declare an interest because that land is in Scotland. Nevertheless, I maintain a continuing interest in the question of how access to the countryside is managed.
In an area like mine, improved grassland, in particular that under five years old, tends to be used for hay, silage or intensive grazing. As my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke explained, people tramping through such land will inhibit growth by introducing extra tracks and could even contribute to soil contamination. When such land is situated in the neighbourhood of mountain moorland and rough grazing, sheep are often put to the ram or held for lambing there. Although I can follow the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, I should point out that if the balance between rough ground and grass is correct, this enables fewer sheep to produce more lambs. That is one way of reducing the stocking rate on the rough ground itself.
When considering this issue, I have found that it can be useful to make a comparison with Norway. An Act granting access was introduced there in 1957. It is still extant and presumably has been found to work reasonably satisfactorily. In defining the land to which access is not granted during the summer months, the law states:
When considering definitions of area, perhaps noble Lords will allow me to return to the Norwegian case and demonstrate how it does not prove to be a good comparison. In Norway, the total area of land used for agriculture or commercial forestry comprises 26.5 per cent of the whole country. If a certain amount is deducted for urban use, some 65 per cent of Norwegian land is not managed in any way and therefore fits much better the definition of open ground.
However, in this country it seems that we are trying to redefine open ground from what it might in the first instance appear to be. In the United Kingdom, registered agricultural holdings plus productive forestry account for 70 per cent of the land. Again, allowing for urban use, the remainder of the country which comprises water and unmanaged ground amounts to only 12 per cent of the total.
During discussions I had last July with the head of the Redesdale Hill Farm Research Centre near Otterburn, I heard that within the past year, one of its staff put in a bid to research this subject, but was refused a grant. Here, I am returning, but from a slightly different angle, to the point made earlier by the noble Earl, Lord Peel, about how much research has been carried out into the effects of this increased access. Considering the importance that the Government seem to attach to the Bill, it seems to me that this is rather short-sighted.
In the discussion I had with this gentleman, the four most sensitive periods were highlighted. These of course easily exceed the 28 days presently allowed for the managers of land under the Bill. For three weeks when the ewes are put to the ram and for a couple of weeks thereafter, with any prolonged disturbance the normal expectation of 5 per cent of ewes being barren could become 20 to 30 per cent. Two weeks before lambing, any chasing with an errant dog could result in another 10 per cent aborting. In the four weeks of lambing, complications, mismothering, drowning and abandoned lambs are the issues that worry the farmer and the shepherd. The final point is that with lambs grazing on aftermaths or late season grass for fattening it can be noticed that they do not thrive for a couple of days after a general disturbance.
Farmers could suffer a substantial drop in income if numbers of people wander from defined pathways at these sensitive times. At a time when farmers are being asked to farm to ever higher standards and to compete in world markets, there will be inevitable production costs.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: I cannot leave my noble friend Lady Byford alone in coed cae or ffryd land in Amendment No. 36, admirably though she pronounced it. This is an important element in Welsh upland agriculture. It is the land in the foothills and on the slopes; it is usually walled or fenced and is extremely valuable to the farmer because it is used to hold sheep and livestock that have been on the mountain during the severe winter months.
The land does not look very cultivated to the visitor's eye. The farmer has a constant battle to keep the lambs free from bracken, gorse and other predatory fauna. Nevertheless, it is extremely worth his while to do so because the land is used for stock during the winter months. I should have thought that the argument for this being excepted land is very strong indeed. Although it is not cultivated in the most obvious sense of the term, it is land that is hard fought for by the farmer to retain its usefulness, and that usefulness is certainly proven as part of the upland agriculture.
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