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Baroness Byford: I do not believe that I can quite let that pass. There has been no suggestion that farmers will alter their practices. The truth is that from time to

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time they improve certain areas of their grassland and must re-sow. I suspect that we shall come to talk about the grass moors later, together with heather burning and other land management issues. Under these proposals such normal practices will be much more difficult. However, at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Perhaps I misunderstood the noble Earl, Lord Caithness. I hope that I did and, if I did, I apologise. However, I believed that he was suggesting that farmers might do things that they might not otherwise have done in order to avoid having their land classified as access land.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 37 and 38 not moved.]

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 39:

    Page 48, line 5, at end insert--

(" . Land used for the keeping of horses and which contains a stable, barn or shelter.").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 39 and 40 have appeared in the wrong place in the grouping and should have been placed in the rather large group of amendments which I moved some time ago. However, at this time of night with these two amendments the Government have an opportunity to accept something which is common sense.

Land used for keeping horses and which contains stables or barns really is on the same scale and the same level as the keeper's cottage, in my opinion. Land use for animal pens or enclosures is similar. The horse is probably the most sensitive of all domestic animals. When frightened, it may do significant damage both to itself and to buildings. It seems reasonable that land which is used exclusively for keeping horses should be excepted.

I must declare an interest in that my daughter-in-law is, and has been for many years, a member of the British three-day event team. She has a stable of 15 or 20 horses in a very small acreage. However, it is part and parcel of wide open land. Regular visitors in considerable numbers with dogs and so on could be seriously disruptive to highly trained and valuable horses. I beg to move.

The Duke of Montrose: I support the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Glentoran and I shall speak at the same time to my Amendment No. 62.

I disagree with my noble friend in relation to the fact that these amendments are taken separately. It is useful that they are dealt with in that way because they all treat with things which farmers can do by way of diversification. That is the point of the amendment which I have tabled.

Amendment No. 39 refers to horses. My amendment is concerned with a wider range of recreational activities which might turn out to be part of a viable business for those who aim to gain a living from the countryside. It is drawn fairly widely because we do not know what will turn out to be a viable enterprise in the future in rural and agricultural areas.

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Of course, diversification is the "in" word at the moment and probably the only way that many farmers will survive will be by deriving income from activities which are not connected directly with the production of food.

The issue of people paying for access to land is touched on in Amendments Nos. 82 and 83 but these amendments deal only with land for which access is currently being charged. My amendment seeks to allow the necessary scope for people wishing to diversify to restrict public access to enable them to carry out successfully that diversification. The activities to which I am referring may be motorcycle scrambling or even the creation of a wildfowl centre.

On the subject of wildfowl centres, I telephoned the managing director of the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust. That alerted me to the major ramifications which arise from a Bill like this. I asked him whether he had any worries about the management of his wildfowl reserves. He said that he had no worries because the existing sites in the trust's ownership were all SSSIs or were special protection areas and that he would expect to be able to impose all the necessary access restrictions under that element of the legislation.

He does expect that problems may arise in relation to breeding birds associated with river and lake margins, breeding tern colonies, winter wildfowl site roosts and feeding areas and even linear routes along watercourses.

Somebody wishing to diversify would not have the SSSI protection. If a farmer decides to make a pond or to develop a marshy area into a wildlife or bird sanctuary, the public would still have access to that. But if he then decided that it could be turned into a visitor attraction, it would not have the protection of a SSSI. It is then impossible to justify the expenditure necessary to turn it into a viable proposition. In some ways it means that all the land designated as access land becomes as potentially sterile commercially for any new venture as all the land designated as SSSI. Many people involved in land management have found that to be the case.

Lord Mancroft : I support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Glentoran in respect of horses, which are not always the most placid of animals. Horses can injure people and people can injure horses. That is an increasing problem in the countryside. Within the past three or four years I have had a horse out at grass in summer, driven on to a wire fence, which had to be put down. I do not know what happened, but it is clear that there were people and probably dogs about. I suppose the dogs chased the horse round the field. That is not uncommon. I have heard of other people to whom that has happened in the past two or three years. People can be injured. There is a danger to animals and a danger to people.

Members of the Committee will also be aware that in the past few years there have been an increasing number of unpleasant crimes involving horses. People have got into fields with horses and open areas at night

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and committed unpleasant violent attacks on them. That is an increasing problem in the countryside. In the summertime, many working horses are out of work and resting. They are put out into areas which either border open areas, moorland or heathland, or into those marginal parts of the countryside where there will be access areas or which are close to access areas. That sort of problem is already occurring and will no doubt increase. Where access areas border farmland, there are already problems with gates being left open. We now have to padlock gates. We have never had to do that before. That is not because people mean to do harm but because they do not know that they do harm. They leave gates open and let animals out on to the road, and so forth.

The problem with horses is particularly difficult, much more so than with sheep and cattle. I hope that the Government will take the problem into account. A shelter gives definite guidance that that is the sort of land that needs to be exempted from the mapping process.

We must bear in mind the state of the countryside at present, as we discussed earlier. We must also bear in mind the encouragement that landowners and farmers are being given to diversify. One of the areas into which they are diversifying is horse sports, which includes riding and having riding stables. Many farmers are doing that. It is massively on the increase. Large numbers of horses are being kept for that purpose. People are visiting wilder parts of the country in Wales, Dartmoor and the national parks for that reason. There is an increased horse population and an increasing number of people about. When people are not paying attention people and horses do not always mix as well as they should. It would be helpful if the Government could think carefully about that and nip the problem in the bud so that we do not have to return and do something in a year or two when the problem has developed.

Lord Whitty: The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, was optimistic in looking for acceptances. I believe that the current provisions in the Bill already meet his points. In a sense we have, therefore, accepted them in advance.

Amendment No. 39 excepts land used for keeping horses which contains a stable, barn or shelter. He and the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, have argued for that. However, as a rule, land which is intensively grazed by horses deteriorates unless it has been carefully managed. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that such land would be classified as open country in the first instance. In addition, land which is covered by buildings, which would include stables, barns and most forms of shelter, is already a category of excepted land. In some cases the surrounding land where the horse is kept may also be classified as the curtilage of buildings if there are proper stables, and would therefore also be excepted. In most cases in places where the land is used for horses, horse breeding and so forth, the likelihood is that the land would have been excepted under the current provisions of the Bill.

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That is even more the case under Amendment No. 40 which would except land used for animal pens or enclosures. It is true that originally the Bill did not include any provision in that respect. However, as a result of a debate in the other place, the Government tabled an amendment which added to the list of excepted categories,

    "land covered by pens in use for the temporary reception or detention of livestock".

The noble Lord's amendment would slightly alter that and would include such pens and enclosures not in use. I cannot go that far, but where they are in use, they will be excluded.

In relation to Amendment No. 62, I understand the desire for or at least the option for diversification. However, it is unlikely that many such areas would need special exception, certainly not blanket exceptions. Land such as bathing beaches, campsites and wildlife centres can be taken in turn. Bathing beaches are highly unlikely to be covered by the statutory right to access as they do not fall within open country and are not registered common land. Likewise, we would not expect large campsites normally to be mapped as open country. In those situations where campsites do fall on land mapped as open country, they are likely to fall within another category of excepted land such as buildings and their curtilages; for example, tents are excepted under paragraph 2 of Schedule 1. If they do not fall within any of those excepted categories, there is still the option of applying to the relevant authority for access to be temporarily restricted or completely excluded.

In so far as wildlife centres would comprise buildings, they would be excepted and the surrounding area would be excepted. If the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, intends to include in the exception large extensive areas of land, then we do not consider that such areas should necessarily be excepted. Access may of course be excluded on the grounds of nature conservation. Again, that would be a viable approach to the Countryside Agency to provide exception on those grounds, which many wildlife centres would provide.

The noble Lord referred to activities for which a fee is charged. I understand that in the diversification process. But this issue is dealt with more generally in a later group of amendments. Certainly in relation to wildlife centres that exist at present, which tend to be run largely by wildlife organisations, those bodies have not suggested that there is a significant difficulty. But I can see that if one is moving from farming into that area, a slightly different situation may arise. We deal with the principle of that at a later stage. Therefore I cannot accept the amendments, though the majority of those tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, are already covered.

12.45 a.m.

Lord Glentoran: I thank the Minister for that full explanation. I am encouraged. I felt that his response was positive. Possibly I did not understand the Bill. But I feel that on this occasion my horses are probably fairly safe. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 40 to 56 not moved.]

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