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Baroness Byford: I thank the Minister for his response. Many hundreds of people who live in country areas will be disappointed by the fact that the Government do not feel able to move in any way on the question of night-time access, which was a point debated at length before my noble friend Lord Ferrers was able to join us. For that reason, I shall not return to the arguments.

Having said that, I should point out to the Minister that I believe that the message being sent out to country people is one that indicates that the Government clearly do not understand. They are not willing to take on board the serious representations that have been made and debated in the Committee. Even on the issue of wildlife protection, while the Minister has acknowledged that problems could arise, on the figures that I have been given--70 per cent of the areas under debate already contain SSSIs--it seems ridiculous not to consider the amendment for such areas. If the more limited night-time restrictions could apply in certain areas, people would be allowed some time to watch the sunrise or the sunset and would still be able to leave the area during the hours of darkness.

Unfortunately we appear to be hitting against a solid block with the Government on this issue. They are not prepared to consider the real issues here. Although I know that the Minister is genuine in his belief that the access must be made available for everyone, we need to balance that against the needs of people who live and work in the countryside. I fear that that balance has not been struck. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 76:

Page 2, line 28, at end insert (", and
( ) if he intends to enter or remain on the land later than one hour after sunset on any day, he gives prior notice of that intention to the access authority").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of Amendment No. 76, to which my noble friend Lord Peel has also put his name, is to ensure that a person who intends to enter or remain on access land later than an hour after sunset gives prior notice to the access authority. It is a simple requirement, dictated predominantly by a concern for people's safety.

Everyone who speaks to the Bill inevitably brings his or her personal experience of the countryside into the argument. There is nothing wrong with that. Indeed,

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there is everything right with it. My home for the past 30 years has been on the eastern edge of the Snowdonia National Park. We have an uninterrupted view of Tal y Fan mountain, 2,000 feet high, and of the higher mountains beyond which comprise the Snowdon range. The topmost 30 feet of that mountain will probably become access land subject to the fast track procedure.

I am obviously familiar with the life of the area, with the farming community, with others who live and work in the park and around its edges, with the visitors who come to walk the hills, and with what happens in the area. What I do not hear by word of mouth or on local radio, I can read about in the Liverpool Daily Post or in our local weeklies. I say this in order that the Committee will know that my approach to the Bill is that of one who knows something about mountain land--the mountain element of access land--rather than about heath, moorland or other categories, which I leave to better informed people.

One of the commonest happenings in Snowdonia is that some unfortunate person--usually young and from the urban areas of Merseyside, Greater Manchester or the Midlands--wanders off the beaten track, even on Snowdon itself, or is caught in a thick mist, and falls hundreds of feet, sometimes fatally. One of the 50 or so mountain rescue teams in the area is called out and when the victim is found a helicopter from RAF Valley, Anglesey, takes the casualty to the district general hospital, Ysbyty Gwynedd at Bangor.

Unfortunately, that is a regular and somewhat trying experience that has worried many of us who live in the area for years. My local North Wales newspaper, The Weekly News, reported a typical accident case on 13th July--just before we were due to go into Committee on the Bill--under the headline "Helicopter called to peak casualty". It was a typical occurrence. The article stated:

    "A young woman had to be rescued after falling and breaking her arm while climbing Snowdon at the weekend.

    The woman, thought to be from the Nottingham area, was 2,000 feet up the peak when the accident happened on Saturday afternoon.

    A Sea King helicopter from RAF Valley was used in the rescue, working in conjunction with members of the Llanberis mountain rescue team".

That was a minor accident as mountain accidents go. It happened in broad daylight and in a very well known location. Nevertheless, it involved a call out to a rescue team and a Sea King helicopter from RAF Valley on a Saturday afternoon.

During the Recess I made some inquiries with the North Wales police, who told me that there were 287 accidents in the mountains between April last year and April this year. The hospital gave me figures for the last calendar year--153 calls for mountain rescue

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services for 265 people involved in accidents, five of them fatal. That is quite a heavy toll. As I have said, it worries a great many of us who live in the area.

Lord Dubs: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Of the accidents he has quoted, can he indicate how many took place during the hours covered by the amendment?

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am talking about the mountainous area of Snowdonia. These accidents happened with the situation as it is and in broad daylight. When the Bill comes into operation there will be a different situation, as I am about to explain.

With more extensive access to mountain land, such accidents are bound to increase in numbers and frequency. That is obvious. The areas to be searched will be more extensive; so will the timescale with night-time access; and so of course will the demand for rescue teams and helicopter pilots. Their work will be more difficult at night. We are subject already to almost daily helicopter surveillance in our Conwy Valley, and I suspect that if they go searching for people at night the place will look like a scene from the Vietnam war film "Apocalypse Now".

The purpose of my amendment is abundantly clear.

Lord Greaves: Can the noble Lord tell us what happens at the moment to people who are involved in an accident at night? There are no night restrictions at all at the moment on all the land which is available for accessing Snowdonia.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I did not obtain a detailed analysis of the accident figures I have given, which differed slightly between the police and the hospital services. The noble Lord should remember that, yes, we are talking about the Snowdonia National Park and the area round and about it, but there will be considerable additional areas declared to be access land. Much of that will be mountain land even in that particular area, let alone the rest of Wales and the United Kingdom. I have taken Snowdonia, which is an area that I know, as an example of the kind of thing that is happening now in a given area.

As I said, the purpose of my amendment is abundantly clear: it seeks to ensure the safety of those who walk the hills at night, so that if they do lose their way and an accident occurs, their rescuers will know at least roughly where to look for them because they will have given prior notice of their whereabouts to the access authority. The amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, which is to be discussed together with my amendment, refers to landowners as well.

The action by the access authority of registering those who are about to go into the hills at night will cost money--I am sure of that--but surely it is better to spend some money than to lose young lives, as so often happens now.

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Many more arguments can be adduced in favour of the amendment in relation to the security of property, livestock and so on--rural crime is on the increase, as we all know--but it is the personal safety of the individual climber/walker that is my paramount concern. To my mind, the argument for the amendment is insuperable. With the extension of access land and times of visiting, accidents will inevitably increase.

I do not want to be too dramatic about it, but, as the Bill stands, it seems to me that we are sending many young people to almost certain death in the Snowdonia area. That cannot be right. I hope that the Minister in his response will not say that the lost walker can use his mobile phone or that the issue can be left to local by-laws and regulations. The mountains are unsafe places now, especially for the inexperienced, ill equipped and ill clad youngsters who venture into them, as the accident toll demonstrates all too clearly. It is all very well to say that they take a risk, but we hear locally about the people who have taken that risk and have fallen and had severe accidents of one kind or another.

My amendment would not deny access to the various people who have a particular desire or reason for wanting to be in the hills after dark. All it does it to ensure that their presence and whereabouts are known to the access authority. It is to be hoped that the access authority will tell the landowners if there are going to be people wandering about their property at night, to spare them the worry and concern and to allow them to warn people that there may be the odd bull in a particular field and that he is not as contented as some might expect him to be in a herd of 20 or 30 cattle. I mention that because a friend of mine only just made it to his Land Rover the other day when he was chased by one of his own bulls which was clearly in a discontented mood. What happens to a farmer who knows his territory can easily happen to a walker crossing a field.

I urge the Government to take the matter of night access seriously--certainly as seriously as they took the subject of gallops when it was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue. It was the safety argument that turned the Minister's mind so far as gallops were concerned. I urge him to consider the safety aspect of night access, particularly to mountain land. I beg to move.

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