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Lord Mancroft: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. The amendments relate to night access, not walks during the day. The noble Baroness used the word "spontaneous". I do not believe that many people will spontaneously walk up Snowdon late at night; they will do a little more planning than that. If the amendment discouraged people from doing so, it would be a good thing. I would not want too many spontaneous mountain climbers at night. In dangerous areas such as moorland I hope that walkers would do a little more forward planning. They should know when they are leaving, from where and when they will return. I do not think that the noble Baroness's arguments are valid.
Baroness Gale: By "spontaneous" walks I refer to those pleasant days when one feels energetic and wants to go on a walk. The walk may take longer than anticipated and may not end before nightfall. It would be spontaneous rather than a planned walk.
On my many walks I am never certain what time each walk will end. It can be delayed for many reasons. One might have a comfort stop, a stop for lunch or a rest. For many reasons the walk may not end when anticipated. One might worry about taking a spontaneous walk if one has not asked for consent, and has not planned far enough ahead. The amendments are impractical. They would make walks difficult for the public and organisations as regards ownership of the land.
The amendment would be a bureaucratic nightmare. What staff will there be to listen to the answering machines? What will they do with that information? If people do not check in on their return the information will be of no use.
There would no longer be the joy of walking which many people experience. In its place there will be the worry of completing the walk before nightfall or of having to know the owner of every piece of land and to plan the walk far ahead. It would be impossible for all walkers to be that well informed. The amendment is impractical and difficult to implement.
Lord Rotherwick: My noble friend Lord Jopling urged the Minister to come to a compromise which will give walkers little problem in gaining access to land at night while giving assurance and comfort to those who live in the area. The right reverend Prelate was right to say that most landowners would not want to be pestered by people telling them that they were coming on to their land. I can think of precedents which work. During straw-burning time we had to notify our local authorities. Many hundreds of farmers did so. The calls were taken by the local authority.
A night walk is more arduous and difficult than a day walk. Some of those which I undertook in the army were a delight and some were not quite so delightful. There has to be some planning. One has an idea of where one is going and how long it will take and one has a map. It is not difficult to mark an area on a map with a footnote stating the access authority. One can then let that authority know of the walk. After all, if the walker has a problem he expects the rescue services to put immense effort into collecting him from that land. With modern technology, it is surely not too much to ask walkers to give a minute or two of their time to let people know that they will be on this land at night.
With modern technology it would not be difficult to put this information on a website. People would have easy access to that information. It seems good sense and good practice. I hope that we can find a compromise.
Lord Marlesford: One of the main arguments deployed against extending access at night related to the hazards involved. The Government have accepted that argument. I was struck by the remarks of my noble friend Lord Jopling. We seem now to be discussing the hazards of night access of any kind anywhere.
The amendments are not practical. However, the Government should consider the need for advice for night access generally which would apply to the areas where night access already exists. Perhaps they should consider some extension of the country code. It might be said that no one will take notice of it. It could be provided by statute that those who ignore the advice and get into difficulties may have to make a
Baroness Masham of Ilton: I only wanted to make a brief comment. Perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Peel, can answer me. I am concerned about the amendments because they refer to activities "after sunset". I live in North Yorkshire, where there has hardly been any sun this summer. It has poured with rain almost every day, making life even more difficult for the farmers. Would it not be more accurate for the amendments to refer to "darkness" or "dusk"?
I also join the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn and the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, in paying tribute to the mountain rescue teams and add to that a tribute to the dog search teams. Dogs sometimes find people on mountains when humans fail. They do a remarkable job and they, too, are voluntary.
Earl Peel: I know from many years of experience that it is sometimes extremely difficult to answer the questions put by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton. I live very close to her and I sympathise with her about the lack of sunshine that we have had during the summer. She has made a useful point, but I think that any sensible person would understand the amendments. I am sure that she agrees.
I put my name to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Roberts, but I should also like to speak to Amendment No. 79 in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. I fully accept that neither is technically practical, but, as my noble friend, Lord Jopling, has said, they have given us an opportunity to try to find a compromise on the thorny issue of night-time access.
I think that the noble Viscount's amendment is rather better than the one that I put my name to because it would at least involve the owner of the land. However, both amendments have a problem, because neither would oblige the access authority to inform the owner that someone wanted to go on to their land. The owner or farmer is the person most interested in what is going on on their patch. That is why I am so keen on the principles behind the amendments.
We have already debated the issue at length. I acknowledge that the amendments do not deal with the thorny question of livestock and wildlife, which we have already discussed. I was interested to hear the Minister say, in response to my earlier question, that he did not think that economic factors would be taken
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, said that the amendments were a lawyer's paradise. I suggest that the whole Bill will be a lawyer's paradise. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn said that there were no easy answers. He is right. There are no easy answers to the issues raised by the amendments and the Minister made it clear that there are no easy answers to the problems of access points and access areas.
Once again, that shows the fundamental faults in the Bill. If we cannot try to resolve them in Committee, I do not know when we will. Again, I go back to the plea of my noble friend Lord Jopling for us to try to find a sensible compromise.
Various suggestions have been put forward, including an answer service, which would be perfectly acceptable. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, talked about people being disturbed, but the system could be voluntary. Anyone who did not want to be on the information service would not have to be, but some of the landowners, farmers, occupiers or tenants who are responsible for managing a piece of land that will be subjected to access under the Bill may wish to be on it, so it should be available to them.
I accept that the amendments are by no means perfect, but they give us an opportunity to work towards a compromise. I sincerely hope that the Minister will look towards that as a means of getting out of a difficult and thorny situation.
Lord Molyneaux of Killead: In the early stages of the debate, I had feared that we might be ignoring the dangers to walkers and--perhaps more importantly--to the rescuers. I, too, pay tribute to the mountain rescue people and admire their courage. I sympathise with their relatives, as, I hope, do some irresponsible walkers and mountaineers when their rescuers are killed in the execution of what they regard as their duty.
The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, will be well aware that I am closely involved with Royal Air Force and Army Air Corps helicopter crews. I know that he understands that night flying in helicopters is very hazardous at the best of times, even when they adhere to mapped routes that have been cleared with air traffic control. It is 100 times more dangerous when they have to go off the familiar beaten track, particularly at night and in misty conditions, to search over uneven ground, forests and highlands. There
I have good reason to believe that the publicity generated by the debates on the Bill will stimulate a great deal of interest and activity. We all approve of that, but sometimes it will create interest among people with no experience. Before they wander off into the wilderness, particularly in dark, misty conditions, I hope that they will not forget the rescuers and their families.
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