|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Greaves: I have three quick points to make. First, I find it a little surprising that we have already spent almost an hour--by the end of the debate we will have spent more than an hour--discussing two amendments that even their proposers admit are defective and deal with an issue that we have already covered in great detail this afternoon.
I have news for the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. If he were to decide one clear dry evening next summer to walk up Snowdon, where he lives--he could even go up on the railway and wait for a while--he might well be astonished by the number of people he found on the summit waiting for the dawn.
I have been on the summit of Snowdon at night twice. On both occasions--and, I think, on every other occasion that I have been on mountain summits in this country in the middle of the night--my decision to go there was spontaneous. Most people who walk and climb on the mountains of this country do not do so in an organised way--a lot of them do, but most do not. Most go in small groups with their friends as individuals. They wait for the weather and, if they happen to be in the right place at the right time and the weather is right, they "go for it". They may go to the summit of Snowdon only to spend a nice time with bottles of wine and so on. Some people may even be waiting for the first train down.
That is what happens, and the point that I want to make relates to many of the concerns that have been raised regarding the wording of the Bill and the amendments. The noble Lords who put forward those concerns appear to have very little experience or knowledge of what people do when they walk and climb on the hills and mountains. Noble Lords are fantasizing about all kinds of things which they assume people get up to which bear very little relation to the truth.
My third point relates to the need to telephone people in order to go to particular places on the hills of this country. Some moorlands are closed to access but limited concessionary access to particular crags is negotiated, usually by the British Mountaineering Council. Climbers can climb those crags even though perhaps no general right of access exists to the moorland massif of which they form a part. There are a number of such areas. Several of us have experience of going through that process. It is not the landowners whom one telephones; it is usually one of their tenants whom they have nominated for the privilege. When
Earl Peel: Does the noble Lord accept that the system could be voluntary, as I suggested? If a landowner, farmer or whoever does not wish to be telephoned, he does not have to be. Only those people who want to be kept informed need go on the list of people who are to be rung.
Lord Greaves: I accept that the system could be voluntary. However, it is being suggested that it should be organised either through access authorities or, as other noble Lords have said, through county councils. That seems to me to be an extraordinarily prolific job-creation scheme, spending a lot of public money to no good end.
Lord Willoughby de Broke: I rise briefly to support what my noble friend Lord Jopling said about building on the amendments of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. It seems to me to be sensible to do so, if only to inject into the Bill a sense of proportionality which so far seems to have been lacking.
In his reply to the debate on the first amendment today, the Minister acknowledged that there was a problem. He said that we were not going to compromise but he accepted that there is a problem. I believe that we are presented with the opportunity to add something to what he said then. Although, as other noble Lords said, these amendments are not absolutely perfectly drafted, they are in the spirit of adding something which will allay the concerns of landowners. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, spoke about that and the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, did so, too, very well.
My noble friend Lord Peel is right that this matter need not be cumbersome. If we are in a 24-hour world, we are also in an IT world where there are faxes, mobile telephones, Internet access and other means of communicating with various people who, as my noble friend said, wish to be communicated with. That is my point in relation to something on which we should be able to build. We should allow landowners and land managers who want to know what is going on to know who will be on their land. These amendments, suitably modified, will give them that chance to be so informed. Therefore, when the Minister comes to reply, I very much hope that to some extent he will accept the spirit of the amendments.
Lord Northbrook: I respond briefly to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn, who I see is not in his place. In relation to Amendment No. 79, I declare an interest as a landowner. I am sure that I speak for many landowners who would be very happy to receive prior notice, particularly via an
With regard to the comments by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, about the timing of sunset, perhaps she could obtain the chart, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, relating to the hours of sunrise and sunset if it were available nationally.
The mild inconvenience of being given notice is more than outweighed by the peace of mind of knowing of a person's presence. I believe that it would also be a good idea to give notice of a walker's presence to the local authorities.
Lord Glentoran: I want to make a final point to the Minister that night access is a serious matter not only for landowners but for anyone who chooses to go walkabout on access areas: on moorland, heath and down. I say that in modesty, suggesting that I probably spend as much time or more moving around on mountains, moors, heaths, downs and water, to say nothing of woods and jungles, as anyone in this House. Even an expert knows that those are not the types of place where one goes for a walk lightly. I would not want the right to roam anywhere at night to be taken in a light-hearted way.
It is a serious business to go on to moorland at night. It does not matter if it is only a field or somewhere such as Salisbury Plain. In that type of place, a broken ankle, a hard frost or many other terrible things may happen. People go on to such land now--for example, in the Peak District--ill-equipped, ill-shod and ignorant of what they are doing. I hope that somehow through this Bill the Government will find a way to compromise on night access so that the seriousness of night access is demonstrated to the general public.
Lord Whitty: Of course I accept that night access is an important issue. I believe that in the past few hours we have given the subject its due importance. It is important for safety reasons and for the sense of security of the people who live and work on the land which is subject to access. However, it is also important as part of the right to access.
I shall look at sensible solutions. I am not in the business of compromise on the basis of these two approaches. In particular, I am not in the business of compromise on the second of the two amendments--Amendment No. 79. That amendment makes it absolutely clear that we are giving landowners a right of veto over the exercise of the right of access. Yes, ostensibly they must behave reasonably. But who is to judge whether they are behaving reasonably, by what
In relation to Amendment No. 76, I say two things to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. First, I appreciated his graphic description of the situation in Snowdonia. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, Snowdonia is already open to access night and day. The Bill will not alter that position. Secondly, in the light of the support for the Mountain Rescue Service, which I totally endorse--the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, and others added to the view of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, on that matter--the letter which I have received from the Mountain Rescue Council states quite clearly:
On the face of it, one may ask what is wrong with prior notification. But as my noble friends Lord Dubs and Lady Gale asked, how would that work in practice? Who would know the landowners? How would you know who the landowners were? If you notified the access authority, what would the access authority do with that information? The willingness of landowners to participate, voluntarily or otherwise, makes the proposal subject to some difficulties in any event.
The fact is that what is suggested here neither protects the safety of the walkers nor the interests of the landowners. Unless there was a great deal of bureaucracy, the access authorities would be unable to contact the landowner in time and the access authority is not in a position, for reasons explained by my noble friend Lady Gale, to check on the safety of the people who have indicated that they wanted access.
There are very serious issues of practicality in relation to any prior notification system. That is not to exclude for ever any debate at a later stage. But as everybody accepts, the amendments are seriously flawed. I believe that the best way forward is to follow a completely different route. After all, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, was right to say that there is a lot of apparent ignorance as to the way in which people take walks. My walks these days are very close to those described by my noble friend Lady Gale, including the number of stops and the fact that they always take longer than I had originally thought. When I was younger, they were along the lines of those described by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, when one sees the sunrise, as I have, from Snowdon, Slieve Donard, Creagh Pitridh and Helvellyn. I have seen the sunrise from all those peaks. I should have seen it also from Ben Nevis, to have a full hand of the highest peaks, but
Of course, in certain dangerous areas, it is advisable, as in Snowdonia, to notify somebody. But neither the access authority nor the landowner is the appropriate person to notify. It will be somebody who can check that you have returned safely within a reasonable timescale. That person can then be responsible for alerting the safety authorities.
The problems which are being addressed here will not be met by either of the two amendments. The first I oppose totally on principle; and the second, I oppose on grounds of practicality. I believe that the way forward is more along the lines advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford; namely, to find a way of ensuring that the advice which goes to walkers and landowners as a result of this Bill is clear and provides a clear understanding of the relative responsibilities for people to notify or take care of their own safety. That seems to me the way forward. It is a more difficult and complicated matter than having a couple of lines in a Bill. But that must be the most sensible way forward. Walkers, landowners and other bodies engaged will, in parallel with the mapping process, be able to develop that advice, publicity and information.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page