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Lord Roberts of Conwy: The Minister kindly conceded the point that it is always advisable to tell someone if one is going on a night walk or a night climb. But is he aware that all the people that we have heard about--the friends, hoteliers and so on--are very often irrelevant these days because we certainly have visitors coming straight from the major urban areas? They do not tell anybody where they are going.

8.15 p.m.

Lord Whitty: That may well be the case and I suspect it is the case in relation to Snowdonia. There might be more sense in identifying someone who should be notified. But I suggest to him that neither the landowner nor the access authority as such is the appropriate body to notify. It must be somebody much more local and somebody in touch with a safety organisation.

I should say also that the desirability of such notification varies according to the type of land. It is clearly much more important to do so in Snowdonia than it is on the South Downs. Nowhere has no risks but there is a big difference. Therefore, again, a blanket approach to this matter is not sensible. It is much better dealt with in terms of advice and information. That is where I stand now. No doubt if these amendments are not pursued this evening, we shall return to this issue. I am not prepared to go down either of the roads proposed in these amendments.

Viscount Bledisloe: I am not concerned really with the peaks of Snowdon and those people who have come up in a railway train with a lot of bottles of wine

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to enjoy the sunrise but rather with the ordinary moorland areas where people live, work and have their being.

I suggest that it is absolutely essential that those people can know, if they want to, whether there are walkers on their land at night so that if they do see and hear a disturbance, they can know whether there are legitimate walkers out there or whether they are villains.

I do not mind how that is achieved. It may well be that the best way is by the local authority having an answering service which the landowner can access to find out whether people have said that they are coming to walk over his land.

People say that it is unfair on the poor little walker because he will have to make a telephone call. But that must be balanced against the points made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Mallalieu and Lady Carnegy, when they spoke of the terror of a lady who may be alone in her house and hears people walking outside. If we are saying that that must be forgotten because the walker may be inconvenienced by having to make a telephone call, then we have the Bill sadly wrong.

The Government must recognise that they are conferring on these people a new privilege. That must not be conferred at the expense of the fear and real loss to the people who have lived, bought their houses and live and work on the land. To say that a telephone call is too much inconvenience for allaying those people is totally unbalanced.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: Neither am I concerned with people assembling at the top of Snowdon to see the sunrise. I am concerned about the extension and the new areas and new places where people will be able to go which will be affected by this Bill. All that is fine but, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and the right reverend Prelate, there is such a thing as good practice; namely, telling hoteliers, friends and so on where one has gone.

As I have told the Minister, there are now a lot of people coming straight out of the urban areas and telling no one where they are going. The rescue services, who do such admirable work, will probably have their work cut out in finding those people in new locations which have become access areas under this Bill. Surely the whole point about giving prior notification is that if it is so done, then whoever is taking the notification is bound to ask when the person expects to get back and to ask the person to report back when he returns by means of a telephone call.

We have had an extremely interesting debate and various suggestions have been made. Therefore, we should return to this issue at a later date with, perhaps, an amended amendment. Therefore, I shall not press the amendment this evening.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 77 to 79 not moved.]

Lord Carter: I believe that it is time to adjourn for dinner. I should point out that I have been listening to this debate with great interest. All Chief Whips are

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familiar with people who take spontaneous walks! I suggest that the Committee should adjourn until 9.20 p.m.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.20 to 9.20 p.m.]

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 80:

Page 2, line 29, after ("subsections") insert ("(2A),").

The noble Baroness said: I speak to Amendments Nos. 80, 81, 82 and 83. Amendments Nos. 80 and 81 are tidying up amendments. They ensure the consistency of the Bill, taking into account the relevant amendments.

Amendment No. 82 questions the fairness in the Bill. The Bill limits the owner's freedom to enjoy his or her land or to do with it what he or she wishes. As such, the losses suffered by owners and managers must be kept to an absolute minimum. Therefore where access is currently granted for a cost, the owner must not suffer an additional loss by being stopped charging for access.

Areas where access is currently granted at a price are limited. However, in this era of agricultural diversification, such money can be important to the landowner or to the land manager and it is more than likely that it will be ploughed back into the maintenance of the landscape that is enjoyed. The provision of fences, stiles and gates and their upkeep is enormously expensive, as has been mentioned. This Bill will impose access on owners of land, but it is far from clear how much additional help owners or tenants will receive in order to meet the additional costs that result from the Bill. Therefore, it should be possible to charge for access where charges are currently made. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell the Committee that that is the case. Clearly, any other situation should be the exception and not the rule. Any reasonable charges should be met.

Access authorities should shoulder the costs associated with providing access and maintaining the fabric needed to provide access. This Bill gives something to the general public at the expense of others' rights and, as such, any financial burdens must be the responsibility of taxpayers. Also landowners should not be unable to generate revenue from their property where they have been used to doing so.

In Committee in another place Mr Meacher referred to the National Trust as a responsible landowner, owning more than 200,000 hectares of land in England and Wales. That organisation levies charges for facilities that are provided to complement access to land or to manage the land. As many noble Lords know, the National Trust has many thousands, if not millions, of members who pay an annual fee of something like £60. Mr Meacher also stated that although he was not willing to accept the amendment, he was prepared to have a look at the case. He said that he would consider the matter and return with further proposals. Having read the report of proceedings in another place, I do not believe that anything has transpired since then. The Minister may be able to bring me up to date on that.

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Allied to that--although I have not tabled an amendment specifically in relation to the point--is the issue of tenant farmers, which has been raised with me. Tenant farmers pay a rent to their landowners and they ask why they should have to pay landowners a rent if the public are to be allowed free access. There will be increased management, about which we spoke in an earlier debate, for which they will receive no income but perhaps extra hassle.

Amendment No. 82 does not entitle any person to enter land,

    "If on the day on which Royal Assent is given to this Act any land was open to members of the public for an access fee".

Various other charities are concerned, including the RSPB, which I visited. It charges a £5 entrance fee and presumably will continue to be able to charge that fee. The amendments merely seek clarification. I look forward to the Minister's response. I beg to move.

Baroness Nicol: The noble Baroness mentioned the RSPB, of which I am vice-president. I understand in fact that it does not object to losing its charging facility. It understands that it will need to be discontinued and it does not view that as a major difficulty as it will be possible to charge instead for value-added services such as car parks, WCs and visitor centres. It points out that its main reason for charging at sites is to encourage people to join its organisation. So it is not a major problem and the RSPB does not resist the proposition.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Of course the RSPB does not mind; it is full of money. It is one of the richest organisations in the country. So that has not got much to do with anything.

My noble friend is suggesting that, because times are difficult for farmers, it is not fair if they lose the ability to charge. I should have thought that the country should encourage farmers to diversify their businesses and that those who are, for example, already charging for people to see their animals or to visit a deer farm should be allowed to continue to do so. There should not be discouragement but encouragement to do that. At the moment, for example, if a farmer grows barley and it is not malting barley, it costs as much to harvest as the amount for which it can be sold. So people do not grow it and are wondering what to do with the land.

This is not an amusing point; it is rather serious. Charging should not be precluded because of access and it is an extraordinary idea that it should be. I hope that the Minister will look at this, if his colleague has not already done so.

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