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Baroness Nicol: I, too, do not think that this is an amusing exercise. However, the RSPB was mentioned and I thought it might be helpful for the Committee to have its view.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I, too, do not think that this is an amusing topic. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, is mistaken in thinking I thought it was.

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This group of amendments is concerned with the issue of paying for access to the countryside. Amendment No. 82 would require the payment of a fee for access where such a fee was charged prior to Royal Assent. Amendment No. 83 would have a somewhat different effect, preventing people exercising the new right of access on land to which the public were allowed on a fee-paying basis prior to Royal Assent.

I note that Amendment No. 100 defines "relevant fee" for the purposes of Amendment No. 82, and the new clause which is Amendment No. 101 provides that, where a charge was raised for entry to access land at the date of Royal Assent, the right of access will not interfere with the owner's continued right to charge for entry. Amendment No. 101 would have a similar effect to Amendments Nos. 80 to 83; indeed, Amendment No. 101 appears to confirm the purpose of Amendments Nos. 82 and 83 rather than being intended to stand in its own right. Therefore, some of my points will be relevant to Amendments Nos. 100 and 101.

Similar issues were raised during Committee in another place, as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, said. My right honourable friend the Minister for the Environment explained that a fundamental principle of Part I is that the new right of access should be free to all. We have no problem whatever with landowners charging for facilities associated with access, such as for car parks or visitor centres; nor is there any problem with charging for activities beyond the scope of the right. For example, the provisions in the Bill will not prevent charging for activities which are outside the right of access, such as war games or other organised activities, nor for charging for giving guided walks. Where such charges are already levied they can continue unhindered and there will be nothing to prevent landowners of access land charging for such things in future. Indeed, in those areas which become popular with walkers landowners may well find opportunities for increasing their income.

The Bill has been designed so as to minimise the cost to landowners. Almost all costs will fall on public bodies; for example, the provision of facilities and wardens. In that context, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, raised the issue of tenant farmers, saying that walkers will gain free access but tenants must pay. Tenant farmers pay rent for their tenancy--the right to farm the land--and profit from that activity. Walkers are simply having access to open country within tenanted land for the purpose of open-air recreation. Most tenanted land will be excluded from the right of access because it is neither open country nor registered common land.

During the debate in another place, my right honourable friend said that we are not aware of any examples where charging for access happens now and which would present problems in future. As has been recognised, he agreed to look at the examples of RSPB reserves mentioned during that debate. The department has indeed discussed the issue of charging with organisations, including the National Trust and the RSPB, and, as my noble friend Lady Nicol

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confirmed, the new free right of access is not expected to present a problem. In the case of the RSPB, it is true that a few of its reserves charge for access but, like the National Trust, many, if not most, of its visitors are also members who are entitled to free access and for the remainder of visitors the RSPB simply plans to transfer any charge to car parking.

We have also consulted the British Mountaineering Council, which has a firm policy against payment for access alone to crags or open country. Our conclusion is that there is no evidence of a problem. As drafted, Amendment No. 82 would allow landowners, prior to Royal Assent or when the Act comes into force, to levy any charge they like for access itself and to continue to levy the charge. That would seriously threaten the whole purpose of creating a new right. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, would not want to sanction the possibility of some landowners frustrating access by levying onerous charges on people. We cannot accept that.

For those reasons, I hope that the noble Baroness will consider it unnecessary to press the amendments.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Northbrook: I am not sure that the Minister is right that most tenanted land is excluded from the Bill. If the tenanted land qualifies under various criteria it will be included in the Bill.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: It is my understanding that most of the tenanted land will be excluded from the right of access because it is not open country or registered common land. The circumstances will arise only where that is the case.

Baroness Byford: I thank the Minister for her response. I am not clear why tenanted land will be excluded but perhaps between now and Report stage I can consider the matter. However, as the Minister is aware from our discussions in the Chamber, times are very difficult for farmers. They are concerned that giving the right of access to everyone will require them to carry out additional work for which they will receive no payment. That will be an extra commitment when things are already difficult. I shall return to that issue at another time.

In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, I know the RSPB are grateful for the work she has done and the commitment she has shown to the organisation. I do not have any argument with that. But we should be aware of and acknowledge that instead of being called a "charge", a fee for entrance, it is now going to be a charge for the facility provided. That is a different move. If the Government are saying that is what is going to happen I do not find that difficult to accept, but it is difficult to define the difference between somebody having access to go into an area and what actually is going to be a facility provided.

For instance, on Dunwich Heath, where I was on yesterday--I do not know if this is quite the thing to say in your Lordships' House--in the toilet facilities,

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there is a very clear notice stating that any complaints should be directed to Suffolk Coastal District Council. Is it the charity which is providing the facility or some other body providing the facility on that particular organisation's behalf? I do not know, and it is certainly not a point I wish to labour.

I am aware of the difficulties. The amendments I sought were to deal with those who already have charges as such now. I was not anticipating charging in the future. The Minister was clear on that I believe, although obviously it does have effects for anybody who wants to diversify in the future if the Bill precludes them from so doing.

With those comments, I would like to reflect on the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 81 to 84 not moved.]

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 85:

Page 2, line 36, after ("with") insert ("subsection (1) (a),").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: This is a group regarding which I have good news and bad news. I am going to give the good news first, which is that Amendment No. 85 actually is very sensible and the Government do want to consider it because it is a fact of the structure of the Bill that there are two criteria for damage. One criterion is where those entering access land damage a wall, fence or gate and for the purposes of Clause 2(4) are treated as trespassers. Clause 2(1)(a) provides that the right of access does not apply to those who damage these features when entering the land. Subsection (1)(a) is not referred to, however, in Clause 2(4) and though anyone in breach of subsection (1)(a) would be likely to be guilty of criminal damage and in breach of the restrictions, the Government are happy to put the matter beyond doubt and bring forward an appropriate amendment at Report to remedy this.

Baroness Byford: I am grateful to the Minister, and we wait to see the amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 86 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Turner of Camden): I must tell the Committee that if Amendment No. 87 is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 88 to 93 inclusive.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 87:

Page 2, line 38, leave out from first ("the") to end of line 39 and insert ("next 72 hours").

The noble Baroness said: I speak to Amendment Nos. 87, 89 and 90, which are taken together.

The first amendment on Clause 2, page 2, line 38, seeks to leave out from the first "the" to the end of line 39 and insert "72 hours". At present any person failing to comply with the restrictions on access on any access

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land would lose his right of access for the remainder of the 24-hour period to midnight. We believe that to be an inadequate sanction, particularly where the breach involves serious, sustained or persistent activities. A more effective sanction, which in turn would be strongly promoted as a deterrent, would be to provide that anyone who acted in this way would forfeit his right to access for a longer period--hence our suggestion of 72 hours. I am aware that other noble Lords, including some on these Benches, have tabled amendments which propose a longer period. At the moment I am dealing simply with the first amendment.

The Minister resisted a similar amendment at Report stage in the other place on the basis that landowners would not know whether an offender had breached any restrictions in the previous 72 hours. Those who are more likely to breach any restrictions are inexperienced walkers--hence they will be more likely to travel to the known honeypot sites where wardening services are most likely to be provided, although we are not absolutely sure about that. It is hoped that such facilities will be provided by either professional or voluntary assistance. Such wardens may well be able to identify persistent offenders.

The Minister's argument at that stage missed the point that the main value of such sanctions would be a deterrent to inappropriate behaviour. Walkers who are made aware that they risk losing more than simply the right to access for the rest of the day are likely to think twice before they contravene those restrictions. That is especially the case if they are on holiday and risk losing access to a favoured site for three days out of one week.

I turn to Amendment No. 91. Clause 2 provides that anyone who abuses the right and becomes a trespasser must leave the access land involved--hence "the relevant land"--and cannot enter any other access land in the same "ownership", which is defined, where there is an agricultural tenant, as any land tenanted by the same farmer. We believe that that is an inadequate deterrent to anyone who abuses the right of access. There are various ways in which the sanction, and thus the deterrent, can be strengthened. Other Members of the Committee have tabled amendments in relation to this matter. For example, to extend the period for which a person who abuses his right is excluded is one means; another approach, which is the focus of this amendment, is to widen the area of land from which the abuser is excluded from the specific area where the restriction has been contravened to all access land. In earlier debates today we discussed the difficulty faced by walkers in knowing on which land they happen to be. For that reason, if they are precluded from a particular person's land, how are they to know that they are no longer on it and have moved elsewhere?

The Government argued at Committee stage in the Commons that such an amendment would potentially mean that anyone accidentally breaching a restriction could be refused access to all access land. However, several of the restrictions in Schedule 2 depend on the person "intentionally" or "recklessly" contravening the restriction, or doing so "without reasonable excuse". Moreover, when attention is drawn to an

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abuse, for example by a warden, most people will desist. A responsible walker of the kind we hope to see who inadvertently drops a sweet wrapper can be expected to recognise the mistake, pick it up and the matter will not be pursued further.

Where the offence is a matter of strict liability, the matter is more serious--for example, the lighting of a fire. In those cases, accidental breaches are less likely and it is appropriate for the person who abuses his right to lose the right of access. Where such breaches are persistent or deliberate, it is only right that a stronger sanction should be in place. The general point about sanctions is that their primary purpose must be to deter inappropriate behaviour and prevent problems occurring in the first place by making clear to walkers that abuses will not be lightly tolerated. I believe that the importance of that message can be pressed home by making it clear that weighty sanctions beyond those currently in the Bill will fall on anyone who deliberately abuses his rights.

I speak next to Amendment No. 92. The amendment seeks the removal of trespassers from any access land. Quite a few walkers and indeed others will have difficulty in knowing whose land they are on. When we come to the issue of maps I suspect that that point will be highlighted.

In Committee in another place the Minister, Mr Meacher, accepted that,

    "adequate penalties should be available and accept that a fair balance should be struck between the penalties imposed on landowners and on walkers".--[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee B, 11/4/00; col. 225.]

The amendment would mean that a person who is removed from the access land should be banned from any access land. My fear is that, understandably, the walker will probably not know on whose land he is or which other land is owned by whom. Perhaps the Minister will tell me that the maps will indicate ownership in some way.

Mr Meacher went on to say:

    "As I have repeatedly told landowners, I am anxious to protect their legitimate interest".--[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee B, 11/4/00; col. 231.]

That is the reasoning behind my amendments. I beg leave to move.

9.45 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I rise to speak to Amendment No. 88, which is grouped with Amendment No. 87. It is a probing amendment. It seeks to find out why the Government believe that one day will be sufficient. Our amendment seeks to extend the period. I am sure there will be a good deal of debate about whether 27 days is reasonable or whether the period should be longer or shorter. There are two reasons for seeking to extend the period. First, one should consider the position of the rangers, whose lives will already be fairly difficult in trying to keep people on the straight and narrow, so to speak. They will be expected to deal with everything from the petty to the very serious. The petty offences will be more easily

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dealt with by initially asking people not to commit them again. However, for serious offences, one day does not seem sufficient. Life for those wardens will be very difficult if the person turns up on day three, day four and day five and commits a similar offence. It would be very vexatious for them.

Secondly, and more seriously, if a provision as ineffective as this is left on the face of the Bill, the likelihood is that there will be a greater need for the use of by-laws, which of course will criminalise the offences. There is a good deal of concern about by-laws being used to criminalise a minor breach of restrictions. The effect of having only a 24-hour restriction will be to make landowners begin to press the by-laws when time and again the same problem is being encountered.

I do not think that those problems will arise as often from local people using the right of access. The problems often arises with holidaymakers who do not know the local rules and regulations. They may not initially intend to cause trouble but they then move on to feeling, having been asked to leave for 24 hours, that as they have come a long way they want to turn up the next day and do very much the same thing again. I do not think that one day covers the holidaymakers, who we hope will be responsible users of access but who of course will not always be so. For those reasons we feel that it would be quite right to think of extending the period for which people should be asked to leave to something which will be very much more meaningful for those people who are asked to leave and also for the wardens and rangers who will have to try to enforce the provisions of the Bill.

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