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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Those are two interesting questions. As regards the first question, I am prepared to consider whether the words "24 hours" should be substituted for the term "the remainder of the day". In the debate on night-time access, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said that to reject night-time access would exclude half of the access provisions of the Bill. However, in terms of the number of people involved, the figure probably constitutes a far smaller proportion than that. Of course I appreciate that an increase in the period during which there is loss of access could constitute a great deterrent to trespassers. That could apply to the small number of trespassers who, as the noble Earl, Lord Peel, said, might return day after day. Our mind is not totally closed on that matter, nor on the issue raised in Amendment No. 90, although we certainly oppose the other proposals. As to the question of whether leaving the land in question involves retiring to a right of way, that is the case even if the right of way lies across the land from which exclusion is required.

Viscount Bledisloe: I hope that the noble Lord will explain what would happen in the following situation.

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A man may come on to one's land and let his dogs off their leads at a time when they are supposed to be on their leads. He is told to leave. He utters several expletives and says, "I'll be back tomorrow". Sure enough, he returns the following day and lets the dogs off the lead again. He is again told to leave. He utters yet more expletives. He returns the following day. Is the landowner to do nothing other than say to the man, "You must leave", and resort to civil proceedings at his own expense to obtain an injunction against the man? Is there to be no sanction or assistance from the access authority or the criminal law to assist the landowner to deal with the man who is determined to flout the restrictions?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I should declare an interest in advance of our debate on the dog provisions in the Bill. On occasion I remonstrate with people who exercise their dogs off the lead in the grounds of Kenwood House when they should have them on the lead. I tell them that they are contravening the by-laws and they reply with expletives. Therefore, I appreciate the comments of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, on that matter. However, the Bill proposes no change in the law in that respect. In large tracts of land in this country, both urban and rural, it is an offence to exercise a dog off a lead. That position is not changed by the Bill. The same provisions relating to trespass, aggravated trespass and the criminal offence of breaching by-laws are available and will be available in the future.

Viscount Bledisloe: I say with respect to the noble Lord that a great change in the law is proposed. If a man exercises his dog off the lead on my land and says, "I shall come back tomorrow and I shall let my dog off the lead again", I reply, "No, you will not. This is my land. The moment you cross it I shall have you thrown off because you are not allowed on to it at all". From now on, that person will be allowed to walk on the land and as soon as he sees my back is turned he will let the dog off the lead. At present I can bar him from the land and have strong men remove him as he approaches.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey : I believe that the phrase is "escorted to the boundary". That does not change whether or not it is access land.

Baroness Byford: I thank the Minister for responding to these clauses. I am not entirely happy with what he said. I give the Minister another chance. Do I gather that he will consider the issue and return on Report with a provision which might meet part way some of the concerns raised?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I said that I was prepared to think again about Amendment No. 90. We are firmly opposed to amendments which would extend the geographical coverage of any exclusion. However, without commitment, we are prepared to consider the timescale of exclusion on, I suspect, a somewhat more limited basis than is proposed in some of the amendments. If I say that I shall consider

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Amendment No. 90 but am extremely reluctant to consider any of the others, I hope that that makes the position clear.

Baroness Byford: I am grateful to the Minister for making the position clear. As I have put my name to some of the other amendments, I am not sure how grateful I am.

I thank the noble Lord for considering the matter. I cannot speak for other colleagues. We have put forward an amendment to lengthen the time. Colleagues on the Liberal Democrat Benches may wish to speak on that. I encourage the Minister to give the matter great thought. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, referred to a period of 24 hours. A stronger deterrent for trespass is important. To shrug shoulders and move on to the next debate does not give a good message to the public. I suspect that other Members of the Committee believe that even those sanctions are insufficient. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 88 to 92 not moved.]

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 93:

Page 2, line 39, at end insert ("or subject to the same designated interest.
( ) A person interested in land may designate his interest for the purposes of subsection (4) by giving notice to the owner of the land and the access authority.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment makes explicit the different interests in the land and allows the non-owners to require compliance with the restrictions to which this clause refers. It avoids the absurd situation of an offending visitor hopping over the hedge and retorting, "You are not the owner. Prove that this land belongs to you". That is why I sought to refer to the land manager rather than landowner. It may sound preposterous but the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, pointed out that some people are not the easiest to deal with when trespassing. The law must take that into account. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: This amendment seeks to change the provisions in the Bill relating to the land to which a trespasser may not return. It would add a new category of land: that with a designated interest. Trespassers would lose the right of access to any land subject to the same designated interest. Those with an interest in the land would be able to designate that interest for such purposes by informing the owner of the land and the access authority.

That approach would meet with similar difficulties to the approaches in other amendments that we have discussed. Parcels of land subject to the same designated interest may not be contiguous with each other. Where a sporting interest is designated, for example, the areas of land could well be in different parts of the country. That could lead to the trespasser being uncertain about which areas of land they were excluded from. It would also be difficult or impossible

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to enforce. Those managing the land in different areas would be unlikely to know that the person in question had no right of access.

We have tried to ensure that the trespass provisions in the Bill are fair and enforceable. It is more likely that an owner or tenant or their representative will recognise someone as a trespasser if the provision applies only to land in the same ownership or tenancy. The provisions suggested in the amendment would unnecessarily widen the area of land to which return was not allowed, would leave the user unsure where such land was and would be unnecessarily bureaucratic and difficult for landowners' tenants and those with an interest in land and their agents to enforce. I therefore hope that the noble Baroness will not press the amendment.

Baroness Byford: I thank the noble Baroness for her response. The Government seem to respond to nearly every issue by saying that it is difficult or impossible or would become bureaucratic. At some stage, we have to grapple with that which is difficult but must be grappled with. However, this amendment is not such an issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 94 not moved.]

10.30 p.m.

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 95:

Page 2, line 39, at end insert--
("( ) Any person who intentionally obstructs any person acting on behalf of an access authority, district council, or any person interested in the land, to enforce Schedule 2 or any restriction imposed in relation to access land under Chapter II, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.").

The noble Lord said: This is another amendment about sanctions. Land managers appear to have no enforceable sanctions. Sometimes, if they meet somebody who has made a mistake, they can ask them politely to go. That is how life ought to be, but unfortunately it is not how life really is. As long as 20 years ago, I remember my mother being rolled over by would-be poachers on the road up in the hills of County Antrim. The situation certainly has not got any better.

The Bill does not appear to provide for an offence of obstructing anyone seeking lawfully to enforce the restrictions under Schedule 2, or any other restrictions under Chapter II. Such a provision is standard in existing by-laws for access agreement land, such as in the Peak District National Park. We submit that a parallel provision is needed.

Amendment No. 97 is a little different. It would criminalise trespass as a deterrent. We have been speaking about that for some time. I know that we are talking about only a very small percentage of irresponsible people. That is why accepting the amendments and criminalising trespass would not have any significant impact on the Bill. However, it would make life considerably easier and more pleasant

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both for the land managers and for people who regularly enjoy the access to the land which we hope they will have.

The Government's election manifesto stated that,

    "we will not ... permit any abuse of a right to greater access",

to the open countryside. In their Framework for Action document in 1998, the Government further stated:

    "We have also been conscious of the need to respect the countryside. Greater freedom would become self-defeating if the landscape itself were harmed, its tranquillity eroded, and its wildlife put at risk. Nor do we want to see any damage to the economic base of rural areas".

We talked about both those matters earlier this evening. The document continued:

    "The new right will not be an unrestricted one".

I repeat:

    "The new right will not be an unrestricted one. There will be restrictions to take account of the legitimate needs of those owning and managing the land".

Later, the document also affirms,

    "the continued ability of landowners to develop and use their land after the introduction of the right".

Those assurances that abuses of access will be prevented and that land management activities on land affected by the new right will be able to continue, in effect unhindered and uncompromised, are critical to the success of the Government's proposals. Hear, hear! If those commitments are not honoured, substantial problems will arise for owners and managers, for the public and for those administering the new arrangements. Yes, we agree with you, Government.

Rights should be matched by responsibilities. There should be national regulations to govern public behaviour on access land. Owners and occupiers will be criminally liable if the statutory right of access is not respected. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for the requirements on walkers and ramblers to be correspondingly national, consistent and backed by law. A code of conduct will not provide an adequate basis for preventing the abuse of the new right, and reliance on by-laws would lead to damaging inconsistency and confusion, compounded by a lack of coverage in many places.

While many users of access land will be responsible--I would venture to say "most"; I suspect 90 or perhaps 99 per cent--high standards of behaviour cannot be guaranteed. That is already recognised in existing access legislation via the provision of a schedule to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 forbidding certain activities on access land and the provision for local authorities to establish comprehensive by-laws to govern public behaviour on land covered by access agreements under that Act.

Moreover, previous governments have accepted that a wide range of activities needs to be controlled in that way by approving by-laws to that effect. The schedule to the 1949 Act and the by-laws for access land in the Peak District and Dartmoor National Parks indicate a very wide range of activities which need to be controlled. That range of activities goes

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beyond those included in Schedule 2 to the Bill. It must be stressed that, by approving such by-laws, governments have accepted that the activities involved should be criminalised over large areas of land--80 square miles in the Peak District. Those precedents for creating criminal offences in relation to public use of access land should apply nationally.

It is essential that the new right is underpinned by detailed regulations governing specific activities, otherwise the only sanction available to an owner who is concerned that users are abusing the right will be to ask them politely to desist. That is a point that I made at the beginning. Owners need to be able to point out to abusers that, if they persist in the activity, they will commit a criminal offence and be liable to arrest and prosecution. There is also an important point of equity. If criminal sanctions are to apply to owners who obstruct access, criminal sanctions should apply also to users who abuse the right.

Current deterrents against a person abusing the right of access are insufficient. The person merely becomes a trespasser for the remainder of the day, while an occupier can be fined £1,000 for erecting a false sign. The Minister has accepted that there should be a balance between the penalties imposed on landowners and walkers. In Committee on 11th April, Mr Meacher said:

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

That fair balance does not as yet apply in this context.

Criminalising the restrictions under Schedule 2 will provide wardens and owners with a powerful deterrent to continued abuse of access rights. A polite request to someone to stop unacceptable behaviour, which is often all that is needed, can be backed up by the supplementary point that continuing unacceptable behaviour could be met with a criminal charge and a fine. That is how the current access by-laws in the Peak District have been used and they have worked effectively in controlling much unacceptable behaviour of heavily used access land over many years.

The Minister or the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, said earlier this afternoon that we do not need research; we have years and years of practical experience. Here is an example of that practical experience.

National regulations should be adopted under the legislation to apply automatically to all access land. It would not be appropriate to leave such controls to local by- laws because a separate set of by-laws would often need to be made and approved for every discrete parcel of access land--a huge bureaucratic burden. Moreover, different sets of rules in different places would create major confusion.

This amendment sets out to criminalise actions set out in Schedule 2 or Chapter II in the same way as by-laws do, yet on a national basis. That will provide continuity country-wide and all interested parties will understand the level of responsible behaviour required.

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It may be argued that it would be unfair to criminalise the likes of swimming, although it is already criminalised under by-laws relating to access land in the Peak District. However, it should be remembered that upland lakes and streams often provide someone's private drinking water supply. Effective sanctions must be in place to allow for those situations. I realise that I have been addressing both Amendments Nos. 95 and 97 in the same speech but they seem to run together and I hope that the Committee will forgive me. I beg to move.

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