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Page 2, line 39, at end insert--
("( ) Where a person without reasonable excuse becomes a trespasser because of a failure to comply with a direction made under section 24, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment seeks to ensure that where there is a serious threat to wildlife there is a sufficient penalty to deter any reckless or uncaring behaviour. It also seeks to probe whether the Government believe that they will have complied with the relevant European legislation.

Members of the Committee will bear in mind that if the amendment were accepted it would apply to an area that was already closed for a good reason. As the Bill stands, a person can contravene Section 24 and be banned only for 24 hours--perhaps a little more if the Government consider that proposal. If the land is already closed, it must be closed for a good reason. Therefore, contravening the closure is already more serious than simply engaging in some of the activities listed in Schedule 2.

The provision does not seek to criminalise harmless trespass. It is for people who have no reasonable excuse and who knowingly fail to comply with the Section 24 direction. There will be some onus on agencies to ensure that people are aware of the closures and responsibility will rest with them.

Strong sanctions are required in order to signal to the public the importance of restrictions on sites which are already sensitive and because they are a measure against flagrant breaches. The new right of access applies to approximately 1.25 million hectares of open country which are notified as SSSIs. Of those, 300,000

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hectares are designated as being of international importance under the EC birds and habitats directives. I tabled the amendment with those areas particularly in mind.

Clause 24 provides a sound framework for restricting access to protect nature conservation interests but in practice those restrictions are likely to apply to a small area of land which supports particularly sensitive species or habitats and where the potential for harm is high. We believe that in many cases, restrictions will be necessary in order to deliver the Government's requirements under the EC birds and habitats directives. Therefore, it follows that a good case will have to have been made for any restrictions or exclusions and it is logical that the penalty for ignoring those restrictions should be greater than for any other access land.

There is also the issue of even-handedness because the Bill introduces powers for courts to fine owners, occupiers and public bodies under Part III up to £20,000 for causing or committing damaging operations on SSSIs without reasonable excuse. As Part I stands, there seems to be no penalty to be imposed on individuals who may damage such sites intentionally.

Better wildlife protection is one of the least controversial aspects of the Bill--Part III is popular on all sides of the Committee--but without the amendment included in Part I the Bill does not deliver in that area. I beg to move.

Earl Peel: I have sympathy with the amendment and believe that the noble Baroness has a point. She spoke of even-handedness and I ask her, as I asked the Minister earlier, whether she regards nature conservation as having a priority under the Bill as against the economic importance of activities in these areas. I believe that there is a distortion which is throwing the Bill out of kilter. If we do not acknowledge the importance of economic activities people will suffer more than I thought they would.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I have heard the noble Earl's references to economic activities throughout our debate tonight and I agree that they are important for rural areas. Opening up access should have an economically beneficial effect in many areas; for example, pubs will sell more meals to walkers. Therefore, I do not believe that his argument about economic access bites. Preserving wildlife and allowing visitors to come to see it--albeit sometimes at a distance--has been proved by various agencies to be a strong economic force.

Earl Peel: I was referring to the direct effects of access on activities on the land rather than the benefits which might accrue to local pubs, hotels and so forth from the additional access that might be provided.

Lord Whitty: I do not want to revisit the wise words about not criminalising trespass which have been uttered by my noble friend Lord McIntosh, but this falls into the same category. If trespass is to be

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criminalised for a particular reason, in criminalising simple trespass, as my noble friend said, we are beginning to unravel the totality of the approach on trespass. That is a law which has stood us in reasonably good stead, as he has said, for centuries. The Government recognise the importance of ensuring that increased access does not threaten wildlife or conservation.

The noble Earl, Lord Peel, mentioned economic activity. I believe that he is misconstruing what was said earlier in the sense that it has always been recognised that land management purposes and particular activities on the land would be reasons for restrictions agreed by the Countryside Agency. If he is not talking about general economic development, as he has just said, I point out that particular economic development is already covered. I make that point in case the matter is misunderstood.

In relation to criminalising trespass for conservation purposes, however, it is believed that the amendments in this form begin to unravel the whole law of trespass. In reality, the simple loss of the statutory right of access through the trespass laws is not intended to deal with more serious breaches. It will allow for people to be required to leave the land, for whatever period of time is eventually agreed, but a more serious offence clearly has to be dealt with in a different way. Part III provides substantially new penalties in the area of conservation and protection of wildlife. In that context, it is agreed that fines and even imprisonment would be available--which they are--but that those who breach the restrictions on the right of access but neither cause, nor are likely to cause, any harm or damage as a result should not be criminalised.

There are other problems with the proposed amendment in terms of the reference to "reasonable excuse". I am not sure what a "reasonable excuse" would be in this context. The circumstances envisaged are very specific. In other areas of legislation--for example, covering a reaction to an emergency--I am not clear what that would mean. There would need to be further definition of that.

This issue of protecting areas of conservation and wildlife needs to be tackled in the context of the new offences and the new approach set out in Part III rather than in the context of the amendment, which threatens to unravel the whole law of trespass. The Bill will introduce fines and prison sentences for serious offences. Given that protection of wildlife will be a consideration and relevant to a very large part of access land, those offences are relevant there. If, with that objective in mind, noble Lords wish to extend or modify those offences, the relevant provisions are in Part III of this Bill and not here. We are rapidly getting into an argument about mere trespass being criminalised in this context, and the noble Earl, Lord Peel, will immediately get up and say, "What about criminalising mere trespass for other purposes?" and the whole thing will begin unravel. I am not in favour of doing that on a blanket basis.

By-laws have a role to play in particular situations. Indeed, English Nature, for example, already has the power to make by-laws to protect all European sites.

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The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, referred to that. As I understand it, it has been rarely used, but that possibility is available in relation to dangers at particular sites. We do not wish to proceed as the noble Baroness suggests. We believe that the additional penalties in Part III will deal with almost all of the situations. If there are inadequacies in those provisions we should return to them in Part III, not here.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for his reply. I look forward to exploring whether the contents of Part III fulfils the Government's obligations under the directive. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 99 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Viscount Bledisloe moved Amendment No. 99A:

Page 2, line 39, at end insert--
("( ) Any person who is on any access land shall, if so required by an authorised person, give full particulars of his identity and produce to the authorised person proof of the correctness of the particulars so given.
( ) Any person who has with him on any access land a dog shall, if so required by an authorised person, produce to him the dog licence relating to that dog.
( ) An "authorised person" means a warden, any person having an interest in the access land, or any person duly authorised by any person having any such interest.
( ) Any person failing, without reasonable excuse, to comply with any such requirement shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale.").

The noble Viscount said: At this stage Amendment No. 99A is a probing amendment for two reasons. First, the amendment has only recently been tabled and the Committee has not had time to react to it. Secondly, the amendment contains an anachronism in that it refers to dog licences. I am informed by both the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and the noble Countess, Lady Mar, that dog licences no longer exist. The fundamental point of the amendment is to inquire of the Government whether they intend to ensure that any owner of land or other person who is charged with supervision of this measure, such as a warden, has the right to know the identity, and to require proof of it, insofar as the individual has the necessary material with him, of anyone who is on land in exercise of the rights conferred by the Bill. I believe that that is eminently reasonable.

At the moment, if anyone wants to come onto my land I am entitled to know who he is. Obviously, if I was one of the people involved, which I am not, the occasions on which I would most wish to do that would be either when somebody had already been seen committing an offence or I knew well that he was a person who was likely to be committing an offence. For example, the person might have with him some dogs which I was sure I had seen off the leash yesterday chasing animals but had been unable to catch up with him. There might be many reasons why the owner would want to know the identity of the person in

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question. It cannot be unreasonable to say that I am entitled to know who is on my land so that if the person does anything wrong or misbehaves I have some way to deal with the situation.

I hope that the noble Lord will not give the Committee the same old tired reply that this is merely an alteration to the law of trespass and nothing has changed. Something has changed. At the moment, if a man enters land without the owner's permission he can be removed then and there. Under the Bill the person becomes a trespasser only if he has done something wrong. Surely, the owner needs to know the identity of the person before he does something wrong so that if and when the act occurs he knows who the individual is, even if he cannot catch up with him.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, accepted that if he tried to suggest to someone on Hampstead Heath that he should put his dog on a leash he would be met with expletives. Far more so if, with no sanctions available, one asks someone to prove who he is. Once the expletives have been deleted the answer will hardly exist. I ask the Government to make plain whether it is intended that the warden, the owner or his representative should be entitled to know the identify of the people who are exercising the right. I beg to move.

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