Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Viscount Bridgeman: I support the amendment in the name of my noble friend the Duke of Montrose. On the whole, the military have an impeccable record of observing the regulations for obtaining permission to enter private land. But misunderstandings and ignorance of the regulations may well occur from time to time; and there may be some grey areas--as, for instance, when the military are taking part in a charitable event on private land and almost by accident that drifts into more serious military training.

The relations between the military and owners of property are on the whole extremely good. For that reason, if for no other, it is essential that it is noted on the face of the Bill that the military are excluded from the rights conferred under Clause 2. As my noble friend noted, the procedure that is already in place for application for access to private land should continue to apply.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Jopling: I am sorry to keep droning on to the Committee about the situation in my former constituency in the Lake District and the region surrounding it, but I am particularly keen to express my support for Amendment No. 104 because it reminds me of an event which occurred during the proceedings on a similar Bill back in 1978 or 1979. I believe that I was the first person within this building to propose preservation orders for what are called "limestone pavements".

In that part of the north-west of England there are some of the most majestic pieces of scenery. I have in mind places like Orton Scar, which is just to the south of Appleby, where there are long tracks of these limestone pavements. You get more of those in the region of Ingleton. In the Pennines you get even more spectacular ones around Burton in Kendal. I hope that the Minister will tell us that there is already sufficient provision on the statute book to protect all limestone pavements. I feel extremely strongly about the importance of preserving these magnificent pieces of our geology.

In fact, I am told by people who sell stones for rockeries that the material that makes up limestone pavements is extremely valuable. Continually over the years--it was certainly so on Orton Scar--one found people going out in the dead of night to hack up the limestone paving, load it onto trailers, take it away and sell it in the urban areas for vast amounts of money. It really spoilt those wonderful features of our uplands.

I suspect that the law already protects limestone pavements, but I should be most obliged if the Minister could give us an assurance in his response that this provision is unnecessary as far as concerns limestone pavements. I should add that I am not

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1384

talking about peat or soil; I am talking about this particular feature. It may, of course, be necessary for other reasons as expressed in the terms of the amendment. However, I am only concerned about a small part of it. Perhaps the Minister could give me that assurance.

Lord Marlesford: I should like to say a few words about Amendment No. 105 tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Glentoran which refers to anyone who,

    "leaves any item, whether or not he has an intention to return to it".

I understand that this refers to litter, which is one of biggest problems that could arise from granting extended access. I should be rather surprised if this amendment relates to the only way in which the Bill seeks to deal with the potential problem of litter. I hope that the Minister will tell us whether or not that is so.

I, too, looked through the Bill to see how litter would be dealt with and could find no mention of it. However, it is possible that I missed it and that litter is dealt with in another part. It does not appear to come under Schedule 2. It is an offence to leave litter in a public place, but I do not believe that private land would be regarded as a "public place". I hope that the Minister will answer that point. If that is the case, all this amendment would do is to provide that people are not allowed to leave litter when they have access to private land. It would not make it an offence to do so.

In a way, this returns us to the amendment tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, regarding getting people's names. I did not have sympathy with the idea that he should be able to obtain the name of someone merely because that person was on his land if he was there perfectly legally in accordance with an Act of Parliament. However, there are circumstances in which it is not good enough merely to ask someone to leave if they have done something wrong without knowing their name. I suggest that litter is a real problem, and not just in the countryside, although we are concerned with the countryside tonight. I hope that the Minister will say how the Government propose to deal with the problem of litter which could arise as a consequence of this legislation.

Lord Greaves: I support in general terms and with great enthusiasm what the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, said about limestone pavements, or clints and grykes, as they are usually known in Yorkshire. They are one of the glories of the landscape of the north of England, as everyone will appreciate who knows Malham and Hutton Roof in Westmorland. I am not sure that those areas are relevant to the Bill, but they need to be mentioned.

If the Government wish to consider seriously Amendments Nos. 104 and 105, I should want to discuss with them the implications for rock climbing. Both the amendments may have technical implications for normal climbing practices. For example, I refer to the removal of loose rock from rock faces. Sometimes

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1385

climbers leave behind bits of ironmongery in the rock. That practice should perhaps be deplored, but it is, nevertheless, a fairly routine rock climbing practice.

Will the Minister repeat the assurances that I believe were given by Ministers in another place with regard to what Schedule 2 actually means? I believe there has been much confusion--at least, I hope that there has--about that. If I have understood it correctly, it does not ban any of the activities set out in paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 as such. However, the criminal offences mentioned in paragraph 1(d) are obviously already deemed to be such and are therefore banned under other legislation. However, as I say, Schedule 2 does not make any of the activities listed criminal offences or seek to ban them as such.

As I understand the position, Schedule 2 withdraws the right of access as given by the Bill from anyone carrying out any of the activities--assuming they are legal--unless the owners of the land in question consent to them. For example, neither bathing in any non-tidal water nor camping nor paragliding are made illegal or banned in any water if the owners of the land in question give their consent to them. I understand that if anyone carries out such activities without the landowner's consent, the latter withdraws that person's right of access to the land. Have I understood the position correctly? I believe that Mr Meacher gave that assurance in another place. If I am correct in my understanding of the position, will the Minister repeat that assurance in this Chamber as it is crucial to the working of the Bill and to the meaning of Schedule 2?

There is a widespread view that Schedule 2 seeks to ban the activities listed in it on the land that we are discussing. It would be ludicrous, for example, to ban camping and to prevent a landowner from allowing people to camp on his land. As I understand the position, the schedule affects the right of access but does not otherwise ban these activities. It is open to landowners and people who wish to carry out these activities--provided that they are not otherwise illegal--to reach a private agreement to enable them to take place.

Lord Kimball: I support Amendment No. 105. The issue does not relate only to limestone pavings but to loose rocks in other parts of the world. People seem to believe that they can load up their car with various rocks in order to improve their rock garden.

Will the Minister also bear in mind the problem with regard to peat cutting? When foreign tourists see someone cutting peat, they load the boot of their car with a large amount as part of the extra trophy they take with them. I shall be grateful if the Minister will confirm that both items are covered.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 sets out a number of activities which we believe should fall clearly outside the lawful exercise of the right of access to open country and registered common land. Breach of any of these restrictions will result in the loss of the statutory right. The restrictions are derived from the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 with some modification--for

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1386

instance, to include hang-gliding and paragliding. As a result of a government amendment tabled on Report in another place, the list also includes the commission of any criminal offence.

I shall take the amendments in numerical order, with some exceptions where it makes more sense to respond to an amendment in conjunction with another on a similar theme. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, raised the general principle. He is correct with regard to his description of the purpose and effect of Schedule 2 which sets out activities which are not within the right of access. It is open to any landowner to permit these activities to take place on his land by permission and that excludes those which are criminal offences. So there are two categories. But that which is legal, with permission, can still be carried out.

With regard to dropping litter, the lands affected by public access will be treated as a public place for the purpose of the litter offence.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page