Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Byford: I thank the Minister for his explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 142:

Page 50, line 26, leave out ("exclude the application of") and insert ("remove or relax").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 207 and 208. These are technical amendments.

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1422

The Bill provides powers in paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 to allow the relevant authority, with the consent of the owner, to lift any restrictions in Schedule 2. Similarly, in Clause 16(6) the Bill provides a power to enable an owner dedicating land as access land to remove any of the restrictions in Schedule 2. The amendments make it clear that in either circumstance, as well as removing entirely the restriction, there is the power partially to remove that restriction. I beg to move.

Lord Jopling: My Lords, I understand why the Minister has moved this amendment, which would alter the provisions, especially of subparagraph (1), in a particular way. But it occurs to me that a Minister in the future might wish to strengthen the provisions referred to in this part of the Bill. I am surprised that the Government want to table an amendment that moves them in only one way. I understand why the Government want more flexibility, but would the Minister be kind enough to tell us why he is interested only in removing or relaxing these restrictions, and why he might not in the future prefer also to have the power to strengthen them? It seems strange, if it is flexibility that he is after--that seems to be what he has just said--that the provision should be all one way. I am puzzled and I should be grateful for an explanation.

Lord Whitty: I believe that the noble Lord has raised a slightly different point. Members of the Committee may well have been somewhat hesitant in giving the Secretary of State powers to extend restrictions that are subject solely to this procedure. Both of these procedures would be subject to agreement between the Secretary of State, or his representatives, and the owner. If the owner were prepared to agree to a partial but not a total relaxation, such provisions could be used. However, if we were to go into extending restrictions, that is a somewhat larger political point upon which we would need more specific powers.

Lord Jopling: I did not really mean "extending", I meant strengthening the provisions. There is a difference between the two. I am not talking about extending the scope and the scale of what is in subparagraph (1); I am talking about strengthening what is already there. It seems to me to be rather odd that the Government want to move only in one direction.

Lord Whitty: This is really to protect the position of the owner and to give a degree of flexibility. The owner may impose further restrictions using the discretionary powers under Clause 21. I am perhaps being too modest in terms of claiming powers for the Secretary of State. As I said, I believe that we would need a slightly different power were we to move in the other direction. Indeed, that might well restrict certain rights in this respect. I shall ponder on the noble Lord's point, but I believe that we would need to proceed in a different way from simply making a minor adjustment to these provisions.

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1423

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 143:

Page 50, line 27, at end insert--
("( ) If an exclusion under this paragraph is made with the consent of the tenant under a farm business tenancy or a tenancy to which the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 applies, it shall terminate on the expiry of that tenancy unless the successor owner consents to its continuance.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 144. Amendment No. 143 is self-explanatory and I believe that it is non-contentious. It would simply cater for a certain situation between tenants and the landowner. Amendment No. 144 would allow the owner to revoke his consent upon giving notice.

In my judgment, both amendments would provide flexibility in the revocation of the restrictions. The result would be to allow greater flexibility under paragraph 6(1), thereby encouraging occupiers to allow restrictions on users to be lifted more frequently. It would also ensure that one owner could not bind his successors, as well as avoiding any negative impact on land values. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: As the noble Baroness said, Amendment No. 143 would provide that where a farm tenant consents to a direction being made under the powers available to access authorities in paragraph 6 to Schedule 2, the direction should terminate on the expiry of the tenancy. However, nothing in paragraph 6 allows a direction to bind the successors in title of an owner or tenant--compared with, for example, a dedication under Clause 16, which explicitly does so by virtue of subsection (7). A direction under this paragraph can have effect only while the current owner or tenant remains in possession. Therefore, there is no need for this amendment.

Amendment No. 144 would allow the owner to require the revocation of any paragraph 6 direction by giving one month's notice to the relevant authority. The revocation of consents and directions will be a matter for the regulations under paragraph 6. Generally, where a direction is made with the owner's consent for an indefinite period, we believe that the direction should not normally be revoked, but there may well be circumstances where it would be reasonable for this to occur. We shall look again at this issue with the countryside bodies and others. We do not, however, consider that Amendment No. 144 is correct. Therefore, we ask the noble Baroness not to press that amendment or Amendment No. 143.

2.15 a.m.

Baroness Byford: I am grateful for the noble Baroness's comments. Will she enlarge upon her response to Amendment No. 144? I believe that it would greatly help the Committee to be given some indication of the Government's thinking.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I believe that the most helpful comment I can make at this stage is

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1424

the following. The consultation process with the countryside bodies and others will be important. If the noble Baroness wishes me to write to her in greater detail between now and Report, I shall be happy to do so.

Baroness Byford: I thank the noble Baroness for those further comments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 144 to 147 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Schedule 2, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Skelmersdale: I do not want to make a meal of this point but it strikes me that there is some rather curious drafting here. The Committee has just spent many hours debating Schedule 2, which comprises a list of what my children would call "no-nos", as applied, or purported to be applied, to people who claim access under Schedule 2. Unfortunately, paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 states:

    "Section 2(1) does not apply to a person who, ... upon the land in question".

Unfortunately, part of Section 2(1) which is not applied relates to someone who observes the general restrictions in Schedule 2. In my mind the two things just do not go together.

As I said, I do not want to make a meal of this point, but I hope that the Ministers and officials in the department will reconsider the drafting of the measure. I am the first to agree that the "no-nos" should apply, along with the additional provisions that the Committee has inserted, and the further provisions on dogs that are to be brought forward at later stages of the Bill. However, I want to be absolutely certain not only that those measures do apply but that they will continue to apply and that there is no confusion.

Lord Whitty: I am not entirely clear as to where the confusion arises. However, perhaps I may discuss that matter further with the noble Lord. If there are drafting inconsistencies, we can deal with them on Report.

Earl Peel: My next point may already have been mentioned. I apologise to the Committee if that is the case as I had to leave the Committee for what I believe was previously called a "comfort stop". However, I believe it would be immensely helpful to make clear on the face of the Bill in Schedule 2 which activities are criminal and which are civil. It is essential that everyone understands exactly where he stands vis-a-vis the Bill. That would be a means of explaining not just to owners and occupiers but also to walkers what their rights will comprise. I hope that the noble Lord will consider that.

Lord Whitty: We have discussed this matter before. It is important that those who wish to avail themselves of the right of access understand the activities that they are not allowed to undertake and whether those are

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1425

criminal under other legislation or whether they comprise restrictions on the right of access (which may not be fully criminal) under this legislation. The precise distinction that the noble Earl seeks may not be appropriate. However, I undertake to consider the matter further.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page