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Lord Whitty: Initially, the Government felt that, since it would not be known until towards the end of the mapping process what land was being mapped, it might be difficult to see how the specific by-laws relating to the locality might be drawn up. Therefore, we did not see the need for this provision. However, we accept that in some areas there may be evidence as to what would happen before the right of access comes into force, particularly if there has already been de facto access in the area, and that therefore there may be the opportunity to draw up by-laws prior to the right coming into force. For that reason I should like to take away these amendments with a view to tabling similar amendments at Report stage.

Baroness Byford: I am grateful to the Minister. Having battled away for many hours, as we did, without gaining much initial reaction, it is lovely early in the day to receive a positive response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 216:

(d) to safeguard public health and safety.").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 216 seeks to safeguard public health and safety. This refers to by-laws to be made on the grounds of public health and safety. Clause 17 provides for by-laws to be made in relation to access land on three grounds: the preservation of order, the prevention of damage to land, and the prevention of conflicts between those using the land and the enjoyment of land by other persons. These powers are identical to those in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, which provides for by-laws to be made for land subject to access agreements or orders.

This enabling power should be updated--some 50 years on--to take proper account of modern concerns. For example, dog walking and new recreational pursuits on the access land can pose risks to the public which were simply not present to the same degree, if at all in many cases, back in 1949. In particular, it is not clear whether the power to make by- laws under the Bill would extend to the provision of by-laws to safeguard public health and safety. For

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example, it could be important on some small, heavily used sites in or near villages and towns, such as common land and small areas of heath and down, that the by-laws be made for the control of dog fouling which can pose a serious risk to people, particularly children.

Uncontrolled dogs off leads can also be frightening. Children and other walkers have been affected, as many of us know. Even well-behaved dogs--I should like to think that our dog is well-behaved--can occasionally run amok. There might also be particularly hazardous features or activities on some land that would merit control through by-laws--for example, hang-gliding or para-gliding.

The amendment would make it clear beyond doubt that the by-laws could be made by the access authority to safeguard public health and safety. I beg to move.

Lord Renton: I rise to support my noble friend's amendment. I do so for a reason which I mentioned at an earlier stage of the Bill. We have to be careful about the danger that can occur to people if they are rambling after dark. We must realise that some of the country concerned will be land which is rocky or will have cliffs or steep hills. If we do not take the proper precautionary measures for people rambling after dark, very serious accidents could occur, especially to townspeople who are not accustomed to walking on country hillsides.

My noble friend's amendment is extremely necessary, including for the further reason that I have given.

Lord Marlesford: I can see a certain superficial attractiveness in the amendment moved by my noble friend. However, quite frankly, if we start a process whereby by-laws are required to cover aspects of public health and safety, there will be no limit to it. Walking in the countryside presents certain hazards--I hesitate to say that it presents dangers. I do not think that it would be possible to guard against every kind of hazard.

If we put on to public authorities an obligation to draw up specific codes to cover health and safety, I shudder to think of the length, complication and restrictiveness of such an exercise. It will make life in the countryside extremely unenjoyable.

Lord Northbourne: I rise to speak in support of the amendment. Can the Minister confirm whether the existing wording would cover the fouling of waters? I do not think that it does so. The water supply for many villages comes from springs located on access land. They run the danger of being fouled.

Lord Whitty: I agree with a great deal of what has been said during this short debate. I regret that I am unable to sustain my generosity, but the reason why I

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must resist this amendment is that we consider that the issues raised here either fall under the existing provisions of this clause or are provided for under other powers vested in local authorities. For example, local authorities already have powers in relation to a number of specific safety issues. Furthermore, they have powers that enable them to impose by-laws as regards fouling by dogs. It is not necessary to confer on them additional powers in relation to access land in those respects.

I believe that hang-gliding could almost certainly be dealt with under subsection (1)(c) of this clause because it may impair the enjoyment of the land by others.

As I have said, powers are already in place to deal with the kinds of hazards referred to by noble Lords during this debate. For that reason, I do not believe that it is necessary to repeat them on the face of the Bill.

Lord Renton: Before the noble Lord sits down, although he mentioned other clauses in the Bill which will address these matters, will those other clauses deal with the point I raised as regards the dangers of roaming after dark, in particular if there is mist or fog?

Lord Whitty: As has been pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, I am not sure whether by-laws can be used to address general issues of safety. However, by-laws can be used to address known individual safety hazards such as mineshafts and so forth. Under existing legislation rather than under the terms of this Bill, by-laws may be used for exceptional circumstances of that kind. Similarly, dog fouling may be dealt with under the provisions of other legislation.

Although I have some sympathy with the points that have been made as regards the specific problems, I do not believe that an additional issue has been raised here which needs to be addressed.

Baroness Byford: I am grateful to the Minister and I appreciate his sympathy for the thinking that lies behind the amendment. I accept the concerns expressed by my noble friend Lord Marlesford; namely, that if we are not careful, we shall encounter great difficulties in attempting to get right the balance of the Bill. That is part of the problem here; we need to accept that this is an extremely complex piece of legislation. Indeed, I believe that I made that comment at the start of our debates. The Minister responded by saying that he did not think it was complicated. Nevertheless, we need to get all the details right. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 217 and 218 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 219 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 219A not moved.]

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4.15 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 220:

    Page 10, line 31, at end insert--

("( ) Any byelaws introduced shall be publicised in such a manner as to be quite apparent to users of the access land.").

The noble Baroness said: We have already debated to an extent the issue of by-laws. This amendment seeks to address the matter from a somewhat different angle by putting on to the face of the Bill a requirement that, should by-laws be introduced by access authorities, they should be,

    "publicised in such a manner as to be ... apparent to users of the access land".

It would be unfair on the public if by-laws and their attendant penalties were introduced but the public did not know that they were in place. It is essential that people know about such laws.

I shall be interested to learn whether the Minister agrees that such an amendment is necessary to take into account the local variations in by-laws that will inevitably occur on access land. I beg to move.

Lord Marlesford: I feel that this is a very impractical proposal. Perhaps I may make a simple analogy. Customs posts are often sited on roads at borders between different countries, but it is not possible to arrange for customs posts to run across fields and mountains as well. If people choose to cross borders by those routes, they will not encounter the customs posts.

By definition, as a result of this legislation, access to the country is going to become far less restricted. People will not access such land via places where they would necessarily see the signs. If an obligation is imposed that signposts should be placed everywhere, we shall see a plethora of such signs. I would abhor that.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: Perhaps I may respond to that particular point since I believe that the noble Lord was addressing it directly to me.

I could not agree more that it would be undesirable and inappropriate to litter the countryside with signposts. However, my amendment does not specify in any way the geographical location of such signs. Many ways could be found to achieve this end, but I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee by going into those details. I stress only that I have tabled the amendment because I feel that it will be unfair on the public if such by-laws are not made quite apparent to them.

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