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Lord Glentoran: I thank the noble Lord for his explanation. I am sorry that he does not like my suggested improvement. However, I bow to his greater knowledge on this occasion and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Luke moved Amendment No. 234:

The noble Lord said: All the amendments in this group refer to the proper identification of land which may or may not be access land.

In subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 20 there is reference to the exclusion or restriction of access to any land. The amendment proposes that for the sake of clarity specific reference should be made where it is

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necessary to identify that land as access land and whether reference is made to the whole of it or to part of it, and the amendment seeks to do just that.

Perhaps I may speak also to the other amendments in the group, starting with Amendments Nos. 239, 240 and 241. As with the amendments under Clause 20, this batch of three amendments simply seeks to clarify and make specific reference to land which is access land rather than any land, which must be helpful to all concerned.

Amendments Nos. 256 and 259 relate to Clause 21, and to the extension of time for exclusion or restriction at the descretion of the landowner. In this respect the Bill is vague and imprecise in its reference to land and the purpose of these two amendments is to clarify and identify the land referred to.

Amendment No. 263 relating to Clause 22 refers to an application regarding land that is not access land. The subsection attempts to provide for a situation where the relevant authority is able to forecast whether or not land will be access land at some point during all or part of the period to which an application relates. That is simply not practicable and our amendment ensures that applications deal not with conjecture but with reality.

Amendment No. 266 relates to Clause 23 and refers to access land. For the purpose of clarification the amendment proposes that relevant land shall be referred to as access land.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 270 to 274. Again, we say that the reference in the Bill is vague and unspecific in many cases. This batch of amendments simply seeks to make specific reference to access land.

The final amendment in the group refers to Clause 23 and to land that is not access land at the time when the application is made. This matter was referred to in relation to Clause 22, where the Bill was described as conjecturing what might become access land but is not access land at the time when the application is made. We believe that that is irrelevant and the amendment seeks to exclude that possibility. I beg to move.

Viscount Bledisloe: Many of the amendments tabled by the Conservative Front Bench have been most helpful. However, I venture to suggest that they are grossly over-doing it with this set of amendments. Clause 20(2) reads:

    "A person excludes access ... where he excludes the application of that subsection in relation to that land".

How can one exclude access, which can only be given over access land, except in relation to access land? How can adding the word "access" make any useful addition to the wording of the clause, other than making it longer and taking up yet more of our time?

Lord Whitty: For reasons that I shall explain, I believe that the Opposition are being slightly inconsistent on this occasion. The effect of this group of amendments would be literally to reverse government amendments put forward on Report in another place, which were tabled as a result of representations that had been made. It would be

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helpful to allow applications for restrictions to be made and dealt with before the actual right of access came into effect.

The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, argued quite strongly earlier that we should allow for a certain situation where we could anticipate the need for by-laws before the actual right came into effect. The earlier amendments allow for the directions to be made in relation to restrictions and for landowners to be allowed to exercise their discretion under Clause 21 in anticipation of land becoming access land. They provide a mechanism whereby restrictions on access could be directed before the right of access came into effect, so that not only the access but also the restriction would be in place on day one of the operation of the right. That is the equivalent position to the one we discussed earlier on by-laws. We accepted the principle of the noble Baroness's amendment on by-laws and, therefore, we are being consistent in resisting this amendment.

As I have explicitly explained the reason why the reference to "land" rather than "access land" was made, any other reading of those amendments is mistaken. I believe that virtually all of the cases here are the mirror image of the amendments made in order to provide for that contingency, which I believe we now all agree would be both appropriate and helpful in terms of managing the approach to access land and the access right. In the light of my explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Luke: I am sorry to displease the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe; and, indeed, the Minister. In view of that response, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Luke moved Amendment No. 235:

    Page 12, line 3, at end insert ("or part thereof").

The noble Lord said: It is with some trepidation that I move Amendment No. 235. In doing so, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 236 and 238. Again, the issue here is identification. In Clause 20(2) and (3) reference is made to the exclusion or restriction of access to any land. For the sake of clarity, our amendment proposes that specific reference should be made, where necessary, to identify that land as access land and to clarify whether reference is being made to the whole or part of it. That is the purpose of the amendment.

Amendment No. 236 refers to the same argument in relation to Clause 21. Amendment No. 238 seeks to provide greater clarification as to how such land is identified. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: I regret to have to tell the noble Lord yet again that this set of amendments is based on a misunderstanding of Chapter II of the Bill. The phrase "any land" means just that: any land. The exclusion or

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restriction of access does not relate to a pre-determined area, such as all land in the same ownership or all land within a specific geographical boundary. For example, it would clearly make little sense to require that an owner of extensive areas of moorland wishing to conduct a grouse shoot on one relatively small part of that moor should be obliged to close his entire estate. Indeed, that would be contrary to the intention; namely, to allow maximum flexibility within the closure and restriction regime so that it is responsive to the widest range of land management, nature conservation and other needs that may well vary within the area of one ownership.

When assessing the need for restriction or for closure, we expect the relevant authorities to approve the minimum restriction or exclusion to protect those interests. I can, therefore, reassure the noble Lord that the concerns lying behind his amendments are misplaced and that they are fully met by the Bill. In view of my explanation, I trust that the noble Lord will not pursue these amendments.

Lord Luke: That was a rather interesting response. With regard to the 28-day exclusion, the Minister mentioned the fact that it could refer only to one part of an estate, all of which may be access land; in other words, another part of that access land could actually be excluded for another part of that 28-day period. I hope that I am correct in that respect. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 20 agreed to.

Clause 21 [Exclusion or restriction at discretion of owner and others]:

[Amendment No. 236 not moved.]

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 237:

    Page 12, line 43, at end insert--

("( ) Subject to subsections (2) and (6), an entitled person may, by giving notice to the relevant authority in accordance with regulations under section 30(1)(a), exclude or restrict access by virtue of section 2(1) to any land on a Saturday between August 11th and February 2nd where that land is used commercially for shooting.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 248. This amendment would allow landowners to close land on Saturdays during the game shooting season. The majority of game shooting takes place on a Saturday, mainly because this is when most people can take the opportunity to shoot but also because, by law, game cannot be shot on Sundays.

The importance of shooting to the economy and conservation of rural areas is crucial. Over £653 million is spent on shooting per year and much of the countryside is conserved by shooting interests. It is important to note that much shooting takes place during the harsh winter months. The public are much more likely to want to enjoy access during the spring and summer months. Further, the amendment would not deter the public from enjoying access on a Sunday during the period 12th August to 1st February--something that is denied by law to game shooters.

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The rural economy often depends on sporting activities such as shooting during the winter months, especially as this is the very time when other tourists are less likely to visit remote areas. Therefore, the amendment seeks to strike an appropriate balance. It would allow those members of the public who wish to enjoy their right of access during the winter months to do so on Sundays, and it would not preclude land managers from shooting on the most popular day of the week during the statutory game seasons.

I turn to Amendment No. 248 which reads:

    "Page 13, line 14, leave out subsection (6)".

It is not clear why access land should not be closed at weekends, given that the right to close it is limited to a specific number of days. Given that there is a limit to the number of days land can be closed, the public will be able to enjoy access land at the weekends for the vast majority of the year. But that right should also extend to those who wish to close access land for legitimate reasons. For example, shooting days often take place on Saturday. Removing that right would have severe implications for the viability of estates. I beg to move.

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