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Lord Roberts of Conwy: Before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may clarify two points with him. First, I appreciate what he said about the nature of the notice to be given by anyone who proposed to act under this provision. But is he saying that when this provision requires a person to give notice of the diversion in accordance with subsection (6), that notice given does not seek permission from the authority concerned? Secondly, can he explain what the situation will be if a farmer has given notice to do work which should be completed in five days and the work continues beyond that time for reasons beyond his control, such as bad weather, snow and so on?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I hope I made clear that the answer to the first question is that these temporary diversion procedures do not require permission from the authority. They can be done by notice being given in the way that is described in the Bill. As to the second question, common sense must prevail. If a cliff falls in and blocks the path and it takes more than five days to clear, everyone will understand that force majeure in such circumstances must prevail. I have already said that I am willing to look at some modest increase to the five days.

Lord Glentoran: I thank the Minister for that explanation, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for her support on these amendments. I understand the Government's position in relation to my Amendment No. 410. I still think that increased flexibility would be advantageous to the Bill. I shall not press Amendment No. 410 or Amendment No. 411. However, I should like to speak to Amendment No. 411. I thank the Minister for giving way to some extent and accepting that there is an argument here that he will go away and look at.

Diversions under the Bill have to be a compromise. They will not normally suit everyone. I am certain that 99 per cent of land managers, once they have a right of way in place and it is used as a public highway, are content to leave it. It is a serious interference for them and the general public if the right of way has to be messed about with. They have to go to the trouble of putting the diversion in place and then they have to make arrangements on their own land or somebody else's to put in a diversion. We on this side of the Committee accept the point that diversions are expected to be of the highest quality possible.

I am grateful to the Minister for making the point about Section 135. I refer in particular to the map situation with regard to animal or plant diseases and so on and other ways of achieving diversions or closures. I should like to press the Minister. He said that 28 days is too much. I would just ask, why five days? It is a difficult area. Both sides of the Chamber agree. I accept that the Government will take the matter on board and do their best to come to a reasonable, sensible conclusion.

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I have a final point. Perhaps we should mention in the Bill acts of God--a cliff falling down, as the Minister suggested; the storms to which I referred in moving the amendment; and such like.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am sure that there are tonnes of paper regarding case law on force majeure. If there is anything new to be said I shall write to the noble Lord and other Members of the Committee. But I should be very surprised if there is.

Lord Glentoran: I thank the Minister. Perhaps we shall have to ask the right reverend Prelates for advice on that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 411 not moved.]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendments Nos. 412 and 412A:

    Page 83, line 40, at end insert ("and

(b) in subsection (2)(b), after "17" there is inserted "or 118B(1)(a)".").
Page 85, line 48, after ("State") insert ("including any related decision under section 120(5) of this Act").

The noble Baroness said: I spoke to these amendments with Amendment No. 375. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 412AA:

    Page 86, line 2, leave out ("(2) to") and insert ("(4) and").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 412AA, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 412AB. These are clarifying amendments. Section 250(2) and (3) of the Local Government Act provide for the summonsing of witnesses and the administering of oaths in public inquiries. Those provisions are inappropriate for the informal hearings process. Legal representation, the calling of witnesses to give evidence and cross-examination are discouraged in hearings. If witnesses have to be compelled to attend or give evidence under oath, that should take place in the more formal surroundings of a public inquiry. The amendments disapply the provisions in hearings. I beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am glad that, in introducing the amendments, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, emphasised the difference between hearings and inquiries. That is the key to the issue.

The amendments would remove from the Bill important powers which would enable an inspector to summon witnesses to a hearing into an order creating, diverting or closing a right of way under the Highways Act 1980. The powers are already available in respect of inquiries because Section 302 of the Highways Act applies Section 250 of the Local Government Act to all inquiries held under it.

The purpose of the provisions in Schedule 6 to the Bill is to apply to hearings the same powers as currently apply to inquiries. The Government's policy

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generally is that a public inquiry will be held unless the promoting authority and the objectors--that is, the parties--agree to a hearing. There are clearly advantages to hearings. They are less formal and less expensive; and I would imagine that they are often quicker. However, there may be occasions when, despite the agreement between the parties, it may be necessary to summon someone who is not a party to the dispute and is not in attendance at the hearing to give evidence or to call for documents in order that a properly informed decision may be made. I do not think that anyone would lose by that. The advantage is that it stays as a hearing without being upgraded to the more formal status of inquiry.

If the amendments were carried, they could require that when a hearing was being held it could be turned into an inquiry even though matters could be dealt with at a hearing more expeditiously. There is plenty of precedent for what the Government propose. There is a similar provision under Schedule 20 to the Environment Act 1995 in relation to certain appeals. Other examples may be found in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Water Resources Act 1991.

I hope that, on consideration, the noble Baroness will feel that this degree of compulsion in a hearing is better than turning it into a full-blown inquiry.

Lord Renton: Will the noble Lord be so good as to explain how the Secretary of State will make regulations to modify? That may mean "amend" or it may mean "repeal". It would be helpful if we could be given some idea of what the method will be. It may be that I have not been zealous enough in tracing from other parts of the Bill how that shall be done. No doubt the Minister will have that information at his fingertips. It would be helpful if we could have an explanation of how the modifying will be done.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There is no reference in the part of the Bill we are discussing to modification or regulation. We are discussing paragraph (8), which states:

    "After paragraph 2A there is inserted--

    "2B.--(1) Subject to sub-paragraph (2), subsections (2) to (5) of section 250 of the Local Government Act 1972 (giving of evidence at, and defraying of costs of, inquiries) apply to a hearing which the Secretary of State causes to be held".

I do not know where regulation or modification comes into it.

Baroness Byford: I thank the Minister for that response. I shall not divide on the amendment but I should like to consider the matter further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 412AB not moved.]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 412B:

    Page 88, line 11, leave out from ("hearings") to ("as") and insert ("held under this Schedule by an appointed person").

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The noble Baroness said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 375. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 54 [Application for path creation order for purposes of Part I]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 413:

    Page 33, line 38, leave out from ("any") to end of line 39 and insert ("local highway authority whose area includes land over which the proposed footpath or bridleway would be created.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is a technical amendment. Clause 54 empowers the countryside agencies to apply to the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales to make an order creating a public path enabling people to gain entry to land over which they have a right of access. Before making such a request, the agencies are required to take account of any rights of way improvement plans for the area concerned. The amendment merely makes it clear that, where the proposed new path would cross two local highway authority areas, both rights of way improvement plans are to be taken into account. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 54, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 55 [Effect of Part I on powers to stop up or divert highways]:

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