Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Peel. The Government should look at this amendment as a way of making the legislation acceptable to the rural community. We are enacting a very big change and, in general, as the Government know, I support it. But it is important that we should not unnecessarily antagonise people who live and work in the countryside. There is an increasing amount of rural crime of every kind, particularly thefts from farm buildings--tractors, batteries and every type of small tool. It is not a matter of whether there is a specific line--a circle of 20 metres--around a building. What my noble friend seeks is something in the statute which makes it possible for the land occupier, owner or farmer to challenge someone who perhaps is up to no good without that person being able to say, "I have a perfect right to be here".

Such challenges would not be made very often. Ordinary, genuine walkers who strayed within the 20 metres--it would be much easier if we said 100 yards as most people in my part of the country would understand that a great deal better--would not be a

1 Nov 2000 : Column 980

problem. It is a matter of making the legislation "country friendly". If that is not done, there is a danger of causing antagonism that could be avoided.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, noble Lords have set out a number of reasons why the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Peel, makes some sense, particularly if we are to have night access. It is hard to prejudge exactly where we should go on this issue, but I understand the arguments that have been put forward. How will people tell whether a building is a dwelling-house or a farm building? I understand also the argument about animals being frightened. I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply to the amendment.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I do not accept the arguments that have been put forward. I indicated earlier that I was reluctant to give the concession in relation to the 20 metres. I did so because in many circumstances the most obvious way for people to move around access land would involve going along areas that are fairly close to buildings. That, regrettably, is the fact in many parts of the country. There is therefore a balance to be struck. I was persuaded that the protection and the feeling of security of people who lived in houses that were isolated but would be passed fairly close by people who were using the area overrode the need to provide walkers with the most obvious path from which otherwise they would have to divert unless it was a right of way. I repeat the point that many people in the countryside will be passed considerably closer than the 20 metres by rights of way.

I have accepted the balance of protecting rural households in isolated dwellings where there is not a right of way close to them. That is common sense. However, the noble Earl's amendment suggests that every shed or isolated building, whether used or unused, should be surrounded by a 20 metre exclusion zone. That is a serious incursion into many areas where the obvious path will be within the 20 metres, particularly as regards access higher land. I therefore suggest that the balance suggested by the noble Earl is not appropriate.

The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, said that we are talking about farmyards. We are not talking about farmyards. In most cases farmyards will be excluded, but in any case we are talking here about isolated buildings around which there is not a curtilage greater than 20 metres and there is not a garden or cultivated area. Therefore, we are not talking here about access to what, in common parlance, would be regarded as a farmyard. We are talking about protecting the privacy and security of people who live in isolated cottages. We are not talking about denying the right of passage to every shed that happens to exist in the countryside. The noble Earl is pressing further unnecessary exclusions from the Bill. I do not think that we should accept them.

1 Nov 2000 : Column 981

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, was concerned about how people would know. In relation to dwelling-houses, it would be one of the simpler rules. People would know that if it was a house they should not move within 20 metres of it. That would be common right across the countryside. If the garden was larger than 20 metres, they would keep that far away as well. That is a fairly straightforward rule which can be justified to walkers. The idea that every building could similarly be protected is not appropriate and would be a serious incursion into the amount of land that was available. I therefore hope that the noble Earl does not pursue the amendment and sticks with the protection of country dwellers rather than of every building that happens to be in the countryside.

Earl Peel: My Lords, I received the answer from the Minister which he told me in advance of moving the amendment I would receive. I thank him for that. At least he has been consistent.

The Minister said that he was reluctant in the first place to give 20 metres. He may be interested to know that in their right to access legislation the Danes give 150 metres. But I suspect that the Government are not particularly interested in what the Danes do. That apart, the noble Lord said that my amendment would be a serious incursion into the amount of land that was available. I do not think that that is so. My noble friend Lord Marlesford was absolutely right. We are looking for something that will make people realise that the legislation is not there to drive a wedge between town and country people. That is an important point, but it is one that is so often ignored.

I congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, on opening the night-time access debate very successfully indeed. He made some extremely telling points. The Government should heed carefully the information given by the noble Viscount from his experiences in Northern Ireland.

I was interested in the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, from the Liberal Democrat Benches. I think I am right in saying that they have a degree of sympathy for the amendment. I shall take the opportunity of discussing the matter further with them. Perhaps we will come back at the next stage with a joint Conservative/Liberal Democrat amendment. That would make an interesting move forward! Given those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 11:

    Page 63, line 9, at end insert--

("2A. Land within 20 metres of a dwelling.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 12:

    Page 63, line 10, at end insert ("or allotment").

1 Nov 2000 : Column 982

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment provides for a small addition which I hope that the Minister will be able to accept. On studying the descriptions and definitions here, we felt that allotments--which are particular and form a peculiar type of land use--should be covered by the regulations in the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, as a firm supporter of allotments, I understand why the noble Baroness has tabled this amendment. Given that the House has shown itself keen on definitions this afternoon, does her proposition cover allotments which are defined as such? If someone digs a patch of land 12 metres square and plants a few Brussels sprouts, would that qualify?

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I hope that it is in order for me to respond to the noble Baroness. I had assumed that the amendment would cover what are classed as "acknowledged" allotments rather than any patch of land which has been dug. Official allotments are registered and it is those to which I refer in this amendment.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, if the noble Baroness is referring to registered allotments rather than to the kind of circumstances outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, or to areas where, perhaps historically, allotments were sited but have now fallen into disuse, such as in some moorland areas as a result of wartime or other cultivation, then I have some sympathy with her amendment. We shall need to tidy it a little in that respect. If the noble Baroness would allow me that leeway and withdraw her amendment at this stage, I shall then consult with her between now and Third Reading.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that response. Many people are very keen on allotments and an amendment to the Bill would provide a solution to this small problem. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

Lord Northbrook moved Amendment No. 13A:

    Page 63, line 21 (leave out "covered by pens") and (insert "of under 10 hectares in size").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I wish to move Amendment No. 13A and speak at the same time to Amendment No. 13B. In doing so, I should declare an interest as a landowner who does not own livestock, but who rents out grazing to a local farmer.

The background to these probing amendments is threefold. First, they address the important issue of dogs fouling pasture. This presents a serious potential problem for cattle. If dog faeces gets into grass cut for hay, it can cause potentially serious health problems. Secondly, inclusion of these areas will, as has been mentioned in discussions on previous amendments,

1 Nov 2000 : Column 983

make the task of mapping much easier. Thirdly, the lack of disturbance will be of benefit to ground-nesting birds in permanent pasture. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page