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The Deputy Speaker (Lord Ampthill): My Lords, I should point out to the House that the word, or half-word, "agri-" should be added to the beginning of the word "environmental" in line 2 of this amendment.

The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, with this amendment we return to the question of balance within the countryside. I believe that existing management agreements could be put in jeopardy and penalty clauses invoked as a result of this Bill, which would be detrimental to the conservation aspects of the agri-environment and country stewardship schemes. Therefore, in my view, it is totally wrong for one department within government to be encouraging farmers to go in one direction, while the DETR will, with this Bill, be quite unintentionally undermining the efforts of MAFF to encourage farmers to improve their farming practices and adopt more conservation-oriented ways of carrying out their work. Those are the reasons behind my support for my noble friend and this amendment.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, as a result of this Bill reaching the statute book, I hope that MAFF will take an overall look at the way that its schemes and regulations impact on farmers and consider how that ties in with this legislation. Previous speakers have made some interesting points. In Committee, I raised the point several times that the new hill farm allowance scheme has no provision for

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taking into account the forthcoming impact that open access will have. Indeed, it is not even mentioned in the criteria. Therefore, I add a plea from these Benches that MAFF should be asked to consider the impact of this Bill. It should also give some thought to the way that its schemes and grants tie in with the kind of objectives that we are working towards under this legislation.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I wish also to support this amendment, which I believe to be of tremendous importance. It is of particular importance to Wales because we have what is known as the tir cymen scheme, which is similar but rather better, so I am told, than the stewardship scheme. It is run by the Countryside Council for Wales. Therefore, one assumes that the council would have a power to exclude any land that is under a management scheme, if it thought that the conditions would be vitiated by its declaration as "open access land".

I stress the importance of this matter because the these management schemes are becoming a vital source of income, especially for hill farmers. We are aware of what the average farm income is in England--I believe that it is about £10,000 a year--but it is £5,000 and decreasing in Wales. Therefore, such management schemes are very popular with the farming community because they make a substantial contribution to farm incomes.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I rise to express my support for my noble friend's amendment. We have had a number of discussions on this matter, which clearly show that the impact of this Bill will cross departmental boundaries on many fronts. I believe that the issue now before us highlights the situation because of the sensitivity of the agricultural industry at present. I look forward to hearing some reassurance from either the noble Baroness or the noble Lord that they can really turn on some joined-up government.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that there will of course be joined-up government; indeed, it is a fundamental part of the Government's approach to all parts of this Bill.

I should like also to reassure all speakers in the debate that Chapter II of the Bill already makes full provision for the exclusion or restriction of access where that is necessary in the interests of land management or conservation. All the examples that have been referred to would fall within that category, were that to be the case. Therefore, it is extremely important for me to reassure noble Lords that there are already sufficient mechanisms in place in the Bill to protect the interests of countryside stewardship sites, as for any other land.

It is inconceivable that a farmer would be held liable for any breach of an agri-environmental agreement, if the breach arose as a result of access. However, as I said, the mechanisms exist within the Bill to ensure that such schemes will not be put at risk in the first instance because of access. I agree with those who have

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spoken in this debate that the existence of such schemes is very important in many areas, especially in the north of England and in Wales. They are also crucial to the objective of protecting the countryside. With those reassurances, I hope that the noble Duke will not find it necessary to press his amendment. I can assure him that we are fully aware of the importance of the subject to which he spoke.

The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, I was most interested in the noble Baroness's response. I believe that I am reassured. However, before she concludes, can she confirm that, if I were an owner of land--which I am not--that was subject to a stewardship scheme, I could approach the Countryside Agency, tell the officials that the land was under such a scheme, show them a map and then it would automatically become excluded land?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Earl does not expect my answer to be "yes" to that question. However, the answer would be "yes" in circumstances where either the interests of land management or conservation interests were best served by such an exclusion. It is not automatically the case. But, quite clearly, many of the situations to which other noble Lords referred would be very relevant in terms of conservation. I repeat: it is not automatic.

The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, I was extremely interested to hear what the noble Baroness said in her response. I was similarly interested in the various aspects of conservation that were mentioned by other noble Lords. However, I am left with this question. If the farmer sees deterioration taking place, will it be his responsibility to approach the body concerned? I am not quite sure which body he would have to approach--for example, whether it would be the Countryside Agency, or whoever--in order to get an exclusion order implemented. It may well become the responsibility of the farmer, but the point here is to stop the access before the deterioration goes too far. Nevertheless, in view of the assurances given by the noble Baroness, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 17:

    Page 64, line 15, at end insert--

("13. Land which is habitually used for the training of racehorses is not to be treated by virtue of paragraph 9A as excepted land except--
(a) between dawn and midday on any day, and
(b) at any other time when it is in use for that purpose.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6 p.m.

Clause 2 [Rights of public in relation to access land]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 18:

    Page 2, line 28, at end insert (", and

(c) he observes the byelaws which the access authority shall prescribe").

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The noble Earl said: My Lords, this matter was discussed in Committee but perhaps not in the detail that it should have been. At that stage we went off on a slight tangent as I believe that the Government misunderstood the purpose of the amendment.

I fully accept that the breaking of a by-law is a criminal offence. However, by-laws must be in place. That is the whole nub of my amendment which is pivotal on the word "shall". The Minister has already said this afternoon that the Government require flexibility. However, by-laws must be in place to make the Bill workable. If that flexibility is not backed up by by-laws, I fear that the Bill will be unworkable as the provisions in each area will be different.

Unless by-laws are in place and criminal proceedings can be invoked when they are transgressed, the Bill will become unworkable. That is what we all dread; it is not the purpose of the exercise. The amendment clarifies the situation and allows the Government the flexibility they seek but asks the appropriate bodies to put by-laws in place to back up that flexibility. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I am sorry that in Committee the noble Earl did not obtain the response he wanted. He makes an unusual request in asking for by-laws to be established in every area. The value of by-laws lies in their ability to respond to particular local circumstances. It is unusual to seek to impose a network of by-laws. People may consider that by-laws are not needed in certain areas. Where by-laws are put in place by the access authority under Clause 17, it will be a criminal offence to breach them, as the noble Earl recognises. A fine of up to £500 may be imposed.

The effect of Clause 2(1) and paragraph 1(d) of Schedule 2 is that any person who commits a criminal offence is not entitled to exercise the statutory right of access. Those exercising the right of access must comply with any by-law in order to retain that right. It is not logical for us to seek to impose by-laws unilaterally and uniformly, whatever the local circumstances. I hope that the noble Earl will not press the amendment.

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