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The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, the whole point of by-laws is that they are not uniform. They cannot be imposed uniformly across the country. The Government appear to have given access authorities flexibility in these matters. However, unless that is backed up by by-laws, the Bill will be unworkable in many areas. If access authorities do not establish by-laws, the Bill will be unintelligible, unworkable and will lead to division in the countryside. The Government are making a rod for their own back on this issue. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Viscount Bledisloe moved Amendment No. 19:

    Page 2, line 30, at end insert--

("( ) Save as hereinafter provided, a person is not entitled to enter on access land during the night or to remain on access land during the night unless prevented from leaving it by unforeseen circumstances.
( ) If, after proper consultation, it appears to the appropriate countryside body that certain access land is suitable for access at night, it may determine that such land is open for access at night, and any such determination may impose such limitations or conditions as to access at night as appear to it to be appropriate.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 19, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 28, both of which stand in my name. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, has kindly added her name to Amendment No. 19. The amendments deal with the vexed question of night access. I hope that they provide a compromise solution which will resolve this knotty problem.

Amendment No. 28 provides a definition of "night" which would be helpful to those seeking night access. The amendment states:

    "'night' means the period from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise on the following day".

The amendment would allow people to view sunset and sunrise.

Amendment No. 19 forbids people to enter access land at night; it requires them to leave it before night falls. However, it makes express provision for those who are delayed in leaving the land by unforeseen circumstances. They do not commit the offence of trespass if, for example, they become lost, fog descends or they are hurt. That deals with the concern expressed in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and others that if fog descended or conditions deteriorated people might expose themselves to danger trying to leave the land come what may when it would be much more sensible for them to "hunker down" and wait for the fog to clear.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for giving way. Would his amendment alter the position in those areas where there is existing access at night, for example in the Lake District? Would the amendment take away that right?

Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, I take nothing away. I do not think that the Bill takes anything away; it merely states that under its terms access will be subject to certain provisos. It does not say anything about existing rights of access. To put at rest another concern that has been expressed, it does not in any way take away the power of a landowner to allow access, as many frequently do, particularly where the access has been sought by an organised body.

Under the terms of the amendment, with the exception of the person who is delayed by unforeseen circumstances, normally--I stress the word "normally"--there will be no right of access to the land between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise on the following day. That approach stems from the view expressed by many in Committee that there is generally no need for access to roam at night

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as opposed to access to footpaths at night. If and in so far as there is a desire to roam at night on the part of a limited number of people, the value of that desire is greatly outweighed by the manifest problems which night access can engender. Many mentioned those problems in Committee and may, no doubt, repeat them. They include disturbance to wildlife and stock--the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, mentioned that--fear engendered in those who occupy the land by people roaming around; the opportunities it creates for crime; the difficulty posed for those responsible for the land in knowing whether a person on the land at night is genuinely and honestly exercising his access right or has a more evil intent; and the interruption to legitimate night activities such as lamping for foxes. That is the basic premise of the amendment. However, it recognises that there may be land where those problems do not apply to which night access can be allowed safely and properly. It provides that after due consultation the appropriate countryside body can decide to allow night access to specific land. It can do so absolutely, or subject to certain restrictions or conditions--for example, restriction to a particular time of the year.

Thus for night access the presumption of the remainder of the Bill would be altered. Instead of access being allowed with the authority having power to exclude it in certain circumstances, the amendment provides that night access would normally not be allowed but the authority would have power to allow it where it believed that danger or problems would not arise. This in no way infringes on the fact that owners can give permission. They often do so when night access is by an organised body.

I hope that the amendment is a genuine, reasonable compromise which reconciles this difficult conflict. Unless that conflict is resolved by a provision such as this, it will be a major cause of friction, trouble and unhappiness and do much to damage the otherwise admirable principles of the Bill. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I have put my name to the amendment. We spent many a long hour in Committee debating the reasons that night-time access should not be allowed. The noble Viscount refers again to the issue. I shall not delay the House by going through those reasons in detail. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, was not with us in Committee. He highlighted some of the difficulties of allowing night-time access.

We are referring to access land. Access to rights of way at night time will still exist. If night-time access is allowed, people who live in remote areas will not know which individuals they can challenge. If night-time access is with the agreement of the landowner, their fear is reduced. If permission has not been given, there is a good chance that people who are present at night should not be there. Foggy conditions and so on would have to be taken into account. In those circumstances, those in rural areas would feel greater security.

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I refer also to the safety and security of people out at night. Much of the land that they will visit is unsafe at night. Mapping will identify areas of bog but the situation at night is difficult. I am sure that noble Lords will have helped people who have got into difficulty at night. There is the very real problem of the safety and security of those people.

We are talking about the principle of night-time access. We have to balance the safety and security of the people living in these areas--they know whether people should or should not be present at night--with the desire of those who wish to wander. In Committee, noble Lords understood that balance but pointed out that if individuals have a right to go out at night they know that they may get into difficulty and require help. That right has to be balanced against the realistic problems of those who live in the area. Crime in rural areas is still a great and increasing problem. Unfortunately the quick emergency response for those living nearer towns is not available.

We debated the issue at great length in Committee. I hope that the Minister has been able to consider the arguments put forward. Noble Lords have argued that the individual night-time walker or rambler knows the risks that he runs. But is the right to take that risk greater than the right to safety and security for those who live and work in the area? That is the difficulty the House has to decide.

The noble Viscount referred to land management and the control of foxes. They are often lamped at night. It would be most unfortunate if people became involved in such a situation unwittingly.

I shall not go into other issues raised in Committee; other noble Lords may wish to do so. I recognise that night-time access will give pleasure to some people who wish to wander off rights of way. The amendment does not affect the individual's ability to enjoy night-time access on rights of way. I hope that the House will achieve a balance between the safety and security of people and the conservation of wildlife. I am happy to support the amendment.

Baroness Nicol: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may draw noble Lords' attention to the Companion--we have all received recently a beautiful new copy--which states that,

    "Arguments fully deployed in Committee of the Whole House should not be repeated at length on report".

The patience of the House may well be tried if every noble Lord who speaks goes over the same arguments again. So far I have not heard a single new argument.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, I hope that my noble friend will think that I offer a new point. I was unable to take part in the debate in Committee. I am interested in the issue. It is inevitable; for a long time I represented a county constituency with 246 farms within it. There is anxiety. I hope that we shall achieve a balance.

One slight inconsistency puzzles me. Perhaps the Minister will explain it. On the one hand we are keen to see the protection of ground-nesting birds by banning

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dogs from March to August. I do not complain about that. On the other hand, we are prepared to see humans going way off the footpaths, probably disturbing ground-nesting birds. From my observations of the species, the bird that is disturbed during the day is likely to return to the nest more quickly than the bird disturbed at night. I should be grateful if my noble friend will explain the inconsistency.

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