Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, is the Minister going to respond to the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, who has been thinking a great deal about this and has something to say?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I did respond in part. The noble Baroness made a point about trespass on to excluded land, conservation exclusions. English Nature has powers to make by-laws over national nature reserves and European sites, and they will be extended to cover SSSIs. These by-laws can prohibit mere entry on to a site. Currently, only a few English Nature by-laws have been made on

1 Nov 2000 : Column 1042

nature reserves and none has been made on European sites. It suggests that entry on to closed sites is not currently a problem.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I have heard what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has said in regard to these amendments.

I want to make one or more points very clearly. I understand what he is saying about creating a criminal offence for trespass. That is not our intention. I do not believe that that would be right. I agree entirely with the noble Lord on that. However, I believe that part of the objective of these amendments--particularly Amendment No. 24--is that there should be something in the code books or on the face of the Bill which reminds people that wardens or managers have a responsibility, supported in law, should people offend the codes or rules. I think that is important.

What is more important, and was supported to some degree or another on all sides of the House, if I may quote the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, is that Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 are not about ordinary people making mistakes. They are about persistent offenders. I made that point very strongly. I emphasised the word "persistent" when I introduced the amendments. The purpose of Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 is to ask the Government to find a way on the face of the Bill to assist the management of persistent offenders. Those persistent offenders could be as bad as the person who drives some sort of quad bike round and round on some access ground on a regular basis until he is thrown off.

As I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that the new criminal justice Bill could be used in this way to help this situation.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, one has to be very careful about that. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, should read Section 40A that is introduced into the 1990 Act by the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill. Then he should consider whether that Bill is likely to be changed further in its passage through Parliament. I do not think the noble Lord should rely on it at the moment.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that intervention. Certainly, I accept the advice.

I leave the House with the point that all of us, except the Government Front Bench, believe that at this moment there is a need for stronger sanctions against the persistent quasi-criminal offender within access areas. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 27:

    Page 2, leave out line 41.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 not moved.]

1 Nov 2000 : Column 1043

Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 30:

    After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) A person who intends to enter or to remain on access land during any part of the period from one hour after sunset on one day to one hour before sunrise on the following day shall give prior notice of that intention to the access authority.
(2) The access authority shall take such steps as seem to it appropriate and practicable to--
(a) communicate to any person giving such notice information as to restrictions relating to, and activities to be carried out on, such land, and
(b) enable owners and other persons interested in access land to obtain information as to notices which have been given.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this new clause is to ensure that a person who intends to enter or remain on access land at night gives prior notice to the access authority. That is covered in subsection (1).

Subsection (2) seeks to ensure that the access authority informs such a person of any restrictions in force or activities taking place on the land and ensures that owners and other interested persons are told of those who have given notice of their intended nocturnal visit.

As the House will have concluded, this is a clause of last resort as regards night access. It is minimalist in its requirements. I hope that noble Lords on the Liberal Benches may give it some favourable consideration, if only to pacify Mr Colin Breed, the Member for South East Cornwall, who is, I understand, the Liberal spokesman on agriculture, rural affairs and fisheries. He appeared in a forum organised by the Countryside Alliance on Thursday, 19th October, and declared himself against night access. So perhaps we may have some consistency in the Liberal ranks. I invite Liberal support for my proposed new clause.

It was made clear in Committee, when I tabled a similar but less comprehensive amendment, that it was the safety of night visitors that I had first and foremost in mind. That is still the case. With due respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, who is not here at the moment, I referred to some 265 accidents that occur annually in Snowdonia. Out of respect for the noble Baroness, I shall not repeat any of the tangential facts relating to that.

In the course of our discussion in Committee, various other proper and very valid concerns were raised and the proposed new clause seeks to take account of them. For example, there was the concern of owners and managers highlighted by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, in another amendment in Committee and again, of course, today. And there was concern about the safety of property, livestock, ground-nesting birds and so on. There was concern too about lamping and operations against foxes.

My point is that all those concerns, which are very extensive, as the Government know, would be greatly reduced by knowledge of the presence and identity of those wandering in access land after dark.

1 Nov 2000 : Column 1044

The new clause gives a statutory basis for what is accepted as good practice; namely, giving advance notice of a night visit to an area which may involve hazards of one kind or another. That good practice was referred to by a number of your Lordships, including the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, in the course of our discussions.

Reputable organisations advise their members to give prior notice of their intentions and likely whereabouts on night ventures at the places where they stay--hotels and so on--or to local rescue teams. That is a sensible precaution and the Government would be wise to give it statutory form, especially as the area open to access will be considerably increased. The Government are going wrong by considering things as they are without taking into account the significant extension of access land and, possibly, the increased numbers using it.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, what is one supposed to do if one is already on access land and, because it is a glorious day and will be a glorious night, one decides to stay--even though one did not intend to do so beforehand?

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, the same rule applies. If it is likely that a person will stay overnight on access land, he should give that information to the authority.

I am not greatly concerned with the popular nocturnal visitor spots. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, mentioned Snowdon in Committee. I am concerned about the less well-known locations which will be open to access and which are comparatively unexplored by walkers. Members of reputable organisations can be trusted to take the necessary precautions. I am concerned about less-experienced groups who may venture forth at night without a proper assessment of risk and may end up in tragic circumstances that could have been avoided had they had the foresight to give prior notice to knowledgeable people. Who better to inform than the access authority, which would tell the landowner and other interested parties

Everything I have heard since the Bill came before the House confirms my view that we should establish and develop the good practice envisaged in the proposed new clause. In Committee, noble Lords indicated that it was the general practice of organisations for ramblers, climbers and so on to give prior notice of their intention to be on a mountain or in other hazardous places at night.

It is only a matter of days since a group of Italian soldiers became lost on the Brecon Beacons. They gave a wrong map reference to their would-be rescuers who spent nine hours searching for them. One soldier was taken to hospital suffering from hypothermia after a night in the open. If that can happen to soldiers on a planned military exercise, I do not hold out much chance for ill-equipped young people or other civilians on an unplanned night foray--although I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is quite capable of taking care of himself.

1 Nov 2000 : Column 1045

I have no doubt that tragic occurrences would be fewer if the proposed new clause were in place and access authorities and wardens were given prior notice. Safety has a high priority in almost every sphere of life these days--be it rail travel or eating beefburgers. It would be remiss of the Government to ensure public safety on racing gallops but ignore it on access land. Why is there a difference? Maybe the Government are afraid of being accused of nannying, but I do not believe that that can be the case.

There is no penalty on an access authority or an individual for failure to comply with the requirements of the new clause. As I said, it is an attempt to give statutory backing to current best practice, to improve safety at night for those who venture on to access land and to ensure the safety of property and livestock on access land. I can assure the Government that people will sleep sounder if they know who is on the mountain, heath, down or moorland near their home. I urge the Government to give this last-resort clause on night access a sympathetic hearing.

9.30 p.m.

Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, my name should appear to this amendment, but for some administrative reason it does not.

My first point is that if people are to be given access to open land at night, it is highly desirable that someone should know who is on the land. This amendment contemplates a simple telephone system to be set up by the access authority so that anyone venturing out at night can leave a message to say who he is, how many are in his party and where they are going. The amendment was deliberately designed to say that because in Committee the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, raised the point of someone not deciding whether to go out at night until late in the afternoon as he wanted to see what the weather would be like.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has now raised a further point: what happens if someone wants to stay out? Last time he told the House that it was irresponsible to stay out at night on the mountains without having deposited a plan and told people where one was going and when one was returning . In these days of modern technology, it would not be difficult for the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, to pick up a mobile telephone and to tell the access authority that he was staying out.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page