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Lord Whitty: My Lords, I have already said that I believe that we have struck the right balance. Some of the activities that have been mentioned are clearly criminal offences in any circumstances, such as the use of dogs for poaching and rustling. Access provisions would not condone or connive at that.

Had the amendment been more reasonable, it might have had more support, although not from me. However, it is a blanket exclusion of all dogs, whether on a lead or not, from all access land from one hour after sunset. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, talks about alienating rural dwellers. Under the amendment, anyone who wished to go out after half past four on a winter's night in the North of England to exercise their dog on registered common land would be banned from doing so. That would be absurd.Even those who see some merit in placing some restrictions on dogs on access land could not reasonably support such a blanket provision. People who live in the countryside would undoubtedly be upset if they were caught by the ban because they had strayed from their land to their neighbour's land with a dog on a lead. I suspect that that was not the intention of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, but it would be the effect of the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, misunderstood that. He referred to dogs off leads, but dogs of any sort in any context would be covered. That is not acceptable.

I believe that we have struck the right balance. People should be able to walk their dog at night on access land. However, in any event, I believe that if noble Lords were to give the matter a moment's thought they would realise that a good proportion of the rural vote--if the noble Lord wishes to speak in electoral terms--would be quite upset were this amendment to be carried. Therefore, I hope that the noble Viscount will not press it.

Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, I accept that there may be rare circumstances in which this amendment goes too far--perhaps with regard to small patches of common land. However, the force of the amendment exists in relation to almost all access land, and the noble Lord has given no answer to that. In order that I may deal with the few occasions on which he has made a valid point, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment and I shall deal with those points at the next stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 51:

1 Nov 2000 : Column 1084

(" . Section 2(1) does not apply to a person who, between the hours of sunset and sunrise, takes on to access land, or allows to enter or remain on access land, any dog.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 51 is grouped with Amendment No. 50. Although the noble Viscount has decided to withdraw his amendment, I am not sure that I am so happy to withdraw mine. I do not believe that the Minister responded to it completely satisfactorily. The most important issue is that of having dogs in the dark and the destruction that that causes. Also at issue is the safety of dog owners who lose their dogs at night. It is quite frightening to lose one's dog at night. I certainly wish to test the opinion of the House on this amendment.

11.52 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 51) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 50.

Division No. 3


Arran, E.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Bledisloe, V.
Bridgeman, V.
Burnham, L. [Teller]
Byford, B.
Caithness, E.
Cavendish of Furness, L.
Glentoran, L.
Henley, L. [Teller]
Jopling, L.
Luke, L.
Mancroft, L.
Marlesford, L.
Monson, L.
Montrose, D.
Northbrook, L.
Peel, E.
Rotherwick, L.
Selborne, E.
Williamson of Horton, L.


Addington, L.
Amos, B.
Ampthill, L.
Andrews, B.
Bach, L.
Barker, B.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Bragg, L.
Brett, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Crawley, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Desai, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Greaves, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Judd, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Morgan, L.
Nicol, B.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Thornton, B.
Warner, L.
Whitty, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

1 Nov 2000 : Column 1085


[Amendment No. 52 not moved.]

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 53:

    Page 65, line 23, at end insert--

(" . Any person who fails to comply with any restriction under paragraph 4 or 5, or any other restriction on dogs imposed under Chapter II, is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I suspect I know the answer before I start but I shall still move the amendment. It introduces an offence which renders a person on summary conviction liable to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale. In my view, that offence would need to be well publicised in advance so that responsible owners would have nothing to fear.

This evening, we have gone through the motions of putting forward these very important amendments and, unfortunately, the Government do not want to listen to what we say on the introduction of offences. Later, when this Bill is enacted, they may well wish that they had done so. That is what Amendment No. 53 seeks to do. I beg to move.

Lord Monson: My Lords, it will not surprise your Lordships to know that I support this amendment as my name is down to it. It may well be, as the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, argued in responding to Amendment No. 42, that breaches of the restrictions on dogs do not justify an exclusion order. But that does not mean that such breaches do not deserve some modest sanction.

An analogy might be with the riding of a bicycle on the pavement. One can well understand why cyclists may wish to do that--to avoid the dangers posed by heavy car and lorry traffic. Quite a lot of the time it may do no harm, particularly in the evening when there are very few pedestrians about, just as, for example, it may be that dogs do no harm if they are allowed to romp about in the month of May. But at other times, it does do harm. Pedestrians, particularly if they are elderly or infirm, may be bumped into or knocked over. Other more agile pedestrians have to jump out of the way. That is why the Government, quite rightly, make riding a bicycle on the pavement a criminal offence punishable by a small fine, even though not all of the time does it present any problem.

The Minister suggested earlier that the matter could be dealt with through local by-laws. Nothing could be better calculated to confuse the public. Not everybody knows which district they are in when they go walking on a moor or mountain. It would be far better to have a sanction--such as a small fine on scale 1--that is well understood by everybody. One accepts that sanctions

1 Nov 2000 : Column 1086

should not be extreme but to leave it to local authorities to propose by-laws seems crazy. If the Government cannot make a favourable response tonight, I hope that they will seriously consider the matter between now and the next stage.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that I will not pursue him onto the pavements or to rely on by-laws as the main solution.

Failure to adhere to restrictions on dogs should lead to the loss of the statutory right, with the normal consequences of trespass where appropriate. We do not wish to criminalise behaviour that does not in itself cause damage and that might be committed inadvertently

Where dogs actively worry livestock or are allowed to roam freely on fields or enclosures where there are sheep, the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 provides for sanctions under criminal law. Where there is a problem in any specific area in addition, by-laws may be made if necessary to invoke the criminal law.

When considering new criminal sanctions, we ought to bear in mind the scope of the access, which will be a modest right for the purposes of quiet recreation on foot. We expect its impact, in general, to be limited. Where people step outside the bounds of the right by, for example, allowing their dogs to roam off the lead, the impact of their behaviour would be the same under the new right as at present. Therefore the sanction should be the same. I hope that the noble Baroness will not press the amendment.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister but I am slightly disappointed. The noble Lord said that the Bill allows people quietly to enjoy the countryside. No one suggests that the majority of people will do otherwise. But throughout the afternoon and evening we have been trying to point out that in this day and age, sadly, there are people who go about not just quietly enjoying the countryside. The Bill has no teeth in enforcing sanctions against some of the things that we fear will happen. I suspect that the Ministers--who are smiling among themselves--do not believe that there will be a problem; but there will. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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