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Earl Peel moved Amendment No. 100:

("( ) An access authority shall take such steps and carry out such work (including the erection and maintenance of fences, signs or notices) as appear to it requisite for protecting the public from any source of danger on access land or on adjoining land.").

The noble Earl said: Perhaps I may respond to the comments made by my noble friend. I entirely subscribe to his view. The last thing in the world we want to see is unnecessary signs and fencing cluttering up the countryside. I do not know whether the noble Lord was present when we had the discussions on liability, but it became abundantly clear that landowners will be far more responsible for dealing with mineshafts and quarries under the liability provisions--

Baroness Nicol: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for giving way. Perhaps I may intervene on a point of order. Not only does he need the leave of the House to speak twice to his amendment; he needs to move it if he wants to make a speech.

A noble Baroness: It is a new amendment.

Earl Peel: My Lords, I believe that I am correct in what I am doing. The point I should like to make is that my amendment would not necessarily result in what the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, suggested. Perhaps I may draw his attention to the wording, which states:

    "as appear to it requisite",

which refers to the authority. It is very precise. If the authority decided that it was inappropriate to do so, they would not do so. However, if there was a danger to the public, which they thought it necessary to

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protect, this provision would give them the power to do so. It would place a duty on them to do so. I beg to move.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, if local authorities are put under that sort of obligation, a person in a junior position would probably say, "It is more than my job's worth not to put up a sign by that rabbit hole". (I do not speak literally.) That is human nature. We want to avoid that position. We must keep the countryside as unspoilt as possible. I agree with the Minister when he says that there are risks; these are the risks of everyday life and country life, and let us all accept them.

Earl Peel: My Lords, that is absolutely fine. If we state that people should take responsibility for their own safety, as the Minister has said, they will simply sue the landowner because he has not followed the necessary safety requirements in order to prevent an accident from happening. I have heard the comments of the noble Lord. I am not happy about it. We shall come back to this issue at Third Reading. However, in the mean time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 101:

    Clause 19, page 11, line 33, at end insert--

("(2A) Before erecting a notice on any land under subsection (1) the access authority shall, if reasonably practicable, consult the owner or occupier of the land.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 102 and 103 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 104:

    After Clause 19, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) In relation to England, it shall be the duty of the Countryside Agency to issue, and from time to time revise, a code of conduct for the guidance of persons exercising the right conferred by section 2(1) and of persons interested in access land, and to take such other steps as appear to them expedient for securing--
(a) that the public are informed of the situation and extent of, and means of access to, access land, and
(b) that the public and persons interested in access land are informed of their respective rights and obligations under this Part.
(2) In relation to Wales, it shall be the duty of the Countryside Council for Wales to issue, and from time to time revise, a code of conduct for the guidance of persons exercising the right conferred by section 2(1) and of persons interested in access land, and to take such other steps as appear to them expedient for securing the results mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1).
(3) A code of conduct issued by the Countryside Agency or the Countryside Council for Wales may include provisions in pursuance of subsection (1) or (2) and in pursuance of section 86(1) of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.
(4) The powers conferred by subsections (1) and (2) include power to contribute towards expenses incurred by other persons.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 104 introduces a new clause into the Bill which is intended to ensure that the public and landowners

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have adequate information about their rights and responsibilities under the new right of access. It fulfils the commitment we made in Committee following concerns expressed in all quarters of the House.

The new clause places a new duty on the countryside bodies to issue a code of conduct for the guidance of those exercising the new right, and to take the steps which they believe are necessary to ensure that the public are informed of the situation, extent of and means of access to access land. It also places a duty on them to take the necessary steps to ensure that the public and landowners are informed of their rights and obligations generally.

The code of conduct issued under this clause may also contain information which goes beyond the new right of access--information relating to national parks, AONBs and long distance routes. The Countryside Agency already has a duty to provide information about access opportunities in these areas under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. It seems sensible that the agency should have the option of fulfilling that duty and the new similar duty in relation to access land.

Under this new clause, the countryside bodies will also have the option of contributing towards expenses incurred by third parties in providing information about the new right of access. That provides an extra flexibility in terms of trying to ensure that the information gets across. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 105:

    Line 10, leave out ("this Part") and insert ("Parts I to III of this Act").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we welcome the Government's Amendment No. 104 which, as the Minister said, was widely called for on all sides of the Chamber in Committee. At that time we moved Amendment No. 103 which sought to put a statutory requirement for a country code on the face of the Bill. Amendment No. 105 seeks to widen that requirement from just Part I of the Bill into Parts II and III.

Noble Lords will agree that, if there is to be a country code, it should cover open access land, farmland through which rights of way run and SSSIs, whether or not they are in open access land or other parts of the countryside. We are therefore keen that the country code should spread through all parts of the Bill.

In moving this amendment, I wish to make a couple of points. First, there is no mention in Amendment No. 104 of the specific need about which I spoke in Committee; that is, that the Department for Education should take this matter seriously and include it in the national curriculum. Although the Countryside Agency and the Countryside Council for Wales will no doubt do a good job of informing the public about their rights and responsibilities, it is easier if children are taught those things at an early age. If it were introduced through the national curriculum as

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generations went through school, then people would understand it as an innate part of their education rather than having to learn it later in life.

Secondly, this is one of the most important parts of our amendments this evening. People should know what their responsibilities are. It affects the issue of informing people that one is walking at night, not only because it is sensible to do so, but also because it causes much less difficulty. People should know when and where to keep their dogs on lead. This clause is probably the most important in ensuring that areas of conflict do not happen. We warmly welcome Amendment No. 104, but also hope that the Government will accept our Amendment No. 105. I beg to move.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, I welcome the Government's Amendment No. 104 and also that of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, Amendment No. 105. I should like to speak to my Amendment No. 138 and, as on many previous occasions, declare an interest as a land manager and a land owner outside an access area but with footpaths running through the land.

I want to encourage the Government more fully to address the area of guidance and information. I believe there is concern that it is a weak area of the Bill. How is the Bill to work well if up-to-date information on guidance and information is not easily disseminated.

The aim of Amendment No. 138 is to ensure, through legislation, that a variety of guidance, information and its mechanisms are made as widely available and accessible to the public as it is to those who live and work in the countryside.

It is important for those accessing the country to have the necessary and most up-to-date information so as not only to enjoy it to the full but also while there to conduct themselves properly according to the guidelines and regulations. That should help ensure that conflict between everyone is kept to a minimum. After all, at the end of the day one of the criteria on which the Bill will be judged will be the amount of conflict it has created in the countryside. The amendment covers some of the types of guidance which should be made available as well as the publishing of information on the mechanisms which disseminate the information. One might expect that a website or similar technological instrument would be such a mechanism.

Surely, it is correct that up-to-date and necessary information is easily available to all those requiring it. Imagine the annoyance and frustration of those seeking access if such up-to-date information and guidance were not easily available. Let us take, for example, a person who journeys a long way with the aim of going on to access land only to find that his planned route has been spoilt by a diversion or, worse still, a correctly implemented 28 day type closure, as in Clause 21. Perhaps a closure may be due to a hazard such as fowl pest, foot and mouth disease or swine fever, as occurred recently--or, worse still, a Chernobyl-type disaster.

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Certainly the wardens, land managers or landowners may well be put into a difficult position where conflict may occur. The names of access authorities should also be readily available. It is good practice to inform an authority if one's planned journey involves risks such as rock climbing, as we heard earlier from the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. Names of access authorities should also be readily available in the event of accidents. The up-to-date telephone numbers should be easy to find. Any person looking for such information should have no difficulty finding the codes of practice for the countryside, helping to minimise the conflict which might arise through ignorance.

Other such examples, as are required for the Countryside Agency to disseminate information efficiently, can be found in Clause 23, which requires relevant authorities to restrict access if they are satisfied that due to exceptional weather conditions the area becomes a fire risk; in Clause 28, which allows for indefinite exclusion of access for the purpose of conserving flora and fauna; or in Clause 26, which allows the Secretary of State to exclude or restrict access for the purpose of national security or defence.

In order easily to find such guidance and information, it would seem logical that information on the mechanisms should be published. I draw on my experience as an aviator to show how the CAA has disseminated information. It has used a host of methods such as "Dial-up fax forecasts for pilots" (better known as fax polling); "Met call-up direct" ("met" referring to the weather forecast); met on websites; and many other methods as well as the standard information found at airfields. The CAA publicises that information in a booklet entitled GET MET aviation weather services 2000 and it carries sponsors names. One would expect that numerous firms would sponsor similar exercises for the countryside.

Finally, our local police, the Thames Valley Police use a Ringmaster Message service. That mechanism informs local land managers and owners and other interested parties of thefts and other such things, using e-mail and fax systems. That helps to ensure that the countryside works better not only for those who live and work in it but also for those who visit it. Will the Countryside Agency also use such devices?

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