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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we welcome the Government's move to allow 19 straight days for closure. That will certainly help smaller farmers. Many still have small farms and, as we know, life is tough for them. Those farmers do not have the option of closing different parcels of land.

Noble Lords have rightly said that shooting is an important part of the rural economy. Some have asked for more closure days to allow shooting to take place. However, if one has a large landholding and one is running a shoot one can close off different parcels of land for each of the 28 discretionary days thereby gaining greater flexibility. I am concerned about the effect of the measure on farmers with smaller landholdings. I have tried to cover that point in my Amendments Nos. 126 and 128. The other point of principle--

Earl Peel: My Lords, the noble Baroness rightly acknowledges the point about small farms. Presumably, she also acknowledges that there are some small shoots which do not have the flexibility of the larger shoots.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, small shoots would face the problem.We await the Minister's response to the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Peel, about small shoots. We welcome the government amendment.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I believe that no one spoke in strong support of the two amendments which extend the number of days from 28 to 38. I welcome that. We are talking of a period of 28 days without requiring the Countryside Agency to be involved. That 28-day period is now accepted as the appropriate totality. We are discussing here weekends within that period and the flexibility within that totality to parcel up

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identifiable and appropriate pieces of land separately should that be sensible. The noble Earl, Lord Peel, recognises that that provides large shoots with the flexibility to have a shoot somewhere on a large piece of land during the shooting season. Likewise for most farming purposes, one could, if necessary, divide the land and have different packages of 19 days. So there is substantial flexibility even within that 28 days; and there is further substantial flexibility with the role of the Countryside Agency to which the noble Baroness referred.

The issue is whether the restrictions relating to weekends and the summer period are appropriate. We believe that they are central. For the reasons about which the noble Earl, Lord Peel, spoke eloquently, the weekends during the summer are the periods when most people will want to take advantage of access. My noble friend Lord Hardy also made that point. If we were to accept Amendment No. 112, potentially a whole estate could be closed throughout July. The noble Viscount says that I disproportionately penalise Saturdays and Sundays. Yes, I suppose that I do, for the very reason that Saturdays and Sundays are the days on which the vast majority of the population will be able to take advantage of these new rights of access. It is, therefore, not sensible to have 10 Saturdays or Sundays out of the 28- day period. It is not even sensible to have what might be regarded as, roughly speaking, a proportionate number which would be six or seven. It is important that we restrict the numbers of Saturdays and Sundays which are provided under the discretionary right. I am not attracted, therefore, to any of the amendments which seek to increase those four days beyond what is provided for in my amendment.

There is substantial flexibility. The noble Earl asks whether we can go further in relation to Saturdays, in particular with regard to small shoots. The Countryside Agency would make appropriate arrangements in such situations. If no flexibility was available to the owner of land used for shooting, I am sure that the Countryside Agency would take that into account in agreeing additional Saturdays that could be used during the shooting seasons. However, it would rightly take a more rigorous approach with those who had more flexibility. I recognise that consideration, but the Countryside Agency would be bound to address it.

Our amendments deal with the most difficult aspects. We shall deal with the parcelling of the land further. The ability to apply to the Countryside Agency will provide sufficient further flexibility. The Government have made considerable concessions in response to the concerns expressed at earlier stages. I hope that noble Lords will accept my amendments and not press those that would go further.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Monson: My Lords, the Minister has not addressed the problems of small shoots. I accept that walkers and ramblers want weekend access, but would they not much rather have access on Sundays, when there is very little else going on, than on Saturdays,

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when families often go shopping together? Could a compromise be reached under which no Sundays were allowed, but six or, better still, eight Saturdays were allowed? Will he think about that before Third Reading?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, in these days of seven-day shopping, families may go shopping on Saturdays or Sundays. The point is that, even now, it is only at weekends that the majority of families can use the new rights. Small shoots will be able to use four Saturdays during the main part of the shooting season. If there is no further flexibility and there is a need or an economic requirement for further shooting days, the Countryside Agency is likely to consider an application favourably. I suspect that most small shoots will not have more than four Saturdays between 12th August and the end of September. However, if they do, they have that facility.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, we have had another interesting and wide-ranging debate. I thank the Minister for his responses and for tabling Amendment No. 117.

We do not quite have the right answer yet. The 28 days provision seems to be accepted across the House, although maybe grudgingly by some. However, there are one or two problems. I do not think that August is a problem. Most of the grouse moors in the North East and the North West are run commercially. It is a seven-day-a-week job at that time of year. Those who pay to shoot there are well able to go during the week.

However, at other times of the year, wildfowling, pheasant shooting and general rough shooting on open land are enjoyed by groups of farmers and local people who all work from Monday to Friday. Only on Saturdays can they pursue their sport. Open season for rough shooting runs from the beginning of November until the beginning of February. The period may be a little longer or shorter for certain species. There are a lot of Saturdays in that period. Many of the shoots in my area--although it does not come within the auspices of the Bill--are used on most Saturdays, or at least every other Saturday. The people affected will be those least able to go through the bureaucratic process. They are the people who, without some form of direction and assistance from the Countryside Agency or whichever authority, are likely to be deprived. They are the people who, I suspect, all noble Lords would least like to consider were being deprived.

I am sorry that I have spoken for rather a long time at the end of this debate. In summary, I believe that, with a little more thought before Third Reading, we can still reach a better compromise within the 28 days. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 109 to 112 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 113:

    Page 13, leave out line 14.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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[Amendments Nos. 114 to 116 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 117:

    Page 13, line 18, leave out subsection (7) and insert--

("(7) An entitled person may not under this section exclude or restrict access by virtue of section 2(1) to any land--
(a) on more than four days in any calendar year which are either Saturday or Sunday,
(b) on any Saturday in the period beginning with 1st June and ending with 11th August in any year,
(c) on any Sunday in the period beginning with 1st June and ending with 30th September in any year.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 117A:

    Page 13, line 20, at end insert--

("( ) An entitled person may not under this section exclude or restrict access in such a manner as to prevent reasonable access by the public to other access land whether or not in the same ownership.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 117A, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 129 and 133 which are in the same group.

These amendments refer to various types of closures, restrictions and exclusions. Clause 21 deals with discretionary closures which your Lordships discussed recently. Clause 22 refers to directions for restrictions and exclusions for the purpose of land management. Clause 24 deals with directions for the purposes of nature conservation and historic features.

The problem which the amendments seek to address is the same in each case and is one which came to light as a result of consideration of discussions during and after the Committee stage. Closures of land for perfectly legitimate purposes could lead to the blocking of access to other access land which is not the subject of restrictions or exclusions. In other words, people who turn up at the usual access point to access land in order to go on to a large area of hill or moorland may find that their access is blocked because of a temporary exclusion on the land in between. These amendments seek to provide that, wherever possible, reasonable access is provided to access land beyond that which is the subject of a closure or direction.

Amendments Nos. 129 and 133, which relate to Clauses 22 and 24, seek to place a duty on the relevant agency to consider, in making a decision, the matter of reasonable access through the land in respect of which a direction has been applied for. That is not to say that the agency will say, "No, you cannot have a direction on land"; it is to say that the agency must consider how the problem of access through, by or past that land can be tackled in order to avoid the closure of much larger areas of land other than that for which closure has been either requested or is required.

I turn to Amendment No. 117A which refers to the discretionary closures under Clause 21. Because such closure decisions are made by landowners and not by the relevant agency, the amendment seeks to place a duty on the landowners to ensure that reasonable access can be made available, again either across their

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land or in some other way, to the access land which otherwise would be blocked. It has been suggested in some quarters that landowners who are hostile to the Bill may try to use this provision to block access to much larger areas of land than are reasonably covered under the 28-day restrictions.

I am not one of those people who believes that most landowners will be hostile to the Bill once it is passed. I believe that the vast majority of landowners, like the vast majority of walkers and climbers who go onto the land, will behave in a thoroughly reasonable way, because that is how people usually behave when faced with a situation.

Nevertheless, just as I accept that there will be a small minority of people going onto land who may misbehave, as has been discussed by your Lordships at some length today, it is also quite possible that there will be a small minority of landowners who will seek to use that provision, perhaps by closing different and smaller pieces of land successively to block access to a much larger area of access land for quite a long period of time.

Most areas of access land, of course, will have several points of access and several routes onto it. And so that may be a problem which will not occur in most places. It has been suggested by some cynical people that, if somebody had a hill which was all access land, then the owners could successively close concentric circles round that hill and prevent anybody ever getting to the summit. Far be it from me to suggest that anybody would ever behave like that.

But there is a problem. It is not really a problem of principle; it is a problem of the practical working of the Bill. Whatever happens, whatever form this Bill ends up in, we all agree in this House that it must work in practice. It would be sensible to make arrangements and to write into the Bill the provision that this particular potential problem must be looked at, either by the Environment Agency or the appropriate Welsh body in the case of directions or by landowners themselves in the case of Section 21 closures. I beg to move.

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