Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Whitty: My Lords, this amendment provides that the revised definitions of town and village greens

23 Nov 2000 : Column 1043

should come into effect two months after the date of Royal Assent. As far as concerns the definitions, we are happy to accept the amendment. I was asked by the noble Baroness during the previous stage when the Government expected to lay the subsequent regulations. We cannot give a cast iron guarantee as to that, but we expect to do that as soon as we can. However, I am very happy to accept the amendment and the definitions within it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

Schedule 1 [Excepted land for purposes of Part I]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 35:

    Page 73, line 21, at end insert--

("9A. Land within 20 metres of a building which is used for housing livestock, not being a temporary or moveable structure.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 36 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 37:

    Page 74, line 17, at end insert--

("14A. The land which is excepted land by virtue of paragraph 9A does not include--
(a) any means of access, as defined by section 34, or
(b) any way leading to such a means of access,
if the means of access is necessary for giving the public reasonable access to access land.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Restrictions to be observed by persons exercising right of access]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 38:

    Page 74, line 40, after ("fishing,") insert ("trapping,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 39:

    Page 75, line 24, after ("a") insert ("short").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 39 I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 40 to 42. The amendments provide that in the vicinity of livestock and on all access land between the 1st March and 31st July dogs should be kept on fixed length leads of no more than 2 metres. I have already expressed reservations as to whether this provision is necessary, particularly in the light of the extensive provisions that we have made for the restriction of dogs more generally. Nevertheless, I understand the concerns on this issue expressed on all sides of the House and in the countryside. In the light of the commitment that I gave at the previous stage, I believe that it is sensible to make this matter clear on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, I rise to speak to the amendment in my name in this group. I tabled this amendment at Report stage in a gesture of compromise so that the Government could demonstrate the real strides taken by the Kennel Club and other organisations to promote proper and

23 Nov 2000 : Column 1044

responsible dog ownership. My noble friend in response felt that the Bill inherently provided what I sought. However, when I looked at it subsequently I believed that that presumption was not valid. In any case, the important point is what is in a Bill rather than what may be thought to be in it. However, I shall not press the matter because I think eventually there will be litigation. I regret that there will be irritation among responsible dog owners, who probably would prefer the provision which is in the royal parks legislation, that a dog shall be on a lead or under control. It is not a good idea for government to meddle in issues like the length of dog leads.

As a dog owner, I do not like extended dog leads. Some people think they are useful for training. I have always managed to train dogs without using an extended lead. But there are some people for whom the extended lead is viable. Recently, I saw a badly disabled lady I have known for a long time. She has one little dog--her companion--which is a priceless asset to her. She goes out. She cannot walk far. But her little dog gets a fair amount of exercise on an extended lead. People like that will not be able to enjoy giving their dogs exercise in the fresh air.

I regret this provision. It will be harsh. It may not affect many people. It is not in the best interests of the Government to be seen to be adversely affecting disabled people's quality of life. That aspect of the amendments is quite unsatisfactory.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we welcome further control on dogs because it has been one of the worries raised by farmers. The issue was outwith the scope of the Bill, but, as discussions went on, it became clear that dog licences and fitting dogs with microchips are something that the Government may want to consider at some point in their legislative programme. The provision would have answered many more of the concerns raised by noble Lords in our debates on the subject of dogs. The Bill is now considerably strengthened in this area. I am grateful for that.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I rise briefly to thank the Government for tabling these amendments. As noble Lords will know, this has been one of the most difficult areas in the Bill. I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, says. It is always a difficult matter, but, wherever a rule is made, someone will always be slightly disadvantaged. Perhaps they will be on land that will overcome the problem. I have tabled an amendment that may overcome the problem that the noble Lord has raised with these particular amendments.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, perhaps I may comment on the amendment of my noble friend Lord Hardy. As regards the issue of short against extended leads, it is clear from his comments that I cannot please everyone.

We are talking about a new right which will not restrict anyone who has been taking his dog on walks with an extended lead in areas where he has always done so. It meets a concern that some noble Lords had

23 Nov 2000 : Column 1045

about the ability of a dog on an extended lead to disturb wildlife when quite a distance away from its owner, even though, strictly speaking, it is on the end of a lead. That is why we put in that short leads provision.

My noble friend's Amendment No. 40 would allow people to take dogs on to access land without a lead during the restricted period with the permission of the owner or occupier of the land. I understand what my noble friend seeks to do. I have tried to explain why that is not necessary. If one allows a dog off its lead during the restricted period it is clearly a breach of the restriction and could result in the loss of the right of access. Therefore, the landowner could ask the person to leave the land. But where a landowner is content for a person to walk with a dog without a lead during that period, then the landowner will clearly by definition not be requesting that person to leave. Therefore, the walker and dog will be free to continue their walk, just as they do at present because they have the landowner's permission or connivance in doing so.

I do not think it is necessary to spell that out in the provisions of the Bill because, either formally or informally, the Bill already enables landowners to permit walkers to allow their dogs off the lead. Therefore, I do not think the amendment is necessary.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 40 not moved.]

10.45 p.m.

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 41 and 42:

    Page 75, line 26, after ("a") insert ("short").

    Page 75, line 27, at end insert--

("5A. In paragraphs 4 and 5, "short lead" means a lead of fixed length and of not more than two metres.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 43:

    Page 75, line 27, at end insert--

(" .--(1) Save as hereinafter provided a person is not entitled to enter on access land at night with a dog or to be on access land at night with a dog unless prevented from leaving it by unforeseen circumstances.
(2) Sub-paragraph (1) above does not apply--
(a) where the land has been designated by the appropriate countryside body as suitable for access at night with dogs; and any such designation may impose such conditions or limitations as appear to be appropriate; or
(b) to dogs which are on the land for some necessary or useful purposes, such as search or rescue.
(3) In this paragraph, "night" means the period from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with this amendment we return to the issue of dogs being exercised on access land at night. Access land is different from footpaths. As noble Lords are aware, the right of people to take their dog for a walk on a right of way would not be altered by my amendment. We have all been subject to lobbying. The issue that has concerned the widest range of interests is that of uncontrolled dogs on open land. I do not look at the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, when I say that, because his dogs are under control.

23 Nov 2000 : Column 1046

I have previously spoken about the safety of dogs and the safety of people who own those dogs. I have spoken also of the safety of wildlife and the problem of dogs that are out of control. If a dog runs free at night, how will it be retrieved? How will people know where their dog is? It is dark on the land. The grass is sometimes fairly long or the land is covered in bracken and heather. Unless the dog is white, it may well be invisible, as my dog often is. The owners of lost dogs tend to become upset. They do things which otherwise they would wisely not do and they may then put themselves at risk. That may lead to the rescue services being involved to get both dog and owner back to safety.

A large part of the Bill is devoted to the protection of wildlife. At an earlier stage no less a speaker than the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, stated:

    "Constant disturbance by dogs is more a killer of wildlife than being hunted".--[Official Report, 26/6/00; col. 643.]

I would add that disturbance at night is more of a killer than disturbance during the day. There is a great difference between the two.

The groups which have lobbied me include English Nature, the RSPB, the Lakes national park authority, the Moorland Association, the CLA, the NFU, the Countryside Alliance and ordinary farmers who have to cope. In earlier debates the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, raised the whole issue of sheep. Individual people are worried as well.

My amendment attempts to reflect the concerns expressed during our previous debates. It accepts that unforeseen circumstances may lead to a dog being held on access land after the hours suggested in the amendment. That is common sense. Sub-paragraph (2)(a) includes land which could be,

    "designated by the appropriate countryside body as suitable for access at night with dogs; and any such designation may impose such conditions or limitations as appear to be appropriate".

That may solve the problem raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hardy. It may also satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, who said that on a dark night at four o'clock he would not be able to take his dog out for a walk. I hope that the Minister does not dismiss the amendment out of hand because in it I have tried to address the real problems mentioned by noble Lords during our debates.

Sub-paragraph (2)(b) recognises that some dogs may go on to land for,

    "some necessary or useful purposes, such as search or rescue".

Again, the amendment deals with a period from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise. The hour is late, so I shall not go into greater detail on this matter, except to recommend the amendment to the House. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page