Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Twenty-Seventh Report



Government Response to the Committee's 24th Report

I refer to the recommendations contained in the Committee's 24th report in respect of the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill.

The Committee has recommended that the Bill should be amended to delete the powers in clause 21(7) and paragraphs 3 and 4 of Schedule 2, on the grounds that these powers affect the balance between the rights of landowners and the needs of the public which Parliament has to strike in creating the right of public access. These powers enable alterations to be made to, respectively, the days on which an entitled person may not use the discretion afforded by clause 21 to close access land or restrict access; the list of general restrictions set out in paragraph 1 of Schedule 2; and the period of the year during which dogs must remain on leads when on access land.

The powers to make regulations to amend these provisions were included in the Bill because in each case it is possible that circumstances may change so that the provision in the Bill as it stands no longer strikes the right balance between the interests of landowners and those exercising the right of access. The power set out in clause 40 which enables these regulations to make different provision for different cases would also provide a useful flexibility since circumstances might vary as between different categories of access land. Attention is also drawn to the fact that, as they stand, these powers could be used to alter the balance in either direction, to relax restrictions on landowners, or on users of the access right.

The substantive issues to which these powers relate are all controversial and amendments have been tabled to all of them that would themselves significantly alter the balance that the Bill strikes. The Government wishes to listen carefully to the arguments advanced on each of these issues, and it is likely that we will want to reflect on those arguments and may then wish to propose changes to the Bill at the Report stage. Any such changes will take full account of the Committee's recommendations. However, it is probable that, after taking all the issues into consideration, it will be appropriate to propose to retain some delegated power to make alterations in respect of the matters to which the Committee refers, probably subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. I will respond further to the Select Committee about these recommendations before commencement of the Bill's Report stage in the House of Lords.

July 2000

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