Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Thirty-First Report



Letter from Lord Whitty, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, in further 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, and to my interim response to the Committee dated 24 July.

As I explained in my previous letter, the Government wished to listen carefully to the arguments advanced in the House on the various issues to which the powers referred to in the Committee's report relate. Now that the Committee Stage is complete, I am in a position to respond to the report.

The Committee recommended that three delegated powers be deleted from the Bill. Alternatively, if the House were of the view that these powers should stay remain, they ought to be made subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. The powers in question enable changes to be made to the general restrictions and the period during which dogs should be kept on leads in Schedule 2 (paragraphs 3 and 4(2) respectively), and the days on which discretionary closures or restrictions may not be used: clause 21(7).

The Government accepts the Committee's recommendation with respect to the first two of these: the period for which dogs should be kept on leads and the days on which discretionary closures may not be used. Amendments to this effect will be tabled in time for Report Stage.

This leaves the power in paragraph 3 of Schedule 2 - that is, the power to make regulations amending the various restrictions in paragraph 1 and the associated definition provisions in paragraph 2 of Schedule 2. We have given careful consideration to the Committee's recommendation and the reasons therefore. We understand the Committee's concerns that the power could be used to diminish the restrictions, which would tend to favour users. However, the power was taken primarily to permit the addition of restrictions or to allow the description of activities on the list to be amended in the light of experience and also to reflect the development of new leisure pursuits. By way of contrast, the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 contained a shorter list of restricted activities and no power to amend that list. What could not be foreseen in 1949 was the emergence of new activities such as hang-gliding and windsurfing. The Government therefore wishes to retain the flexibility provided by this power, but we accept that any regulations made to amend paragraphs 1 and 2 of Schedule 2 should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. This is appropriate in light of the effect such amendments could have on the balancing of landowner and user interests. We intend to table an appropriate amendment to clause 40[5] in time for Report.

23 October 2000

5  Now clause 41 Back

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