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Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I thank the Minister for what he has said, which has cleared up two outstanding issues from Report stage. Both issues were doubtful. But, from what the Minister has said, first, any claim for a byway which is submitted to a local authority must be a properly made claim on the proper forms—a postcard, as it were, through the door of the local authority would not constitute a proper claim. Secondly, anyone using RUPPs which are converted to restricted byways will not be able to do so as
 
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"casual" people. They would be able to do so only with access to someone who enjoys rights of access along that highway. I am grateful to and thank the Minister.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister again for having listened to the weight of debate that we had on Amendments Nos. 138A, 146 and 150. We are very glad of the clarification, particularly on the two items that were still not quite settled. In thanking the Minister for taking on the thoughts behind the amendment, I have a question for him—I think it is a simple one, so I hope he will be able to answer it now. If the land in question were to be sold, how would the seller confirm that a right of way for vehicles was already there and if the lawful use in the five years prior to commencement was not by the public but by a person with an interest in the land, would this clause still apply? This is a minor clarification, but I would be grateful to have it before we accept this amendment.

I am grateful to the Minister because several questions have been raised about access and the proper use of land and I am even more grateful for his clarification that a claim cannot be accepted until it is properly fulfilled and completed in the fullest sense. I await the Minister's response to my question.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for taking her time making her points. Her question may have been simple to her, but I am not sure that it was simple to me or to others. We will be debating rights of way in the next amendment, so I shall come back to her on this point then. I can write to the noble Baroness, but it would be nice to clear this matter up today. I hope that that will be acceptable.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 9:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving my amendment, I remind the House that debate has to be relevant to the question before the House. It will be interesting to see how the Minister gets the answer to the noble Baroness's question on the previous amendment into debate on a later amendment.

Amendment No. 9 is a paving amendment for Amendment No. 11, which makes the relevant date in England 20 January 2005 and in Wales 19 May 2005. Your Lordships will know that 20 January 2005 was when the Government published their response to the consultation proposals, their framework for action on which they announced their intention to legislate.

I had intended to go into great detail on this amendment, but I note that the Minister has added his name to it, which leads me to suppose that he intends to support Amendments Nos. 9 and 11. If that is the case, I will leave him to set out the Government's case for the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I hope that the House will forgive me for getting up at this stage to confirm our support for the amendment tabled by my noble friend.
 
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We had lengthy and useful discussions in Committee and on Report on this aspect of the Bill and there is a great deal of interest in it inside and outside this House. I set out at length—maybe at too much length on one occasion—the sound reasons why we could not accept the earlier amendments setting a cut-off date of 9 December 2003. Having said that, and without wanting to repeat those arguments, the Government recognise the cross-party strength of feeling on this issue. A huge amount of correspondence about this has been received not only by Members of Parliament but also by Members of this House. That correspondence has been reflected in the strength of feeling expressed here and in the other place. In recognition of that strength of feeling, the Government are prepared—reluctantly—to accept a cut-off date of 20 January 2003, which, as my noble friend said, represents the end of the consultation period. We feel that this date could be justified. I am sorry, I am wrong—

Lord Carter: No, my Lords. It is 2005.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I said 2003, because that is what is written here.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Bach: My Lords, the fault is entirely mine. I will start that sentence again to avoid any misunderstanding.

In recognition of the strength of feeling, the Government are reluctantly prepared to accept a cut-off date of 20 January 2005. This date is justified as it is the date on which the Government published their conclusions on the outcome of the consultation in which they first announced their clear intention to introduce, at the earliest legislative opportunity, these rights of way provisions.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I speak to my amendment, which is linked to these two amendments. I believe we are finally coming to the end of the road—although that is perhaps a bad pun—on this highly contentious issue. My original amendment would have set the exemption date back to 9 December 2003. I will not have a go at the Minister for that slight slip a minute ago. All noble Lords are aware of the substance of that debate and the motives behind it. We on these Benches are still of the opinion that our original date of December 2003 is the preferable option. The issue of figures has been quite confusing. Across the board, the number is widely agreed to be very high. Taking into account multiple applications, I have estimated that there have been 1,000 applications since December 2003.

The issue, however, is not necessarily the number of applications affected. We all heard on Report—because I spoke on it—about the story of Dr Karen Hinckley and the damage done to the green lanes of her parish by motorised vehicles. There are now no protected green lanes left in her parish. There have been applications to convert every green lane in the
 
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parish into a BOAT. As it will take years to process, the use of green lanes will continue unabated. It is simply too difficult to prosecute those using green lanes that have applications pending.

It came to my attention only last week that the Trail Riders Fellowship has been paying its members a £250 bonus if they manage to make a successful claim. I understand that the Minister in another place knew about that some time ago. I was shocked to receive a flier, in which it promised to,

That is not the action of a group that has a responsible or thoughtful attitude—either to the applications process or to the land which they will use.

That is the state of affairs in many parts of the country. Our belief is that the more applications that fall under the cut-off provision, the better it is for conservation and for those who use green lanes in the countryside. Many people whose hobby is horse riding have told me that where they may have used those lanes in the past, they now cannot. The lanes are so damaged that they fear they will damage and break the legs of their horses.

We are grateful to the Minister, however, for adding his name to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, which would take the date back from 19 May 2005, to January 2005. The GLPG has estimated that that will save another 500 pending applications—that is, of applications that we know about. The other 500 or so applications made between December 2003 and January 2005 will still stand and will have to be processed.

We recognise, however, that this is a very positive move from the Government. In spite of the amendment that we had tabled prior to hearing of this concession, we on these Benches support it. I thank the Minister for his constructive response to our case for protecting green lanes. I urge other noble Lords who spoke in support of my amendment in Committee and on Report to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, to which the Minister's name has been added.

4.45 pm

Viscount Tenby: My Lords, I tender my apologies to the House for not being able to speak at Report last Monday. My name was on the original amendment.

All the relevant arguments have been powerfully made on this point in particular by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. They really have stretched it out. I had the impression looking through the debate that the Minister, with his usual thoroughness and courtesy, was not entirely unfriendly to the purpose behind the amendment, and we have since heard that that is the case today. Any increase in the bulging backlog of applications will inevitably result in further deterioration in BOATs, green lanes, RUPPs and the like. While they are being processed, already overburdened parish and county councils will be diverted from repairing the damage which has already taken place very extensively.
 
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Whether half a loaf will be better than none remains to be seen but I feel I must accept, if not gracefully at least realistically. I am grateful to the Minister for offering to reduce the problem so generously, even if it falls short of what we had hoped for at the start of these deliberations.


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