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My noble friend Lord Taylor raised quite a few questions about the margins of golf courses once the route is established. One of my worries is that in the terms of the Act, as far as I understand it, all the land to the landward side of the route is included as access land up to the first definable boundary. That is liable to become access land--that is, available for the activities that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, described. The question is whether the first definable boundary is likely to be a wall, a fence or something like that-this is where the question arises of the whole course being included-or does the Minister think that the edge of a fairway would be a definable boundary?

Another approach that might have offered a solution appears to have been removed under the measure that we are considering today. Under the CROW Act, landowners had the power to request the closure of access for periods of up to 28 days as long as an alternative was provided. Presumably, that could have provided the protection that golf club competition days might have needed, particularly with regard to the issue of danger to the public. Tempers get quite hot on golf club competition days and heaven knows how much care some golfers might be inclined to take. Why was that not considered in this difficult area?

I understand that there is a proposal that on campsites access will be restricted to the route itself and that further access land surrounding the route will not be created. Will this be the approach that is taken in respect of golf courses?

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Lord Greaves: I realise that I forgot to declare my interests. I am a member of the British Mountaineering Council and its access, conservation and environment group. I am also a member of the Open Spaces Society, as well as its vice-president.

While I am on my feet, I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, about the points that she made about litter. The amount of litter that people spread everywhere nowadays is appalling. The amount of litter on mountains is appalling, as is the amount of litter even on crags, which must in many cases come from climbers. That is why from time to time the BMC organises teams of volunteers to do crag clean-ups. It is a curse of this age, with which we all ought to be completely obsessed until we stamp it out.

The Duke of Montrose: Perhaps I may respond to one point with something of an anecdotal nature. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, does not necessarily have to blame climbers, because when I was once sitting on the top of Ben Lomond a piece of rubbish blew past me. I sat there for another 10 minutes and it blew past me again. It was going round and round.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken and for the volley of questions to which I am meant to produce a response-presumably before 7 pm, as the Committee will not continue for much longer than that. I am not entirely surprised, as we will all recall our extensive discussions on these important issues regarding the coastal path during the passage of the Bill. I am keen to commend the order but I also wish to provide reassurance on the points that have been raised about the consultation that will take place and the decisions that will need to be taken before the construction of the coastal path is achieved in any significant dimension. I emphasise that the creation of the path will involve a process of consultation and, therefore, judgment will be exercised by Natural England, taking into account all those factors that have caused anxiety.

I take first the most obvious point. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, asked what will happen when the coastal path goes through ploughed land. We would not expect the extensive provision and width that will apply to aspects of the path when it causes no inconvenience to anyone and does not adversely affect farmland. The narrowest definition of the path would obtain in the circumstances that the noble Lord mentions. We have indicated that greater breadth might occur elsewhere, where local interests are readily reconciled to that extra dimension. It is clear that, in order to realise the concept of the coastal path, Natural England will seek to pursue a path as close as possible to the coast, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, emphasised. However, we all recognise the number of issues that manifestly need to be taken into account. Much of today's discussion can be summed up against the background that, before decisions are arrived at, full consultation will have taken place and Natural England will have regard to such factors. That will be the situation with regard to ploughed land.

The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, spoke with great authority about golf courses, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and the noble Lord, Lord

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Taylor. I have some experience of golf courses and seaside courses in particular. I know that the issues raised by noble Lords are interesting and significant, but many golf courses already tackle such issues with the minimum amount of difficulty. A large number of golf courses include private rights of way. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is absolutely right to say that nothing at all in this order, or the Act from which it derives, in any way subverts, destroys or ends the rights that already obtain through historical factors and the exigencies of existing provision.

Those who play on golf courses often have to cope with such a situation and they do so with a degree of consideration. Also, the normal law of negligence will apply in these circumstances, although it will depend on the facts of the case as to whether a court decides that the golfer owed a duty of care to the walker and whether the danger was foreseeable. Most golfers are all too well aware of the dangers and many of them take out their own insurance. Most golf clubs whose courses have rights of access for the public insure all their members against any potential danger. In fact, they do so even when there are no rights of access. If a road adjoined a course, a stray golf ball could cause an accident and I assure noble Lords that a club would be singularly ill advised if it did not have insurance in those circumstances.

I do not think that the coastal path creates anything new. It may affect new areas but, following the concept of how golfers live with members of the public who have a right of way, there is nothing novel in this situation. The normal law of the land applies and people have to act with consideration where propelling a golf ball at considerable speed creates risks for those who are within range. Those are the inevitable facts of that pursuit, to which some of us are drawn for reasons that we would not dare to go into in rational company. I give way to the noble Baroness. She is concerned about the land.

4.45 pm

Baroness Byford: No, I simply seek clarification. I thought that I heard the Minister say that, where there are existing arrangements, there will be no changes. Did I misunderstand him?

Lord Davies of Oldham: Golf clubs manage to deal with rights of way and with members of the public going across their courses, so there is nothing intrinsically new about the coastal path; it does not create a new issue with regard to the law. The natural law of care and concern and the absence of negligence must obtain. A golfer must have some regard to those who are on the path and, by the same token, people on the path are not meant to put themselves into absurd jeopardy with regard to the golfers.

The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, said, I think, that 137 golf courses have a coastal element to them. I do not know how many golf courses have rights of way but very many do. I could not possibly give the number but I can say that accidents are few and far between. Under the law of the land, proper conduct is necessary so that people are not put at risk. I am simply saying that golf courses cope with rights

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of way now and I cannot think of any reason why they should fail to cope with regard to the coastal path. Golf courses are different-of course I understand that-but the same features obtain.

Baroness Byford: I am sorry to come back on this and I trust that I am not nit-picking. I was simply asking the noble Lord to confirm that, where areas are already agreed, the situation will not change. I was not arguing about insurance and so on but asking about the situation where the public already have access. Is the new coastal access path likely to change the arrangements that already exist on the golf courses concerned?

Lord Davies of Oldham: It depends where the path goes in relation to the golf course. I freely admit that the coastal path will affect some golf courses that are currently by the sea and have no public rights of way across them; that is bound to be the case. Natural England will consult the golf course owners about this and there will be discussions about it. Just as in the assurance that I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, with regard to ploughed land, on land where the public may face some kind of danger because of a legitimate pursuit on land alongside it, the path will be at its narrowest definition. The golf course will have to adjust to the fact that the path goes across its land, as all golf courses that have public rights of way adjust and provide the necessary arrangements at present. The practice is carried out with accidents being few and far between. We have to rely on good sense prevailing in those circumstances.

The Duke of Montrose: I am reassured to hear the Minister say that he considers that on golf courses the path will have its narrowest definition. Under the Bill at the moment, even with existing rights of way, the whole golf course might be added to the existing right of way as a form of access land. The question is what will be allowed as a definable boundary. Would it have to be something physical and impenetrable or just something visible?

Lord Davies of Oldham: Even on the most extensive golf course by the sea, even if it is linear, there could be only two or three holes that would be affected by a narrow path-the narrow definition of the right of way-proceeding along the coastline and along the course. Those circumstances have nothing to do with the other holes, but I recognise that the path being there, affecting those two or three holes, creates an issue. However, that already obtains with so many courses that I do not think that the coastal path raises anything different in law, in terms of anxiety and public concern, from what obtains at present.

The other significant area that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, raised-he was ably supported in this by others who contributed to the debate-was the issue of dogs. I emphasise that it will be important that we have an effective communications strategy for dog owners so that they are aware of their rights and responsibilities. There is no doubt that in certain circumstances, as we all know, dogs can have a serious effect in the countryside; that is why we have a clear

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definition of the law about where farm animals graze. We accept that there should be a general restriction requiring the keeper of a dog to keep the dog under effective control.

We set out in the order the sort of actions required of any person in effective control of a dog and exercising the right of access to coastal land. The requirements where a person may be considered to be keeping a dog under effective control are that the keeper of a dog keeps the dog on the relevant access land-after all, it is only that land that is available to the owner and therefore to the dog-and keeps the dog on a lead or keeps it in sight, remains aware of its actions and is reasonably confident that the dog will return reliably and promptly on command. In other words, the dog owner is responsible for the dog. In fact, we expect within that framework that people will act responsibly and will know, whenever they are going along the coastal path, that it will be necessary for dogs to be under control.

Natural England will be able to restrict dogs to leads or exclude dogs for land management or nature conservation reasons on coastal land. It may be, after all, that a dog would be a severe disturbance in a nature conservation area, so Natural England may say that in such an area it is not prepared to allow dogs on the coastal path. This is all part of the necessary consultation. Natural England is guided by the major priority of creating a coastal path that goes around England. By the same token, it has to take into account a range of other interests. If it is dealing with an area of the environment where a dog would be a severe disturbance to wildlife or would give rise to any other aspects of disturbance that an animal might create, it will be up to it to impose a prohibition if necessary.

A number of other issues were raised. On the question of dunes, to which the noble Lord referred, and other areas where it might be possible to walk but which will have to be looked at with care because of the topography, again I make the obvious point that Natural England will have regard to that topography. If the path can be established in a permanent form that does no damage to an area and its features, that will be done. If, as the noble Lord seemed to suggest, this was not possible on a long-run perspective or even a perspective over several years-for instance, if the coastal path was defined on somewhat shifting sands and changing topography-we would expect Natural England, for obvious reasons, to take account of that fact and for the path not to pursue that course.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, asked whether the path would be at the bottom or the top of a cliff. It is not going to be on the top of a cliff that is subject to erosion such that within a matter of a year or two of being defined it becomes inherently dangerous. There are some parts of East Anglia where the erosion is so rapid that the most considerable care would have to be taken.

Lord Greaves: I wish to make it clear that, when I was talking about the top or the bottom of a cliff, I was referring to the landward boundary of the coastal margin and not about the line of the path.

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Lord Davies of Oldham: I understood that, but the noble Lord will forgive me if I talk first about the top of the cliff. After all, he expressed the view that, on the whole, that is the preferable location for the coastal path. All sensible people in certain parts of the country will agree with him because it is from the cliff top that views over the sea and inland can be experienced. We can all call to mind areas where that may not be possible or safe and where the path should be at the bottom. That is unlikely in areas of erosion because the waterside is unlikely to be much safer than the top of the cliff.

We are asking a body with a real sense of responsibility to create this path, to consult local interests and to take into account the factors articulated in the passage of the Bill on which assurances were given. I hope that the Committee will accept that that is how we expect Natural England to respond.

We do not regard the issue of privacy in this legislation in quite the same way as we regarded it with CROW. In that Act, we were concerned with a great many inland areas where it was anticipated that one could state right of access to the land without necessarily going too close to a dwelling, so privacy could easily be protected. It is more difficult with a coastal path, because dwellings are likely to be closer to where the path is obliged to go along the edge of the land. Natural England will seek to avoid locating the route where there could be an adverse impact on property.

In the same way, where the route might be quite wide when it approaches a campsite or, in particular, a caravan site that has some permanence to it-I know some campsites have permanence but noble Lords have raised the issue of caravan sites-if the path does not circumnavigate the caravan site and it is only practicable for it to go through the site, the path will be narrowly defined. The noble Baroness talked about access, but the coastal path does not create a fresh problem of access to a caravan site or campsite. After all, by definition, these areas are not bounded or encased in huge steel fences and owners and proprietors therefore take responsibility for access. However, if the path goes through a caravan site, it will be at its narrowest definition at that point. By the same token, assurance will be expected to be given that dogs are kept on leads, as well as all the other factors that ensure that walkers meet their obligations.

I am sure that I have not been able to respond in full to a number of other issues, but this has been a fairly long debate. It has not been as long as the debates that we had on the Bill, but it has been pretty extensive. I hope that noble Lords will accept that the order gives effect to an Act that commanded widespread support throughout the House. We all expressed the extent to which we could see benefit arising from the coastal path. It is quite clear that the obligations on Natural England are substantial. It concluded its consultation on the draft scheme last week. It is now looking at all the responses and we expect the final scheme to be submitted to the Secretary of State as soon as its analysis is complete. We will then know the terms under which Natural England envisages giving effect to the proposals.

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5 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way and for the way in which he has dealt with the various points raised. He said that a lot of questions were asked. I hope that if, on examining the record, he feels that he can add to those points that he has not been able to cover in his principal contribution to the discussion, he will write to those of us who participated. It has been useful to have on the record some definitions of what this complex statutory instrument provides for. I should be grateful if the Minister agreed to that.

Lord Davies of Oldham: Well, of course, my Lords. The noble Lord has given me the chance to note that I did not say anything about litter, an issue that the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, raised. I make the obvious point that litter, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, is a curse of our contemporary society. We all know the terrible damage that it does to areas of scenic beauty. We are bound to anticipate that, on a coastal path of several hundreds of miles, litter problems will occur from time and time and in certain places. The only two solutions to the problem of litter are, first, that those responsible for clearing it up take their duties seriously-but we all know how difficult that is in remote areas such as the coastal path-and, secondly and most crucially, that the public are educated to the obvious fact that they should not destroy the very beauty that they have come to appreciate by being on the coastal path in the first place.

I am grateful for the debate. I had a number of commendatory things to say about the order's relationship with the Act, but noble Lords have ensured that we have explored those in considerable detail. I shall of course ensure that a full letter is sent to all noble Lords who have participated covering those points that I regret I was unable to deal with.

Motion agreed.

Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010

Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010
5th Report Joint Committee Statutory Instruments

Considered in Grand Committee

5.05 pm

Moved by Lord Davies of Oldham

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): My Lords, I have spent a good part of the last half hour talking about dogs, so there is something wonderfully appropriate about moving on to greyhounds, although they are a rather special kind of dog and are open to regulation in a way in which some of us would like with regard to other dogs on occasions.

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The regulations meet a government commitment, given during debates on the Animal Welfare Bill, to introduce welfare regulations for racing greyhounds. They will create minimum welfare standards for all greyhound tracks in England, without imposing disproportionate burdens on an industry that is already subject to the high standards required by the Animal Welfare Act. We know that welfare groups would prefer regulations that cover many more aspects of the sport. We have listened to those concerns but are confident that the regulations, combined with the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act, will provide significant protection for racing greyhounds. The regulations require all English tracks to meet the same minimum welfare standards. The standards will be enforced either by the local authority, or by a body that has United Kingdom Accreditation Service accreditation as an enforcement body.

Our consistent advice to the self-regulated sector of the greyhound industry has been that, to remain self-regulated in the 21st century, it must have UKAS accreditation. We have been assured that the Greyhound Board of Great Britain is on schedule to secure accreditation, and that it will be in place by the end of March. That means that most tracks in England will not require a local authority licence, as their membership of the GBGB and its UKAS accreditation, will ensure that those welfare standards are being enforced. The remaining six or so independent tracks will be required to be licensed by their local authority to the same standards.

All tracks will need to have a veterinarian present for all race meetings, trials and sale trials. The veterinarian must inspect every greyhound before it runs and will administer treatment to any greyhound that is injured while running. The vet will also be required to make a record, to be kept by the track, of any greyhound that is injured during a race or trial. These records can be used by the track and the track vet, over the long term, to judge whether there are any improvements that track managers could make to reduce the number of injuries. The regulations will also require that the veterinarians be provided with appropriate facilities to carry out their work.

All greyhounds that race and trial at tracks in England will be required to be permanently identified by both earmark and microchip, with the details placed on one of a number of databases that are available to hold such records. The criteria for suitable databases are set out in Part 2 of the schedule to the regulations. The Great Britain Greyhound Board has its own database, with standards that meet the requirements in the schedule, so most dogs will be on one central database. The remaining small minority of greyhounds that race only on independent tracks also need to be chipped and tattooed, but their details will only need to be recorded on a suitable database.

Tracks will be required to keep records of all greyhounds that race or trial at the track, and owners and trainers will need to produce ID the first time that the greyhound runs at the track under their ownership. Tracks will also be required to keep kennels for at least 20 per cent of dogs that attend a meeting. The GBGB requires kennels for all greyhounds that race. However,

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this is aimed at maintaining integrity. We do not believe that we can justify, for welfare purposes, requiring all greyhounds to be kennelled. However, we accept that some kennelling must be available where trainers bring multiple greyhounds to a meeting. It may take independent tracks some time to install such kennels and we have therefore provided a lead-in time for this important requirement.

These regulations are a proportionate and targeted response to the welfare problems within the industry. For the first time, a set of standards will apply to all tracks in England. The regulations will ensure greater welfare at tracks where injuries are most likely to occur and will improve the traceability of greyhounds both during and after their racing lives. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, we welcome the introduction of these regulations. There has been considerable concern about the welfare of greyhounds and with one substantial exception these regulations appear to address that concern. The key issue relates, as the Minister pointed out, to the fact that the 27 tracks covered by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain will not be regulated under these regulations. Those tracks will not need the licences introduced by the regulations, provided that they obtain UKAS accreditation. That is a very good device and we are confident that they will do so.

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