asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether, in order to permit the harness horse equality with the ridden horse on public rights of way, they will rectify the anomaly in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions' consultation paper, Improving Rights of Way in England and Wales, which puts horse-drawn vehicles into the same category as the motorised vehicle.
My Lords, we have given careful consideration to the responses to Improving Rights of Way in England and Wales, including the noble Baroness's proposal that we should distinguish between the rights of horse-drawn vehicles and those of motorised vehicles when using different classes of highway. We shall take those points into account when we introduce new legislation soon.
My Lords, I am very fond of the Minister, but does she realise that, although she has tried her best, 15,000 harness horse drivers will be disappointed that they have not been able to receive a more formal response to my Question? Does she further realise that on this matter they have the support of ramblers, GLEAM and the British Horse Society? Lastly, does the noble Baroness agree that it is vitally important to keep horse-drawn vehicles off our congested roads as much as possible?
My Lords, I am deeply sorry to have disappointed the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. I should have liked to have been in a position, when wishing her a happy new year, to be able to respond to her Question in the manner she wished. Given her great experience of this position at the Dispatch Box, the noble Baroness will be aware that parliamentary privilege prohibits detailed revelation of the contents of legislation in advance. However, I can say to the noble Baroness that one-fifth of all the responses to the consultation came from those with equestrian and carriage vehicle interests. In addition, Ministers and officials met representatives of various organisations. This Government listen carefully and we shall pay full regard to those responses.
My Lords, the Question tabled by the noble Baroness relates to a consultation document issued by the Government. Further, the noble Baroness was certainly not alone in pointing out that the legislation did not seek to make distinctions on this point. We are dealing here with rights of way over which motorised vehicles are rightly prohibited. When the legislation is produced I hope to be in a position to demonstrate that the Government have listened to the points made.
My Lords, does the Minister appreciate that many of these rights of way are not metalled but are ordinary dirt roads. One of the problems here is that wheels tend to cut up the roadway very much more than do horses' hooves or human feet. As landowners are responsible for maintaining these rights of way, will the Minister take that point into consideration?
My Lords, the noble Countess, Lady Mar, is right to draw attention to the fact that wheeled traffic may cause damage, and that the traffic we are considering here should be allowed only where it does not damage the carriageway. However, I am of course aware that horse-drawn vehicles can benefit people living nearby who wish to grow roses.