Countryside and Rights of Way Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 1st November 2000.

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Photo of Viscount Bledisloe Viscount Bledisloe Crossbench 7:15 pm, 1st November 2000

My Lords, this is a less contentious amendment. In moving it, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 29 which, once again, is purely a definition provision. It defines, for the purposes of Amendment No. 20, what is an authorised person.

Amendment No. 20 seeks to deal with what can be done with someone who appears to be breaking the rules on access land. This Bill is full of good intentions and rules governing the behaviour of those who exercise their access rights, but there are virtually no teeth for dealing with them. The amendment is a modest attempt to improve the situation. If an authorised person believes that someone on access land has broken a rule or committed an offence he can demand from that person particulars of his identity and it will be an offence for that person to fail to give such particulars unless he has a reasonable excuse.

Surely it must be right that a warden or an owner or his representative can discover who owns a misbehaving dog or who has damaged his wall. I recognise that the amendment still leaves the problem of what the authorised person can do if an offender refuses to answer. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and I had a discussion in Committee about someone who, when asked to do something, replies with expletives that would be deleted if repeated in the House. That problem will always be there, but this amendment would provide an offence if someone failed to give such particulars.

In Committee I suggested that one should be able to find out who was on access land. That was said to be an infringement of liberties. However, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, accepted that there might be arguments in relation to someone who had committed an offence or broken the rules.

I hope that the Government recognise that those who need to enforce the rules will need help and that they should therefore accept the amendment. There is no point in having schedules in the Bill full of things that one should not do if nothing can be done effectively about someone who breaks the rules. If it is not possible to find out who the person is, not even the first steps can be taken to do anything about it. I beg to move.