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Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 21:58 GMT
Right to roam bill under scrutiny
House of Lords
Many peers oppose the right to roam legislation
The government has moved to ensure the smooth passage of the so-called right to roam Bill through the House of Lords.

Giving people a right to roam was a central plank of the Labour Party's manifesto at the last election but it has received a series of setbacks in the Conservative-dominated Lords.

Now Labour business managers are keen to ensure a safe passage for the bill to avoid disruption of other legislation in what is an already packed parliamentary timetable.

Peers from all sides of the House had expressed concern over whether the legislation would allow people to walk across grassland vital for winter feed.

It would be the same thing if people were allowed the right to roam in a restaurant and allowed to walk round the dishes

Baroness Strange
Labour frontbench spokesman Lord McIntosh of Haringey said he would look at the possibility introducing an amendment to meet the concerns of peers on the matter.

He said the government believed the bill already provided protection for hill farmers, whose grassland peers believe is at risk.

"But in the light of the strength of feeling, I am certainly willing to explore what can be done to ensure that open country can be better defined so as to exclude land regularly used for the making of hay and silage," he said.

During debate of the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill - which aims to open up thousands of acres of mountain, moorland and heath to walkers - peers argued that sheep farmers relied on grassland to make winter feed, while birds used it as vital nesting habitat to raise their chicks.

Crossbencher Baroness Strange said: "These fields are used for growing food for sheep.

"It would be the same thing if people were allowed the right to roam in a restaurant and allowed to walk round the dishes."

Racing concession

Another concession to exclude racehorse gallops from the right to roam legislation was warmly welcomed by the racing fraternity in the Lords.

The Queen's racing manager, the Earl of Carnarvon, said the government's move was "extremely helpful to trainers, their staff, riders and jockeys".

The government succeeded in defeating another amendment which aimed to ban night time access to private land.

Junior Environment Minister Lord Whitty said the amendment would "undermine the purpose" of the Bill.

Putting forward the case for a restricted ban which had Conservative support, Viscount Bledisloe QC offered a compromise that would involve stopping people from having access to private land from one hour after dusk to one hour before dawn.

Lord Northbourne, a crossbencher, highlighted what he saw as the increased danger of arson and barns "being torched" if night time access was unrestricted.

But Liberal Democrat Baroness Miller expressed the anger which she said was felt by walkers being described as "criminals".

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See also:

10 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Lords warn of 'logjam'
04 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Peers complete marathon sitting
03 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Hague rallies the countryside
04 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Yeo plays rural card
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