asked the Minister of Agriculture what is the approximate acreage of excepted land under the Access to Mountains Act, 1939; and how many orders have been made under the Act, and what is the approximate acreage involved, denying access to mountains, moor, heath, down or cliff.
I am unable to give figures of the acreage of excepted land as defined in Section 2 (2) of the Access to Mountains Act, 1939. So far, no one has applied for an Order under the Act, and, therefore, no orders have been made.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether public rights of access have increased or diminished since the passing of the 1939 Act?
I am afraid I could not answer that question without notice.
asked the Minister of Agriculture why ramblers' associations and other organisations which desire access to land not excepted under the Access to Mountains Act, 1939, are put to considerable expense in establishing rights of access which were given to them under the Act; and what action he proposes taking to prevent this contravention of the intention of the Act.
I am not aware that the intention of the Act (which specially authorises the charging of fees) has been contravened. The means of providing access for the public to mountain, moor, heath, and other uncultivated land, with particular reference to the recreational use of the countryside by the public, is however, being considered by a special committee under the Chairmanship of Sir Arthur Hobhouse, appointed by my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Town and Country Planning in July, 1946. It would be best for any reexamination of the provisions of the Access to Mountains Act, 1939, and the Regulations made thereunder (including those provisions dealing with fees and expenses to be paid by applicants for Orders under the Act), to await the committee's report.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether, in view of the fact that the intentions of the 1939 Act to give increased access to ramblers and others have not been carried out, it is proposed that fresh legislation should be introduced to give effect to those intentions?
I am afraid it would be necessary to await the Report of the Hobhouse Committee before we contemplate further legislation.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that many old-established rights of way are still closed in the countryside, and will he, in the interests of agriculture, use his influence with the Service Departments to have them opened up as soon as possible?
That is a perpetual problem.