§ 10. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what account he takes of proposals for public access to the areas concerned when considering set-aside schemes and schemes relating to environmentally sensitive areas.
§ Mr. Gummer
Considerations concerning public access do not feature in either of these schemes. Separate grants for providing public access to set-aside land are available in certain counties under the Countryside Commission premium scheme, a scheme which, in the reform of the common agricultural policy, we hope will have the powers to extend to the rest of the country.
§ Mr. Bennett
Is the Minister aware that the Ramblers Association has published a manifesto for access? Will the Government endorse that manifesto? Will the Government support the Common Land Forum in its proposals? If they are re-elected, is there any chance that such proposals will be carried out this time?
§ Mr. Gummer
The Government are determined to ensure that the kind of access proposals that have been pioneered, particularly by the Countryside Commission, are extended. However, we recognise that the countryside is also a place for conservation, for bird lovers, for agriculture and for a whole range of people. Access is not the only requisite in the countryside. We have to keep a proper balance or we will continue to see destruction in the countryside that we have seen in some areas where there is too much access and where what used to be a path has become as wide as the M1.