§ 11. John Mann (Bassetlaw)
What discussions she has had with non-governmental organisations on the consultation paper on proposed amendments to legislation to reclassify roads used as public paths as restricted byways.
§ The Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality (Alun Michael)
In deciding to issue the consultation paper, I took account of the views of Members of Parliament and their constituents, who have called for action to deal with the inappropriate use of traditional byways by mechanically propelled vehicles, and strong pleas for firm action. My hon. Friend has been at the forefront in making those pleas. In addition, I have provided an opportunity for the rights of way review committee to comment on the draft proposals. That committee consists of representatives of 950 20 non-governmental organisations and 15 other organisations that are consultees and which receive papers.
§ John Mann
Increasingly, a new plague is engulfing the last vestige of tranquillity and sanity. Down our country lanes, dog walkers, horse riders and families merely seeking a Sunday morning breath of fresh air are being confronted by hordes of motor bikes. Is the Minister sympathetic to my view that where once a horse and cart ambled, an automatic upgrade for a motor bike to roar is neither logical nor acceptable?
§ Alun Michael
I do share that view, which is why it is included in the consultation paper. We must look at the implications of the sort of change that my hon. Friend proposes, and we are considering the matter with care. We need to balance the interests of different people and ensure that there are no unintended consequences, but the consultation will give an opportunity to look at the way forward that he urges.
§ Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)
May I warmly commend to the Minister what the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) said? There is a famous path called the Berkshire Ridgeway, which is some 2,000 years old and which I have often walked myself. In recent years, it has been being utterly ruined by people who ride motor cycles along it. For God's sake, we have some of the busiest roads, and people can ride their motor bikes wherever they want, but do they have to ruin the last vestiges of rural England and paths that have remained unspoilt for maybe hundreds of years? It has got to stop.
§ Alun Michael
I share the hon. Gentleman's concern. Indeed, I have been to the Ridgeway to look at the impact. I have also had meetings with Members of Parliament and Members of another place, along with local authorities, because the Ridgeway is a complex path, as he knows, which runs through the areas of a number of authorities. We have a detailed plan that is rightly a matter for local management, but I, my officials and the Countryside Agency have been working with local authorities specifically to address the concerns of Members of this House, which the hon. Gentleman has articulated, and to try to ensure that we get the balance right and use the powers that are already available, as well as considering the sort of changes that my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) has urged on the House.