|NERC IN THE LORDS
October 31 2005.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1. If you haven't already done so, write to your MP and tell him you were extremely unhappy that the Natural Environment and Rural Communities bill (NERC) passed its third reading on October 11th without the amendments to Clauses 61 and 62 agreed after a year's negotiation with DEFRA and the Minister, Jim Knight by LARA and the TRF. The Minister caved in to pressure from hostile MPs on all parties largely on the basis of misinformation about illegal use of off-road vehicles and the number of DMMO claims being made whilst negotiations were under way. (In particular, "hundreds of claims" being rushed through by MPV user groups in anticipation of NERC being passed were almost totally false, although many claims were made during this period by householders and councils over access to property rights). Hysterical images painted by certain MPs about over-use of legal byways were fanned by ill-informed lobby groups, most notably the Ramblers Association. It is also believed that Knight capitulated because the Labour whips told him he would be defeated if he insisted on his agreed amendments and that would greatly harm his career. Mucky politics getting in the way of democracy... again.
The Institute of Public Rights of Way Officers stated earlier this year that MPV use on RoW was "perceived as a problem, rather than actually being one". Moreover the government's own Faber-Maunsell Report on the Impact of Motor Vehicle Use on BOATs (2003) concluded that damage to unsealed RoW as a result of such use was minimal and there were no grounds to assume that such use caused significant problems for other recreational users or those living in the countryside.
Demand that your MP contacts the House of Lords Committee that will examine the NERC bill after their debate on November 2nd. And that he or shee points out not only the above, but the anomalies of a bill that is very unclear on how access rights to property will be maintained if all RuPPs (and possibly BOATs) are downgraded to Restricted Byways, as per Clause 62.
Demand also that he asks the Speaker of the Commons to investigate the false information on the basis of which NERC was justified in the Commons 3rd reading.
Tell your MP that after two recent attacks on civil liberties, hunting with hounds (which the police aren't enforcing anyway) and handgun sports, (which resulted in a large rise in gun crime because gun sales went underground), you are very concerned that the nanny state will soon attack other legal recreational activities and that civil liberties are being rode rough-shod over. You will not vote for him (again, if relevant) if he sits back and continues to let this occur.
Most important of all, make the point that this IS a civil liberties issue and that jobs and the economy will suffer hugely if off-road motorcycling and 4x4 use is wiped out at a stroke. (Just mention Land Rover...)
2. Don't just write to your MP, make an appointment to see him at his next clinic, and tell him how you feel.
3. If you haven't already done so, write to Lord Bach who is shepherding the bill through the Lords, making all or any of the above points and adding that if rumours of including unsealed UCRs in the bill, or retrospectively applying a cut-off date for DMMO claims are true, it is completely unacceptable... and also unworkable.
4. The House of Lords does not publish a list of sitting peers, but if you know the names of any Lords you can dial their name(s) into Google and get information about their geographic location and, more usefully, their interests. You can do the same via the HoL website (www.parliament.uk/directories/directories31.cfm <http://www.parliament.uk/directories/directories31.cfm>). The following peers are due to speak in the debate on the 2nd. and have input into subsequent committee stage. Contact them and make your feelings known as above:
Bishop of Exeter
Bishop of Norwich
Earl of Errol,
Lord Bach (see above)
Baron Miller of Chiltherne Domer
BaronnessYoung of Old Scone
Lord Beaumont of Whitley
As perhaps a gross generalisation, peers are not as prone to party politicking and back-stabbing to achieve personal benefit as MPs are. They may thus be more likely to listen to reasoned argument and take civil liberties into account. But they will respond even less favourably to hysterical, insulting language and naked anger than MPs, too. So be courteous and reasonable however enraged you (and I) may feel.
Never forget that we bikers are an irritating minority as far as the general public and parliament are concerned and galling though it may be, we must act like mature, reasonable human beings if we want a chance of being taken seriously.
5. Contact anyone you know in the motorcycle trade, or who makes a living out of off-road riding, and if they aren't already aware of NERC - which many of them still aren't - and what it can mean to their businesses, then make them and ask them to contact their MPs too. Tell them the MCIA is now on the case - at last - and will be circularising them anyway, but time is of the essence. Show them a copy of this if you think it may help.
6. You can write to the relevant Lord(s) C/o House of Lords, London SW1A 0AA, or via the HoL website (see above). You can write to your MP c/o House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA or at his constituency address (I do both) which you can find by typing his name in Google. Most MPs have their own websites... slick bastards.