Tories would make ramblers criminals

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The Independent Online

If you go down to the woods next year, you'd better go in disguise. Because if the Tory party gets its way, ramblers who fall asleep, drink alcohol, walk at night or generally "annoy farmers" will be liable to a criminal conviction.

If you go down to the woods next year, you'd better go in disguise. Because if the Tory party gets its way, ramblers who fall asleep, drink alcohol, walk at night or generally "annoy farmers" will be liable to a criminal conviction.

In a concerted attempt to wreck the Government's right to roam Bill, the Conservatives have tabled some 138 amendments aimed at imposing severe restrictions on walkers.

The Bill, which is supposed to open up access to four million acres of countryside in England and Wales, faces the fresh challenge today when it begins its committee stage in the House of Commons.

Damian Green, the Tory environment spokesman, and James Paice, MP for Cambridgeshire South East, have tabled amendments that would outlaw sleeping, alcohol consumption and night-time walking across land covered by the Bill. In a bizarre twist, anyone who hang-glides over such property or swims in lakes and tarns will also face criminal conviction.

Under the Tory plans, any walker who broke the rules on ramblers' behaviour would be subject to criminal law rather than civil law for the first time.

The Tories insist that they are simply attempting to protect the rights of landowners and make the new law more workable and safer for all.

The right to roam measure provoked outrage from many Tory MPs, who say that it represents "old-style socialist envy".

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