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Wildlife And Countryside Bill Hl

Volume 416: debated on Monday 2 February 1981

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4.3 p.m.

Committee stage resumed on Clause 6.

moved Amendment No. 69:

Page 7, line 33, leave out ("Part II or III of Schedule3") and insert ("Part II of Schedule 3 or, if killed outside the close season, Part III of Schedule 3").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I wish also to refer to Amendment No. 107. It is quite clear that the species of birds shown in Part III of Schedule 3 may be sold only in the close season. Although this is clear from the heading to the schedule itself, there is nothing in the main body of the Bill which says so. I think there should be. My amendment would bring that about.

A second point is that Part III of Schedule 3 is headed "Dead from 1st September to 28th February". In fact, however, the close seasons for different species vary. It is during each bird's close season that that Part is effective. I am therefore proposing in my later Amendment No. 107 that those words should be replaced by the words: "Dead outside the close season". Therefore, the same words would have to be used in Amendment No. 69. I beg to move.

As the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, has said, the intention of the amendment is to make it an offence to sell between 1st September and 28th February specimens of species listed in Part III of Schedule 3 killed outside the close season: that is to say, killed illegally. The noble Lord said that in the body of the Bill there is nothing to express this. May I remind him that Clause 6(6) already makes such an action an offence. I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

I am grateful to the noble Lord. I should like to look at that; I am quite sure that he is right. Therefore, I have no hesitation in begging leave—does the noble Earl wish to intervene?

Before the noble Lord withdraws his amendment, perhaps my noble friend on the Front Bench could explain to me something which I do not understand; namely, what is the position of legitimate game dealers who are selling, say, deep frozen mallard to the Continent? Let us say that they buy up during the shooting season of 1980–81. They will keep them in deep freeze until July or August of next year, then take them out of their deep freezers, pluck them and sell them on the Continent. I know that this happens. This is what a gamekeeper told me he was going to do. They sell these birds frozen to the Continent to catch the Continental Christmas season. Those ducks must taste quite disgusting, but that is neither here nor there. That seems to be a perfectly legitimate trading purpose. How would it be affected by the Bill? Are they acting illegally at the moment and, if so, could we have an answer, please?

I understand that the action described by my noble friend Lord Onslow is illegal in this country. I should have to take advice as to whether it is illegal on the Continent. Selling out of season is illegal, for broad purposes, until the next season opens. Then, of course it becomes legal.

I am grateful to the noble Earl for putting that question because it has enabled me to look at the point made by the noble Lord. I agree with him that it makes the main point of my amendment unnecessary. None the less, it seems to me that it is not very satisfactory to have in Clause 6(6) a reference to a period commencing 1st September and ending 28th February when the close seasons already vary for different species and when there may be further amendments in the future which would make them vary even more. I should have thought that what is required is a close season rather than any particular dates, because it is the close season which matters.

I think my noble friend is right. Another answer to this would be for the Government, as we hope they will, to accept our series of amendments, which received widespread support, on rationalising the close season for a number of species. That would very satisfactorily deal with this matter. Then we could have a common date in this part of the Bill. This seems to me simply to support arguments which a number of noble Lords on both sides of the Committee put forward last week. Perhaps the Government could also consider that matter when they consider, as they promised to do, a number of amendments on that aspect of the Bill.

I regret that there was a small pause while we were taking advice. In this particular situation there is a case for considering varying the dates and I am prepared to do that. On that understanding, while giving no commitment whatsoever that the Government are prepared to do more than consider the point, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, will be prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Before my noble friend withdraws his amendment, will the Minister say whether the close season is in the interests of the birds or in the interests of people who wish to shoot them at another time?

I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.10 p.m.

Page 7, line 38, leave out ("for the purposes of") and insert ("at")

Page 7,line 39, after ("competition") insert ("or temporary exhibition").

The noble Lord said: Subsection (3) of Clause 6 obviously and rightly sets out to prevent the exhibition of birds not listed in Schedule 3 Part I (which can be found on page 47 of the Bill) in any competitive exhibition. I emphasise the word "competitive". Obviously it has no reference to Schedule 4. In other words, only birds that are commonly bred in captivity and have a "self-sustaining population in captivity"—and those words are in inverted commas, to use the DOE's own definition—may be shown in competitive exhibitions. The words that I quoted come from the information paper issued by the department on the 28th August last year.

But what about showing caged birds where there is no actual competition, no prizes, not even in public maybe; just as a public attraction or even a private attraction and for the prestige and the fun of it? The rarer such a bird shown in these circumstances, perhaps the greater the prestige and even the greater the attraction. Surely, therefore, that too should be against the law. The intention surely must be to prevent the exhibition of any caged birds not listed in Schedule 3 Part I, otherwise there would be a large loophole in the law of which advantage would quite certainly be taken. The words in my amendment "temporary exhibition" are intended to exclude zoos, wildlife parks, pet shops, bird gardens, aviaries of certain kinds, and perhaps they would need defining if these amendments are accepted, as I hope they will be. I beg to move.

I expressed concern at Second Reading that non-competitive exhibition was going to be allowed under the Bill, and for the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, we should like to support his amendments.

I understand the fears expressed by my noble friend Lord Chelwood and supported by the noble Baroness, Lady David, but I believe that the fears which have been expressed are exaggerated. We have had very long and detailed discussions with the National Councils for Aviculture, the British Birds Council and other avicultural organisations who were legitimately concerned at the very far-reaching changes we are proposing in this clause. We believe that the Bill as drafted gives considerable additional protection to birds from those who might be tempted to take them from the wild to win a competition. It should be remembered that most of those species meriting special protection and listed on Schedule 1 are also listed on Schedule 4 as being required to be registered and ringed if kept in captivity.

We feel that by restricting what may be shown competitively to those birds which we are advised breed readily in captivity and for which there is now a sufficient captive population to satisfy demand without much need for any further replenishment from the wild, and registering the rare species, we have given a sensible level of protection without hampering a hobby which I am reminded has been practised in these islands since before the Romans came. I do not believe these amendments are required and I ask my noble friend to withdraw them.

Before the noble Lord either agrees or does not agree, I should like to raise a question about ringing, which is relevant to this question because the birds in Schedule 3 Part I have to be ringed. The problem is the difference between close ringing and the broken ring which is more often used. I do not want to go into the technical details of this, but I hope that when making regulations in connection with this clause the Secretary of State will not allow the use of split rings until a satisfactory and tamper-proof one has been found. The reason is quite obvious; it is easy to take off a split ring or to put it on, which suggests that a bird has been bred in captivity which in fact it was not.

A second point is that there seem to me to be a number of birds in this schedule—and I am not going to give names; people can make their own selection—which do not accord with the statement in the information paper of the Department of the Environment, which are commonly bred in captivity and have a self-sustaining population in captivity. I have never seen blackbirds bred in captivity, although they probably are from time to time, but they certainly are not self-sustaining. The yellowhammer also is most unlikely. I think this should be looked at very carefully because I feel that the whole subsection is liable to confusion, but above all I should like to feel sure that any regulations reflect careful thought towards the type of ring used.

I should like to support strongly what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has said about close ringing. As your Lordships know, the object of close ringing is that the ring can only be put on when the bird is immature, thus proving beyond all doubt that it had been bred in captivity and not taken from the wild and then ringed. I think it is worth while commenting on his remarks about the blackbird not having a self-sustaining breeding capacity in captivity. That is because nobody has bothered to do it. Whether a blackbird is something from which one can make mules with canaries I am not absolutely certain, but bullfinch mules and goldfinch mules are certainly produced in the canary exhibiting world and produce very special song birds and rather pretty variants. I think probably the reason is that there are so many of them in the wild that nobody has actually bothered to go to the trouble of introducing a self-sustaining breeding population in captivity. That is merely an observation, but I think it bears a little on what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has said.

The Minister gave a list of societies which have given advice on this subject. Was the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds included in that list?

I will try not to widen the discussion too much, but I have always had an aversion to seeing birds of any kind kept in small cages. I remember annoying one of my constituency agents very much by refusing to present the prizes at an annual show of a cage birds society. Is there anything in this Bill which will ensure that if birds are bred and kept in captivity they will be kept in reasonable sized cages?

In this connection, I feel bound to invite the attention of your Lordships to the Notes on Clauses, which make it clear that birds may be shown non-competitively even if they are not listed in Part I of Schedule 3. In this respect there seems to be no limit whatever upon the number of birds which may be kept in small cages so long as they are kept non-competitively. This is a matter on which Parliament perhaps needs to lead public opinion. I should be grateful if my noble friend could let us know whether there is anything in the Bill, other than what is in subsection (3) of Clause 6 (which does not go very far), which could set at rest the kind of fears that I have mentioned.

Now that my noble friend Lord Sandys has heard the anxieties expressed on both sides of the Committee, which I think are clearly fairly widely shared, perhaps he will be good enough to say that he will at any rate look at this again, even though he is prejudiced against the amendment at the moment. I fully realise this is a very prickly and very complicated question. It would have been tackled in 1954 and 1967 under the Wild Birds Protection Acts had it been easier to tackle. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, the immediate past President of the Royal Society for the Protection for Birds, of which I was once President, is only too well aware how anxious the RSPB is that it should be tackled.

Therefore, of course, the Society, which is I believe the biggest voluntary conservation society in the world, will be glad that we are debating it, but they do have serious anxieties. They were not mentioned by my noble friend, Lord Sandys, who gave the names of three societies he had consulted, all of which, I had the impression, were perhaps to some extent prejudiced, in that they were interested in the very widespread hobby of showing caged birds, which is obviously going to go on whether we like it or not. It does seem to me extremely important, now that we have a chance to tackle this question, that we should get the law right, particularly in view of the fact that this is such a very widespread hobby.

As I understood my noble friend Lord Sandys, he was telling us, although of course it is not for him to interpret the law, that under the Bill as drafted it would be against the law to show caged birds not on Schedule 3 Part I in an exhibition in which there was no open competition. My noble friend Lord Renton cast some doubt on that and appeared to me to be supporting my view that the word "competitive" does need looking at again. The point of the amendment, as I understand it, is that these birds which are not on Schedule 3 Part I should not be shown in public at all, should not be exhibited; whether there are prizes for exhibiting them or not does not seem to me to matter. I do very much hope my noble friend will be good enough to look at this again, in which case, of course, I shall be only too glad to withdraw the amendments.

In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, yes, regulations are being drawn up, and split-ringing would only be included and permitted, if at all, under very strictly controlled circumstances; for instance, corroboration by two independent witnesses, which would be just one of several examples. The noble Baroness, Lady David, asked whether the RSPB was included in the consultations. Yes, the RSPB most emphatically was.

If I may interrupt the noble Lord, did they agree with what he has said?

I cannot give the noble Baroness that assurance, but their views are very closely taken into consideration. My noble friend Lord Renton raised a very interesting matter from the Notes on Clauses, and I think he raised the question of Clause (6)(3) on this. The Government are going to have another look at this. In view of the fact that my noble friend, Lord Chelwood, did specifically make that further request, with that assurance and on the undertaking that we will consider all these matters raised on this amendment, I hope he will feel able to withdraw his amendments.

Before the noble Lord does that, may I say that this discussion has left me very uncomfortable about a number of birds in the list on Schedule 3 Part I? If the noble Lord includes in his assurance looking at the birds on that list, well and good. We should like to discuss it with him. If not, I shall consider with my noble friends whether we should put down an amendment on Report on that particular angle.

I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, that we shall be coming later to Amendments Nos. 102, 103, 104 and 105, which make quite specific amendments to that list. I wonder whether it would be beyond the remit of this particular consideration that we should include the schedule. I think it would.

Would this amendment stop the exhibiting of falconry at game fairs for non-competitive purposes, which a lot of people enjoy watching and which is a very legitimate sport and recognised by the Bill as such, or have I gone astray?

There is a matter of definition here, and without advice on that specific matter I would not be able to advise my noble friend.

Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.

4.26 p.m.

moved Amendment No. 72:

Page 8, line 30, at end insert ("or other animals").

The noble Lord said: I think it might be convenient to deal with Amendments Nos. 72 and 74 together. They both deal with the same point and propose to amend two separate paragraphs which are identical in terms. Subsection (8)( a) on page 8, which I am proposing to amend, deals with disqualification of the registration of a taxidermist if he has been convicted of certain offences. The second paragraph ( b) is,

"within three years of his having been convicted of any other offence under this Part so far as it relates to the protection of birds or any offence involving ill-treatment of birds".

My amendment proposes to add the words "or other animals".

The simple point is that if a person is disqualified from custody of certain living things—in this case, in the subsequent clause, birds listed in Schedule 4—or if convicted for cruelty and disqualified as a taxidermist, should not the disqualification for cruelty go wider than an offence against birds? This is the simple point. It may be that this is taken care of in some other way. I have difficulty in believing that a person who is cruel to birds is kind to animals, or for that matter the other way around. I think cruelty on the whole is indivisible; it is just a state of mind. I doubt whether it is easier in dealing with one species rather than another. That is the simple point.

I do not want to delay the Committee. I would be very glad to know whether or not this is an acceptable amendment, whether the noble Lord is in the state of mind where he is prepared to consider it without any commitment whatsoever, or whether he will consider it without any commitment whatsoever. I am interested in the state of mind of the Government, whether they are prepared to consider it without any commitment whatsoever. What moves them to consider something even if they are not prepared to consider meeting the point? Anyway, I cannot probe further into the state of mind of Her Majesty's Government or the noble Lord. All I want him to say is Yes or No to my amendment. I beg to move.

Could I make a point on what the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has said. When he talks about taxidermists being cruel, I do not quite follow him. I do not know much about taxidermists, but I thought they dealt with dead animals or birds, that they stuffed them. I cannot quite see how you can be cruel to a dead bird or a dead animal.

I would ask the noble Lord to look at page 8, subsection (8):

"Regulations under subsection (2) shall secure that no taxider-must shall become or remain registered"
if within a certain period of years he has been guilty of an offence. I cannot explain how a taxidermist comes to be cruel; it may be that some taxidermists are given live animals to deal with and they may be cruel before they skin them or sew them up or whatever they do. I am not responsible for the terms of the clause; I am seeking to enlarge it to cover other animals.

Given that paragraph (8)(b) is there on page 8, my noble friend's amendment seems reasonable and, I hope, will therefore be more than usually acceptable to the noble Lord, Lord Sandys.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, will be pleased to hear what I have to say. The amendment seeks to make a conviction for the ill-treatment of other animals a reason for preventing a person being registered to sell dead birds or for securing the removal of such a person from the register. I have listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and his reasons for this step and accept the logic of the amendment. However, the Government's legal advisers feel that there is a simpler way of amending Clauses 6 and 7 and we shall, therefore, table an appropriate amendment at the Report stage. I hope that with that assurance the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 6 shall stand part of the Bill?

4.31 p.m.

I do not wish to detain your Lordships for long, but here we are embarking on what I understand to be a new departure; namely, we are going to have registered taxidermists—yet another occupation which will not be legitimately carried out without the permission of a rubber stamp. Perhaps that is inevitable, but it is bound to give rise to some difficulties and I detect a difficulty that will arise as a result of the way in which subsection (2) is drafted.

It may be confusing to talk of registering a taxidermist. It could lead to challenge to registration on the grounds that the Secretary of State has registered or enabled somebody to be registered who cannot be described as a taxidermist. I suppose that registration should, in order to make it effective within the meaning of the clause, be conclusive so that a person is a taxidermist for the purpose of this Act where he is described as a registered taxidermist. Without wearying your Lordships with details of the drafting, I hope that the point that I have made will be considered so that the drafting may be adjusted to deal with it.

Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, would like to deal with that point now because I wish to raise an entirely separate matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, has raised a number of material matters in regard to the registration of taxidermists as a profession. I think that it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further at this stage other than to say that I shall draw the attention of my noble friend and my right honourable friend to the remarks that he has made.

I should like to raise an entirely different point. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, referred to mules and hybrids. That re- minded me that we had something of a promise, I think, from the Government that they would bring in an amendment about this matter. I do not want to discuss it in any detail, but we want to make sure that mules and hybrids can be exhibited only where both parents are listed in Schedule 3 Part I, to avoid the temptation of going out and stealing from the wild something to mate with a caged bird in the home. If the Government are not going to add something I should like to know because we shall bring in an amendment at the Report stage.

In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, I should like to say that we shall certainly advise him if we are not intending to bring forward an amendment at Report stage.

I should like to raise another point. I should like to draw attention to the particular species in Schedule 2 Part 1. These are the live wild birds that may be sold. It seems to me that there are one or two omissions which the noble Lord might like to consider. For example, I remember that on Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Burton, referred to the rearing of capercaillie for release into the wild. If a person is rearing capercaillie for release into the wild, presumably there is a market in them and he would like to be able to sell them.

I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, would give way? We shall discuss the schedules after Clause 8 and I think that this particular point will arise then. Perhaps he would leave it until that time.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [ Registration etc. of certain captive wild birds]:

4.36 p.m.

moved Amendment No. 73:

Page 9, line 2 at end insert ("bred in captivity, and").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 73. This is an exploratory amendment to insert the words, "bred in captivity, and" on page 9 at the end of line 2. I have put down this amendment because I am simply not clear whether such birds must have been bred in captivity. Personally, I am not at all happy with the whole idea of taking birds from the wild and keeping them in captivity, although since putting down the amendment I have come to realise that that does happen. For instance, hawks and falcons are taken from the wild at an early stage in their lives and are then trained and subsequently sold for large sums of money. Therefore, the amendment appears to be faulty. However, would the Minister perhaps agree that in all other cases—apart from hawks and falcons—the principle that wild birds should not be put in cages should always apply? I beg to move.

I must oppose this amendment because its effect would be to exclude from the scope of Clause 7 birds in Schedule 4 to the Bill which had not—and I stress "not"—been bred in captivity. There are already many birds of the species concerned which have been taken legally from the wild in the United Kingdom under licence, or have been imported having been taken from the wild overseas. It is not acceptable to the Government that these be excluded, particularly since it would have the effect of excluding them from the registration and ringing scheme. Indeed, I doubt whether the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, ever intended this. I can assure him that the Bill, as drafted, covers all specimens, whether captive bred or wild bred, of species listed in Schedule 4, and I invite him to withdraw his amendment.

I am most grateful to the noble Lord and look forward to studying his answer in more detail. However, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[ Amendment No. 74 not moved.]

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [ Protection of captive birds]:

4.39 p.m.

moved Amendment No. 75:

Page 10, line 8, leave out ("to poultry, or").

The noble Lord said: The Notes on Clauses just say that Clause 8 reproduces Section 8 of the 1954 Act and do not go on to explain anything about the purpose of this particular clause. Nevertheless, looking at the clause, I should have thought that it was fairly clear that the purpose of the clause—which is headed "Protection of captive birds"—is on the subject of preventing cruelty.

It seems to me very odd, if we are to pass a Bill which includes provisions for preventing cruelty to birds, that we should exempt any particular birds from it. But here we do; we exempt poultry. If the matters with which this clause deals are cruel to wild birds, it seems to me that they are cruel to poultry. There is nothing in these particular provisions which apply to one kind of bird rather than to another from the point of view of the ornithologist, the naturalist, or the keeper of birds, pets or anything. In this particular respect there is no difference between the birds which are kept for egg production and those which are kept for show.

Therefore, why are poultry exempted?—unless it be that poultry, of course, are kept for gain and we must not interfere with cruelty when cruelty is, in fact, a thriving industry. I merely ask this question and perhaps there is a very simple answer. One of the answers of the Government to the amendment that I have tabled may no doubt be that my amendment would not come under the Long Title of the Bill.

Another question which I should like to ask at this particular time is whether any of these captive birds come under the Long Title of the Bill. I wonder whether anyone has looked at that particular point. It seems to me to be very considerable. If I was trying to include this clause as a whole, I would have very great doubt whether it could be included under the Long Title. I think that that ought to be looked into and that we ought to have an answer, for no doubt this matter has occurred to those responsible for preparing the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, will no doubt have other matters to raise and other points to make. At this particular stage I am not raising my strongest arguments for the passing of my amendment until I have heard what the Government have to say, because I cannot help but hope that they have a better answer and a better reason for what they are doing in this particular clause and for the exemption of poultry from the cruelty clauses than the only ones which spring immediately to my mind. I beg to move.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, is not as innocent as he sounds. He knows why poultry are not included in the Bill. So do I; so do we all—because the Government dare not include them. They would have the whole of the battery hen industry on them like a ton of bricks if they included poultry in the Bill; which, of course, shows the hypocrisy of the British people when dealing with such moral issues as cruelty, kindness, ill-treatment and so forth.

We want to be kind to birds, but we want to be kinder to some birds than to others; probably we want to be kinder to the birds that we do not eat than to those that we do eat. In the evidence given before a Select Committee of another place on this very subject the National Farmers' Union said that the British people want their food at the cheapest possible price. This is a dangerous trend in public thinking at the present time—the idea that to get one's food at the cheapest possible price will excuse all sorts of abominations in the treatment of birds and animals. I think that we shall be up against this when trying to improve the standard of treatment of animals.

Quite honestly, I do not know whether some of us should take up the time of the Committee on this crowded Bill to indulge in demonstrations, because that is what this is. Speaking for myself, it is a demonstration. I have one or two others on the Marshalled List. It affords an opportunity, which I think none should lose, of uttering a few words to disquiet the consciences and complacency of noble Lords who probably think that there is not much wrong with the treatment of poultry, calves or anything of that kind.

I am sad about poultry. I think that the battery hen is the most miserable creature in the feathered world today, and it is getting worse. I see present the noble Earl who has responsibilities for the Department of Agriculture. He must know what is going on. At present a Select Committee is dealing with this matter. The Farm Animal Welfare Council is at work and has a special reference for this matter. It would be a great comfort if the noble Earl could intervene and say that Her Majesty's Government are prepared to consider, without any commitment whatever, the liberation of the battery hen. That really would be good news. Therefore, I sincerely hope that we may be given some comfort to get on with. The fact of the matter is that I am content to have registered a point of view, whether or not noble Lords take any notice of it.

Before my noble friend replies, may I say that I think the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, realises that this would have major implications for the battery hen industry. I am only to happy to go one-for-one with him and pontificate on the opposite side, indicating why it is so necessary to have this industry. However, as the noble Lord intimated, I do not think that this is the place to discuss such a vast subject, and I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will reply to the point straight away before the Committee loses a lot of time over it.

I would support this amendment, as I completely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, said. I have farmed all my life, but I have never farmed battery hens, and I never intend to. I do not want to waste the time of the Committee, but Clause 8 says only that one must have a cage sufficient in height, length and breadth to permit the bird to stretch its wings freely. We would not be destroying the battery hen industry if regulations were introduced to have cages of that size, in which hens could spread their wings. It might add a little more expense to the construction of a battery and you might need a slightly larger area, but surely it would not be impossible. As the noble Lord said, it is quite illogical that poultry must be considered not to feel cruelty compared to other birds. It is completely hypocritical. I presume that my noble friend will reply to this amendment and I hope that he will say something to relieve the lot of the battery hen.

4.49 p.m.

If I may say so, that was a remarkably succinct debate. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, tabled this amendment rather tongue-in-cheek because he knows perfectly well that this is an inappropriate Bill in which to include an amendment of this kind. He asked me many questions which were answered by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton; then the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, asked me a number of questions which he proceeded to answer himself. He asked what was the position; he said "I will tell you the position". The noble Lord is not far wrong.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, asked why captive birds were permitted at all under the Long Title. The answer is that this all comes under the one word "re-enact", and this enables captive birds to be included in the Long Title. The noble Lord then asked why poultry are to be excluded. This is a Bill to deal with wildlife and the countryside, and it is not a proper vehicle for altering legislation dealing with domestically-kept farm animals which are protected under more than two different Acts of Parliament—the Protection of Animals Acts 1911 and 1912 and the Agriculture, (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said: "Well, what on earth are the Government doing about this when they have the Farm Animal Welfare Council?" He is quite right, they have; and my right honourable friend set this up as soon as we came into office because he realised that the public were concerned about animal welfare. They are at the moment discussing the welfare codes on poultry and turkeys, and they have invited questions and opinions from the general public, and then they are to make their recommendations. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, asks: Will I liberate the battery hen? Let me give him this assurance, that we will consider the advice of the Farm Animal Welfare Council most seriously when that advice is given. It would be totally wrong to pre-empt that advice by accepting Lord Beaumont's amendment.

Then, as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, rightly said, which he knew, the Select Committee on Agriculture was set up in another place and is considering the effects of intensively kept animals. It would be quite wrong for us to pre-empt their advice and their conclusions. What he did not say—and I am surprised that the noble Lord did not know this bit of information, because he knows so much about what is happening in the animal welfare field—although I am sure he realises it, is that the European Commission is carrying out a study into the welfare of battery hens, to find out whether there is any possibility of alternative methods of production. I think we should be wrong to pre-empt their advice and their conclusions. For all those reasons, I suggest that this is really the most totally inappropriate Bill, and the most totally inappropriate amendment to suggest to this Bill, for the protection of chickens.

That may be so. Nevertheless, a remarkable amount of truth has been spoken over the last few minutes on both sides of the Committee. The debate has been worth while if only for that. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said that the feeling that people wanted food cheaply and that that desire must be met at any cost was a very dangerous doctrine. I entirely agree with him, and I would go further and say that I do not believe what we are always told, that the British people are not prepared to pay for the abolition of cruelty. If it is put to them they are, and that argument against it does not stand up at all. Noble Lords are quite right to want to press on with what this Bill was actually intended for. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

moved Amendment No. 76:

Page 10, line 10, leave out ("whether by land, air or water")

The noble Lord said: Although I have strong feelings about this clause, this is a mere drafting amendment and it breaks my heart to move it because these are words of Anglo-Saxon origin; they are short, clear, and they comprise the elements in which we live, but they are unnecessary. There is no other means of conveyance known to man except by land, air or water. We do not need these words for the removal of a doubt, and therefore with great sadness I beg to move that they be left out.

I should very much like to support my noble friend, but I have one slight doubt when he says there is no other way of moving about. I should have thought that the London tube in the rush hour provided a typical way of moving about which was neither by land, sea nor air in any normal sense of the words.

This provision is identical to one found in Section 8(2)(b) of the Protection of Birds Act 1954. As my noble friend Lord Renton was not on his present perch then, no doubt he did not attack the Government of the time. He seeks to remove these three words. We like them because we think they serve to clarify the position for the layman, and the Government would prefer that they were retained.

The nastier word, which I am surprised he did not comment on more ferociously, is "conveyance". If we take this back to consider whether "by land, air or water" should be removed or not, I think we would like to take "conveyance" back too, to see whether we cannot find a new phrase altogether. If the noble Lord presses me we will consider it, but I ask him to withdraw his amendment so that we can consider it more fully.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.56 p.m.

moved Amendment No. 77:

Page 10, line 13, leave out from ("exhibition") to ("or" in line 15.

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if, with this amendment, we consider Amendment No. 79. This is an effort to redraft a part of this clause. Maybe it is not a very successful one; I do not know. The purpose is quite clear. Incidentally, I think I did not mean to exclude the two words "or competition" in paragraph ( b). That is an error. If the Government should see their way to accepting these amendments we can correct that at a later stage.

The exemption, and the words "in the course of conveyance", has no time limit on it. Taking a journey one way and the purpose of a public exhibition which must not exceed 72 hours, and a journey another way, depending on the way and the particular form of the journey, can add up to a considerable time. There is in theory no limit. Obviously there would be a limit, but it can add up to quite a long time. It seems to me that there needs to be a little tighter control than there was in the original drafting if cruelty is to be avoided, and I should like to urge the Government, even if they do not accept these amendments, to consider the point and to try to do something about it. I beg to move.

This is something we do not feel particularly strongly about, but I should like to read what the noble Lord has said in more detail before I offer to go any further. It was originally proposed to reduce the period during which a bird could be confined from 72 to 48 hours, and this was dropped with the agreement of the advisory committees, the NCC and RSPB, because the new provisions for showing contained in Clause 6(3) should ensure that only captive bred birds well used to small cages are eligible for showing. The amendment would result in the loss of the restriction of 72 hours on the time during which a bird may be confined in a small cage for the purpose of public exhibition, and also seeks to prohibit the com- petitive showing of birds in small cages, and I think that that is the bit the noble Lord did not mean to cover.

In view of this dual result, it is difficult to see why the amendment has been suggested. The Government considered amending Clause 8(2) when drafting this Bill, but the new rules on exhibition should ensure that the only truly captive bred birds well used to small cages are eligible for showing. There was no strong welfare case for changing the existing transport rules in the Protection of Birds Act 1954. This is already supported by the protection of animals legislation. If I could ask the noble Lord to withdraw, I shall look at his remarks again and perhaps he will be kind enough to do the same with mine.

Now that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has explained his amendments it seems to me that he has a good point. As I understand it, he is not removing the 72-hour period in Clause 8(2)(b) but applying a 72-hour period to paragraphs (b) and (a), joining them together and making a limit within a period of days. That seems to me to be a reasonable and useful proposal.

There is very occasionally with birds, particularly if they have been taken from the wild, the necessity of keeping them in a very small cage for quite a long period of time before they are exhibited, because that is possibly the only way one can get the bird not to flutter in the cage during the exhibition, and that at least would be made illegal by the noble Lord's proposal. It would be an advantage and an encouragement to captive breeding, which I am sure is what all of us would want to encourage. I hope that the noble Earl will, as he said, look at what has been proposed.

The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, put the point correctly. The matter should be looked at again, and I am delighted that the Minister said he would do that. Although the noble Earl said that another measure dealt with the treatment of birds in the course of conveyance, it may be necessary to insert a provision in this Bill to deal with birds while travelling. Knowing the matter will be looked at, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.1 p.m.

moved Amendment No. 77A:

Page 10, line 16, leave out from ("undergoing") to end of line 17 and insert ("veterinary treatment or examination").

The noble Earl said: We are still discussing the question of birds in cages and this relates in particular to subsection 2( c), which reads:

"while that bird is undergoing treatment by a veterinary surgeon or veterinary probationer".

There seems to be some doubt whether "probationer" is the right word, and I notice that we shall be coming to an amendment shortly to change that. We need not

argue about that because it means, in short, a vet. The gist of the matter is that a bird shall not be confined in a cage too small for it to be allowed to spread its wings freely while being treated by a vet. But not only vets treat animals, and I take it that "animals" includes birds in terms of the dictionary definition of "veterinary", which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means:

"of or pertaining to or connected or concerned with the medical or surgical treatment of cattle or domestic animals".

If it is accepted that cattle and domestic animals include birds—which I think must be the case because of the word "veterinary" in this provision—then I submit that it is not only vets who treat birds. If one has a budgerigar or an ostrich it may suffer from ailments which can be treated, or at any rate examined, by the owner.

As my noble friend says, or by a physiotherapist, or even by a psychoanalyst in certain cases. One does not always have to send for the vet. Yet it is only if the vet is examining the bird that it must be confined in a small cage. If the owner is examining it, it need not be confined in a small cage. I would say that if it is necessary for a vet to confine it in a small cage in order to treat it, it is even more necessary for the unqualified owner to do so. I therefore propose to leave out the words "treatment by a veterinary surgeon" and so on, making it read:

"while the bird is undergoing veterinary treatment or examination".
The word "examination" is new because it is as relevant to the question under discussion as the treatment itself. I beg to move.

I should explain that, if this amendment is agreed to, 1 shall not be able to call the next amendment, No. 78.

We are faced with a terrible dilemma because we do not want to leave the word "probationer" in—it is a Government misprint which we have already had to alter—so I am wondering what is the best way to deal with it. I support the amendment because the proposal of the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, makes sense. On the other hand, I should be horrified to register for all time that the person to whom this applied was a veterinary "probationer".

We were, as the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said, going to change the word "probationer". We have looked at the amendment of my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery and have listened carefully to what he said. We think the whole question should be considered further, so we shall be looking to redraft this sentence in any event, and that will include changing "probationer" to "practitioner", and I hope with that assurance my noble friend will withdraw the amendment.

I am grateful to my noble friend, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[ Amendments Nos. 78 and 79 not moved.]

5.6 p.m.

had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 80:

Page 10, line 23, leave out ("immediately").

The noble Lord said: I am not at all sure this amendment would do what I want to do. Clearly I am strongly in favour of the proposal in the Bill that any person who,

"promotes, arranges, conducts, assists in, receives money for, or takes part in, any event whatsoever at or in the course of which captive birds are liberated by hand or by any other means whatsoever for the purpose of being shot immediately after their liberation"

shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a special penalty. I am all in favour of that. I presume this deals with what used to be the awful pigeon shoot, liberating birds and shooting at them almost before they were in the air. That was rendered unlawful a long time ago, and we now have in its place clay pigeon shooting. However, I had in mind the release of captive birds not for being shot immediately but very soon afterwards. What I have in mind is what I referred to on a previous occasion—when there were very few noble Lords present; we were discussing the Ground Game Bill—the shocking institution which I described as the fate of the driven bird.

It is 100 years ago since those who went shooting, many noble Lords among them, discontinued the more civilised method of popping at birds as and when they got up in the woods or fields, and they got home with a bag of probably half-a-dozen birds and thought they had had a good day's sport. Unfortunately that was not enough; they must not only have birds up in the air that get there naturally, they must get them driven into the air. I recommend your Lordships to read a revealing book called The Big Shots, to which I referred on a previous occasion. Some of the ancestors of noble Lords prided themselves on having shot over 1,000 birds in a day. That was slaughter, not sport, and it can still go on because pheasants are bred (and other game birds may be bred) with a view to liberation in large numbers to be driven in due course against the guns. Sandringham alone at one time—yesterday, for all I know—was breeding 15,000 to 20,000 young pheasants every year to let them loose to be driven into the guns for a big Sandringham shoot.

It is that that I was intending to deal with by this amendment, but the Committee will have noticed that it would not get me there. The result is that without troubling the Minister to reply to the deficiencies of the amendment, I had better not move it so that the Commitee can get on. Noble Lords have heard what I had to say on this matter and I may return to it on some later occasion. In the meantime, I shall not move it because it does not deal as effectively as I should wish with the fate of the driven bird.

[ Amendment 80 not moved.]

Clause 8 agreed to.

5.10 p.m.

(" Intentional killing of protected creatures

.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person intentionally kills or injures any wild mammal, reptile or amphibian or their young including their eggs or larvae, he shall be guilty of an offence.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person intentionally—

  • (a) takes or has in his possession or control an animal included in Schedule 5 which is not shown to have been killed or taken otherwise than in contravention of any provision of this Part or any Order made under this Part; or
  • (b) damages or destroys any structure or place which such animal uses for shelter or protection; or
  • (c) disturbs or harasses any such animal while it is occupying a structure or place which it uses for that purpose; he shall be guilty of an offence.
  • (3) Any person convicted of an offence under subsection (1) or (2) in respect of a wild mammal, reptile or amphibian included in Schedule 5 or in respect of a structure or place of shelter of such an animal shall be liable to a special penalty.

    (4) Subject to the provisions of this section an authorised person shall not be guilty of an offence under subsections (1) or (2) by reason of—

  • (a) the killing or taking of a wild mammal, reptile or amphibian in Schedule 6;
  • (b) the taking, damaging or destruction of a structure or place of shelter of such an animal; or
  • (c) the taking or destruction of the eggs or larvae of any reptile or amphibian included in Schedule 6.").
  • The noble Baroness said: I should apologise to the Committee for the fact that the amendment is down in the wrong place. It ought to come after Schedule 4, instead of after Clause 8, but since it is here, I shall speak to it now and hope that noble Lords will not mind having a change from birds to animals.

    At Second Reading, when speaking of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, I said, as reported at column 1084 of the Official Report of 16th December, 1980, that

    "rationalisation has not gone far enough. All birds and all plants are, in some measure, protected and the schedules of species list those which are to be accorded additional protection, or, because they are pests, which are excepted for protection. We think that the same method, which is known as reverse-listing, should be applied to mammals, reptiles and amphibians".

    That is what Amendment No. 81 does. It involves a large number of consequentials, and therefore in speaking to Amendment No. 81, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 112, 113, 116, 122, 131, 145A, 157, 160, 162ZA, 168, 171A, 173, 177, 180, 183, 192 and 193.

    Amendment No. 81 will put mammals, reptiles and amphibians on the same footing as birds, and the new clause for these creatures resembles closely Clause 1, for birds, except that here in our new clause blanket cover applies only to killing and injuring, not taking. If we had included taking in the prohibition, we might have been accused of stopping people studying and getting to know more about wild life.

    The concept of reverse listing of mammals, reptiles and amphibians is entirely consistent with the thinking behind the protection of birds. The majority of these creatures are not harmful to man's agriculture or property, and a very large proportion are declining. Conservation is not concerned merely with preventing extinction; it is concerned with ensuring that wildlife survives in reasonable abundance, so that ecosystems are maintained.

    A major advantage of reverse listing is that enforce ment of international conservation commitments, both at present and in the future, are facilitated and, more importantly, enforcement by the police is considerably more straightforward. That is borne out by the last 25 years' experience with the Protection of Birds Acts.

    The noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, at Second Reading, complained that the Bill as it stands does not follow the Berne Convention and that insufficient protection was given to threatened species. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, also at Second Reading, complained that blanket protection for all birds was given by Clause 1 and that exceptions were then made by schedules, whereas it is exactly the other way round for mammals. So I hope that we shall have the support of both the noble Earl and the noble Lord for this amendment.

    I shall now go through the new clause. Subsection (1) brings about the protection of all mammals, reptiles and amphibians against killing and injuring. Subsection (2) creates a category of specially protected mammals, reptiles and amphibians which are additionally protected against taking, possession, disturbance while occupying any place of shelter, and destruction of shelter. That adds no extra provisions to those already proposed by the Government for their existing Schedule 5 species. Our list of specially protected mammals, reptiles and amphibians appears in Amendment No. 145A, our new Schedule 5.

    All species in our new Schedule 5—that is contained in Amendment No. 145A—are on the Government schedule of species given protection, except for the badger, but my noble friend Lord Melchett said at Second Reading that he wanted wider protection for that. This will need to be looked at so that references can be made by subsequent amendments to the Badger Act. My noble friend Lord Melchett will no doubt be speaking to this later. Subsection (3) of the new clause makes offences against specially protected species subject to a special penalty. Subsection (4) creates a list of mammals, reptiles and amphibians which may be killed or taken by an authorised person, and our Amendment No. 192 lists those in our new Schedule 6. We should like to say that that list may need to be revised and we would not claim that it is finally right.

    The amendments to Clause 9—these are Amendments Nos. 112, 113, 116 and 122—refer to our new schedule, which perhaps I can call Schedule 6A, as that is how we have referred to it in all these amendments, and this schedule appears in Amendment No. 193. The principle behind these amendments is to retain the existing Government provision for invertebrates and fish; in other words, these are not to be reverse-listed. One must be practical. It is all too easy to step inadvertently on an insect or mollusc; nor can we ask people to make absolutely sure before they swat it that an insect which settles on them is a noxious one.

    I apologise for taking so long, but there is much to be covered, and I have dealt with 17 amendments all at once, which I hope will please those noble Lords who wish to speed on. I cannot think that these proposals can be controversial, and they have the great merit of making the Bill much more logical. I hope that the principle of reverse-listing of mammals, reptiles and amphibians will be accepted by the Government, even if details have to be gone over and decided at a late stage. I beg to move.

    I am not sure that I am in favour of the amendment. First, since the noble Baroness has decided to rewrite the Bill, I would say that had I been writing it, I would have gone completely the other way. I would have disregarded the 1954 birds Act and I would have arranged the schedules accordingly. So I start on the opposite side of the road on this. I expect that the noble Baroness will ask me why I take that view. I think that, as the Bill stands, the arrangements for the mammals, compared with those for the birds, are more simple. They are certainly more simple to understand, and they are more flexible. I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that flexibility is very important in legislation relating to the countryside and, as in this particuar case, to pests.

    If the amendment were agreed to, it would mean that if there came in a new, exotic breed of animal, in particular if it were a pest, it would not be possible to get rid of it without going through the complete rigmarole of the Government machine, and I think I am right in saying that a negative resolution of both Houses of Parliament would also be required. That procedure would be necessary if it were wished to move a species from one schedule to another. I think the noble Baroness said in her speech that her lists already require revising, and if that need arose after the amendment were passed, there would be a quite clumsy procedure.

    I congratulate the noble Baroness upon very succinctly and concisely putting together what, as the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, has just said, would be a very radical rearrangement of the Bill. That would quite adequately meet my own objections; namely, that the vulnerable species other than birds are not adequately catered for by the Bill as it stands. It would also be a uniquely British approach. As the noble Earl, Lord Avon, said in the Committee last week, in the conservation of birds the British have perhaps led the field, and the reverse-listing procedure is an extremely useful step in taking care of species which are not necessarily pests and are not in any great urgent need of protection. However, having said that I feel that that proposal would be a great step forward, none the less I am inclined to feel that to take this uniquely British approach at this stage might be so fraught with so many difficulties and objections that one would have to consider it rather carefully before being quite so radical in altering the approach which is laid down by the Berne Convention itself.

    Naturally we are grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, for his somewhat qualified support. I am not entirely clear that I agree with him that this is a uniquely British approach. My understanding is that generally, internationally, in a number of different ways, people have been pushing for the adoption of a reverse listing approach; for example, in the CITIES Convention, which deals with trade in endangered species. The generally preferred approach—it may not have been adopted generally yet, but it is the generally preferred approach internationally, as well as certainly by all the interested voluntary organisations in this country—is to adopt reverse listing.

    The noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, suggested that this might be more complicated than the existing provisions of the Bill. I suppose that really depends whether you feel it is more complicated to be able to kill only those species which are listed than it is simply to be able to kill everything if you want to do so. It does not seem to me to be very much more complicated one way or the other; either everything is protected except those things which need to be killed—and they are listed in the schedule—or you can kill everything if you want to and those things which are specially protected are listed in the schedule. If I may say so to the noble Lord, I really do not think there is very much in that argument.

    Nor did I think there was much in his argument about some sudden new arrival of a major pest species with which everybody had to deal very rapidly, because I thought that was exactly what the licensing provisions in the Bill were designed to deal with, and why they were supported so strongly by, among others, the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley. It seems to me that that provides a complete answer to the objection which he raised to this particular amendment.

    5.23 p.m.

    To begin with, perhaps I may put the record straight. The noble Baroness mentioned that she was speaking to Amendment No. 179. I believe that should have been No. 180. It is a very small point, but it is one for the record; and I, of course, should like to speak to the same amendments as the noble Baroness mentioned. I understand the purpose of these amendments as twofold: first, to apply general protection of the kind applied in the Protection of Birds Acts to all wild animals other than some listed ones; and, secondly, to extend Clause 11 to be capable of covering all creatures (other than birds which are already covered elsewhere) and not just mammals. First, may I say that it may well be necessary to include other creatures in Clause 11, and it is, as the noble Baroness said, slightly difficult to speak to the mammals now when we are going to have quite a large go at them later. While the Government do not really take this amendment to their hearts in view of its context, I shall certainly take this point for future consideration.

    As regards the point of general protection for all wild animals, I would stress to your Lordships that the Government's primary aim in this Bill is to make provisions which would enable the necessary steps to be taken to conserve those creatures for which conservation measures are required, and this is not really meant to be a protection Bill for mammals. Here, I think I take a little the point that my noble friend Lord Cranbrook made when he said that one might perhaps cloud the issue if one is not too careful. The Government's advisers on wildlife are satisfied that the Government's proposals will enable conservation measures to be taken whenever it is appropriate that a creature requires protection on conservation grounds.

    If I might side-track a little—because I think whales are included in one of the schedules—I know that most noble Lords are aware that recently, in a Fisheries Bill, the existing prohibition on the taking of whales in United Kingdom waters or by British registered ships was strengthened, and in future the taking of cetaceans will be illegal. There is therefore no need to make special provision for them in this Bill. I bring this out merely as an example; noble Lords will know that European Community regulations banning imports of most primary products from cetaceans, and many of the most secondary products, were adopted by the Council of Ministers in December and come into force at the beginning of next year. This was as a direct result of our Government's action.

    To come back to the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, I think it is more a matter of public conscience and education than of conservation, and it raises really a whole host of other considerations. As your Lordships are aware, cruelty to animals is well covered by other legislation, and I would emphasise most strongly that we wish to keep the conservation message of this Bill as clear as possible. While I personally fully respect, as do the Government, the sentiments that have caused the moving of this amendment, we should like it to be withdrawn at this stage. The Government will undertake further consideration, particularly to widen Clause 11; and, also, I think we shall have an opportunity to discuss this in more detail when we come to Clause 11. I do not know whether the noble Baroness would like to prolong the argument now, or whether she would withdraw her amendment at this stage and perhaps come back to it again later.

    It seems to me that the Government, in arguing, as the noble Earl has, that this is a conservation Bill and not a protection Bill, are really in extremely difficult waters. The fact of the matter is that the Bill re-enacts the Protection of Birds Acts, and all we are trying to do by this amendment is to treat mammals, amphibians and reptiles in exactly the same way as the Government are proposing that birds should be treated. For the noble Earl to get up and be asked to say that this is not quite the approach that the Government arc adopting in the Bill seems to me, if I may say so, an argument somewhat of despair and the last resort, because it seems to me, more seriously, that there really is not an intelligent and sensible argument against what is being proposed in this amendment, which is logical and rational.

    The noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, was kind enough to call it an advanced British approach, and I think that is something we ought to be rather pleased about, rather than fight shy of, as I am afraid I thought the noble Earl, Lord Avon, was tending to do a little in his response. To say, as he was asked to say, that this really is not in line with the Bill does not seem to me to be a starter as a serious argument. I accept, of course—and this is something that the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, touched on—that the detail would need careful consideration. In particular, the list of what were in effect the pest species would need to be considered carefully, and I do not think that we on this side, as my noble friend made clear in moving the amendment, have any firm or fixed views about the contents of that. Nor would we want, in adopting this approach for mammals, reptiles and amphibians for the first time, to stir up any controversy or difficulty with those who felt that more species should be included than we had included. I do not think there is any question of that.

    Perhaps I could make one other point, which relates to an amendment we shall be coming to in a minute, on the Badgers Act. It seems to me that our approach is in fact far simpler than the existing appalling muddle into which we are getting ourselves on mammals. We have separate Acts dealing with seals, deer and badgers. At least on birds we have only one set of Acts, which take a consistent and coherent approach. That is not the case in relation to mammals. I can see, in years to come, our running into the danger of having even more different bits of legislation applying to different things. We are already, in this Bill, running into some appalling problems in trying to tie up what the Government are doing for the badger in this Bill with what the Badgers Act does. It does not seem to me at the moment that there is any interlocking or intermeshing between the two things at all.

    In other words, although it is difficult and although it is a new approach to mammals, reptiles and amphibians, our amendment would lead to far greater simplification and far greater coherence in the Bill, and, if I may say so, to a much easier approach and a much easier understanding for everybody outside this Committee who has not been through the thing line by line as we have. All mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds are protected except those in the Bill which are listed and which can be killed. That seems to me clear and straightforward, and I would hope that the noble Earl, in reconsidering this, would be able to take those points on board. But, of course, we are very grateful and somewhat encouraged by the fact that he has offered to take this on board, and I think we would be quite happy to withdraw the amendment.

    Before the noble Baroness withdraws the amendment, I feel that there is one point that she brought up which should be mentioned. I fear over-simplification. I believe it would be an awful mistake to think that you could include all legislation to do with deer in a Bill of this kind. Certainly in Scotland it would be a great mistake not to have the Deer Act that we have there. I think that the idea of putting everything into one Bill is perhaps an unwise objective in certain instances.

    I was misleading the Committee. Deer as game would continue to be covered by separate Acts. I was making the point that to pretend that the existing approach to mammals is a simple one seems to me to be misleading.

    I think that my noble friend has answered the individual points which were made by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, and the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, so that I do not need to repeat them except to say that there is a possibility under Clause 20 of the Secretary of State adding things to the schedules if it should become suddenly necessary. I thank the Minister for pointing out in connection with Amendment No. 169 that I should have mentioned Amendment No. 180 instead. That is so. I believe that the numbers of some of the amendments must have been changed between the first and second Marshalled Lists. I agree with my noble friend in thinking that this approach is more logical and also with the protection points that he made. But as the Government have said that they are willing to consider this again, and in the light of the debate now and the debate that will take place on the Clause 11 proposals, I will for the moment withdraw this amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Schedule 1 [ Birds which are protected by special penalties]:

    [ Amendment No. 82 not moved.]

    5.33 p.m.

    Page 44, line 30, at end insert—

    ("Goldeneye Bucephala clangula").

    The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 83 with Amendments Nos. 90 and 94, with the permission of the Committee. I should like to suggest that it might be simpler and save time if I were allowed to move together the eleven amendments in my name which affect five species of birds in Schedules 1 and 2, because I doubt whether noble Lords will wish to comment and debate upon each individual bird. They hang together—if I may be excused the pun; although, of course, I am hoping that they will not. I think that if I have permission to do this it will be easier.

    I have one or two amendments on the same subjects. Would the noble Lord agree that we take the birds in Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 separately?

    They are rather connected. Some of the amendments are consequential; a bird comes off one schedule and goes into another. I think it is the easiest way.

    If I could have the numbers of the amendments to which the noble Lord is speaking I should be grateful.

    With permission, they are Amendments Nos. 83, 87, 90, 91, 92, 94, 95, 96, 97 (which is jointly with the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken) and Nos. 108 and 109, all of which affect Schedules 1 or 2, and five species of birds. By way of introduction, I should like to tell the Committee that during the passage of the Wild Bird Protection Acts of 1954 and 1967—with both of which I was closely concerned—I felt that it would be a mistake to try to force upon the Government the opinions of Parliament about individual species of birds, bearing in mind that the Government have the advice of highly expert committees in the shape of the birds advisory committees which are representative of sporting interests, conservation interests, scientific interests, farming interests and so on. I must say that over the years their advice has been on the whole very good, but I think it right that they should take some real account of the views expressed by your Lordships.

    What I should like to ask my noble friend to do after he has heard my views and others would be to say that he will think about this and have further questions put to the bird advisory committees to look at in an entirely fresh light. I think that it is time that they did so, and that will be a satisfactory outcome of this discussion. I consider that there are strong arguments for the amendments I am putting forward—not arguments just of sentiment but practical ones. I hope that some or all of these amendments may find their way into the Bill at a later stage.

    It is an accident of history and also an accident of habit that the curlew, the scaup and the goldeneye and the redshank and, for that matter, the bar-tailed godwit (which ought to be with the black-tailed godwit in Schedule 1 Part I) are huntable birds. Perhaps that is true, too, of the golden plover, although that is slightly apart. Few countries, I think your Lordships will agree, have much better wildfowling than we have or in greater variety. I enjoy it myself immensely. There is no need for rationing the number of birds that wildfowlers can shoot as there is, rightly, in so many other countries—and small rations they are. Who wants to shoot the shore waders, anyway, or, for that matter, the really rare ducks? The goldeneye—and this is Amendments Nos. 83, 90 and 94—is a very rare breeding bird. It is thought that only 17 pairs bred in the United Kingdom last year and the very first known breeding bird was discovered 10 years ago. Only a few thousand goldeneyes winter here. It is easy to recognise and rather nasty to eat. For these and other reasons I should like to see it taken off the hunting list in Schedule 2 Part I and placed in Schedule 1 Part I and given protection all the year round.

    Next, Amendments 87, 91, 97, and 109 are all to do with him the scaup. The scaup are exceptionally rare and very irregular breeders in this country. There are only five known records in 15 years but as many as 25,000 used to winter here, the great bulk of them on the Forth, at Seafield, near Edinburgh. But the numbers breeding at Seafield fell last year to as few as about 1,000, and the total for the whole of United Kingdom is only a few thousand. It is also clear that there is no sign of a return to former numbers. The trend has been downwards all the time. I have not eaten a scaup and I do not particularly want to. Some noble Lords may have done so but I should think they are not very good eating. The scaup merits protection all the year round—there is a strong case here—and not just out of season, which is the protection it has at present. Amendment 109 would remove the scaup from Schedule 3 Part III. And that amendment would stand on its own feet, even if regrettably my other proposals regarding this bird were not accepted.

    Next is Amendment No. 92 which is to deal with the curlew. What of the curlew? Who wants to shoot at curlews? Who wants to eat one? I am told that where they live in different habitats in the Far East they are delicious and regarded as a great delicacy but they are not so here, I would suggest. When I spoke to a wildfowler friend of mine he said, "I hope you will not get protection for the curlew. I teach my children to shoot on curlews when there are no duck around". Well, I think that he should teach them to shoot at hooded crows, ravens, jays or pigeons and so on. The curlew is a very common breeding bird; they winter in huge numbers, in many thousands, sometimes perhaps as many as 50,000. We are hosts in this country to about one-sixth of the European population of curlews. Thirteen of our estuaries have been listed by the EEC, and listed internationally by the ICBP, as of international importance. The much rarer whimbrel is now in Schedule 1. They are easily confused with the curlew, unless sitting beside them on the shoreline. It is a rather smaller bird but easily confused with the curlew. So, I think, are both the godwits although they are easy to distinguish from the curlew when sitting on the shoreline.

    My main argument is the serious disturbance that all shore waders are bound to suffer when curlew and other shore birds are shot, as nearly all of these shore birds are protected. I am suggesting that all of them should be protected. They all suffer from shooting during vital roosting and feeding periods. Cannot we spare the lovely curlew, even if the scientific arguments are not overwhelming, and even though few get shot or wounded? There is no new evidence why we should think again. None the less, I think that it is reasonable that we should do so. I do not think that the curlew should ever have been on the shooting list. I hope that the advisory committee will also reconsider this question.

    Then, very briefly, the golden plover, a delicious bird to eat, as most of us know. I must not reminisce, but I remember in the restaurant in the Commons just after the 1967 bird Act we were offered on the menu black plover. Knowing that there was no such thing, I asked the chairman of the Kitchen Committee to explain. He wrote back and said they were in fact green plovers; but as the green plover was protected, he had to withdraw that suggestion and it turned out in the end that we had been eating rooks—and very good they were too! They are at least on the pest list.

    The golden plover, although a common bird—some 30,000 pairs are known to breed in this country—is remarkably scarce as a breeding bird in other EEC countries. That is the reason why it is in Annexe I of the EEC bird directive which is roughly equivalent to our Schedule 1, Part I. It was very largely the result of pressure we brought to bear on the other EEC countries that there is such a thing as a bird directive at all. It seems to me that when a bird is so rare across the Channel that it is listed on the list of rare birds in Annexe I we must be very careful indeed how we step out of line. It would be encouraging our French and Italian friends to continue eating blackcaps, nightingales, golden orioles and anything else that they can shoot. I doubt whether that would be a wise thing to do because we have a major responsibility in this respect.

    Amendment No. 108, which is coupled with Amendment No. 95, can be regarded as standing on its own feet in that it would prevent the sale of the golden plover. I remember, regarding the 1967 Act, there was a considerable furore about one of the sections which prevented the sale of dead wild geese. It was fairly easily carried. A good many people objected. It seemed sensible to remove the commercial incentive for shooting geese, which are a very serious pest in many circumstances, and that is now widely accepted. Even if Amendment No. 95 is not acceptable to the Government and they do not amend the Bill in that respect, Amendment No. 108 stands on its own feet.

    Lastly—and I am speaking as quickly as I possibly can — the redshank. Amendment No. 96 would remove this shore wader from the species that may be killed outside the close season. I wonder how many Members of the Committee want to shoot a redshank. I dare say a few might have done so. I have not. There is no denying that it is a common, widespread bird, but it is declining here—the figures show that is the case—as a result of habitat loss through the draining of wetlands and coastal reclamation. Very large numbers winter in Europe but out of those huge numbers one-third winter here. Twenty of our sites are regarded as of international importance. This again gives us a definite international responsibility. The disturbance argument applies here just as I suggested that it did where other shore waders are concerned. The recognition of the redshank in flight is nothing I would guarantee to do even with a pair of field glasses rather than a gun in my hand. It is easy to mistake for some of the sandpipers, the ruff, reeve or for a greenshank and a number of other shore birds. It could even be mistaken for the very rare spotted red-shank as well as, as I have said, other shore waders. Why shoot the redshank? It is time we protected these five birds. I think there is a strong case where all of them are concerned. I shall be exceptionally grateful if my noble friend will give us an assurance that what I have said and what else is said during this debate will he taken carefully into account by the advisory committees. I beg to move.

    5.45 p.m.

    Speaking generally, as the noble Lord did over all his amendments, I should like to give enthusiastic support. He put his case extremely well and with great detail. I shall speak very shortly. Anyone who wants to shoot a goldeneye might just as well go and "pot" at the tufted ducks in Regent's Park. There are plenty of things to shoot without doing that. The golden plover is a wonderful bird. The redshank is one of the birds that the birdwatchers in all the estuaries are looking out for. The curlew is one of the beauties of nature. I am totally in favour of restricting sportsmen from killing these birds because there are plenty of others that we are not trying to stop them shooting. I hope no quarter will be given to people who break the new rules which I hope will be accepted if Lord Chelwood's amendment is agreed to.

    I support my noble friend. I thoroughly enjoy my shooting. Those of us who shoot wild duck must be particularly conscious of the conservation argument. Without conservation, we cannot shoot. There should be no possible cause for those of us who indulge in venery to endanger or shoot other species which are unnecessary to eat.

    My name is joined with one of Lord Chelwood's amendments. Another one, Amendment No. 93, includes the bar-tailed godwit which my noble friend might be interested to include in this discussion. I agree wholeheartedly on the question of all the shore waders. I have never been able to understand why anyone should want to go out and shoot redshank or curlew. In the case of the golden plover, as he mentioned, that is one bird—although I have never eaten one—which I believe is delicious to eat.

    I should like to see all those waders removed from the list. When it comes to the two duck to which he has referred—the goldeneye and the scaup—I must admit to some reservations. Both birds are extremely rare breeding species. They appear in very large numbers in the winter and that is when they are going to be shot. Because of the risk that a few breeding birds might be killed by accident, I would agree with the noble Lord that both species should be removed from the list in Schedule 2, Part I of those that may be shot outside the close season.

    I feel that it is going a little far to include these species on Schedule I where if they were shot they could attract very large penalties. I say that simply because although both birds should be recognisable to any sportsman, let alone to any ornithologist, it could sometimes be very difficult for someone shooting duck, particularly in the early morning or late evening, who is a bit excited and has been shooting mallard, teal or whatever, and a flight of goldeneye or scaup comes in.

    Although the goldeneye of course makes the characteristic whistle as it flies, which most of us know, and also scaup are quite easy to distinguish if in broad daylight and one has a pair of binoculars, when it comes to duck shooting it is so easy to "poop" off at a flight of duck and—lo and behold—there is a goldeneye lying beside you. I know the goldeneye well; it visits my lakes and I like it very much. That would be a tragedy. It would be unfair if, under those circumstances, a person found himself liable to an enormous fine when he had not realised that he was shooting one of the prohibited species.

    I was very glad to hear that last remark from the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, because I was going to say a few words before a tide of euphoria swept over the Committee and we agreed to these amendments without their being looked at at all. A very valuable point was made by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, when he stressed that what, as sportsmen, we must look at is the conservation side. I do not think it is for us to judge whether something is a suitable target to be shot or whether it is good to eat or nasty to eat. People have strange tastes in their feeding habits and they may find that a bar-tailed godwit is to them rather as an oyster is to some of us, or, on the other hand, it may well turn us off. We cannot judge on that; what we have to judge on are the conservation measures.

    I am very fortunate myself in that I have land on which golden plover, curlew and redshank nest. Nothing would induce me to shoot any of those birds: I think they are absolutely lovely birds. On the other hand, I would not say, just because I do not like shooting them, that nobody else should have the pleasure, if it gives them pleasure to shoot them. When we are shooting at home and somebody asks; "What can I shoot?" I say: "Anything that gives you pleasure as long as it is legal." I do not know whether a low pheasant gives somebody pleasure or not: it is not for me to judge that.

    I think the important thing is the conservation side and a very good point was made by my noble friend about the scaup. Perhaps numbers are declining there and this is something which might well go on the protected list. I am not so convinced about the goldeneye, nor about the five species of waders. I think the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, made the point that this should be referred to the advisory committee for them to look at. I certainly would not dispute that: I think they ought to look at this and come back with recommendations, rather than that we should accept these amendments perhaps for sentimental reasons.

    I should like to point out to my noble friend and to others who have spoken about the goldeneye and the scaup that the principle, as I understand it, that has been adopted in protecting birds and putting them on Schedule 1 is not that a bird which is capable of being confused with any other which is shot is not eligible for Schedule 1, because it seems to me that a number of other birds which are on Schedule 1 would not be there if that were the case. Noble Lords will remember that when we discussed night shooting a great deal was made of a sportsman's ability to tell by the light of the moon the difference between various species of duck; so I would not, with respect, have thought there was much of an argument against scaup and goldeneye on that ground, particularly as I would have thought they were fairly easily recognisable in comparison with some other duck.

    The other point I wanted to make is that the wintering populations of both species are not particularly high. The goldeneye has ranged from about 6,000 to 9,500 and the figure for scaup is somewhat lower than that. Of course this is the winter population: the breeding population is a good deal lower, as the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, said. The wintering population of the scaup is between 5,000 and 6,500 birds, so I would not have thought that in either case there was a very strong argument for not accepting the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood.

    I only wish to support the last but one speaker in regard to the goldeneye and the scaup. They are birds which from force of habit live in a particular place and sometimes find that those places move. From my personal observations in the Inner Hebrides in most of January, the scaup are in fact increasing. The goldeneye always have been in fairly short supply and I hope that perhaps the Minister will be kind enough to look at this matter further before going too far ahead.

    We get a lot of golden plover in the autumn on the hills, and of course it could happen that you would get golden plover coming over with the grouse. A lot of people who shoot grouse are not always very good naturalists, and although I quite agree they ought to be able to tell the difference, in the excitement of the birds coming over, if there were golden plover and grouse coming over together, they might well shoot the golden plover. I support my noble friend in his amendments. From a gastronomic point of view—that may be the wrong word—the golden plover are very good to eat but we must not think of our stomachs, but of conservation.

    In welcoming the whole of the amendment of my noble friend, I would spring up for a moment if I may in defence of the goldeneye. It has been said that it does not deserve all that much protection, but there is a particular point which was briefly referred to earlier by one speaker. As was said, there are only a very few of them breeding in this country. None of them ever did breed in this country until 10 years ago. They are rather peculiar, though not unique, as being ducks which nest in holes in trees. I think there were 15 or 17 pairs nesting successfully here in the British Isles during this last breeding season, and something less than 150 young birds were reared and fledged. It would be the most awful pity if any of those birds got shot during the winter season because if we value having another breeding bird among our native species, and most of us do, every one of those home-bred birds that is shot will lessen the chances of their coming back and spreading the establishment of a healthy and, hopefully one day, quite large breeding population of goldeneye. So I would put in a particular plea for them.

    I am not going to mention duck, after this first mention, but it seems to me totally illogical, and always has done, that the green plover is protected and the golden plover is not. From personal observation I would say that the green plover is extremely common in most of this country and the golden plover, though quite common in certain places, is by no means so universally common. I very much hope that my noble friend will refer this whole flatter to his advisory body. Possibly he might put the golden plover on to the protected list and take off the green plover, or at any rate out of Schedule 1—I am not sure whether it is there. It seems to me that we have those two species the wrong way round and we ought to reconsider both of them.

    Perhaps I should speak briefly with regard to the two schedules and then take some of the species in detail. I should like to tell my noble friend Lord Chelwood that he has altogether too unbecoming an idea of your Lordships' importance in this debate. Not only were all the amendments looked at by the advisory committee before I came to the Dispatch Box on this occasion, but I can assure him that the members will read this debate with particular interest, and indeed it is possible that some members are even listening to it now. So I can assure him that every single thing which has been said during this debate on the schedules will be taken into account by the advisory committee and, if necessary, amendments will be made at a later stage.

    To explain how we approach the printing of the schedules we are now discussing, in the first place we have honoured all our obligations under the European directive and these have required a substantial reduction in the list of birds which may be hunted—often, it must be said, to meet the concerns of our Community partners rather than because it was our belief that the hunting of these species was affecting their conservation status. Having done that, we took advice of the NCC and the advisory committee, species by species, and where there was a clear, if not necessarily unanimous, view that protection is needed for conservation, we have proposed it.

    What we have not been prepared to do is to give protection to a common species because it may be mistaken for a rare one. That we consider a slippery slope, which is certain to lose the consent and willing co-operation which farmers and hunters at present give. We were also concerned that Schedule 1, which gives special protection, should not grow too long, and that it, too, must be seen to meet real and not just hypothetical needs. That is why we have been very selective over which birds we have put in.

    In Schedule 2, Part I, we were mainly governed by the very drastic reductions in the list of huntable species which were agreed in the European directive. We are not, therefore, disposed to shorten the list any further, unless new evidence, which was not available to us a year ago, is provided and then the NCC so advises. Schedule 2, Part II, which I do not think we have spoken about yet, and which is often known as the pest schedule, has been halved so that we can meet our obligations under the directive. Only those species which are causing damage all over the country are included. For many of the species removed, such as the greater black-backed gull, there will be licences which allow their control for those types of damage which they cause and in the areas where they cause it.

    Having so said, may I come on to the goldeneye? Since 1970, this duck has increased as a breeding bird in Scotland from one to 21 nesting females in 1979. This has been mainly due to the provision of nest boxes. Although a freshwater duck in the breeding season, and frequently seen on reservoirs and lakes in winter, the vast majority of European goldeneyes, assessed at about 150,000 birds, spend winter on the sea with perhaps 10,000 to 12,000 visiting British and Irish coasts. Between 500 and 1,400 are probably shot each year in Britain. We are advised that the status of the goldeneye has remained essentially unchanged since the negotiations a year ago, and thus there is no conservation case for removing them from the schedule. May I once again say that, of course, we will take into account what has been said during the course of this debate.

    As regards the bar-tailed godwit—which is in the amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken—approximately 40,000 winter in Britain, out of a total of 90,000 in the rest of Europe. There has been no marked change in recent times and, again, we are advised that the status of the bar-tailed godwit remains essentially unchanged. So, once again, we do not see the necessity at the moment for any change.

    Just to show that one is not being entirely negative, I am glad to say that the Government accept that there has been a change in the status of the scaup and we will, therefore, be making an amendment to this effect. As regards the golden plover, that is one of the most abundant wintering waders in Great Britain, with a population of up to 210,000 in winter. We believe there is no conservation case at present for prohibiting hunting, but, once again, there have been some interesting points raised which will be considered again.

    The conservation of the redshank was thoroughly investigated when the hunting list which was annexed to the EEC directive was being formulated. The advisory committee and the Nature Conservancy Council advised at the time that the species should be retained on the list of species that may be hunted in the United Kingdom. Since then, there has not been a deterioration in the conservation status of the species to justify giving the species all-the-year-round protection.

    The next one is the curlew, which is in Schedule 2, Part I. That is a list of birds which may be hunted in the open season and this reflects our obligations under the birds directive. During the negotiations, full account was taken of the species' populations and trends. The evidence does not suggest that the status of the species has suffered since that time. But, once again, we shall carefully monitor the course of the curlew.

    I should like to close by asking noble Lords to withdraw their amendments, with the promise that the scaup is to be reviewed. All the others will be looked at, and I can give an undertaking that both the department and the advisory council will, of course, monitor the trends of those birds which we have been speaking about in this debate.

    May I make two further points to the noble Earl, Lord Avon? First, it seems to me that on a number of these species there was fairly widespread feeling that it was simply not right that they should be on a list of things that were shot. Much as we would all feel that there are plenty of nightingales, it would not be particularly appropriate for them to be on a list of species to be shot. The noble Earl has very kindly said that points made on all sides will be taken into account, and that sentiment, which seemed to me to be fairly common among many noble Lords who spoke, could be considered.

    May I make one other point to him? When the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, was on the Front Bench last year—in fact, on 26th June, 1980—he answered a Question that I asked the Government about which organisations were responsible for monitoring waterfowl populations on wetland sites in the United Kingdom. The Government's reply was that the NCC is the statutory adviser to the Government. But the Written Answer went on:
    "In providing advice on water fowl populations they"—
    that is, the NCC—
    "draw heavily on data supplied by the Wildfowl Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the British Trust for Ornithology ".—[Official Report, 2616/80; col. 1861.]
    I hope that the Government will remind themselves of that reply, in the light of the fact that, as I understand it, the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, are all supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and, possibly, by the two other voluntary organisations on which the Government said last year they relied very heavily for advice in monitoring populations of such birds. That seems to me to be an added point—for which I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, in his previous incarnation —which supports the arguments which the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, put forward.

    I take the points of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett. I had on my speaking list that we would also consider moving from schedule to schedule. I am not sure whether I actually said that in my speech, but I have made a note of the point. As regards the advisory bodies, there are, as he said, quite a lot of different bodies who can advise. As I also said, the advice is not always the same, so from time to time the NCC has to make a decision. Therefore, when one gets, from one side of the Chamber or the other, certain views from certain bodies, although we accept that as coming from a particular body, there may have been contrary advice from another body. So not everybody can be satisfied all the time.

    This may not be the right place to raise this point. But my noble friend the Duke of Atholl commented on the fact that green plover are infinitely more common than golden plover. I would certainly back that from observations where I live. The place is crawling with them. Plovers' eggs were a delicacy. Would it not be possible to have a small collecting season for plovers' eggs?

    Green plover is the farmers' friend. It would be very bad to take them out of the schedule. Regarding plovers' eggs, you can take them up to a certain date—

    I should like to support my noble friend Lord Melchett in what he has said concerning the noble Earl's reply. I hope that the noble Earl may think about it again. It is quite mistaken that, as a defence for keeping some of these waders, in particular, on the list, he should talk about how extremely common they are. I do not see why a bird's commonness has anything at all to do with it. Nothing could be commoner than a blackbird, a thrush or a chaffinch, depending on where you live. But although they are extremely common, and, in fact, abundant, they are protected and no one can kill them.

    It seems to me that the only exceptions from the species which one is allowed to kill should be either those which are recognised pests or those which are good to eat. The fact that, unfortunately for them, some birds are good to eat is a relevant consideration. Birds like the redshank and the curlew are not pests, nor are they good to eat. I do not know why anybody should shoot them. The fact that they are fairly numerous, although not quite so numerous as blackbirds, should not disqualify them from the protection which they deserve, particularly in view of the fact that, as has been mentioned, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds would very much like these birds to be protected throughout the year. I hope that the noble Earl will refer this matter to the advisory committee.

    I think I said that everything will be considered. A good number of different points have been made, from eating to hunting, as well as various others. I have just heard that there is a possibility that in some areas plovers' eggs could be licensed, which might horrify some people.

    I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Avon for the sympathetic way in which he has responded to this debate on the different species contained in the schedules. I feel very strongly indeed that whether the redshank, the curlew, the bar-tailed godwit are common, rare, easy or hard to identify, or easy to mix up with other birds, or not so easy to mix up, or whether they are good to eat or nasty to eat does not make very much difference to the principle which I am suggesting: that shooting shore waders is an historic accident. I think they are the only three—the golden plover not being a shore bird—which are still left on the huntable list. This has just happened and been taken for granted. It would be far tidier in every way, and would mean that wildfowlers would lose nothing worth while if they were all protected. The scaup and the goldeneye are different matters. The case for the scaup is very strong and my noble friend accepted it. The case for the goldeneye is perhaps equally strong.

    The ban on the sale of the golden plover, even if it remains a quarry or huntable species, makes sense, as did the case for dead wild geese. I remember that in 1954 the suggestion was made by Members of both Houses that all wild birds should be protected and that their nests and eggs should also be protected. This was looked at with absolute horror by the Home Office. It would not have stood the slightest chance of being passed by either House. However, in 1967 that is exactly what we did, apart from the pest list. So far as shore waders are concerned, time has moved on and we should look at them again. I am very grateful to my noble friend and to all noble Lords who have spoken. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    6.13 p.m.

    Page 44, line 34, at end insert—

    ("Gull, Blackheaded Larus ridibundus").

    The noble Earl said: In moving this amendment I should like to declare an interest, in that I derive a small income from selling gulls' eggs. My purpose in putting down the amendment is to protect birds in wildlife reserves, particularly in Scotland where there are no laws of trespass.

    Some years ago I allowed the Scottish Wildlife Trust to use some 80 acres of marshland on Bemersyde as a nature reserve. That request was made to me because of the large variety of interesting birds to be seen there. Since then, most of those interesting birds—the rare ducks, the hooper swans, the Canada geese and so on—have vanished and ceased to nest upon the moss. They have been driven away not by the birdwatchers who come quietly and in small numbers and who take no eggs but by parties of men who come from neigh-bouring towns, armed with inflatable rubber boats to collect the eggs of the blackheaded gulls for market. These parties arrive in the early morning and remain out for most of the day. They have abused and threatened to assault my keeper. They do not dis- criminate between the kind of birds eggs that they rob and they rob them throughout the laying period.

    In terms of the Bill, landlords are likely to be the licensees for the taking of eggs of wild birds such as the blackheaded gull. In theory, anybody else without a licence would be debarred from doing so. So far as it goes, this is all right. A landlord should be allowed to include the market in gulls' eggs as part of his management programme for limited periods, designed to maintain the size of gulleries. It is far better than to have them reduced in size by over-exploitation, as is happening in many parts of Scotland. A modicum of culling will always be needed in the interests both of agriculture and of the other species which need space for nesting.

    It will be difficult to stop egg stealing because the laws of trespass in Scotland do not prevent access to wildlife reserves. As it is the access of unwanted visitors in great numbers which does harm to a reserve, it is the access which should be stopped. Anybody seeing a policeman coming over the horizon could simply throw his gulls' eggs into the water and be immune from the law. I cannot see many policemen giving much of their valuable time to wildlife protection so long as there is only a slim chance of a conviction to show for their time at the end of the day.

    Local collectors are sceptical about the chance of conviction. Strong penalties will be needed if they are to be deterred. A law which had escaped their attention referred to the taking of eggs on Sundays, but the last time there was a conviction on the grounds of egg-taking on the Sabbath, the evidence in the form of the eggs exploded in court, with a resultant smell, and those who were involved in the case were admonished without penalty.

    I believe that the present situation could best be remedied by prohibiting access to wildlife reserves by all unlicensed persons, but as the Bill does not make such a provision I believe that the problem could be remedied if the blackheaded gull were listed in Schedule 1. Then any unlicensed person going among the gulls' nests in a boat could be deterred from doing so. If he was found in his boat near the nests, he would be guilty of an offence and liable to a special penalty. Once deterred, the egg stealers would not return and the wild bird might return instead. The proposed new law, though giving some protection to wildlife reserves, does not go far enough. It is becoming more and more difficult to protect these wild places for proper uses, so I hope that the Government will give the protection that is needed. That protection is needed certainly by the Tweed Valley Branch of the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It is probably needed throughout Scotland. I beg to move.

    I should like to support my noble friend. Despite the Minister saying that the Government were rather reluctant to consider increasing the number of birds in Schedule 4, the blackheaded gull is nevertheless a species which is steadily reducing in number and which deserves special consideration in the circumstances which my noble friend Lord Haig has outlined. The amendment is necessary because it is one of those cases where theory does not work in practice. In theory, the blackheaded gull is protected under the provisions which protect all wild birds but in practice the blackheaded gulls' nests are ravaged and cannot be protected under the umbrella of the general provision.

    In Scotland, the cliffs where the nesting of the blackheaded gull goes on are desecrated by gangs from quite distant towns who come in inflated rubber boats and who spend the whole day climbing and robbing the nests. That goes on because of course there is no law of trespass in Scotland. There is only the process of interdict, which is far too complicated to consider in such cases. These men can come and go virtually with impunity and, as my noble friend Lord Haig said, if any policeman appears to be at all inquisitive, all they have to do is break the eggs and throw them overboard.

    I think that this blackheaded gull should be included in the amendment because of the particular circumstances which I have outlined: depreciation in numbers, ravaged in a way that other birds are not ravaged, by commercial gangs. Of course the blackheaded gull has a commercial value and no doubt if it was included in the schedule there would be those who would say that we were giving a monopoly to the landlord, who would have the licence to cull and possibly the cull would be abused and over-raiding and over-selling of eggs from the nests might take place. However, it seems to me that that is quite easy to overcome if any licence granted to a landlord has the provision that culling shall be only in agreement with the Wildfowl Trust. That would deal with that point.

    I hope that the noble Lord will at least say that this matter of the special blackheaded gull will be considered. I do not know what my noble friend Lord Haig is going to do about his amendment but if he withdraws it I hope it will be on an understanding from the Minister that anyhow what has been said about the peculiar circumstances in this particular case will be considered. It is not much to ask and I hope it will be granted.

    I am not in the least opposed to the intention behind the amendment but I should like to be instructed by the noble Earl who is to reply. So far as I can see, putting the black-headed gull—which, as the noble Earl has said, is already protected under the general Protection of Birds Acts—into Schedule 1 would not give a bigger penalty for damaging the eggs. Schedule I provides special penalties for killing. If it does give an additional penalty for damaging the eggs, I should favour it, but none of this will have any effect on the real problem, which is the problem of policing. Goodness knows how Scottish landowners are supposed to do this. I do not know whether the Government have any views, but it seems to me that nothing short of better policing, (which we shall discuss later on. when we shall have some suggestions to make about it) will do anything to help anybody.

    Under Clause 15(1)(f) I am going to move an amendment covering the collection of gull's eggs, which seems to be the only form of egg collection to provide food from the wild which is acceptable. We can discuss that when we come to it, but the real problem at present is that of policing and it is not, so far as I can see, a problem of bird protection by law.

    I shall be interested to hear what the noble Earl has to say about that.

    I think I must declare a small interest, in that I am the honorary president of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, so somewhat naturally I thoroughly support the objects of my noble friend's amendment. But I think it is defective and it will not achieve its purpose for the very reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has given from the Bench opposite.

    I think that what we need is some way of giving greater protection to the nature reserves established by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. In many cases these are extremely important. They are not necessarily the same places as the reserves which the Nature Conservancy Council administer—I do not think more than one or two are the same—and they give rise to extremely difficult problems of policing when the law of trespass in Scotland is, to put it mildly, thought to be non-existent, although I am told by my legal friends that in fact this is not the case. But as long as it is thought to be non-existent people are going to come in and they are going to take far too many eggs of the blackheaded gull for the good of that species.

    I do not really think that there is the same problem in England and I feel that, even if the Government decide that this is one way of dealing with the problem, it might be advisable to put the blackheaded gull into Schedule 1 so far as Scotland is concerned, but not so far as England and Wales are concerned. Although I am entirely in favour of the objectives which my noble friend Lord Haig wishes to achieve, I am doubtful whether this amendment will in fact achieve them.

    If I may say a word about the law of trespass in Scotland, when the Labour Government were in power—I think about 10 or 12 years ago—I asked a question of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, who was on the Front Bench, and he told me that in fact there is a law of trespass in Scotland. Of course it is not possible to get a conviction for trespass but one has the right to order people off. Of course to a certain extent it might depend upon who is the stronger!

    It is with some temerity that 1 rise to express disagreement with what has been said by my noble friends. I should declare that I have an interest in a part of Scotland where we try to protect the young mallard and teal and other duck which breed locally —although not very many of them—and also pheasants breeding on the marsh, which pheasants love, of course. We find that the blackheaded gulls are great enemies of these birds during the nesting season. It would be quite a serious thing if they were given the complete protection which, by implication, seems to be sought and I hope that my noble friend Lord Avon, when he is considering this matter further, will bear in mind that the blackheaded gull is sometimes a predatory bird.

    In the first place I do not think Schedule I would be the right place to put the blackheaded gull. Secondly, I take the points which have been made about egg collections and culling generally, and we shall take these points back and consider them. Thirdly, I must disagree with my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye. According to my statistics the blackheaded gull is increasing dramatically and figures of just over a quarter of a million to over half a million are the sort of figures in mind, which again would make it a very strange bird to include in Schedule 1.

    There is another way of stopping the sale of eggs, because of course it is illegal to sell the eggs without a licence. I quite sympathise with the difficulties of law enforcement and I know that in Scotland particularly where the sea coast is not covered there are special difficulties. There are conditions to a licence and we shall be coming to that when we talk about licences later. I should have thought that the solution to my noble friend's problem was to consider whether we could not get a licence which was conditional upon how the bird was culled or perhaps when it was culled, or words to that effect. Bearing in mind the speeches we have heard this evening, we will look into that and see if we can come up with what we think is the right solution. I hope that, with that assurance, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

    Having listened to this short debate with interest, I am encouraged by what has been said. In view of what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said, I would say that it is really human predators we are trying to stop more than bird predators. It is because of the human predators, in this case in the wildlife preserve, that all the rare birds have disappeared. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendments Nos. 84 and 85 not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 86:

    Page 45, line 10, leave out ("Rosefinch") and insert ("Grosbeak").

    The noble Lord said: Carpodacus erythrinus is a rather beautiful and quite uncommon bird which as a matter of fact has never been known to nest in the British Isles, but that is irrelevant. It is commonly known as either the scarlet grosbeak or the common rosefinch, whereas in this schedule it has been described as scarlet rosefinch. However, since I put down this amendment I find that scarlet rosefinch is the name by which it is sometimes, though much less frequently, known. It is simply because this is its more frequent nomenclature; I beg to move this amendment.

    While I am not qualified to take issue with the noble Lord on this particular point, may I tell him why it is listed as it is. As he knows very well, many species have more than one name. For example, I am told that a hen harrier has over 40 names. For the sake of simplicity and standardisation we have followed the ornithological world's advice and adopted a sequence and scientific nomenclature of Professor K. H. Voous' list of holarctic species, 1977. As your Lordships will know, helarctic covers both paleartic and nearctic which is most of our Northern hemisphere. In any event the latin name also used alongside in the schedule we hope will avoid confusion. I hope the noble Lord when he realises that we are sticking to one particular authority will agree that that is the right solution.

    I am very grateful to the noble Earl for that learned exposition, and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendment No. 87 not moved.]

    Page 45, line 22, at end insert—

    ("Swan, Bewick's Cygnus bewickii").

    The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to add the bewick swan to the list of those species given special protection under Schedule 1. I am fairly confident that I am going to be told by the noble Earl that the bewick swan should not be protected because it has not been known to breed in Great Britain. That is the criterion for obtaining protection under Schedule 1. None the less, I want to point out to the Committee what a very extraordinary criterion that is. The hooper swan and the bewick swan are usually associated in most of our minds. They are almost identical though the bewick is a little hit smaller and has slightly different beak markings. They both arrive in large numbers in the winter months and fly away in the springtime. The bewick swan has never bred in these islands. The hooper swan has once. It is more common than the bewick. Of all the hundreds of thousands of hooper swans that have arrived in these islands one eccentric couple decided to stay and nest during the summer. One even more eccentric hooper swan with a liking for miscegenation, decided to try to pair with a mute swan and settled down to spend the summer with him, but the union was not blessed with any offspring. So because one pair of birds in the history of the birds in these islands decided to stay on and breed, every hooper swan that comes to these islands in the winter is protected by inclusion on Schedule 1. But because no bewick swan has ever been so misguided as to spend the summer here it is not included on Schedule 1. That seems to me to be clearly illogical, and I beg to move the amendment which would give the bewick swan equal protection.

    I think the noble Lord has given good enough reasons for us to support this amendment.

    The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, is all too pessimistic. It is one which has been agreed to at the last advisory committee. When I spoke about the schedules, there was an advisory committee on 29th January when they did agree to the scaup and this particular swan. It generally was and still is the practice to restrict Schedule 1 to breeding species or species which look as though they are about to breed in Britain, but there is nothing to stop the addition of species which do not breed here but are regular or scarce winter visitors. The general question we all ought to consider, as I have said before, is that by making Schedules 1 too long we devalue it. However, we referred this matter to the advisory committee and they recommend that in the case of the bewick swan it is right to make an exception to the general rule that only species likely to breed here were given special protection. There is a very small population and they can be confused with others, and will benefit from special protection. I did hear my noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton say in a whisper that he was not sure what they looked like. I am also informed that some have been found with shot in them. So perhaps one might say a special word to the wildfowler, "Get your identification kit out for the bewick swan".

    I am very grateful and a little surprised at what the noble Earl has said. If the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray is interested, the mute swan can always be told from the hooper and the bewick because it has an orange bill and a knob at the base of the bill whereas the hooper and the bewick have lemon yellow bills and no knob. Also the bewick swan is rather smaller than the hooper, and I am glad to think that in future it is going to be protected.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    6.40 p.m.

    had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 89:

    Page 45, leave out line 29.

    The noble Lord said: Having got one species on to the list, the purpose of this amendment is to take one off: namely, the short-toed treecreeper. I feel no animosity whatever towards the short-toed treecreeper, but until a couple of days ago I believed that it was not on the British list—it certainly was not on the British list that I was consulting which was a couple of years old. Of course, if it is not on the British list there is no reason why it should be included in Schedule 1. However, I have since learnt that it has just got onto the list. One or two records of this species have now been confirmed in this country, although there has not yet been any confirmed evidence of breeding. Therefore, I suppose that it is better that it should stay on the list and so I shall not move the amendment.

    Amendments Nos. 90 and 91 have already been disposed of and therefore the Question is, Whether Schedule 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

    I should like, if I may, to raise one point on the question, Whether Schedule 1 shall stand part. There is one bird which we have not dealt with, but about which I must say I feel very strongly. I think that I gave the noble Earl, Lord Avon, some notice of this matter and I hoped that he might be able to give us a brief response so that I could consider whether to move an amendment at the next stage or not. The concern which I have is for the sparrowhawk, which, as I understand it, is being removed by the Bill from the schedule where it used to be. I have certainly had a number of representations from the Scottish Wildlife Trust and from others emphasising that the sparrow-hawk is still, first of all, extremely rare and, secondly, much persecuted and wrongly so.

    The Scottish Wildlife Trust has told me that the sparrowhawk is still uncommon and quite rare in many parts of Scotland where its presence could be expected. I do not have any personal knowledge of that, but I certainly do have some knowledge of the sparrowhawk's status in East Anglia. We had a sparrowhawk on our farm and in the general vicinity for a brief period this year—I do not think that our farm is large enough to provide a territory for a pair of sparrowhawks or even for one. However, the bird quite quickly disappeared from the general area and the general supposition was that it had been poisoned or otherwise illegally killed. I am afraid that that is an all too common fate that befalls sparrowhawks in the south of England. It, therefore, seemed to me that this was something which—as certainly one of our most spectacular and magnificent birds of prey—still deserved the special protection which, as I understand it, it has had up to now. I hope that the noble Earl can explain why it has been demoted.

    I should like to support very strongly what the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has said. We never used to have any sparrowhawks at home and I live about 28 or 29 miles from London. About two years ago I saw one and it was such a thrill to see it. However, I have not seen it since. I am pretty certain that we have not done anything to it because I am very strict over those matters. However, if it is just re-establishing itself then for Heaven's sake! let us keep it on Schedule 1. If by chance the place suddenly becomes crawling with sparrowhawks—which is obviously fairly unlikely—then perhaps it can be removed. The Minister has the power to vary the schedules. Let us keep the sparrowhawk on Schedule 1 at present.

    I, too, should like to support the two noble Lords who have spoken. I do not believe that sparrowhawks will ever become common again because I think that, unlike the kestrel, modern life is against them. If the noble Earl on the Front Bench is worried about the number of birds that we want on Schedule 1, then one which, in my opinion, he might well consider removing would be the hen harrier. That is an infinitely more common bird, where the environment is remotely suitable for it, than the sparrowhawk and in the opinion of most people it does far more damage. I think that it would be a very popular move, so far as the farming community in Scotland is concerned, to remove the hen harrier from Schedule 1 and to keep the sparrowhawk on Schedule 1.

    We talked about the hen harrier and other similar birds earlier when I said that they were on the European directive and therefore must be included. I equally said that I know that people are worried about the hen harrier and this is where the special licence provision will come in, if there is a need to deal with them. Unlike my noble friends Lord Onslow and the Duke of Atholl I am told that the population of the sparrowhawk has now recovered to 20,000 and it is considered an excellent example of what putting a species on Schedule I can do. The advice at the moment is that as they have recovered so well there is no need to put them on the schedule.

    I gather that the population declined in the 'fifties and 'sixties was probably due to pesticides. While it is comparatively scarce in certain areas, at the moment we are advised that the normal protection afforded to most wild birds is now adequate to secure its status. However, as I have had pressure from three noble Lords on this subject I shall, of course, look at it again. I rather suspect that, as no actual amendment was put down, the point was probably not discussed at the last advisory committee meeting, because they would not have known about it, but I am sure that it will be discussed at the next meeting.

    Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

    Schedule 2 [ Birds which may be killed or taken]:

    6.48 p.m.

    Page 46, line 5, at end insert—

    ("Brent Goose Branta bernicla").

    The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendment No. 91 A, and with the leave of the Committee I should like at the same time to speak to Amendments Nos. 98A and 99A. This part of the Bill revises the schedules of the Protection of Birds Act 1954. Schedule 2, Part II, which is basically the pest schedule, has been amended to leave out certain bird species which hitherto were defined as pests, although in some cases only in certain areas. For example, the bullfinch, which is a horticultural pest, is a Schedule 2 bird in the 1954 Act, but it is only a pest in the South-East counties.

    The effect of my amendment, therefore, is to place back on to the pest schedule the bullfinch, the Canada goose and the greylag goose and introduce on to the more limited pest and game schedule the brent goose. The reason for placing the brent goose on the game schedule is that it is migratory and has more often than not left this country by late March. It appears to me that the Government's reasoning behind omitting certain species from Schedule 2, Part II of the 1954 Act in the present revision, is that the present schedule only defines those species which are pests on a national scale. Therefore, I should like to ask my noble friend Lord Avon what he considers to be the criteria for national scale when one takes my example of the Canada goose which is a pest problem in Anglesey, Bedford-shore, Berkshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Kent, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Surrey, Worcestershire and all the counties of Yorkshire. I beg to move.

    I should like to oppose these amendments and I hope that the Government will not accept them. Perhaps I may take the bullfinch first. Of course there are occasions when a flock of bullfinches can bare a currant planting or something of that sort, but there is a perfectly adequate arrangement through Clause 15, in a situation of that sort, to ring up and get a licence to deal with it. But, generally speaking, bullfinches are mainly sedentary and in many areas have a low density of population. They mostly eat the seeds of weed species and tree nuts. Buds of fruit trees are occasionally taken, but only when other things are exhausted. They are only a pest where fruit growing is on a large scale and then small flocks do congregate. As I say, there is a perfectly good method to deal with that—by obtaining a licence to kill. The economic damage which they do is restricted to specific areas and I think that licensed trapping must be the answer to this.

    There are many areas of Great Britain which have no large concentrations of fruit production and there is absolutely no reason to make bullfinches more vulnerable there. Only when the two situations come together is there any serious damage. There are some 600,000 pairs of bullfinches in Britain and Ireland, which clearly is not an enormous shortage. But where commercial fruit growing is not carried out bullfinches are a great pleasure as a garden bird. They come and eat my nuts and I am totally opposed to what is suggested.

    With regard to the brent goose and the game schedule, the suggestion is slightly different. It is important to remember that two-thirds of the world population of Brent goose come to winter here from Siberia, where they breed. Due to some good years and to good protection the population in the world has increased from 34,000 in 1971–72 to 167,000 last year, of which in 1971–72 our share was 22,500 and it was 74,100 last year. We have had poor breeding seasons recently, particularly last year, and there has been something like a 20 per cent. drop.

    Of course, I accept that localised damage can be caused, but there is a perfectly good way to deal with that—by getting a licence if it is necessary to kill them. But it is better to use scaring devices. One of the difficulties of shooting, which I suppose also applies to scaring devices—I wish to be fair about this—is that it really only moves the birds on to the next site and is not very effective. Licences can be obtained for control in specific cases, and this is sufficient. Other countries are likely to look to us for a lead here. We do not want to set a wrong example over these birds, whose winter migration is so marvellous and about which so much has been discovered recently. I hope that this amendment will be rejected.

    The Canada goose has a much larger world population. Between 10,000 and 10,500 individuals come here and many of them, as I know because they can be found round the corner from me, are permanent residents. They are very beautiful and the noise that they make as they fly over my bungalow in Sussex gives me great pleasure. I am determined to protect them even at the cost of occasional crop damage for the farmers. Another bird was mentioned, but I have forgotten what it was—

    Roughly the same applies to the greylag goose. I hope that the noble Earl will resist these amendments.

    I think that we should be careful about the Canada goose. Speaking from personal experience, I have found that individually they do about as much damage to a field of spring barley as one sheep.

    They can be an enormous menace. They are also an introduced species; they were brought over here originally in the 18th century for ornamental purposes, and the result has been rather like the starlings in the United States of America, the grey squirrels here and the sparrows in Western Australia. There is a case for regarding them as pests.

    I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, that they make the most marvellous noise and that they are very beautiful, but they eat barley and wheat and they are very, very difficult to keep off. We have tried methods such as trip wires, electric fencing and scarers, and they are very hard to move. It was interesting to note the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, say that shooting makes them move to another person's property. All I can suggest is that the noble Lord is rather a bad shot. The object of the exercise is to make sure that they cannot move anywhere.

    6.55 p.m.

    Perhaps I could reply to that. I am an extremely bad shot, but that is not the point. The point is that if you have enough Canada geese seriously to damage your barley crop, you would need the automatic of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, to deal with the problem; and that I am against.

    I should like to make a few remarks on the Canada goose, which also honks across my bungalow in the morning, and it is a lovely sound. I can speak only of the Thames Valley. For the past three years I have been right up the Thames Valley and each year there have been a couple of geese with three, four or five youngsters. When the noble Lord said that there are between 10,000 and 10,500 Canada geese in this country, I have the impression that they are all in the Thames Valley. There are so many of them that I have always thought, not only that they ought to be classed as vermin, but that we should learn how to eat them—they look rather good to eat.

    Briefly, I should like to support my noble friend Lord Donaldson in opposing these amendments, particularly the one which relates to that very beautiful bird, the bullfinch. I understood the noble Earl who moved this amendment to say that this is really a problem only in the South-Eastern counties, by which I suppose he means Kent and Sussex. It would seem to me to be entirely wrong that, because a bird is occasionally a nuisance in two counties of Britain, it should be considered a pest throughout the country as a whole.

    As my noble friend Lord Donaldson said, under Clause 15 there are licensing provisions, and if there is suddenly an incursion of bullfinches causing a great deal of damage before a licence can be obtained, there is nothing to stop a landowner from going ahead and shooting them and then pleading, under Clause 4(2)(a), that the killing of those wild birds was necessary for the purpose of preventing serious damage to fruit. Therefore, I very much hope that this amendment will be resisted.

    I should like to support this amendment and particularly the one with regard to bullfinches. A flock of bullfinches can strip an orchard in a matter of hours. Normal bureaucracy will take not hours but several days to issue a licence, and many fruit farmers can quite easily be ruined by a flock of bullfinches.

    I should like to say a few words on behalf of the Canada geese. I would hate to see them classified as pests. I am afraid that I have much to answer for because Swinton was one of the places where they were introduced in this country and some time after the last war Sir Peter Scott came and netted—I suppose that that would be illegal now—a great many of Swinton's geese and introduced them to the Serpentine. Those original Swinton geese have multiplied in all the London parks, in the Thames Valley, in Sussex and goodness knows where and are now wreaking havoc on the land. So, if only very indirectly, perhaps I ought to take responsibility for them. Even though they come and eat my corn and the local farmers' corn, I still look upon them as a lovely bird. I love to see and to hear them. I should hate to think of them as being classified with rooks, grey squirrels and goodness knows what else as a pest.

    Before the noble replies, my noble friend Lord Kilbracken referred to Clause 4(2)(a) which makes it perfectly clear that the farmer who is harassed by a sudden arrival of bullfinches can perfectly well defend himself by doing whatever is necessary to keep them off his crop, whether with nets, with a gun or whatever and can obtain permission afterwards. I do not think that this is a strong enough case to make a pest of them.

    When the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, got up, I hoped that he was going to correct his figures for the population of the Canada goose, because I, like other noble Lords, found his figures somewhat surprising. I have lived in Scotland and my home is in Yorkshire and I think the Canada geese we have are probably cousins of my wife's noble cousin, Lord Swinton's geese. I wish the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, was here because he could tell you, as I can tell you, that in the Montrose basin, which is a great catchment area for all forms of geese and ducks, it is nothing unusual to see these lovely animals coming along, and I mean it, in tens and tens, and hundred and hundreds.

    They make the most lovely noise. I love them dearly, but I feel enormous sorrow for the farmer on whose field of young corn or even grass they descend, because if two or three hundred geese are not got at quickly, that field is a mess. Therefore, although I love them I have enormous sympathy with this particular amendment on this point.

    I did not actually make this estimate myself. There have been two made recently. One was in 1968 to 1972 by Mr. Sharrock, and that I quoted. I was so excited by my case that I did not look at the next paragraph which told me that according to Mr. Ogilvy in 1980, Wildfowl 28, he has managed to get it up to 19,000, which is a bit nearer what noble Lords think.

    There may well be a case for the Government considering the issue of blanket licences in areas where specific birds are a real pest. I wonder whether they could consider this?

    Clause 15 deals with licences, and I am sure we shall be coming on to that in due course. May I take the brent goose first. This is a fully protected species included in the threatened bird list of the Council of Europe (Bern Convention) on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. I shall come to more general points later but may I speak to the brent goose for the moment.

    After a dramatic fall in its numbers the species was added to the protected list in 1954, since when its numbers visiting Britain have increased from about 7,500 to about 10 times that total, out of a total world population of about 180,000. Traditional quarry species which have been given all year round protection because of declines in their population would normally be put back on the quarry list once and if the population had recovered. The Government, however, on the advice of the advisory committees and the NCC, which was confirmed at their meeting last week, consider that it would be premature to allow shooting until we are more confident that the population level will be maintained.

    The brent is a species subject to violent fluctuations in population, being vulnerable to cold winters, poor breeding seasons and shooting, which would in combination again devastate the population. There is an example in America in the early 1970s where the population declined by some 70 per cent. over two years because of just such a combination. There has this year been an almost total breeding failure and it is expected that there will be between a 15 per cent. and 20 per cent. decline in the population. As with other quarry species taken off the hunting list, we will continue to watch trends to see if reinstatement is justified.

    May I move on to the Canada goose. I should like to join in the general arguments about numbers. I was given a note after the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, spoke saying, "10,000 is actually 18,000 ". Then looking at an earlier brief I see that that included a figure of 20,500.

    It is obviously reaching that area. On the amendment on the Canada goose and the bullfinch, I should, first of all, explain the thinking behind the new list of species. Our intention is to comply with the EEC Birds Directive by strictly controlling derogation under Article 9 of the directive. Part II of Schedule 2 has been reduced to those species which constitute nationwide pests and are too widespread to be covered by licences. Here I shall try to deal with Lord Caithness' point about how many counties constitute a general licence. Listening to the speeches on this subject this evening, the Canada goose does not yet need a nationwide blanket.

    To deal with species which have been omitted from Schedule 2, Part II as drafted, and other species which can be pests in particular areas at particular times of the year or in particular circumstances, we would have an appropriate form of licence. If the licence cannot be got in time, as two noble Lords have reminded us, under Clause 4(2)(a) there is a provision to do things in an emergency. The bullfinch is on the current pest schedule because it can cause serious damage, et cetera. The advisory committee and the NCC and the agricultural departments all advise that it is not a nationwide pest, damage being restricted primarily to fruit buds in Southern England.

    In regard to the Canada goose, about which we have heard a lot, consideration was given to placing the species on the pest list but the advice from the advisory committee, the NCC and the agricultural departments was that the species only caused damage in particular areas and mainly to cereals. The species is listed in Schedule 2, Part I. It would not be justifiable to place either species on the pest list at the present time. That is our considered advice.

    We come to the greylag goose. Here again it is recognised that it does cause damage, sometimes serious, at a certain time in the year and in certain localities, but it is by no means a general, widespread nuisance. Again, it is a problem which can be dealt with by licensing. The species is only here in numbers in winter and is listed on Schedule 2, Part I for the open season. There is a small breeding population in parts of Scotland and this receives special protection. I hope my noble friends will realise that we have gone into this in some detail, and with the mood of the Committee will be prepared to withdraw the amendment.

    I understood the noble Earl to say that the bullfinch is on the current pest schedule. What schedule is that? It is not the one in the Bill.

    I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part. It was a much wider debate than I thought it was going to be when I put down the amendments. I got the assurance that I was seeking from the Government that general licences, or licences of a type, will be issued to deal with these birds when and if they become a problem. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    I think that this is probably a suitable moment to move on to the next business that will occupy the dinner hour. We do not know quite how long it will take; but if I tell the Committee now that we shall not come back to this particular Bill before 10 minutes past eight, may I beg to move that the House do now resume.

    Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

    House resumed.