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Wildlife And Countryside Bill Hl

Volume 416: debated on Monday 2 February 1981

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My Lords, in the name of my noble friend, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—( The Earl of Avon.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[THE LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clause 5 [ Prohibition of certain methods of killing or taking wild birds]:

2.56 p.m.

Page 6, line 38, at end insert—

("Provided that no such order adding any method of killing or taking any wild bird shall be made under this subsection unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that the order is necessary for the purpose of conservation.").

The noble Earl said: I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we discussed at the same time Amendment No. 182. It is not for me to suggest that Parliament's supreme authority to stop any form of sport, indeed any form of activity, should be impugned. The clause as drafted says:

"The Secretary of State may by order, either generally or in relation to any species of wild bird specified in the order, amend subsection (1) by adding any method of killing or taking wild birds or by omitting any such method which is mentioned in that subsection".

Later, power to amend the schedules is also given in the Bill. It follows that that would give a Secretary of State power to abolish or change any form of field sport or venery. I accept that Parliament has such a right, but at present it can be done only through a proper, full-dress Act of Parliament, and not by the back door. These fears are not totally groundless and I shall suggest two examples where Ministers did something they were either not supposed to have done or did not have the right to do.

My first example is the occasion when the late John Davies introduced his Industry Act 1971. It was enacted as a supportive measure for British industry. When the Conservative Government fell in 1974, what Mr. Weighell called,

"that silver spoon Socialist, the erstwhile second Viscount Stansgate",

moved into the Ministry of Industry and proceeded to use that Act in a way it was not intended to be used; it was used as an Act to further nationalisation, to enhance various powers and so on. It is not for me to blame the erstwhile second Viscount Stansgate for using for his own and his party's programme a measure enacted by his political opponents. In a way, that is part of the art of government or politics; if somebody hands you something on a plate you would be slightly dotty not to use it. I am suggesting however that this Bill as drafted would enable an anti-venery Secretary of State to ban venery.

My second example is the time when Mr. Peter Shore took away permission for Sir Freddie Laker to run his Skytrain. To the surprise of many people, Sir Freddie took Mr. Shore to court and won, and showed that the Minister did not have power to do what he wanted to do. This amendment together with Amendment No. 182 is designed to make it impossible for a Member of any party who feels so inclined to move for the abolition of field sports by the back door.

Before the noble Earl sits down will he interpret for me—it is my own ignorance—the word "venery"? I have not the slightest idea what it means.

The word "venery" has two meanings. I am using it in the meaning of hunting, shooting or fishing. Since we are all supposed to be brief in your Lordships' Chamber, I thought it better to use one word as opposed to three, five, or seven words. The other meaning of "venery" means having one's hand stretched out for grubby pound notes to be put into it. I am certainly not suggesting that grubby pound notes are the object of the Bill.

I think that I have made myself clear on this matter and that I have put the point to your Lordships' Committee. It is a very clear and important point, and I sincerely hope that my noble friend Lord Avon will bear it in mind when he replies. Even though we have not perhaps drafted the amendment altogether correctly, I hope that the proposal will be put in the Bill, so that venery is protected, and venery in another sense cannot be practised. I beg to move.

I rise for only a moment to support my noble friend Lord Onslow and to congratulate him on having made the journey here today, in the face of a certain amount of pain and illness. We should be grateful to him for having come here today; it would have been much easier for him to have remained in bed, as his nurse and doctor have ordered. My noble friend has made the case for the amendment absolutely, totally. As the provision stands it would be far too open, and I believe that the limitation that we are seeking to insert is moderate and sensible. I wish merely to second what my noble friend has already said.

I can see that some limitation along the lines that the noble Earl has suggested would be welcome to him and others who take his point of view. It would be a pity if we lost the very useful provisions in parts of the Bill because people were frightened about the degree to which they might be extended, no matter how desirable or indeed undesirable one thought such extensions to be. However the two mechanisms by which the noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, have chosen to try to meet the point seem to me themselves to give rise to problems, and I shall welcome hearing what the Government have to say on this. First, it seems to me that the proposal in Amendment No. 61 would rule out some of the provisions already in the Bill. The EEC directive clearly contains some methods of killing which are banned on grounds other than those of conservation. I think that it was clear from the first day of the Committee that a number of noble Lords shared views across the Chamber on a number of methods of killing things which they thought should be outlawed by the Bill for other than simply conservation reasons. Whether the reason might be that noble Lords did not like themselves or their families being shot at with air guns, or whether there were other reasons, there were other factors which we wished as a whole to take into account and which it seems to me the amendment would simply rule out. I think that the noble Earl was also speaking to Amendment No. 66—

I was wondering whether noble Lords were going to speak at the same time to Amendment No. 66, which it seemed to me had the same objective, though I might be wrong about that. I think I have said enough on Amendment No. 61, and I look forward to hearing what the noble Earl, Lord Avon, has to say.

I, too, desire to support the amendment and I think we should be quite clear in our minds that these are necessary words of limitation. I have a confession to make to the Committee. The other night, when we were last discussing the present clause, I was supporting the amendment of my noble friend Lord Swansea, who wanted repeater guns used in certain circumstances, and I suggested that when enormous flocks of pigeons were stripping a field of brussels sprouts, for example, it would be legitimate to use a repeater gun in order to reduce the numbers of pigeons. However, if the Secretary of State is to make an order making it legitimate for repeater guns to be used, the order should be confined to a particular purpose. The question of whether the elimination of excessive numbers of pigeons can be said to be necessary for conservation is very arguable indeed, but I submit that it would be utterly wrong for repeater guns to be used for any purpose except that of destroying pigeons or other pests. Therefore, when the Secretary of State is required to consider making an order under Clause 5(2), it would be as well for him to have regard in particular to conservation, and indeed the order should be limited to that, but there might be very rare exceptions when within the terms of the Bill he should have regard to some other purpose, such as the destruction of pests. At the moment the Bill has not made that clear either way. I think it right that my noble friend's amendment should be embodied in the Bill but that further consideration should be given to the question of the use of weapons for the destruction of pests.

Taking first the point of my noble friend Lord Renton, I would say that we shall come to the question of licences when we reach Clause 15. A great number of amendments have been put down regarding that, and I believe and hope that when I speak on Clause 15 I shall to a large degree be able to make my noble friend happy on that point.

Turning to the subject of the amendment of my noble friend Lord Onslow, supported by my noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton, I would say that the Government recognise the fears expressed this afternoon that some future Government might choose to use the power to make an order to amend the list of prohibited methods to prohibit the use of sporting firearms, which we have heard described by a word which is new to both the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and myself.

We should like carefully to consider the implications of the proposal made today, and we think, as the noble Lord, Lord Melchett mentioned, that the amendment as it stands would be too limiting. However, it should be possible to insert a restrictive provision which would be acceptable to all of us, and that we should like to do. In giving the assurance that we shall look sympathetically at the problem presented to us this afternoon, I hope that my noble friends will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

I am perfectly happy with that suggestion and I am delighted that my noble friend has taken the point on board. I wish to comment that I think the danger here is underlined, and I see that there is a later amendment to debar one of the approved methods by, I think it is said, "hound or hounds". I hope that that cannot be other than a rather good joke by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, in regard to abolishing fox-hunting rather quickly, late at night, with no one noticing, while all your Lordships are either asleep or in other parts of the building. I am delighted that my noble friend has seen the force of our arguments and I am equally delighted to beg leave to withdraw the amendment, considering that I am sure that, as it stands, the wording is not satisfactory.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.10 p.m.

The noble Lord said: My earlier amendment, Amendment No. 42, sought to delete Clause 4(1)( d), on page 5, which made it legal for an authorised person to take a wild goose or a wild duck for the purpose of ringing or marking it, or for examining any ring or mark on it. That amendment was quite sympathetically received by the noble Earl, who undertook to refer it to the advisory committee. This paragraph goes a little further, because it states that nothing shall make unlawful the use of a cage-trap or net for the same purpose of taking a wild duck or wild goose for ringing purposes, but this time it is not confined to authorised people; it makes it legal for anybody to use a cage-trap or net for those purposes. Therefore, I very much hope that the noble Earl will regard this amendment even more sympathetically, perhaps even to the extent of accepting it.

Since I have referred to the advisory committee, perhaps I might ask the noble Earl whether he can tell the Committee at this stage if he has already had discussions with the advisory committee, or how soon in the near future he expects to do so; whether this will be in time for the Government to put down any amendments upon which they decide as a result of such meetings; and whether he really will take seriously what the advisory committee recommend to the Government-in other words, an assurance that we on this side of the Committee are not being palmed off with statements that the advisory committee will be consulted. I beg to move.

I assure the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, that when I say we consult the advisory committee I mean exactly that. They are meeting as we are going through this very Committee stage and all the points that we took on board last week will have been discussed by them with our officials before we get to the next stage of this Bill. Therefore, quite honestly, I cannot say any more to the noble Lord on this particular amendment than I said when he moved Amendment No. 42. We are considering this, we will also consider what he said today with the advisory committee, and we will come back at the Report stage with more information. I hope that with those facts the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw this amendment.

I am very grateful to the noble Earl, and I will of course withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[ Amendment No. 62A not moved.]

moved Amendment No. 63:

Page 7, line 17, leave out ("subsection") and insert ("section").

The noble Lord said: I found the use of the word "subsection" difficult to understand. It is probably my fault, in that I cannot read the Bill properly; but I take it that the prohibition on the use of rocket-propelled nets and cannon nets, which does not seem to be in subsection (1), should also apply to subsection (1). If I am right, it would be much clearer if these few words applied to the whole of Clause 5, and not merely to subsection (4). I beg to move.

I disagree with my noble friend for much the same reasons as he has put forward, but let me try to explain. My noble friend's amendment seeks to apply the prohibition on the use of any net for birds in flight, or the use of any rocket-propelled or cannon net for taking birds on the ground, to the whole of Clause 5, and not, of course, merely to subsection (4). As a matter of drafting, it will not work to say in subsection (4) that nothing in the "section" shall make lawful the use of any net for taking birds in flight or of any rocket-propelled or cannon net for taking birds on the ground. The reason is that subsection (1)(b) prohibits the use of any net whatsoever for taking wild birds. It follows, therefore, that the amendment would be inconsistent with the express terms of subsection (1).

I might also point out that subsection (2) is a mere power to vary subsection (1), and subsection (3) is a defence which has no relation whatsoever to nets. So it really does apply to the subsection in which it appears. I hope that with that assurance my noble friend will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.

Before the noble Earl sits down, may I ask him whether I am right in thinking that the word "section" has no significance in this or any other Bill? If it has significance, is it simply a synonym for "clause", or has it some other meaning? Because if it is a synonym for "clause", I think it is a great pity to use it.

I think I agree with every word that the noble Lord has said. "Section" is a clause, and therefore we do not use it.

Could my noble friend tell me why people are not allowed to use rocket-propelled nets? I know this is slightly outside this amendment, but, in films, one has seen Peter Scott using them for perfectly good conservation reasons.

The noble Earl must be aware that we are going to discuss Clause 15, when all this kind of thing can be dealt with; and I hope that we shall not, every time anything is raised this afternoon, have to say that.

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

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.16 p.m.

Page 7, line 18, leave out ("of any rocket-propelled or cannon net")

Page 7,line 19, at end insert ("of any net which is projected or propelled otherwise than by hand").

The noble Earl said: My noble friend Lord Onslow was a little premature, because here we are going straight into rocket-propelled or cannon nets. With your Lordships' permission, I should like to take Amendment No. 64 with Amendment No. 65. These amendments would extend the prohibitions on the use of nets for the killing or taking of wild birds from rocket-propelled and cannon nets, which were specified in the 1954 Protection of Birds Act, to all nets projected or propelled otherwise than by hand. Nets currently specified were included because they are dangerous to both birds and humans, but there are also other types of mechanically-propelled nets which are dangerous, and it is likely that those so minded could devise different means of propulsion in addition to those specified in the Bill. The amended provision, by not specifying the types of net to be prohibited or its propulsion, should be more effective than would the prohibition as originally drafted. I beg to move.

From this side of the Committee we are happy to support these amendments.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Page 7, line 19, at end insert—

("(5) An order under this section shall not have effect unless or until approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: This is an amendment very like No. 61. It is asking the Government to agree that an order may not be made under this section without an Affirmative Resolution of both Houses. I will not say any more because it has already been said by my noble friend Lord Onslow in a different way, but we should like the Government to look at this, particularly in view of what my noble friend Lord Avon said last week at column 728. I beg to move.

I nearly got on to this when we were discussing Amendment No. 61. Again, we on this side of the Committee do not have any strong objection to the point which noble Lords opposite are getting at, but I must say that it seemed to me a little heavy-handed and I would myself have preferred the suggestion which the noble Earl, Lord Avon, made, that he should take away Amendment No. 61 and have a look at it to see whether we cannot find an acceptable form of wording. If that were possible, it would seem to me that this particular amendment would be unnecessary and that it would really be a little too restrictive for the purposes for which the clause is designed.

I think we are all going along the same route. I should like to concede to my noble friend that we now believe in the need for a Negative Resolution for all changes to orders, schedules and regulations, and what we should like to be able to do is to bring this forward as a Government amendment at Report stage. I hope that with that in mind my noble friend will feel able to withdraw this amendment.

I am grateful to my noble friend, and in view of that assurance—although he has not given us a whole cake he has certainly given us half of one—I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.20 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?

In page 6, line 26, why "tape recording"? There are different methods of recording sound and surely we are concerned with the whole principle. This is just a small drafting point, but is there any explanation for restricting recordings to tape recordings? Perhaps this is now accepted as a generic term for every kind of recording whether one is using tape recording or not. Can we be told what the explanation is?

As nobody seems to be coming forward to help me on this I must say that it is a very intriguing idea. I have managed to talk for long enough to get a note which says that the suggestion to insert this provision arises from part of a European Community directive. With that in mind, I hope the noble Lord will accept it.

On that point, I think it is worth while bearing in mind that there are large numbers of decoy sound devices, especially for ducks and geese, on the market. If we are going to say that it is wrong to ban sound decoying at all (which is what the implication of "tape recording" is), why not ban all sound decoying and not merely one present method even though it is in an EEC directive? Or has the directive got it wrong?

I should like the Minister to look at it again. I agree with my noble friend.

I shall be happy to look at it again. Clause 5 shows how the world moves on and the list of prohibited methods has increased greatly since 1954; so much so that we thought it prudent to allow for addition in the years ahead. I will take on board what the noble Lord has said.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [ Sale etc. of live or dead wild birds, eggs etc.]:

moved Amendment No. 67:

Page 7, line 26, after second ("egg") insert ("or part of an egg").

The noble Lord said: The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, has had a fall and gone to hospital. He will probably be here later. As the amendment was inspired by my normal inspiration, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, I thought it would be appropriate if I were to move it in his place. It is a technical point. Clause 6(1)( b) makes illegal the offering for sale or the possession for sale of eggs, including blown eggs, of any wild bird. This amendment is put down so that one cannot have a defence for selling or exchanging part of an egg. Noble Lords may think that this is a rare occurrence. I can say that there was an instance which gave rise to this amendment where a so-called scientist, whether a competent one or not I do not know, was buying birds' eggs, and often rare birds' eggs, in order to do experimental work on the yolks and the whites. This is a perfectly legitimate piece of research, but clearly it should be covered by permission under Clause 15 and should not be open for anyone to do. I think that although this is only a small point it is a real one and I should be happier if the noble Lord who is to reply would accept this amendment as something which adds to the strictness of the Bill for protecting birds from the human predators who collect their eggs in a way we are trying to control. I beg to move.

I am sure that the Committee will regret the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, has been unable to move this amendment. We hope that his rapid return from hospital to this Committee may be possible later on. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, for bringing the amendment forward. I must admit that we had not realised that the sale and exchange of parts of eggs other than blown eggs occurred. The amendment is defective if only in the sense that a consequential amendment will be required to Clause 6(4). The Government will seek to bring forward a suitable amendment or amendments on Report. I therefore invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

I am grateful to the noble Lord. With the leave of the Committee, I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

moved Amendment No. 68:

Page 7, line 30, at end insert (", invites offers").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 68 and to speak to Amendments Nos. 120, 194, 233 and 234, all of which cover the same point with the same wording. As the Bill stands, offering certain things for sale is an offence. However, the courts have interpreted this in a restricted way which derives (as I remember from the dim past when reading law at university) from the technicalities of the law of contract—the principles of which escaped me then and certainly would do so now. Under contract law, an offer of sale can be accepted and immediately upon acceptance a binding contract exists. Displaying goods is not an offer; otherwise customers in shops could insist upon buying anything on display, and that is not so. Displaying goods is described in legal terms as an invitation to treat. The customer says to the shopkeeper, "I should like to buy those goods", and the shopkeeper can accept if he wishes. Possession for sale is covered under Clause 6, but that does not cover advertising of goods that you do not have or even goods which the prosecution cannot prove (as they have to prove) that you had at the relevant time. Therefore, the amendment covers a pretty narrow point.

The amendment would prohibit, for example, advertisements from advertisers simply asking for orders for goods which the advertiser would then go and obtain. It is a fairly important point. There has been a case involving somebody who advertised in a fairly well-known journal and was found not guilty. The grounds on which he was found not guilty were that there was no offer for sale although he had advertised in that particular newspaper. It is something which happens. Although it is a narrow point, I hope that the Government will be able to accept this series of amendments.

The noble Lord has given a very interesting description of the circumstances in which the use of this amendment might be available. All that I can say at the moment is that we are not entirely convinced of the need to make this amendment. I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw it on the understanding that we will consider what action, if any, is needed to meet his points. Particularly in view of the examples that he gave, I think it deserves further study.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for that offer, and will certainly withdraw the amendment on that basis.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

moved Amendment No. 68A:

Page 7, line 33, after first ("bird") insert ("killed after the passing of this Act").

The noble Earl said: I beg to move this amendment which is concerned with drafting rather than with substance. There are certain ambiguities in this clause—if I may begin with a matter outside my amendment—beginning with the word "who" in line 2 of subsection (2). It is not clear whether it refers to the taxidermist or to "any person". I noticed it yesterday and therefore have not tabled an amendment about it. Perhaps my noble friend will look at this and consider whether an amendment is required at a later stage.

My actual amendment deals with one of the three offences identified by the clause. It is the second one, having "in his possession"—which may or may not mean having "in his possession" for the purposes of sale. The meaning is not clear, although it makes little difference when one analyses it because it says that it is an offence to have "in his possession" any wild bird other than those mentioned in the schedules. If I may take an example, an owl is not included in the schedules. A dead owl therefore is not included in the schedules. Therefore, it is illegal to have a dead owl in one's possession. There are stuffed owls all over the place in glass cases. In my own home there are a couple of them. I cannot believe that when this Bill becomes an Act my wife and I will be hauled off to the courts.

With respect, the clause says,

"for the purpose of sale".

With deference to the noble Lord, if he goes round to the antique shops and the junk shops he will find birds for sale-stuffed owls in cases-and these must have come from people who were keeping them or who had them in their possession with the idea that they would sell them sooner or later, otherwise they would not get into the shops.

This cannot really be intended by the Governent. If it is meant to be made illegal to have such birds in one's possession, it is not reasonable that the Bill should cover birds killed before the passing of the Bill into an Act. I am not sure that my amendment is the best way to make a change of this kind, but this is what I have suggested. We will then have a reference to any wild bird
"… killed after the passing of this Act".
That will come in in line 33. I hope this may be thought to be the case. I beg to move.

3.31 p.m.

In the supplementary list of amendments this is shown as under Clause 5, but it is in Clause 6. I think that should be noted. We are not entirely happy about this amendment. Of course the general point is sound; but this clause applies to eggs as well as birds and it is easy if somebody is dealing illegally in rare birds' eggs to say, "My grandfather had them", and you cannot prove it either way in the face of it.

In the ordinary course of events, if you could prove it in a court of law this would be an absolutely adequate defence and it need not be put in the Bill. On the other hand, unless you can prove it, a number of speculators and predators of this kind might slip through collections of eggs that they had made after the Act was passed, claiming that the eggs had been collected by somebody earlier. That could not be disproved. I am not happy about it. The general point is clearly right, whether this applies to a stuffed owl or a blown egg. I should like to know what the Government think. We are a little uneasy about this.

This amendment seeks to allow the sale of birds or parts or derivatives of such birds—and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, rightly referred to this—killed before the enactment of this Bill. The Government must oppose this as it would create a loophole for the unscrupulous by allowing them to claim without any corroboration that the bird was killed before the Bill became law. Provision has been made in Clause 6 to allow taxidermists to sell dead birds which they have set up and other birds which pass through their hands. They will be allowed to register with the Department of the Environment provided that they keep records to satisfy office inquiries that the birds being set up have been legally obtained and they have marked by an approved means those birds that have been sold.

Any person who sells dead birds can apply to register. However, we have recognised that some people only sell birds infrequently or on a one-off basis, such as the example which my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery gave. A person disposing of birds that have been in the family for some time was the example that he dealt with. Accordingly, a suitable licensing purpose has been included in Clause 15 to cater for these people. Provided they can show that birds are in bona fide collections, they will have no difficulty in obtaining a licence. I hope this reassures my noble friend and that he may feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Have the Government any idea how large this particular problem is? I know that at my home—and probably in the homes of many other noble Lords, as my noble friend Lord Cork has said—there are glass cases with stuffed birds in them collected by one's Victorian great-grandfather. If I want to sell one of those for some reason—I do not know how much they are worth or anything like that—will I have to get a licence as a general dealer, and will every Member of your Lordships' House have to do that? It seems there is a problem which my noble friend's reply does not appear to satisfy, although of course one sees the danger of driving a coach and horses through the Bill if it is amended as my noble friend Lord Cork wants.

Surely the answer to my noble friend Lord Onslow is that the position is very much affected by the invention of the deep-freeze which enables game to be kept for a very large number of months—indeed for a year or two if necessary. It is perfectly edible and almost as good as when eaten when killed fresh and hung for a few days. Unscrupulous people have a large vested interest in keeping large numbers of birds in deep-freezers, especially commercial freezers. Therefore, I have some sympathy on this occasion with what has been said by my noble friend on the Front Bench.

My noble friend Lord Onslow asked the Government whether they would quantify it. We are unable to do so. My noble friend has raised a real problem of whether in a one-off situation, as he described, it would be necessary to apply for a licence. I will look into that matter and advise him. Regarding the emergence of the deep-freeze into this situation, I can only advise my noble friend that game from a deep-freeze of the particular birds concerned is still not available for sale outside the season.

Could we be advised equally when the noble Earl receives his reply?

Many of us have several stuffed birds dating from the last century or a little longer which are in the old inventories of our houses. If we wish to offer them for sale, and we do it through one of the more reputable auctioneers, would we have to obtain a licence, or would the auctioneer obtain a licence, having satisfied himself that these birds did date genuinely from before the date of this Bill?

There is an element of heavy weather blowing up over this. I am not entirely certain—and I say this with respect—but I think it was started by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, with all this talk about eggs. This amendment has nothing to do with eggs. It is purely to do with any dead wild bird, not parts of the bird or the egg, blown or otherwise. It is simply to do with dead birds. Whether the bird is edible or otherwise has nothing to do with it, either. There seems to be an idea that many of these birds are going into the deep-freeze. I should be sorry to discover a stuffed owl in my deep-freeze. It is clear that the Government have in mind the matter of stuffed birds, otherwise they would not have included in the clause a reference to taxidermists. The business of a taxidermist is to stuff birds and to sell them. When this Bill becomes law taxidermists will have to sell to other taxidermists because nobody else will be legally allowed to buy the stuffed birds. I do not know whether it is intended that taxidermists should go round selling stuffed owls to each other; but I do not think life is like that. It is all very well to say that you could get a licence to sell one of these creatures, but it says in the Bill that you also must have a licence to buy it. It says that you are committing an offence if you have it in your possession. You must have a licence to buy a stuffed owl, or any other bird, and you must have a licence to sell it, as though it were a firearm. It is going too far altogether. I am really inclined to think that this is rather a good amendment, and I beg to move.

The noble Earl has made some very worthwhile and humorous comments, but I might advise him that anybody, and not just another taxidermist, may purchase or sell them.

On Question, amendment negatived.

It might be to the convenience of your Lordships to take the Statement now. I beg to move that the House be now resumed.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed