House again in Committee on Clause 19.
moved Amendment No. 333:
Page 18, line 27, leave out (" or plant ") and insert (" plant or other thing ").
The noble Lord said: This is an amendment to ensure that the device by which penalties may be applied separately in respect of each bird, nest egg, animal or plant also applies to any part or derivative thereof. I beg to move.
We shall be pleased to support this amendment.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 334:
Page 18, line 34, leave out (" shall ") and insert (" may ").
The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to substitute the word "may" for the word "shall" at the beginning of Clause 19(5)( a), thus making it discretionary rather than obligatory for the court to order any forfeiture of any bird, nest, et cetera, in respect of which the offence was committed.
This amendment has been made less necessary by the putting down of Amendment No. 335A, which would delete all the words from "committed" to the end of the paragraph. It was in those cases that I felt it was particularly desirable that the forfeiture should be nor more than discretionary, but I do invite the Committee to consider whether my proposal is still not preferable, in view of the fact that it orders the court to impose the forfeiture of any bird, egg, nest, et cetera in respect of which the offence was committed, and that can be any offence under this part. For example, if someone is before the court because he has disturbed a bird or disturbed the young of a bird, the court has to order the forfeiture of that bird—which of course is still flying about in the wild. I suggest it is not right that it should be obligatory and that it would be better to accept my amendment. I beg to move.
Under Section 12(3) of the Protection of Birds Act it is already mandatory for the court to seize the subject of the offence, and to accept the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, would merely give the court discretion on such a seizure, which would be a dilution of the penalty. It is important that offenders should have no opportunity of enjoying the fruits of their crimes, and accordingly I request your Lordships to reject this amendment and to continue to compel the court to seize the specimens.
I do not want to make too much of this, but I do not think we should be afraid of making changes which would improve the existing legislation. The point I made was that in cases one can foresee it would not be possible to order the forfeiture of the egg, animal or plant in question. Therefore, I thought it would still be preferable to make it discretionary, but, as I say, I do not want to make too much of it and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 335:
Page 18, line 35, leave out (" or plant ") and insert (" plant or other thing ").
The noble Lord said: This amendment is similar to Amendment No. 333. It seeks to extend the power of the court to order the forfeiture of any part or derivative of any bird, nest, egg, animal or plant in respect of which an offence has been committed. This is another way of approaching the problem, and I hope the Committee may feel it is a more satisfactory one. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 335A:
Page 18, line 36, leave out from (" committed ") to (" and ") in line 39.
The noble Lord said: As at present drafted, Clause 19(5)( a) in requiring the forfeiture of further specimens of illegally released or escaped species would act harshly if there was no likelihood of further specimens being so released or allowed to escape. The combined effect of these amendments is to make forfeiture in such cases a matter of the court's discretion.
I think your Lordships will appreciate that we are introducing here a degree of discretion in another aspect, and I think that is probably acceptable to the Committee. I beg to move.
May I just ask the noble Lord whether he is thinking entirely in terms of animals or whether plants would also be considered here?—because it seems to me that that is a slightly different category.
The subsection does say:
So both animals and plants are in this amendment. I hope that it is sufficient explanation. It does not specifically refer to derivatives of animals but this is perhaps not the point the noble Baroness wished to touch on." in the case of an offence under section 13, any animal or plant which is of the same kind as that in respect of which the offence was committed and was found in his possession; ".
No, not really. It seems to me that an animal and plant, or seed of a plant, are in rather different categories; so before giving my approval to this I should like to have a look at what the noble Lord has said and possibly come back at a later stage.
It seems to me it would be very difficult to order the forfeiture of all plants of the same species. It is a strange fact that it is not going to be legal to plant in the wild plants that do not grow in the wild, so if a landowner takes it into his head to plant some roses on woodland or outside his garden, that would be an offence, which seems very remarkable. If he is found guilty of this heinous crime of growing roses in the wild the court would have to order the forfeiture of all his roses which are growing in the garden. That seems to be quite impracticable.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, has raised a very interesting anomaly. I think this must have occurred to all those who read the Bill with some care, as the noble Lord undoubtedly has done. Certainly there are some extreme cases in which such a situation could arise and undoubtedly the position has certain complications to which perhaps noble Lords have already drawn attention.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 336:
Page 18, line 39, after (" possession ") insert—
(" ( ) may order the forfeiture of any part of, or anything derived from, any such thing such as is mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection; ").
As the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, is not in his place I wonder if I may speak to this amendment.
With the agreement of the Committee. If any Member of the Committee disagrees to it, I think we should put the Question.
My understanding, having taken advice, is that it is in order for any noble Lord to move an amendment which is on the Marshalled List, and I beg leave to move No. 336. This amendment actually came up at an earlier stage when we were discussing parts of eggs. The effect of subsection (5) of Clause 19 is to enable a court to order the forfeiture, besides other things, of any bird, nest, egg, or other animal or plant in respect of which an offence has been committed. This amendment extends the provision to parts and derivatives, such as the skins of birds or animals, and parts and extracts of plants which are sold from time to time. As I said, we had an amendment about parts of eggs at an earlier stage. This is not exactly the same point, but it is a similar kind of point. I hope that that is simply a useful clarification and that, in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, the Government will nevertheless accept the amendment. beg to move.
We are in a slightly more complicated position here. The Government's Amendment, No. 335, which was accepted by the Committee, has already ensured that a court shall confiscate parts and derivatives. The Government oppose this amendment, as it would not require the court to confiscate parts and derivatives. This is the current position and we would not wish to see it weakened. Convicted persons should not be allowed to enjoy the fruits of their crimes, as I have already suggested, and I feel, despite the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, that in its present shape this amendment is not acceptable.
I take it, from what the noble Lord said at the beginning of his remarks, that the words "or other thing" cover parts and derivatives of plants and animals—animal skins and so on. The noble Lord is nodding and that is what I understood him to say. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 337:
Page 18, line 40, after (" any ") insert (" vehicle, animal, weapon or other ").
The noble Lord said: I think it would be convenient to deal with Amendment No. 338 at the same time. This has to do with forfeitures under subsection (5)( b) on page 18, which reads that the court,
… may order the forfeiture of any thing which was used to commit the offence ".
The paragraph above that says that the court shall order the forfeiture of the fruits of the offence. Whether it be birds' eggs, a plant or an animal, the fruits of the offence must be forfeited. But the court may order the forfeiture of any thing which was used to commit the offence. That means that if, for example, a person has used a crossbow unlawfully to destroy a bird or animal which was protected under the Bill, then the court could order the forefeiture of the weapon used.
What, however, is not clear is whether a vehicle or a boat used for the purpose of committing the offence, could be forfeited under the term "any thing ". I am advised that consideration of similar statutory powers indicates that the generic term "thing" in that context could not be construed as including a vehicle or a boat. If the area of forfeiture is to be widened beyond that in the clause, then my advice is that it has to be explicitly mentioned in the clause,
This introduces also the second amendment; namely, whether a thing is used in the committing of the offence, or whether it helps in the committing of the offence. There are precedents for this. For example, let us suppose that a person drove in a motor vehicle to a remote part, where he understood there were birds nesting which were protected under the Bill and which he wanted to capture. He used a weapon for the purpose and, having got his prey, went back to the motor vehicle and drove back to town. As it is at present drafted, I understand that while he may be required to forfeit whatever weapon or thing he used to capture the birds, this clause would not allow the court to order him to surrender his vehicle; or, if he had been guilty of going on water for the purpose of marauding animals or birds, the boat would not be included either.
But in the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1972, the example that I have given is covered. It would be possible to require him to foreit his vehicle, as well as the weapon with which he captured or killed the fish or other thing which is forbidden under the law. This is really a lawyer's amendment, although it has practical value from the point of view of whether we are really going to go for these people good and hard, or whether they might escape with forfeiture of the minor implement that they were using for the purpose of their crime, and get away with the main instrument of carrying out their raid on some protected bird or animal.
I do not know what are the Government's intentions with regard to the extension of the forfeiture required under this clause, but it seems to me that it is not enough, in the kind of example that I have given, to allow a court to require a person to forfeit a gun, and not allow a court to require him to forfeit a Land Rover which got him there and back again and without which he could not have committed the crime at all. So this amendment extends the field of forfeitures and must also extend, as it were, the area of the offence; namely, to instruments used for the purpose of committing the offence and not be confined to instruments used in the committing of the offence. That is the effect of this amendment.
I hope that I have made clear what the purpose is and that the Government may have a view about it. I think we should extend the forfeitures to cover the kind of examples that I have given, which would carry with it the need to extend the words that are in the clause to include
… in or in connection with the commission of the offence ".
I beg to move.
It is also important to include the vehicle that is taking away the animal, or whatever it is that the offence is in respect of, after the commission of the offence. So it is not only arriving; it is taking away and making a get-away with the prey.
I am grateful to my noble friend. He is, of course, thinking of deer.
We already have it in the case of deer.
The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, draws our attention to a particularly interesting part of the drafting of this Bill. I think I can assure the noble Lord that the situation has been thought about by our parliamentary counsel and I can set his mind at rest. The amendment seeks to allow a court to confiscate any vehicle, animal, weapon or other thing. However, the Bill as drafted provides for this. The words "any thing" cover a vehicle, an animal, et cetera. I can assure the noble Lord that parliamentary counsel have drafted this clause in the Bill on the clear understanding that vehicles, animals and weapons should be covered. I hope this explanation will satisfy the noble Lord and that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
I am not entirely clear about this. My noble friend Lord Northfield quite rightly intervened. In one of the best drafted pieces of legislation which have been passed through Parliament recently; namely, the Deer Act 1980, in Section 5, where an exactly similar provision appears, this is spelled out in detail:
Parliamentary counsel were presumably involved in clearing the drafting of that Act and thought it necessary to spell all this out in detail. I cannot see why, a few months later, parliamentary counsel suddenly are convinced that "any thing" includes all these things without it being spelled out. I cannot see how "any thing" can include an animal. In normal usage, certainly it is not apparent. It seems to me that it would improve the drafting of the clause if my noble friend's amendment, or something like it, were accepted. I wonder whether the Government would look at this again in the light of the advice which parliamentary counsel gave so recently on another Act of Parliament." The court has the power to order the forfeiture of any vehicle, animal, weapon or other thing ".
I have listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, who rightly referred to Section 5 of the Deer Act 1980. I think that it would be only right once more to consider the situation in a little detail. I cannot advise the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, that the Government will bring forward their own amendment, if necessary. However, in the light of what has been said by all noble Lords concerned —the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, has been mentioned—we shall have a look at this provision. On that understanding, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
If the noble Lord is to take this back and look at everything, including the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, I should like him to consider whether or not animal" is or is not included at the moment. At the risk of sounding sentimental, I do not think that we should encourage the giving of powers for the confiscation of, say, people's dogs. I have no sympathy with poachers and the kind of people who prey on the rare species we are talking about in the Bill, but there are certain sentimentalities which are soundly based. Whatever solution is found, it should not include that one.
I resist that suggestion on the following grounds. Particularly in the case of deer we have now reached the stage where lurcher clogs are trained to do exactly this. I feel rather sore about it, because two days ago one of them attacked my own dogs. It is a particularly cruel way of killing deer. It is very clear that these or similar dogs can be trained to commit other offences which are dealt with in the Bill. When they become directly relevant to the commission of the act in that way, I should be strongly in favour of confiscation as one of the most important deterrents in the Bill.
I still stand by my remarks which were purely personal and have nothing to do with my party, which on this extremely important point has no policy on it.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, will probably recall that the Deer Act 1963 had to be extended by the Deer Act 1980 so as to provide for this very forfeiture. Although no distinction is made in the Deer Act 1980 between the weapon that kills and the vehicle which gets the offender there, the forfeiture of the means of getting there and back and carrying the quarry back was clearly provided for in the definition of forfeitures in the 1980 Act. The Badgers Act comes into it, too. There the forfeitures relate to the particular methods of taking the badger. They do not deal with the vehicle because the vehicle is probably not so necessary as in the case of deer, and probably is not necessary in the case of some of the crimes which might be committed under this Bill.I am satisfied that the Minister has a small legal problem to consider with parliamentary counsel in order to see whether it is watertight. It would be a pity if the first case taken to the courts to test the construction of the words of this section resulted in a decision by the courts that the vehicle or boat was not within the range of forfeiture. Then the assurance given by the noble Lord would not be so satisfactory as he hopes it will be. However, I leave it in his hands and in the meantime withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 338:
Page 18, line 41, leave out (" to commit ") and insert (" in or in connection with the commission of ").
The noble Lord said: In view of the fact that I have withdrawn Amendment No. 337, I do not move this amendment.
moved Amendment No. 339:
Page 18, line 41, at end insert (" including a vehicle which was used to carry the person committing the offence and which contains any bird, nest, egg, other animal or plant in respect of which the offence was committed ").
The noble Viscount said: Much that I wanted to say in speaking to this amendment has already been said. My amendment and two of the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, are in much the same vein. The point, which the noble Lord explained to us, is not so much to do with the vehicle in which the poacher commits the offence. It is to do with the vehicle which takes away the animals or the plants that he has illegally taken. As the Bill is drafted, a defendant could say that the vehicle was not used to commit the offence. Therefore, I do not think that you could forfeit the vehicle. This clause needs more enforcement powers. As I pointed out in the case of the original Deer Act, which was followed up extremely ably by the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, and as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, mentioned in the case of the Salmon Acts, you can forfeit the cars, the boats, the gear, the nets—everything that is used for poaching. When the Government come, as I understand they will, to redraft this part of Section 5, I hope that—
To put my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard on the right lines regarding the Government's thinking on this matter, we are going to examine the clause. I did not say that we were going to draft a new amendment. I said that we are going to have another look at it.
I was trying to put words into my noble friend's mouth. Perhaps I should not have done so. As the Bill is drafted, under paragraph (b) you
Surely a dog is not a thing?"may order the forfeiture of any thing which was used to commit the offence ".
I did not think that a thing was a live being. If you look at the Oxford dictionary, I do not think you will find that is the case, but perhaps I am wrong. I should think that might be altered, too. I beg to move.
I support this amendment because I think it would help very much if the Government would put something of this kind into the Bill. There are a variety of escape clauses for thieves if one does not absolutely write down what would happen. Anyone who was stealing an animal or a bird, or whatever it might be, and then got some help from someone taking him off in a motor car or a Land Rover who was not, as it were, involved in the actual theft, could probably get away with it. If we could bring in something of this kind, I think it would be an additional method of helping the police, or whoever was dealing with the offence, to catch the offender. I hope that the Government will take this quite seriously and will either incorporate this amendment in the Bill, or one of the suggestions made by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby.
I hope the Minister will take this clause away and look at it not only in the light of the debate on this amendment but in the light of previous debates on other amendments, as well. When the Minister does so, I would ask him to consider this proposal very carefully. What I understand the noble Lord to be suggesting is that it would be necessary not only for the prosecution to establish that the vehicle had been used in the course of the commission of the offence but also that the vehicle, at some time which was not specified, contained any of the objects in respect of which the offence was committed. I think this would make the job of the police more difficult in securing a conviction where the vehicle had undoubtedly been used in the commission of the offence, in the sense that it was used to take the people to the scene of the crime, but when the police apprehended the criminals they did not find any of the objects in question within the vehicle. So, with respect, I think the noble Lord has not drawn the clause tightly enough, and I would prefer to see one of the earlier amendments incorporated when the noble Lord considers the whole clause.
I agree with what has just been said. I admire parliamentary draftsmen enormously —I think they are marvellous—but, in this case, I think that the wording of the Bill here is a little too tight for all that could be read into it.
I do not want to repeat the words that I said on the previous amendment. I feel sure that there is ample justification for having another look at it. I do not think that on consideration, looking at the penalties clause, the Government have underestimated the seriousness of the offence—or indeed offences, because sometimes it may be a group of offences. I hope that the noble Viscount will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
In view of what the Minister has said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment 338ZA:
Page 18, line 41, at end insert (" and, in the case of an offence under section 13, any animal or plant which is of the same kind as that in respect of which the offence was committed and was found in his possession.").
The noble Lord said: This amendment is consequential. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 339A:
Page 18, line 45, at end insert—
(" (7) Where an offence under this Part which has been committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of, a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate, or any person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, he, as well as the body corporate, shall be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.
In this subsection "director", in relation to a body corporate established by or under any enactment for the purpose of carrying on under public ownership any industry or part of an industry or undertaking, being a body corporate whose affairs are managed by its members, means a member of that body corporate.").
The noble Lord said: This amendment has a fairly simple purpose. It would make directors liable for the activities of their company if they knew, or ought to have known, of them. The reason for putting this into this clause is that companies, of course, can only be fined, although we have already agreed that imprisonment probably would not be a suitable penalty for many of the offences under this Bill. But companies, even if heavily fined, can go into liquidation and avoid that liability. And it seemed useful that, in the very limited circumstances where directors either knew that the company was breaking the law and therefore were directly liable for it or where they ought to have known and had a duty of care which they did not fulfil, they again ought to be liable. I hope the noble Lord will accept this amendment. I beg to move.
Would not the person concerned be prosecuted and not the company—in other words the person who committed the offence?
If this amendment were put into the Bill, there would not be any question about it. I simply do not know. But if the offence was committed in the name of the company by the company's servants in some way, then I suppose it might not be possible without this amendment—unless the Government can convince me that it would be possible—to prosecute the individual concerned.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, for proposing this amendment, which would clarify the question of liability of an individual when an offence had been committed by a corporate body. I note that the wording suggested in the amendment is as it appears in Section 8 of the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 1976. Once again the noble Lord has lighted upon a particular section in an existing statute, and it reinforces the waterproof nature of the amendment.We think that there may be a need for such a provision in the Wildlife and Countryside Bill, but we are not convinced that it should be in Part I. Therefore, I undertake to take away this proposal and give it full consideration, with a view to there being a Government amendment that it be proposed for that Part of the Bill where we feel it would be most relevant. Accordingly, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment on that understanding.
Before the noble Lord withdraws this amendment, may I ask one question? This amendment speaks about offences having been committed by a body corporate and then goes on to associate the managers or directors of that body corporate with the offence. I can understand very clearly what the noble Lord is trying to do; if a servant of the body corporate has actually committed the offence, but if it is on the instructions of the directors, then they should not escape punishment. But I wonder whether the noble Lord had confined his attention to companies that are incorporated under the Companies Act and whether there are not other kinds of bodies in which the responsibility might be similarly apportioned between the managers or the proprietors, on the one hand, and the servants, on the other.It might easily happen that the partners in a partnership might give instructions to someone to commit an offence under this Bill and that they equally ought to be held guilty. It is more likely, for example, in the case of an agricultural enterprise that the persons who gave those instructions would have been members of a partnership rather than a limited company, because I think it is more usual for agricultural businesses to be conducted in that way. So when the Minister comes to look at the possibility of incorporating the spirit of this amendment in another part of this Bill, I hope he will consider extending the kinds of bodies to which it applies.
The point I had in mind in restricting this to companies was that companies could escape liability by going into liquidation, which of course would not be the case with a partnership. The partners would be individually liable for the activities of the partnership. As the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, has already pointed out, the other advantage of this amendment is that it is already in an Act of Parliament. Therefore, it is properly drafted and I would think that it would be acceptable to most people. I think it covers the main points which need to be covered. We have the question of the liability of landowners for the activities of their servants, in regard to which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, moved an earlier amendment. I think that really covers the other major point that needs covering. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, for his commitment to propose a Government amendment in the right place in the Bill. I am delighted we have scored another winner today. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On Question, Whether Clause 19, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?
I should like to ask the Minister a question in relation to Clause 19. We are left now in the most extraordinary situation after the Government defeat on Amendment No. 332. We now have the statutory maximum fine for the protection of certain wild animals and for the protection of wild plants, whereas for the protection of wild birds—that includes the peregrine, which was mentioned constantly—we have the maximum of £500. Therefore, I should like to ask the Government what their intention will be about this.
I have one other question to ask on the clause. I did raise it on the Question That Clause 13 stand part. That is the question of whether imprisonment is the correct punishment for offences here. Under Clauses 1 to 8 it is three months' imprisonment; under Clause 13 it is up to two years. I fully supported the amendment to increase the fines; I have no objection at all to that. But I am not at all happy that imprisonment is the right thing to do here. It fills our gaols, and I see no purpose in it whatever. I would hope that my noble friend will take this away, and if he cannot give me an answer now perhaps he can give me an answer later.
We have said this before, but I do think it is worth reiterating. As your Lordships' Committee has passed an amendment to increase the financial penalties, it is important that it comes from all sides of the House that we do not think imprisonment is a suitable penalty for offences under an Act of this sort. I hope the Government, now that they have the increaesd fines which they did not want, will look at the possibility of dropping some of the clauses which allow people to be sentenced to imprisonment.
I should like to support the noble Lords who have just spoken on this Question, particularly on the penalty of imprisonment up to two years for conviction on indictment of an offence under Clause 13. I think it is totally inappropriate, for reasons which I shall not argue any further. My noble friend is probably aware that I shall be dealing with this in an amendment on a later clause. Meanwhile, like other noble Lords who have spoken, I think it would be extremely helpful if my noble friend could say a word about this.
I should like to support what has been said about this.
I should like to support what has been said about this, but there is just one point. If somebody persistently goes on offending under Schedule I in relation to birds, should we be totally throwing away imprisonment for persistent offenders? That is all I ask. Otherwise I am totally in agreement with my noble friend.
I would not like to pre-empt what the Minister will say, but I think it is unusual not to have in an Act of Parliament the linking of the fine with the imprisonment, the and/or phrase. I think it would be breaking new ground. I am not arguing whether it is right or wrong, but simply saying that it would be unusual to have a statutory offence which had only the fine as the penalty.
May I simply say that I think it is desirable to keep imprisonment? You never know what people will get up to. There could be quite serious offences for which the financial penalty by itself would not be appropriate. There might be very cruel offences.
Surely if any cruelty to animals is involved proceedings can be taken against the offender under other Acts where there may well be imprisonment. Under the Cruelty to Animals Act, no doubt, it is possible to send someone to prison for gross cruelty to animals. As to whether this is the right place to put the penalty of imprisonment, I must say I agree with my noble kinsman Lord Stanley of Alderley in doubting it. I think the serious crimes with which we are dealing here are properly punishable with very heavy fines, and the Minister has been given the power to impose very much greater fines than were in the Bill as originally drafted. To put on top of this the possibility of the courts sending somebody to prison for up to two years is really excessive. I must say to the noble Baroness that there are many offences on the statute book which are punishable only by fines and which do not have imprisonment as an alternative. I should have thought that the offences we are dealing with here should be in that category.
I do not want to take issue with the noble Lord, but I do not know of an indictable offence that does not carry imprisonment and/or a fine.
Before we get too involved, there seem to be two issues here; first, what we passed earlier, and, secondly, the question of imprisonment. Of course, we have not had time—as I, too, grabbed a sandwich in the interval—to discuss the consequences of the amendment in increasing the fine from £500 to £1,000 which the Committee has passed. It will be for the Government to move the necessary amendments to go with it or try to make other arrangements, and the House will know later which way we are going to go. On the question of imprisonment, which noble Lords behind me particularly raised, we are looking at this. It was raised with me earlier. The two departments concerned are looking at the question of imprisonment. I hope to be able to come back to noble Lords with this decision when we reach that stage, which I think will probably be on Thursday.
Does that mean that the noble Earl will take the opportunity of letting us know what the decision of the departments has been?
If the decision is made by then, I certainly shall, but it is a very complicated question which the two legal departments are in discussion about.
If we do not get an answer by Thursday, perhaps the noble Earl will write to us so that we shall know whether or not to put down amendments at Report stage.
I am sure we shall know by the end of the Bill. I said Thursday because I am not sure where the next amendment about imprisonment comes in. I think it is on Clause 26.
Clause 19, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 20 [ Power to vary Schedules):
[ Amendments: Nos. 340 to 344 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 345:
Page 19 line 43 leave out subsection (7).
The noble Lord said: I said on an earlier amendment that I admired the parliamentary draftsmen. This is a very well drafted Bill. But I cannot extend my admiration to subsection (7). I simply put this amendment down to get the Minister to say that he will ask the parliamentary draftsmen to have a look at it and make it easier to understand. If he can do that, I shall have pleasure in withdrawing the amendment. I beg to move.
I wonder whether I may ask the Minister a question about this. I was not at all clear either. It appears to me that, if this subsection were taken out, it would annul any alteration to a schedule which was made by order of the Secretary of State after the Bill had been enacted, so that if a plant were suddenly in danger of extinction, or indeed a bird or animal, and was therefore added to the schedule, the Secretary of State could not make a special order relating to its protection in a special area because it would not be, so to speak, a foundation member of the schedule. That was my interpretation. Therefore, one would not wish to have the subsection removed. But I do think it is extremely difficult to understand and perhaps could be better drafted. We should like an explanation of what it means.
When redrafting, can I hope that it will be made zoologically literate by admitting that birds and mammals are included in "animals"?
I do not think we have said that we shall redraft it. The purpose of subsection (7) is to ensure that the provisions of the schedules apply in their amended form. That is all it does. If the noble Lord wants some simplification in it I must say that we shall, of course, have a look at it although I think that we are looking at so much at present that I cannot guarantee to come back with anything more favourable.
I now understand what subsection (7) means. I did not understand it before. That having been said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On Question, Whether Clause 20 shall stand part of the Bill?
I should like to ask one question about Clause 20 which gives the power to vary the schedules. A protected species can suddenly become endangered by some unexpected happening. I want to know how quickly something can be added to, or indeed taken away from, a schedule.
The noble Baroness has slightly bowled me out on that one. I think I shall have to write to her about it.
I apologise; I should have given notice.
1 think that it is done by order, but f would like to come back to it.
Clause 20 agreed to.
Clause 21 [ Advisory bodies and their functions]:
moved Amendment No. 345A:
Page 20 line 5, after (" State ") insert (" and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food ").
The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 345A, which stands in my name and that of my two noble friends. I should also like to speak to Amendments Nos. 346A, 346B, 346C, 346D, and 347A and 347B. We have now come to Clause 21 of the Bill which provides power for the Secretary of State to establish bodies to advise him on the carrying out of all that we have been discussing in Part I. As that is very largely the concern of both the Minister of Agriculture in England and the Secretary of State for Scotland in Scotland, I am moving the amendment because we would like to be quite sure that there is a statutory obligation on the Secretary of State to consult with the two Ministries when he is appointing, as he will be, the committees which this clause deals with.
The advisory committees which he is to appoint have obvious connections with agriculture. They have a dual responsibility both to the Ministry of Agriculture and to the Scottish Office—to the Secretary of State for Scotland. All that we have been discussing in connection with birds, animals and so on, has repercussions on agriculture: production and growing of crops and so on. It is most important that these advisory committees should include representatives from the two important Ministries that I have mentioned.
I have the feeling that possibly the Government may say, "Well, of course, the Ministers will be consulted. The Secretary of State could not appoint advisory committees that did not have representatives from these two departments ". But I do not think that that is enough. It is important that there should he a statutory obligation that on these advisory committees there should be direct representation of these two departments: in England, the Ministry of Agriculture, and in Scotland,the Secretary of State. I beg to move.
I think that in point of fact we have given this matter quite a good airing today. I believe that all the arrangements envisaged by these amendments already exist and will continue to do so. We have already said that both the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State are working together on all these matters with the help of the NCC. This amendment causes a slightly unhappy result in terms of drafting, because while the term "Secretary of State" is not limited to enable the Secretary of State for the Environment specifically to act, the reference to the Minister of Agriculture, which it would be coupled with, would be limited to that Minister alone.As I said when speaking to earlier amendments, the advisory body is now to be the NCC and the Department of the Environment will consult with them and all departments including MAFF who have an interest. I do not know whether that satisfies my noble friend.
I thank my noble friend for that reply. However to me the idea that they will be consulted without writing it into the Bill means that it is something which can be avoided. I think that it would he better if, when considering these matters, the noble Lord looked at it again to see whether or not it could not be a statutory obligation on the Secretary of State for the Environment to have representatives from those two departments, and I particularly press the Scottish representative for Scotland.
It occurs to me that those who have, as I do, the interests of agriculture at heart are trying to have their cake and eat it. We have already had the MAFF issuing licences; endless exclusions both in emergency and under licence for agricultural operations, and no obligation to consult the NCC in all this. Now there must be an obligation written in to consult MAFF or DAS. I wonder whether this is not pushing it a bit too far. For example, I would be interested to know from the noble Baroness how many agricultural Acts of Parliament and Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Acts have requirements written into them that the NCC, the wildlife bodies and those interested in the conservation of wildlife should be consulted before grants arc given, before things are set out; that they will all be represented on every advisory body that the Ministry of Agriculture sets up for whatever purpose. If we are going to be fair and everybody is to be represented on everybody else's committees, then let us have it both ways. But if that is not to be the case, then I would suggest with the Government that this is left as it is.
I could tell the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, that on quite a few occasions the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State act jointly, not only in this Bill but in the Local Government Bill as well. Here under Clause 15 they act jointly and it seems to me that perhaps it would be more logical that if they act jointly in Clause 15 they should act jointly to appoint those bodies who are going to advise them. It is not a vitally important point, but there is a definite precedent for it and I think for them to be seen to be consulting with the Minister of Agriculture may help a little. There is certainly a precedent for it.
My question was whether there are agricultural Acts where the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Minister of Agriculture act jointly to appoint advisers to agricultural advisory bodies. The noble Lord is saying that in a Wildlife Bill there should be that provision the other way round. I am simply asking for a bit of equity.
I think that the noble Lord has misled the Committee unintentionally again when he referred to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food not having to take the advice of the NCC. In fact, it clearly states in Clause 15(9)—he was referring to licences at the time—that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State shall from time to time consult. So that point must now be cleared up to the Committee's satisfaction.
I hope that the Government will think about this. I have no idea how many of the various societies to which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, referred are on statutory bodies. My point was really that as regards anything of this kind which affects agriculture the Ministers concerned should be consulted. There are a lot of things about which they do not need to be consulted, but on these particular matters, they do need to be consulted. Although I shall not press the amendment, I hope that the Government will think about the matter as something which, so to speak, completes the picture in a fairer manner.
Before my noble friend withdraws the amendment, I think that we have had evidence of land use anyway, because the Department of the Environment on some issues, especially road building—I know that this is a bit of a red herring—has been slightly lax in consulting the Ministry of Agriculture. I am sure that with the assurance which my noble friend has given, and bearing that small point in mind, there will be normal and reasonable consultation.
I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendments Nos. 346 to 346D not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 346E:
Page 20, line 21, after (" it ") insert (" and on any question on which it considers it should offer its advice ").
The noble Baroness said: This is a very simple amendment to which I hope the Government will agree. It makes this advisory business a two-way affair. It need not necessarily be the Secretary of State just summoning the advisory body, but when the advisory body feels like it, it can approach him with suggestions, and so on. I do not think that I need say any more. It is a very straightforward amendment. and it seems to me to be very sensible.
I should like to support the amendment. It is a very important point. If the advisory body thinks that something ought to be said to the Secretary of State, it ought to have statutory power to do so. Any one of us who knows about advisory bodies knows that they will be hampered unless they have this power. I very much support this amendment.
This amendment would enable an advisory body not only to give advice on any question pertaining to the protection of birds upon which its opinion had been sought, but also upon any such matter upon which it may feel it should profer advice. Although there is a provision similar to this in the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 1976 which when I quoted it to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, he said was not a good thing—but slightly more recently, when it became more profitable to him, he rather enjoyed it more—there has not been one in a Protection of Birds Act.However, I doubt whether this has ever stopped the advisory committees on the protection of birds from giving the advice that they thought should be given and whether the advisory bodies, which will operate under the Bill when enacted, will be so prevented. There will always be some means of the advisory body injecting the advice requested of it. However, there may well be some value in this being written into the Bill and so, if the Government may, we will take it away and arrange for a Government amendment at a later stage.
That is marvellous. Perhaps I could put the record straight. The Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act was a marvellous Act, but from time to time its implementation by the Department of the Environment has not been all that we had hoped. However, I am sure that it is improving all the time, particularly with the noble Earl, Lord Avon, there to look after our interests.
I am grateful for that response. I think it is a pity that it could not be accepted right away, but we will take the next best thing. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 347:
Page 20, line 25, leave out subsection (5) and insert—
(" (5) An advisory body established under subsection (i)(a) shall publish reports relating to the performance by it of its duty under subsection (4).").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 347. This would leave out subsection (5) and redraft it, simply in order to establish that an advisory body should publish reports relating to the performance of its duties under subsection (4); in other words, it should publish a report of the advice that it has given the Secretary of State on any question which the Secretary of State has referred to the advisory body. I hope that everyone will see the advantage of these advisory bodies producing some published reports which all of us can see so that we know what advice they have given, and what use is being made of them by the Secretary of State, the Ministry of Agriculture or whoever it might happen to be, and that it should not be a matter of discretion whether people publish information but—and I hope that this is now accepted both by my party and the party opposite, although neither of us has done much about it so far—that we can encourage open government and put a duty on people to produce reports so that we all know what they are up to. I beg to move.
I should very much like to support the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, on this particular issue. It seems to me that on the whole British Governments are obsessed with secrecy and with not allowing things to be published. The temptation to murmur "confidentiality" et cetera on this will overtake some civil servant as night follows day and he will advise his Minister accordingly. Whether the greater blue winged bustard, or whatever it may be, is actually protected or what advice he is given on its protection cannot be anything other than satisfactorily be kept in the open . After all, there is nothing secret about it and I would strongly recommend my noble friend to accept this amendment.
I should also like to support this amendment. I was thinking that there may be a matter of expense, but the report could be very short and still be informative. Unless we have reports of this sort, those of us in the conservation world —I nearly said industry—will find it much more difficult to do our work.
Although I cannot go along with my noble friends, when I have completed my reply I think that they will realise that this is not necessary. The responsibility for advisory bodies rests with the department, including the publishing of any report prepared by these bodies. But Government would not wish to accept that the Executive's hands should be tied over what is required to be published, which would be the effect of the amendment.However, we have a duty to report annually to the European Commission, and that report will be published. Furthermore, the Nature Conservancy Council, which, as I announced in opening the Second Reading debate, the Government intend shall take over the duties of the Advisory Committee on the Protection of Birds and the Scientific Authority for Animals, is statutorily required to publish an annual report. Therefore, I think that we cover all the situations which are likely to occur, and with that clarification I hope that the noble Lord may be prepared to withdraw his amendment.
Parts of that reply seem extremely satisfactory with regard to the number of reports which will be published. But I should like to ask why the Secretary of State's hands should not be tied in order to publish something. The noble Earl did not produce a single reason why this should not happen. It seems to me to be a very good idea. However, I suppose that it is not all that germane, as the other alternative arrangements are satisfactory. It is exactly typical of what the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, was saying; Governments saying, "We must not have our hands tied by having to publish material for the benefit of the public ". It is an instinctive reaction, and it is to be deprecated.
As I understood it my noble friend on the Front Bench said, "That is all right. They don't have to publish the report because the information will be given elsewhere, or in some other way ". If that were so then surely it should have been made, "publish or cause to be published ", rather than they themselves publishing. I still was not very satisfied by the noble Earl's reply.
I had exactly the same worry as the noble Lord, Lord Craigton. These advisory bodies are now going to be set up and serviced by the NCC. The Nature Conservancy Council produces an excellent annual report as the noble Earl, Lord Avon, said, but it is already fairly lengthy and has I do not know how many endless appendices at the back, with a lot of technical and detailed stuff in them. I cannot see how they can possibly include it in that, unless it is going to be a great deal lengthier and more costly to produce detailed reports of all these advisory bodies' activities and the advice that they have given. The NCC's annual report, well produced, a glossy report with a colour cover and high quality paper seems totally the wrong vehicle for it. The sort of thing one would imagine these advisory committees producing would be a typewritten document which would simply be duplicated for those who are particularly interested, and would contain details of the questions that have been referred to them and the advice they have given on those questions. We are talking about a totally different vehicle. I hope that the noble Earl may look at that point again.The earlier part of his assurance that the report that the Government have to make to the EEC will be published was very welcome indeed, and I am grateful for that, although I suspect that if the Government had not published it the EEC would, but I do not want to be so churlish as to make any such suggestion. I hope that the noble Earl will look at this question of the advisory committees again, because I cannot believe that the NCC's annual report is the right place for them to have their activities reported on.
Paragraph (a) of this Clause says, "may establish any body or bodies …". It seems to me that the amount of bodies that can be established is so wide and so varied that they can go down to advising on some very limited and fairly local aspects. Under those circumstances I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, that their reports should not just be tagged on and make the NCC's report that much bigger.
I rather suspect that we may not have thought through how what may become the two sub-societies will report. I think we can take on board what the noble Lord has said and see to it, but I do not honestly think it need be written into this Bill in this way.
What the noble Earl said a few moments ago about tying the hands of the Executive because an advisory committee is commissioned to make its report public is going, around Ministers somewhat like a password. We heard this also in connection with the Protection of Laboratory Animals Bill. Since when have Ministers been afraid of advice, and since when need they be afraid of the publication of the advice they get? We ate supposed to be in favour of more open government, but really and truly what Ministers seem to want is not open government but open and shut government.I hope that we arc not going to hear this legend throughout all our proceedings when we suggest an advisory committee. Advisory committees are good things to have. They help Ministers make up their minds, although on the whole it is not advice that Ministers need so much as willpower. If you ask a civil servant what he wants from a Minister, he says "decisions". That suggests that they have great difficulty in getting them from Ministers at times. I do not want to delay the Committee, but it rang a bell when I heard those words, having heard them before more than once in connection with the Protection of Laboratory Animals Bill, and I have no doubt that we are going to hear them further. I have not mentioned the word "quango" yet, but I do not think we shall want to prejudice the proceedings by introducing that.
They are protected under Schedule 1.
I do not think we ought to spend too long on this because the hour is getting late and all of us want to make progress. I do not think anybody is entirely happy with what the noble Earl has said, except possibly the officials who wrote the brief for him, and I hope they will have been shamed into changing their advice before we reach the next stage of the Bill. There is not very much in this, but there is a point that does require further attention. If the noble Earl cannot address his mind to it between now and Report stage, we shall try to put down an amendment which meets the point, but I hope that the Government may be able to give us some further assurance which will make that unnecessary. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendments Nos. 347A, 347AA and 347B not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 348:
Page 20, line 30, at end insert (", including a person or persons appearing to the Secretary of State to be representative of voluntary organisations interested in wildlife conservation.").
The noble Lord said: This raises another quite small point. I hope it could be made clear in the Bill that the voluntary organisations interested in wildlife conservation will be consulted before a person is appointed to an advisory body established under subsection (1)( a). As noble Lords will know, some concern has been expressed at the thought of the NCC taking over the role of setting up these advisory bodies. We have had certain assurances, but I suggest it would go a long way towards reassuring the voluntary movement—even if there were a change of heart on the part of those at present in the NCC, and I am sure we have every confidence in them—if the Bill made it clear that the voluntary movement would be consulted as well as the NCC having a role to play. After all, at the moment to some extent the advisory committees are seen as holding a slightly central position between on the one hand the Government's statutory advisers, the NCC, and on the other the voluntary conservation movement with the millions of people throughout the country who are members of those organisations and whom they represent. That will no longer be the case because the advisory bodies will come under the NCC. I suggest, therefore, that the reassurance I seek would be useful to have in the Bill. I am sure it is already catered for but that does not remove the importance of including it in the Bill.
One of the features of the advisory bodies, which have been so valuable in making the working of the Protection of Birds Acts as effective as they have been, is the range of experience and interest of their members; conservationists, protectionists, farmers, aviculturists and many other groups of people concerned with and affected by birds, have known that the Advisory Committees on the Protection of Birds look at matters not with a sectional or limited view but to achieve a right balance between the many competing and proper concerns in our community.We feel it would be quite wrong to select for express mention only the voluntary organisations interested in wildlife preservation. At the same time, it does not seem necessary to include a long list of bodies whose claim to be consulted is already recognised. Any attempt at an exhaustive list would of course prejudice the position of relevant bodies who do not yet exist but who may come into being in the future. While, therefore, we are in sympathy with, and intend to carry out the meaning of the amendment, we should prefer it not to be pressed.
That sounded like an explicit assurance. I should like to see it in black and white in Hansard before expressing my gratitude to the noble Earl too fulsomely, but I think he has met the point I wished to make and for the time being I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On Question, Whether Clause 21 shall stand part of the Bill?
I wish to express a small measure of disquiet in so far as this clause is expressly concerned with birds. I recognise, first, that the Bill re-enacts the Protection of Birds Acts and, secondly, that there is a European Community directive on wild birds, but I have previously sought assurance, in particularly when we were discussing Clause 15, that the conditions of licensing exceptions to Clause 9 animals, those coming under Schedule 5, should be treated with the same consideration as those relating to birds.My noble friend Lord Avon mentioned that under the European Community's birds directive there is a requirement for an annual report. I note that under the Berne Convention, which can be taken as the only international document which supports conservation activities for animals other than birds, the report is requested once every two years and not once a year, so there is an anomaly here. There has been good mention of the Wild Birds Advisory Committee and of its satisfactory functioning and brief mention has been made of the Scientific Authority for Animals, but I am not at all clear whether that authority will be an advisory body under the same terms for animals other than birds. I would remind the Committee that animals other than birds far exceed birds in number and that some of the conservation problems which they face are in many cases as yet unknown to us and are therefore uncharted. I would therefore seek a certain degree of assurance from my noble friend the Minister on this point.
Although it is a much more minor point, I should like to know whether subsection (6) means anything at all. Presumably, even if it were not included in the Bill, the Secretary of State would be able to "consult such persons or bodies" as be thought fit. With that subsection included in the Bill, as I see it, he need not consult any persons or bodies if he does not see fit. Has the subsection any purpose whatever?
I should like to read what my noble friend Lord Cranbrook said, since I am not absolutely certain that what I am going to say covers his point entirely. The Nature Conservancy Council will be the overall body—I hesitate to say, "mother body"—which will be looking after the Scientific Authority for Animals, and to that extent anything which applies in Clause 21 would of course apply equally to the Scientific Authority for Animals through the NCC. If that is not entirely what my noble friend was getting at, I shall read his speech and let him know. Clause 21(6) is concerned with appointing a member to the advisory body. It allows the Secretary of State to consult whom he wishes in order to find someone actually to sit on the body.
He can do that, anyway.
Now he can do it twice.
That question is not quite as important as the point that the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, raised. I should be interested to hear what the noble Earl on the Government Front Bench has to say to his noble friend after he has read his noble friend's speech. It would be very helpful for us to know whether we are talking about simply the question of the Scientific Authority for Animals being reconstituted by the NCC, or whether there are to be dramatic changes in membership involving the range of people on the body. I do not expect an answer at the moment, but I think that that was at least part of what the noble Earl was getting at. If the noble Earl on the Government Front Bench is to consider that, I wonder whether he can let us know, too, of his deliberations.
I gladly undertake to do that.
Clause 21 agreed to.
Clause 22 [ Functions of Nature Conservancy Council]:
moved Amendment No. 349:
Page 20, line 35, leave out from (" shall ") to second (" and ") in line 36 and insert (" five years after the passing of this Act ").
The noble Baroness said: As it stands, the Nature Conservancy Council has an obligation 10 years after the passing of the Conservation of Wild Creatures and Wild Plants Act 1975, and every five years thereafter, to review Schedules 5 and 7. The amendment proposes that the review should be made five years after the passing of this Bill. That would not mean that the review would be made at a very different time; in fact, it would be made only a year later. The Conservation of Wild Creatures and Wild Plants Act 1975 is to be repealed by this Bill, and we shall have new schedules after the enacting of the Bill. Therefore, it would seem to be rather tidier and more logical to make the requirement dependent on this Bill, rather than on the old Act which is to be repealed. I beg to move.
I would hope that the schedules will be kept constantly under review. Things can suddenly become endangered for some reason which we cannot foresee. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, spoke about this earlier. We have had before us the example of the Egyptian collared dove which at one moment was totally non-existent and the next moment was a complete pest species. It is very important to keep the schedules constantly under review because if the review takes place only every five years, there will be a temptation to sit hack and say, "Oh, well, we need do nothing about it for another five years". That is just a thought, for what it is worth.
I think that perhaps my noble friend's point could be covered by the fact that we can amend the schedules at any time, and all species will really be kept under review. With regard to the amendment of the noble Baroness, I do not think that there is anything here that the Government would wish to oppose. The effect of this amendment as the noble Baroness said, would be to delay the next mandatory report required from the Nature Conservancy Council to 1986, when otherwise it would happen in 1985. But I am sure, as the noble Baroness said, we could live with the delay for a year, particularly as it is open to the NCC to advise the Secretary of State at any time. Unfortunately, the amendment refers to the "passing" of the Act. This is inconsistent with Clause 54(2), which provides for the Act to be brought into force by commencement order. I will undertake that the Government will put down a suitable amendment at Report stage, and I hope that with that undertaking the noble Baroness will be prepared to withdraw her amendment.
I am very grateful for that response and in view of it I will withdraw this amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendment No. 350 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 351:
Page 20, line 37, after (" and ") insert (", after consulting a person or persons appearing to the Nature Conservancy Council to be representative of voluntary organisations interested in wildlife conservation,").
The noble Lord said: In view of the fact that Amendment No. 350 has been withdrawn from the Marshalled List, I beg to move Amendment No. 351. This amendment is on a very similar point to the one I made earlier, but I hope it still has rather more merit than the previous amendment to subsection (6), which the noble Earl did not accept. This would ensure that, in carrying out the quinquennial reviews of the schedules to this Bill—and they have an important status as formal reviews of the schedules, as opposed to the constant monitoring which the noble Earl mentioned—the NCC would consult people from the voluntary sector who are interested in this question. I think this undoubtedly would be the practice of the NCC, but again, it would be a us eful reassurance to the many people in the voluntary movement who are watching the progress of this Bill with great interest that they would have the opportunity in five years' time to have another say. I hope, too, that the Government might occasionally be seized of the advantages of giving some such reassurance to the voluntary sector, which I have always understood this particular Government were rather keener on than they have appeared to be during the passage of this Bill. I beg to move.
I should like to support this amendment. Just now we are very great friends with the NCC, but this Bill has got to last a very long time and the NCC fluctuates up and down according to the amount of money allowed them by the Government or the personnel who are running the department. On the whole, the conservation bodies are fairly satis- fied at the moment—very satisfied—with the cooperation of the NCC, but taking the long view (and this Bill has to last a long time) I believe this is a most worthwhile insertion into the Bill, and I very much support the amendment.
The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is quite right when he says we like voluntary bodies, but we also like giving people a free hand and not putting too many obligations into a Bill. As the noble Lord is well aware, and as my noble friend behind me has just said, the Nature Conservancy Council at the moment consults individual experts, scientific bodies and voluntary organisations with the relevant knowledge. I am advised that the NCC, in arriving at its advice to the Secretary of State, already consults all these experts possessing relevant knowledge, and is indeed greatly dependent upon and appreciates the advice so freely given. We consider that a statutory requirement for the council to consult voluntary organisations interested in wildlife conservation to be unnecessary, and that the extent and manner of consultation carried out by the council before giving its advice to the Secretary of State is a matter which can safely be left to the council's discretion. In this we would prefer, as one of my noble friends behind me said earlier, to trust the NCC. I hope that my noble friend Lord Craigton will agree, and that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, will not wish to press this particular point.
I do not entirely agree with the noble Earl because, as he himself said, at the moment the NCC consults. That is quite true, but there will be other moments before this Bill is changed, and I should still be much happier to see something of this nature in the Bill.
Perhaps I could say quickly to my noble friend that under the clause that we have just been discussing, the advisory bodies are very much working with the Secretary of State. If he found that the advice coming was not correct, then he would have ways and means of changing it.
I am not happy. It seems to me to reflect the double standards that run through this. As the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, pointed out, we have a paragraph in the previous clause which says that the Secretary of State may, if he thinks fit, consult people that he is already at liberty to consult. It adds nothing. We are quite happy to see that in the Bill applying to the Secretary of State. When it comes to asking the NCC to consult the voluntary organisations, all of a sudden, we must trust them, we must not put anything in the Bill to tie their hands or even imply that they are not going to do this. They may or may not do it.The Government of the noble Earl's party is in power at the moment. I might not like the people that his Government appoint to the NCC. I might not trust them to consult the voluntary organisations. I suppose it is possible that at some point in the future we on these Benches might be sitting where the noble Earl now sits. We might appoint people to the NCC that he would not trust to consult the voluntary organisations Would it not make both of us happier if there were in the Bill a provision such as that proposed? My other point—one which the noble Earl did not touch on but which I think deserves consideration—is that just occasionally during the passage of this Bill, perhaps once every two or three weeks, the Government might consider allowing the voluntary organisations to have some reassurance actually written into the Bill. We are allowing all sorts of reassurance to appear for other interest groups and, in particular, the agriculturists from whom we have heard a lot during the day, particularly on licensing. For them reassurances and escape clauses have been written in; and we have to some extent agreed with that. But from time to time there should be a little "give" from the Government in the other direction. This is not a major request. It is not going to alter existing practice; it simply gives an assurance for the future. One would hope, in a spirit of compromise, and in that of making rapid progress, that the Government could have given us some assurance from time to time. This seems to be the one eminently suitable for it.
May I support what has been said by my noble friend? I am sure that Members in all parts of the Committee will recognise that voluntary organisations do not have vast resources at their disposal. In fact, at the present time, with inflation, it is extremely difficult for some of them to maintain even the very small supporting staff they have to work with. As their name implies, voluntary organisations are mainly voluntary. A few of them can afford to employ absolutely basic staff, but no more. If they are not called into consultation, it is very difficult for them to keep track of what is going on.As your Lordships know, I speak primarily from Welsh experience. Anybody who knows anything about the Principality will realise that there may be a matter of considerable concern in one part of Wales which is not necessarily known, even to the NCC officers, in other parts of Wales. The NCC headquarters in Wales is at Bangor. There may be an acute problem in, say, Gwent, and it may be that the regional officer is aware of it, but not necessarily so. I know that there is considerable feeling among the voluntary organisations that there are situations in which they are not consulted unless they happen to hear what is going on and are then able to pursue such crumbs of information as they may be able to obtain. When they do that, they normally have the warmest co-operation, but it puts a great strain on the voluntary bodies if all the time they have to take the initiative themselves.
May I pick up a phrase from the noble Baroness and assert with confidence that unless the NCC—however vastly it may spread, however enormous its army of research workers may become, and whatever funds may be given it—keeps in close touch with the voluntary bodies, the NCC itself will be unable to keep track of what is happening to the wildlife in this country. It is the voluntary bodies who have their ears to the ground, their noses to the grindstone, or whatever one may call it. These voluntary bodies themselves are out there witnessing what is happening to the wildlife of this country.
We are quite happy to consider this amendment. There is no problem on that at all. I was vaguely turning over in my mind some of the remarks which the noble Baroness made. There are so many voluntary organisations that one cannot tell whether the one which she had in mind might be spoken to at that time. We shall certainly have a look at this and see whether we can write anything in.
I am most grateful to the noble Earl, Members of the Committee and the noble Baroness who supported the amendment when it looked as if it might sink without trace. The Government have agreed to consider it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendment No. 352 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 353:
Page 21, line 7, at end insert—
(" (4) It shall be the duty of the Council to investigate offences under this Part and the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 1976 or any Order or Regulations made under those enactments, and to advise and assist the Police and the Commissioners of Customs and Excise in the enforcement by them of those provisions.").
The noble Lord said: I am most concerned that this Bill makes no provision for the proper investigation of offences against this most comprehensive and excellent legislation. Could we not be at risk of being accused of just paying lip service to wildlife protection and conservation by omitting from our legislation provision for the investigation of infringements of highly specialised Acts?
At present, the investigation and pursuance of offences falls largely on the voluntary bodies and, in particular, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Without the efforts of the RSPB and the RSPCA, little or no meaningful enforcement of wildlife legislation would occur. This is not a criticism of the police or customs officers, it is just that they have not the time and the necessary technical knowledge to investigate. When an offence is brought to the knowledge of the police or customs by voluntary bodies, they are prepared to act. I wonder whether anyone thinks that that is a satisfactory situation.
The RSPB and the RSPCA are charities and such organisations are not well off. Being non-statutory bodies, they have no access to official records, but they have become the main investigating bodies for offences under our existing wildlife legislation. Each year they take a considerable number of prosecutions, which I believe demonstrates that these laws need enforcing.
Here are some of the major prosecutions over the past nine months: three Welshmen fined a total of £600 for wilfully disturbing peregrine falcons; a Sunderland man fined £500 for being in possession of two recently-taken peregrine falcons; two Yorkshiremen fined a total of £1,420 on two occasions for taking the eggs of wild birds including those of a golden eagle; a Cumbrian man fined a total of £210 for selling wild birds, and a London man fined £270 for trapping wild birds.
In all this work, the Nature Conservancy Council takes no active role in investigations as do its counterparts in the USA, New Zealand and Australia. The Nature Conservancy Council could be a tremendous help. Under the amendment, the NCC is charged with the duty of investigating offences under the new Bill and of assisting the customs and police. I know that money is short; I know the difficulties. What I want to ask the Minister to do and what I say is this: let us get the authority on to this Bill. The NCC, once this amendment is in the Bill, will do the best it can within the staff and financial limits that it has. Let us get this into the Bill now and give the NCC the powers. When times are better, we shall get this Bill much better enforced in the country. I beg to move.
It might speed up matters, which I know we are all anxious to do, if I speak to our Amendment No. 354 at the same time as Amendment No. 353 because it covers exactly the same point but in slightly more detail. Indeed, part of my Amendment No. 463, which will be coming later, would place an obligation on the Nature Conservancy Council to enforce offences and perhaps it might be convenient if we were to take that particular bit of Amendment No. 463 at the same time.I do not wish to add much to what the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, has said in so ably moving this amendment. It seems to me something of a scandal that, although we were speaking a moment ago so highly of the efforts of voluntary organisations, we should rely in this country on two royal societies, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in effect to enforce the bulk of our wildlife legislation. This is not a task to which voluntary organisations are suited in this country or anywhere else. Regretfully, we must face the fact that a number of countries, and in particular the United States, have wildlife enforcement agencies which do the job a great deal more effectively, inevitably, than voluntary organisations in this country can because of their very limited resources of staff and their lack of legal powers. I do not think that any of us are being unrealistic enough to think that we are going to get a new wildlife enforcement agency set up by the Government next week with a staff of a couple of hundred, with adequate finance and legal powers, and so on. I know that would fly in the face of the Government's mistaken policy in these matters. What I think it is fair to ask the Government to do when they bring forward a major Bill on wildlife and the countryside—the first Government Bill we have ever had on this sort of subject and certainly by far the most comprehensive ever dealt with by the British Parliament—is at least to make a gentle nod in the direction of effective enforcement of the legislation they have introduced. I think the general consensus of all of us who have thought about this is that the right organisation to do this would be the NCC. They could do it very simply to start with. The RSPB, which is responsible for so much marvellous enforcement of the Protection of Birds Acts, does it with a staff of four or five people and an expenditure of very little money. That is all that one would expect of the NCC—that they should be enforcing this legislation simply, to start with, by investigating offences and gathering information. I hope that some of these amendments on enforcement will commend themselves to the Government.
I am not at all happy about these amendments. Certainly I think they are well meant and I understand the reasoning behind them, but I think they are mistaken and should be resisted.The Nature Conservancy Council shares all the concern that has been expressed during the debates on this Bill on Committee stage and Second Reading. It is greatly concerned about the enforcement of hard-won legislation to safeguard wildlife; but these amendments would place on the NCC functions and duties which are not in keeping with the Council's essential role, their statutory role, of giving science-based advice on nature conservation. Enforcement needs to be tackled by a combination of effort by the official agencies—the police, Customs and Excise, the NCC and the voluntary movements, the RSPB and the RSPCA, to whose work in this field I pay a genuine and glowing tribute, the Society for the Promotion of Nature Conservation, which does good work as well in all the counties in this country, and other appropriate bodies. The public at large also have an important responsibility to obey the law, to observe it and to try to do their best to ensure that others observe it as well. The NCC are doing much more in this field than is perhaps generally realised. Within their existing scientific and advisory remit, they prepare general and specialist advice for Customs and Excise, including producing some very well-drafted technical manuals. They have set up a series of referral networks, as I think I can best call them, of experts on whom the police and Customs and Excise can, and do, call. They have arranged, and will continue to arrange, for police forces to be trained in the wildlife laws—that is, specially chosen people—and they are also, of course, giving wide publicity to the law as it stands at present, and as it will stand after this Bill becomes an Act, so that the public can take heed of the law. The NCC's staff on the ground are under instruction to report offences which they observe, or which they are reliably informed about. They are ready to bring prosecutions if they think that the police have failed to do so and should have done so. But more important than what I have said so far is the sticking point which comes, in my view, when it is proposed—and I am rolling these three amendments together—that the NCC must be responsible for enforcement, for investigations, for appointing wildlife policemen and for gathering information on offences. All these things are proposed in these three amendments that we are discussing together. Taking on the wider role envisaged by the amendments would be a great burden on our already overstretched resources. Our resources are stretched to the limit. It is all very well for some of my noble friends, and for noble Lords opposite, to say "Give them some more money". We would dearly like it, but we do not see it coming just at present, in spite of the goodwill that we have from the Secretary of State. To enforce the law would he prejudicial to the NCC's role as advisers to public bodies, to landowners and to individuals. Our position is, perhaps, analogous to that of ADAS who, I believe, have consistently sought to confine their role to that of giving advice and assistance to farmers, rather than becoming concerned with enforcement issues related to cruelty to animals and animal health. In conclusion—perhaps this is a glimpse of the obvious, and I hope I may be forgiven for it—passing laws that cannot be properly enforced is really deplorable and a foolish exercise. Enforcement of wildlife legislation, as I am the first to admit and agree, is very far from adequate. I greatly regret this and so does the NCC. There is a need, I think—I have always thought so from my RSPB days, when I used to be president— for a small specialist wildlife investigation and enforcement unit with real statutory powers, probably under the aegis of the Department of the Environment. We are not going to have one just yet; certainly not next week, as the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, said. It is badly needed and I hope that it will come soon. Meanwhile, all we can do is to make more strenuous efforts to co-ordinate the work of voluntary and official bodies, in which the NCC will play their full part. This will have to serve, even though it is second best. I hope that these amendments will be resisted.
We are very happy with the principles raised by my noble friend Lord Craigton, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Milverton, and we are pleased that they accept the principle that the police and customs are the proper enforcement agencies for the provisions in this Bill and in the 1976 Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act. We are also receptive to the concept of the Nature Conservancy Council investigating alleged offences. The council already provides advice towards these ends and we see it playing an increasing part in doing so.Where we differ from the views reflected in the amendment proposed by my noble friend is in the need to enshrine the involvement of the NCC in the legislation. My noble friend Lord Chelwood has spoken to this in some depth. Our view, and that of the council, is that this would unduly restrict their role. They do not wish to have some of their activities listed as duties and some as functions. They wish to retain their ability to make their own decisions. The Government were made well aware, during the extensive consultations before this Bill was drafted, that many protectionists and conservationists would favour the kind of wildlife enforcement service which the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, requires. Representations were also made to the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure. We have had to consider two questions: first, is the present principle, that the police and custom are the official enforcement agencies, unsound; and, secondly, how can we best improve enforcement? The Government consider that the creation of a specialist enforcement agency could not be justified and that, in any event, it would certainly be wrong to confer on it all the powers of the police. That leaves us with looking for ways of improving the ability of the police and the Customs and Excise to carry out their duties, and here we see the NCC playing an important role in providing supportive expertise. Liaison by the Nature Conservancy Council with the Home Office, the police and customs is much improved. Training assistance is being developed. The Nature Conservancy Council as well as the Department of the Environment keeps lists of experts. Finally, throughout the Bill we have tried to make the evasion of the law harder and its detection easier. A certain amendment passed earlier today enforces this, perhaps more than I thought. For offences of this kind, which by their nature occur in out of the way places, the most important enforcement aid is the general public, particularly those members of it who are deeply committed to wildlife, whether as bird watchers, falconers, aviculturalists or simply as countrymen who accept the responsibility for our marvellous heritage of wildlife. By regulating and so protecting their interests this Bill gives to the adherents new incentives to ensure that the unscrupulous minority does not get away with it. I hope that the noble Lord will not wish to press his amendment.
From the length of the noble Earl's reply it is quite clear that here we have a very difficult point. I do not feel that I could ask the Committee to divide upon it. I will read what the noble Earl has said and think about it before the next stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 354:
Page 21, line 7, at end insert—
(" (4) The Council shall appoint such wildlife enforcement officers as they deem expedient for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of this Part and of the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 1976 and of any orders or regulations made under those enactments.
(5) For the enforcement of the provisions referred to in subsection (4) above every such officer shall be deemed to be a constable and to have the same powers and privileges and be subject to the same liabilities as a constable duly appointed has and is subject to at common law or by statute.
(6) After section (1)( a)(iv) of the Nature Conservancy Council Act 1973 (which concerns the functions of the Council) there shall be inserted the following sub-paragraph—
" (v) the enforcement of the provisions of Part I of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1980 and of the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 1976 and of any orders or regulations made under those enactments, and ".").
The noble Baroness said: My noble friend Lord Melchett has already spoken to this amendment, which I beg to move. At the same time I shall answer a few of the points which have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, and by the Minister.
I hope that we all agree that this Bill will be of no use unless the enforcement measures work. It will be just a piece of window dressing. Therefore we must have efficient enforcement. From what has been said it is clear that the Nature Conservancy Council does not want to take on this job of enforcement. However, may I remind the Committee that similar bodies to the Nature Conservancy Council—the wildlife departments of North America, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries—do take on this job?
It seems to me that the Nature Conservancy Council participates in all conservation matters except for investigations and enforcement work. The fact that it is not so involved sometimes undermines its credibility with the voluntary nature conservation bodies and even with the police and customs, who sometimes use the voluntary bodies after being told by the Nature Conservancy Council that it cannot help. It seems illogical to suggest that investigations and enforcement responsibility will detract from the scientific work of the Nature Conservancy Council. That seems to me to depend on the research work which it does. I appreciate that the Nature Conservancy Council cannot afford it on its present budget, but somebody has got to pay for enforcement if we are agreed that enforcement is important and must be carried out. So it seems to me that resources could be given to the Nature Conservancy Council as well as to any other body.
To go back in history for a minute or two, I should like to remind the Committee of the support for the wildlife bodies taking on this duty. First may I refer to Cmnd. 7122, Conservation of Nature in England and Wales, July 1947. This was the report of the Wildlife Conservation Special Committee, chaired by Sir Julian Huxley, most of whose recommendations, such as the establishment of a biological service, were contained in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. That committee considered the whole question of the enforcement of existing legislation and of any new wildlife legislation which it considered should be enacted. There were then very few acts on the statute book protecting wildlife, but the report had this to say:
"Where police action is necessary, we consider that reliance should be placed on the ordinary police rather than on wardens or other officers with special wildlife conservation enforcement functions".
Remember that then the full complexity of wildlife legislation was still over 30 years away. The Committee went on:
"except in national nature reserves where enforcement powers exercisable by the responsible officers would be essential".
Then I should like to look at a later point, the evidence which the Nature Conservancy gave to the Royal Commission on the Police in 1961. Virtually everything in its evidence supports what has been said today, particularly over the difficulties which the average police officer has in attempting to enforce wildlife legislation. I quote:
"Offences which most often occur in unfrequented places, especially on land where there is no right of access, obviously present special enforcement difficulties to any police force. So also do offences which can only be detected or dealt with on a basis of highly specialised knowledge or training, and offences which are normally committed by exceptionally active mobile persons. Where all three of these factors are combined an all-purpose, conventional police force heavily burdened with more pressing claims is at a maximum disadvantage".
They continue by saying that in such circumstances,
"… it becomes difficult to avoid the situation in which the law and the police are brought into contempt".
The Nature Conservancy reviewed in its evidence the inadequate enforcement of wildlife legislation at that time, and concluded by offering four suggestions, one of these being the provision of specialist enforcement officers. I quote:
"mention must be made of a solution, widely adopted in other advanced countries, of having a corps of specialist enforcement officers in the form of mobile wardens or rangers".
Analogies were then drawn with traffic wardens. They continued:
"such a corps would have to be able to operate freely throughout the country".
The evidence contained a quantity of examples where such officers were employed abroad. Admittedly this was one of four options which the Nature Conservancy put forward at the time, but it now seems quite ridiculous that the NCC—who now undertake nature conservation on behalf of the nation—should plead that it cannot accept the responsibility of enforcing the provisions in this Bill. I think if we are to have proper enforcement this is probably the way to get it.
I have listened with interest to what the noble Baroness said. Some of it seems very foreign to the ways of this country. As I said earlier, I appreciate fully the need for the enforcement, but I believe that for the moment we must leave it to our own law enforcement officers to carry on and see whether the extra enforcement to be put into this Bill will help in any way to control the poachers, or whatever they be. We believe that local authorities can and should play a positive role in bringing home to the general public what is going on in their own areas, but I think that at the moment we must leave the law enforcement officers to carry on and to see whether the better powers contained in this Bill will be effective.
We will, of course, withdraw this amendment as well, but I hope that the Government, and in particular the NCC, will have a look at what my noble friend said about their attitude not very long ago when they seemed to be pressing, not for something foreign to this country, but for exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, and we in this amendment, with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, have been pressing for ourselves. In other words, not so long ago the NCC seemed to be entirely with us. They have now done a U-turn and I think it would be helpful to have an explanation. I would suggest to all those who have taken an interest in this matter that it might be worthwhile our getting together and coming forward with a single amendment at Report stage if we do not have any more satisfactory response from the NCC in the meantime, which I am afraid we shall not have. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 [ Functions of Local authorities]:
[ Amendment No. 355 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 356:
Page 21, line 10, after ("schoolchildren") insert (",farmers and landowners").
The noble Lord said: This is a simple point which I hope will commend itself to all sides of the Committee. Noble Lords will remember that in the Conservation of Wild Creatures and Wild Plants Act a provision was inserted, as I remember it, because I was speaking for the Government at that stage, rather against the Government's initial Bill, but we were trying to be as helpful as we could in those days. Noble Lords were very keen that we should pass round, particularly to young people, information about the wild birds and wild creatures protected under the Act. It was felt important that information—for example, that uprooting any wildflower then became illegal—should be known to young people, and that particular animals were going to be protected should also be known to young people. What the Government did was to pay for copies of two posters which had been produced by voluntary organisations to be sent to every secondary school in England and Wales, and I think that was widely welcomed.
Turning to this Bill and the amendment, it seemed to me, on re-reading this, that this Bill introduces an enormous amount of new legislation which affects particularly those who live in the countryside. We are going to continue to argue about exactly what the legislation should be, but none of us can deny its importance to farmers and landowners. Their right to do things on their land will be altered in some respects; the rights of other people to do things on their land will be altered in some respects. It seemed to me very important that if we were going to give information about the passing of this Act to anybody it should be to farmers and landowners, as well as to young people—and I am delighted that that provision remains in the Bill, as re-enacted, unaltered. I hope this would be something that would commend itself to all sides of the Committee. As it appears on the list of amendments, it may appear slightly denigrating farmers and landowners, but that is not the intention; it is simply the positioning in the Bill. It is meant to be helpful to all concerned, and I hope it will be welcomed by all concerned. I beg to move.
When the noble Lord comes to move all his many amendments under Part II, I hope he will bear that particular philosophy in mind; that it is making it very much more difficult for us.
We can well sympathise with the intention of this amendment, and I was indeed interested to hear Lord Melchett's comments about how children got into it in the first place. Farmers and landowners, of course, have a key role to play in wildlife conservation. However, farmers and landowners are members of the public and would be included in any steps which local authorities thought it expedient to take to publicise the provisions of Part I of the Bill, and any orders made thereunder, as required by Clause 23. Schoolchildren are only specifically mentioned because it is thought that they are a section of the public which might otherwise get overlooked. In no way do we think the farmers will get overlooked, as the noble Lord, I am sure, will agree. It goes without saying that it is particularly important to educate schoolchildren about the matters in question. Bearing that in mind, I hope the noble Lord will not press the amendment.
In view of the rather mixed reaction the amendment got from the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 23 agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 357:
After Clause 23, insert the following new clause:
( "Amendment of Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1944 and Agriculture Act 1970
. Sections 1(1) and 103 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1944 and the Agriculture Act 1970 respectively shall be amended by the insertion of the words "such advice to take into account nature conservation, wildlife and landscape interests," after the words "agricultural matters".").
The noble Lord said: This amendment is intended to put into Acts of Parliament, the two Acts mentioned in the amendment, the requirement for what is now called ADAS, although under the 1944 Act it was referred to as the National Agricultural Advisory Service and under the 1970 Act as the National Agricultural Advisory Service, that they should, in giving advice to farmers and landowners, take into account nature conservation, wildlife and landscape interests. Noble Lords will remember that we have in this House on many occasions debated the Strutt Report, whose recommendation that ADAS should take on this role would be implemented, I hope, by this amendment. Although we have debated it many times, the recommendation is a short one and I would like to read it. They said:
"The advisory and promotional role of ADAS be extended to include landscape and nature conservation, and provision made for the training of existing staff and, if necessary, the recruitment of specialist staff".
Those noble Lords who are particularly interested in agricultural matters will no doubt know that there was a policy review of the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service carried out after the Strutt Report had been completed and published in January 1978. That review group said in paragraph 4.24:
"Whether or not Government undertakes further formal responsibilities affecting the service, ADAS will be bound to give full weight to environmental considerations in the course of its statutory advisory duties".
We then had some very detailed debates last year about the role of ADAS because of our debates on the changes in the farm capital grant scheme, where we were conservationists and farmers united against the proposed changes that the Government were trying to make, and unfortunately did make. At that stage the Government said that the changes that they were making would allow ADAS to fulfill the sort of role that my amendment envisages. They said explicitly that the staff who would no longer be looking at detailed grant applications before the building or whatever was put up, would be free to give advice on environmental and other matters. That has been repeated a number of times.
There is nothing controversial in the amendment. I hope that it is accepted by everybody that, whatever we may differ about in Part If of the Bill, it is useful for farmers and landowners to have advice, not only on agriculture but also on environmental and wildlife matters and that by far the best people to provide that advice are ADAS. Nobody who has anything to do with farming would dispute that. If anybody is going to provide advice ADAS officers are the best people to provide it.
The general intent behind the amendment was very strongly supported by the Minister of State, Mr. Monro, in another place on 10th November 1980, when he quoted a statement of intent that the National Farmers' Union and the Country Landowners' Association produced three years ago called, Caring for the Countryside. He quoted part of that statement which said simply, briefly and succinctly, "Get advice" when addressing farmers about these particular problems. The Minister, Mr. Monro, went on to say at column 164:
"It is always open to the landowner or the farmer to seek advice from the local ADAS man",
when talking about the problems of destruction of wildlife.
The noble Earl, Lord Avon, said on Second Reading in your Lordships' House at column 1088—he was reminding me, in fact—that the Government:
"are committed to follow the conservation aspects which are laid down in the Strutt Report".
This amendment does no more than do what the noble Earl says that the Government are already doing, and I hope it will be acceptable. I beg to move.
I have not spoken before in this debate as much as I should have wished. I have stayed behind this evening briefly to give my support to this amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Melchett. Your Lordships will be aware, because I have spoken of it before, that I was a member of the Strutt Committee. I would remind your Lordships that its report was well received by all sectors of the agricultural community and, indeed, by the amenity, environmental and conservationist interests as well. As my noble friend has mentioned, one of its main recommendations was that ADAS officers should be used to advise farmers and landowners on conservation, environmental and amenity matters. The object was, of course, to try to achieve a fair balance between the needs of agriculture and the desirability ofconserving and treasuring our natural and wildlife resources.The Strutt Committee took a lot of evidence from all sectors of the agricultural community and I must say that we found that, by and large, the farmers and landowners would be only too willing to play their part. We felt—and indeed, they told us—that advice from ADAS would be very well received indeed. The general work of ADAS officers, as it now stands, is greatly appreciated by the farming community; that is to say, on technical and production issues. Their advice is seen as coming from people who are really concerned and interested—without any bias one way or the other—in agricultural matters. On top of that, because the ADAS officers meet the farmers on such a friendly basis, they are regarded as friends and not in the least degree as a kind of policeman. The Strutt Committee, therefore, believed that the contribution that they could make would be very well received indeed and that the officers of ADAS would be very welcome on the farms and on landowners' estates in order to give them some help and assistance in doing what they could to enhance the interests of the environment, amenity and conservation. I certainly hope that the Government will take very seriously indeed what Strutt said in this connection—and they, of course, mentioned other matters, to which we shall come later; for example, the question of footpaths and bulls—and make available any additional resources which may be required to enable the ADAS people to do this additional work properly. I am sure that they will do it well.
I think that this is a symbolic amendment. I should certainly like to support it. I think that we shall have to see in the future—and it will be a very good thing too—a major change in the relationship of agriculture, as it is seen by Government, to environment preservation, as it is seen by Government. We spend a very great deal of money piling up food mountains under the EEC's common agricultural policy when we could be spending exactly the same money paying farmers to produce a little less and to preserve the countryside. As it is, we expect them to do a very great deal without giving them much incentive. I have every feeling for those farmers who experience that problem and every admiration for those farmers who, in spite of the fact that they get no reward for it, do their duty by the countryside.This is not the place and this is not the Bill in which we can do anything towards altering that. But in the meantime we can build bridges between the two sides. We can insert duties in the various Acts, one duty from one side of the argument into the Acts belonging to the other, and vice versa. I think that the amendment is an important one which I should like to support.
I should also like to support the amendment and it gives me great pleasure to support the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, on this occasion. I would not comment further on the Strutt Report because I have spoken in depth on that before in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord will be aware that under Section 11 of the Countryside Act 1968 the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food must, when it gives advice, have regard to nature conservation and the landscape. Therefore, it is already embodied in our legislation.I should like to deal with one point made by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, when he said that there was precious little incentive for farmers. I think that we give them precious little credit for what they are doing on a voluntary basis to help the wildlife of this country. In recent months—indeed, over the last four or five years—I have been very impressed with how often they go to the MAFF and ADAS to seek advice on wildlife. We should bear this in mind much more in these discussions.
I think that this is an opportunity which ought not to be missed.
I shall take the opportunity to ensure that it is not missed. I must confess to having been attracted by this amendment when I first read it on the Marshalled List. Not only does it make clear that the officers of the organisation which is established by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food under the provision of Section 1(1) of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1944 must take into account nature conservation, wildlife and landscape interests when giving advice on agricultural matters, but it also makes clear to the general public that the obligation to do these things has, indeed, been placed upon the officers of ADAS.Unfortunately, on closer inspection it became apparent that the new clause suffered from several disadvantages. In the first instance the drafting is defective in that the reference to the new clause to Section 103 of the Agriculture Act 1970 is irrelevant. The purpose of that section is merely to amend the main operative section which is Section 1 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1944. Admittedly it will always be possible to redraft this amendment and put it in acceptable form for inclusion in the legislation, but we think that would be undesirable. The reason is, as my noble friend said, that there is already an existing provision which does precisely the same task. I refer to Section 11 of the Countryside Act 1968, which provides that in Clause 11 in the exercise of their functions relating to land under any enactment every Minister, Government department, public body shall have regard to the desirability of conserving the national beauty and amenity of the countryside. Even to interfere with the wording of Section 11 would be scarcely a step forward. There is a great danger with provisions which require specified persons to take account of specified matters that they can be read as suggesting that these factors could not otherwise be taken into account or that they, or they alone, are the factors that must be taken into account. This I am sure does not reflect what is intended here. It is much better to leave the matter on the basis that the organisation set up under the 1944 Act will, in carrying out its duties, take account of all the factors which will probably be regarded as relevant. In other words, what I am saying is that this requirement to take into account nature conservation, wildlife and landscape interests when giving advice on agricultural matters is already covered, and is extremely wide-ranging in its application. Section 11 applies equally to the Minister of Agriculture, his junior Ministers, and to all the officials of that department when carrying out their duties in relation to land. By singling out ADAS in the statute in the way that this amendment proposes would, by placing the emphasis for these duties on ADAS, weaken the effect that this requirement has on everybody else in the Ministry. However, having said that, I accept entirely the force of the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, supported by other noble Lords, and I will undertake to see if there is anything we can do in order to meet his points.
I am grateful to the noble Earl Section 11 is a total red herring. After the Strutt Committee sat for all the time they did, carefully considering this subject in the greatest detail, and producing a report which had unanimous support from farming, landowning and wildlife organisations, why did they have to be told, unfortunately, by the last Government and then by this, that while they accepted it in principle it could not be implemented for lack of staff? We were then told last year that the changes in the farm capital grant scheme would allow this power to be implemented, and we are then told it does not need anything doing at all because it was all in Section 11 all along. That simply cannot be the case, unless Strutt and his committee completely misled themselves about this, and the policy review of ADAS also misled themselves when they looked at it soon afterwards.I think it would be valuable from everybody's point of view to have this clear statement in ADAS's functions, and if Section 11 is prayed in aid I would hope that noble Lords on all sides of the Committee would unite in saying that that was not good enough for the last Government and it should not be good enough for this Bill, because nobody else has ever tried to pretend that Section 11 covered this point. It quite clearly does not, and the Strutt Committee felt that it did not. The noble Earl said that he would look at the point. I am grateful to him for that. I hope we can come back with a Government amendment at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 358:
After Clause 23, insert the following new clause:
( "Amendment of Forestry Act 1967
. After subsection (1) of section 3 of the Forestry Act 1967 there shall be inserted the following subsection—
"(3A) The Commissioners shall, in exercising their functions under this Act, take appropriate measures to conserve wildlife.".").
The noble Lord said: This is simply an attempt by me to implement one of the recommendations of the sub-committee on forestry of your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology. This is a bit of a cheek, I admit, as I was not a member of that Select Committee and some noble Lords present in the Chamber were. But I read it as an outside, with their report, with great interest. They made the point that the Forestry Commission's present management objectives are those which were first published in 1975, and the Select Committee said, at the end of paragraph 103 of their report:
"Although these objectives are set out clearly, no guidance is given on their relative importance even when they are not always compatible. The basic strategic and tactical implementation of that policy is left to the Forestry Commission as a government department".
The Select Committee went on to recommend in paragraph 146:
"Some aspects of the Forestry Commission's management objectives and statutory terms of reference are becoming out of date in the context of present conditions and the way in which forestry practice is evolving in the Forestry Commission itself and elsewhere. The management objectives make no reference to the need for harmony with water usage, and the special importance of woodlands to nature conservation requires greater prominence".
It is the latter point that my amendment seeks to meet
and this seemed an appropriate Bill in which to do it. I beg to move.
I quite understand that the noble Lord should expect the Forestry Commission to pay proper regard to wildlife. If it did not do so, it would be right for the Government to issue the necessary instructions or to provide for it in legislation, if not necessarily in the form of this amendment. However, the Commission has a well-established policy of nature conservation which it has recently set out in its annual report for 1979–80. It fully recognises the importance of preserving wildlife and managing it effectively where management is necessary but, as all foresters will know, and there are many in this House, there are species which have to be controlled in order to safeguard the plantations or the interests of neighbours and it would be wrong to inhibit that. The Commission maintains close touch with the Nature Conservancy Council and other countryside agencies and has its own qualified wildlife officers within its research and development division to advise its forest managers. It also has some 300 trained field staff concerned with woodland protection and wildlife management, which in itself is a reflection of the Commission's commitment to the preservation of wildlife.I hope I have said enough to demonstrate that the Commission is acutely conscious of its wildlife responsibilities and that it would be wrong, in so far as its functions involve some degree of control over wildlife, and unnecessary in so far as it already pays every possible attention consistent with its functions to conserve wildlife, to impose upon it a statutory requirement which, particularly in the form of this amendment, would inhibit the proper management of its plantations. I therefore hope the noble Lord will not press the amendment.
The Minister has said enough to illustrate the fear I expressed earlier that there is something in the way of double standards operating here. In a Bill concerned with the conservation and protection of wildlife, we find a number of provisions which ensure that agriculture and forestry are given their proper place with all due consideration being given to those interests. However, in a measure concerned with forestry we are not allowed even the mildest hint that wildlife might be important and that those operating the Forestry Commission should take that factor into account.The amendment does not do what the Minister suggested; it does not hinder the proper management of forestry but simply says that they should take appropriate measures to conserve wildlife. It does not say they should take inappropriate measures, and inappropriate ones would clearly be those which conflicted with their primary duties for forestry management. It was the mildest form of words one could conceive to implement the Select Committee's recommendation. It seems that the Government are claiming to strike a balance between farming and commercial interests on the one hand and the protection of wildlife on the other but in fact are doing no such thing, and the rejection of an amendment of this kind shows they are not even attempting to strike such a balance. They are ensuring that the whole of the Bill is full of provisions which protect agriculture and forestry but that none of those involved in agriculture and forestry shall pay one jot of attention to the interests of wildlife. It is a pity that, while they are saying they wish to strike a correct balance, the Government are not prepared even to consider amendments which attempt to take them at their word. The hour is late and I appreciate that many noble Lords are anxious to get home, so for the time being I will not press the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 24 [ Regulations, orders, notices etc.]:
[ Amendments Nos. 359 and 360 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 360A:
Page 21, line 20, at end insert£
("(1A) Any orders under sections 5, 11 and 20 shall not be made unless a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.").
The noble Lord said: In order to save time I should like to ask my noble friend whether he is going to accept this amendment, and if not, why not? I beg to move.
No, for the following reason. We have spoken to similar amendments and I think that the Government have to oppose them because we do not want orders under Clauses 5, 11 and 20 of the Bill made if they have to be approved by each House of Parliament. That procedure is reserved for orders such as those which would amend Acts of Parliament. Without wishing to denigrate their importance, I would say that to inflict upon both Houses the necessity of considering one Affirmative Resolution on what would amount to a number of relatively minor matters, especially when parliamentary time is under such pressure, would be unreasonable. I have indicated that the Government will be bringing forward an amendment to make orders subject to the Negative Resolution procedure, and I hope that, with that in mind, my noble friend will be able to withdraw this amendment.
I am sorry that my noble friend had to say that. We have given very detailed discussion as to what should be included in which schedule in relation to creatures which should or should not be killed. I cannot see why in the future when we put creatures on to a schedule or take them off a schedule the matter should not be discussed in Parliament. It is proposed to have a Negative Resolution, but that is not very satisfactory. However, at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendments Nos. 360B, 360C, 361 and 362 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 363:
Page 21, line 40, at end insert ("or, in the case of an area including sea, adjoins that area.").
The noble Lord said: This amendment concerns a minor legal point which I am not sure I fully understand, but I hope that the noble Earl will understand it. The purpose of the amendment is to clear up the Government's view of whether local authorities have territorial waters. As I understand it, the general opinion seems to be that they do not. A special provision has to be made for the magistrates' courts, which were traditionally based on counties, to have jurisdiction over territorial sea. But if the Government were disposed to accept the amendment it would allow local authorities along the shoreline to make representations about reserves at sea; not only marine reserves, which we now hope the Government will include in the Bill in an enabling clause at least, but possibly also bird reserves under Clause 3. I hope that that brief explanation will help the noble Earl to see his way to accept the amendment. I beg to move.
As the noble Lord rightly said, this is a rather technical point. The Secretary of State will always consider proposals from a local authority in respect of areas of land and water within its boundaries. The proposed amendment seeks to widen the scope of orders without attending to such matters as the extention of the police powers to act in relation to the sea. As it stands, the amendment is defective and I shall have to resist it.
How is it defective?
That is an excellent question. It is defective because it would not be reasonable for a local authority to have added powers outside its area; but I shall come back to the noble Lord on this one.
I do not think that this is a matter on which we should take up the time of the Committee at this hour. If the noble Earl would be good enough to write to me about it, I should be very grateful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 [ Interpretation of Part I]:
moved Amendment No. 364:
Page 22, line 2, at end insert—
(""air weapon "means an air rifle, air gun or air pistol not of a type declared by rules made by the Secretary of State under section 53 of the Firearms Act 1968 to be specially dangerous").
The noble Lord said: Now we come to the armoury. I shall move this amendment just to put on the record a definition of the airgun or air weapon, though I shall readily withdraw it if it is of no use to the noble Earl. It is a pity that we do not have a Select Committee of gunsmiths who could take this lot away and then bring us the answers to what is an automatic weapon, what is an airgun, what is a reloader, and all the rest of it. I am sure that there is considerable expertise on the other side of the Committee. Indeed, I see there the noble Lord, Lord Swansea, who will be telling us all about it in a few minutes.
But for my part I shall save time; that is what I am after now. Is this any good, or is it not? Let me remind the noble Earl that earlier he promised to take away the airgun to have a look at it, among the 124 other things that the Government are going to look at. I assume that if they are going to include the airgun in the list of prohibited weapons in any way they will bring forward a definition at the same time. But the noble Earl has mine for what it is worth. If he does not want it, let him say so and I shall withdraw my amendment. I beg to move.
The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, threw into the ring the question whether or not his amendment was any good. I would submit to your Lordships that it is not, and I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will not be too precipitate in committing the Government to accepting an amendment of this kind, which, to our surprise, he indicated a couple of weeks ago that he would. The effect of the amendment would be to restrict the use of air weapons to those of higher-power muzzle energy of more than 12 foot-pounds, the ownership of which is subject to the holding of a firearms certificate. I think this is both unnecessary and mistaken, because I seem to detect in it a move to restrict the ownership of weapons under the guise of conservation. Secondly, I think it is a mistake to suppose that air weapons of a lower power are not effective in dealing with small pests. I believe they are, and I could produce evidence to support that, but I shall not detain your Lordships on this occasion. I just hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will not be in too much of a hurry to commit the Government.
As I think I said to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, when he spoke to this matter earlier, the Government accept the idea behind it and we propose, therefore, to put down a suitable amendment on another occasion. That still holds, and I am having a discussion on it with some people again tomorrow.
That means, then, that I can safely withdraw the amendment, which I beg leave to do.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendment No. 365 not moved.]
I have to point out that if Amendment No. 366 is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 367 and 367A.
moved Amendment No. 366:
Page 22, leave out lines 20 to 22 and insert (""automatic weapon" means any weapon falling within the definition in section 5(1)(a) of the Firearms Act 1968").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment on the principle that we should have a proper definition in the Bill of exactly what is meant by automatic weapons and semi-automatic weapons. All the Bill says at present is that the terms "automatic weapon" and "semi-automatic weapon" do not include any weapon with a magazine capacity of more than two rounds. That is no way to define either an automatic or a semi-automatic weapon. I think we must have a firm basis from which to start before we can discuss the question of magazine capacity. As the Irishman said, "I would not start from here". It is for this reason that I have tabled this amendment, to set out clearly what is meant by an automatic weapon by reference to Section 5 of the Firearms Act. There is another amendment later on, set down in the name of one of my noble friends, relating to semi-automatic weapons, and I think that if the Government can accept the principle of definitions of this kind, which are purely factual, then we can have a firm base from which to start in discussing the magazine capacity of those weapons. I beg to move.
As I said to my noble friend when he moved a similar amendment on, I think, the first day, we are required to ban the use of automatic and semi-automatic weapons with a magazine capable of holding more than two rounds of ammunition—that is, three in total, with one in the breech—because of our obligations under the European Community directive. The weapons can be permitted to be used under licence against birds, and we intend to allow their use against most pest species; that is, those birds in Schedule 2, Part II. Their use could also be authorised as appropriate on licences issued in respect of other species. However, as I said before, we are confined to this definition by our obligations under the European Community directive, and therefore I cannot help my noble friend.
I thank my noble friend for those remarks. Of course, the most important aspect of this is the question of the ·22 semi-automatic rifle. I shall not pursue this at this late hour, but I shall return to it at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendments Nos. 367 and 367A not moved.]
I have to point out that, if Amendment No. 368 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 369.
moved Amendment No. 368:
Page 22, line 29, leave out from ("partridge") to end of line 31 and insert ("or grouse including ptarmigan, but excluding capercaillie").
The noble Lord said: I invite your Lordships attention to the definition of "game bird" which is said to mean:
"any pheasant, partridge, grouse (or moor game), black (or heath) game or, in Scotland, ptarmigan".
I know that those are the words that have been used in previous legislation, but I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the ptarmigan is a grouse and the capercaillie is a grouse, so that to talk about grouse and/or ptarmigan is like talking about Peers of the Realm or Barons. I am proposing that, instead, we should simply say that "game bird" means any pheasant, partridge or grouse, including ptarmigan but excluding capercaillie. This leaves out the old fashioned words "moor game" and "heath game" for red grouse and black grouse; and also leaves out the words: "in Scotland", which are to be deleted, anyway, by the Government Amendment No. 369. I beg to move.
I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, is trying to clarify this particular position. As he says, the definition of "game bird" which appears in the Bill is identical with the one in the Protection of Birds Act 1954 and is taken from the Game Act 1831 which is still in force. I understand that the noble Lord wishes to modernise the wording, but to do this would mean amending the definition in the Game Act at the same time. It would seem to be a pity to have to go back to 1831. As the noble Lord has seen, we have tabled a Government amendment to delete the words "in Scotland" which are confusing. I hope that that little bit of clarity may persuade him not to press me on the remainder of the definition.
I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 369:
Page 22, line 30, leave out (",in Scotland,").
The noble Earl said: This minor amendment seeks to remove the words "in Scotland" from the definition of "game bird". Although the current definition is of long standing, it is unclear to the extent that it can be read to mean that in Scotland there is only one game bird; namely, the ptarmigan. The amendment removes any ambiguity and does not affect the practical position in any way, as the ptarmigan is found only in Scotland. I beg to move.
May I ask the noble Earl what happens if the ptarmigan decides to spread and establish itself in Northern England? Would that be allowed under the Bill or not?
As it is now with all other grouse, yes, it would.
It cannot exist under 2,000 feet.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 370:
Page 22, leave out lines 32 and 33.
The noble Earl said: I have to some degree spoken to this amendment in replying to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. This amendment removes the definition of "livestock". The Government originally put down the amendment as a result of the inclusion of "livestock" in the new subsection and in consequential amendments to the equivalent clause dealing with animals. However, the Committee expressed the view—and the Government accepted it—that wild game should not be protected from natural predation by mammals. The definition is no longer required. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 371:
Page 23, line 3, leave out ("and exchange") and insert ("exchange and gift").
The noble Lord said: The definition of "sale" is stated at the top of page 23 as including hire, barter
and exchange. My amendment would change that to
"hire, barter, exchange and gift".
The omission of the word "gift" would leave a loophole where a sale or exchange had taken place, because it could be claimed that the transaction was a gift. Where a gift had taken place which if it had been a sale would have been an offence, that should be subject to the same penalties. I beg to move.
I do not think that one can call it closing a loophole to stop a genuine gift. If the "gift" is not genuine (for example, money has been paid or another item given in exchange) and can be shown, an offence will have been committed. There is a loophole in the current definition of "sale", in that people can claim to hire out birds and thus get around the sale provisions; this we have closed by the addition of the word "hire" to the definition.The Government do not consider that omission of "gift" leaves a loophole. We would not want to prohibit the giving of genuine gifts which would, quite unnecessarily in our view, increase bureaucracy, by adding to the licensing workload. If the so-called gift is not genuine, the Bill as drafted makes it an offence. It would of course have to be shown that an offence had been committed, but that is no more than the normal requirement. To add the word "gift" in this definition is going a little bit too far. I hope that, with due consideration, the noble Lord will agree.
I wonder whether I may ask the noble Earl this question. I do not want to press the amendment, of course; but in those cases where it is illegal to sell a bird or a bird's egg, do I understand him to say that it would not be an offence under those circumstances to give that bird or that egg to another person and that it is only when the sale, hire or barter takes place that an offence is created?
The answer to that is that, if a bird or any part thereof is legally in possession, then it will be a legal gift. Does that make sense?
I am not talking about where it is in legal possession; I am talking about where it is illegal, and where the sale of it is a separate offence. In those cases where the sale is an additional offence would it still be an offence when it is given to the person instead of being sold to him?
I would certainly think so. If I am wrong, I shall come back to the noble Lord.
In that case, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 372:
Page 23, line 3, at end insert—
(""semi-automatic" means any firearm which uses part of the recoil energy or the gas pressure generated on firing to operate the action in a self-loading mode. In each instance a separate pressure on the trigger is required for subsequent missiles to be discharged").
The noble Viscount said: Since the definition of semi-automatic weapons in Clause 25, line 20, is inadequate, I have put down this amendment. Having heard what the Minister said to my noble friend Lord Swansea, I do not suppose the Government will accept it. Having said that, I beg to move.
We considered when drafting this Bill inclusion of, as it happens, an identical definition of the term semi-automatic weapon, but were advised that it was unnecessary as it does nothing since it merely sets out the ordinary meaning of the expression semi-automatic. So far as I am aware, there is no other meaning which might be confused with the ordinary meaning. I therefore invite my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.
I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 373:
Page 23, line 5, leave out ("remove the plant with its roots") and insert ("wholly remove the plant from the land on which").
The noble Baroness said: I should like the Committee to turn their attention from weapons to algae and fungi. In the Conservation of Wild Creatures and Wild Plants Act 1975 Clause 15(2) said:
"Any fungus or alga shall not be treated as a plant for the purposes of this Act unless it is a composite of fungus and alga in the form of lichen".
That has been dropped from this Bill, so that as a result algae and fungi are now included; but the definition of "uproot" which appeared in the 1975 Act appears almost exactly the same in this Bill. As algae and fungi are now included and do not have roots and, in many cases, one could not use the phrase, "dig up", about taking them, we believe that the definition given in Clause 25 could be improved by using the words in the amendment, so that it would read:
"wholly remove the plant from the land on which it is growing".
I beg to move.
I take the noble Baroness's point. I am not quite sure that one can uproot something which has no roots, but I will certainly look into her suggestion.
Thank you. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 374:
Page 23, line 14, leave out ("ordinarily").
The noble Lord said: The definition of a wild bird is stated to be:
"any bird which is of a kind which is ordinarily resident in or is a visitor to Great Britain in a wild state".
I am proposing to leave out the word "ordinarily", and I hope the Government will see the validity of this suggestion. All kinds of birds are either resident in, or visitors to, Great Britain, or both; and this definition means that a bird which is a visitor to Britain is covered by the definition, even though it visits Britain only once in 10 years. But if it is in the class of birds that is
resident in Great Britain it has to be "ordinarily" resident, and if not "ordinarily resident" it is not covered by the definition.
Practically all birds that are resident in this country are ordinarily resident here, but of course there are those which are extraordinarily resident here. If we take a species such as, for instance, the Dartford warbler, it is resident in this country but is ordinarily resident in France or on the Continent. It is also resident in this country , but is very rare and not often seen. It seems to me that the definition of "wild bird" should include those residents which are only occasionally seen here and are ordinarily resident somewhere else. I beg to move.
I was rather hoping that this would be put down, for income tax purposes, as I gather that "ordinarily" means out of the country for more than one year. However, I gather there is another reason. The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, has expressed concern that the definition of "wild bird" as drafted might exclude a species such as the Dartford warbler, which is ordinarily resident on the Continent. However, this does not prevent its being ordinarily resident in Great Britain as well. In any case where there might be doubt, the species would be protected as a visitor.The loss of the word "ordinarily" would have a considerable effect on the Bill. It has been included so as to exclude from protection escapees of nonnative, primarily exotic species such as the ring-necked paraqueet, so as to chime in with the new introduction of non-native species, which your Lordships debated last Monday. These species, in the absence of the word "ordinarily", receive protection as residents, as they do not visit the country in the wild state. So for that rather dubious reason the word, "ordinarily", is included.
However dubious it may be, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On Question, Whether Clause 25, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?
May I very briefly raise a point about the definition of "poultry" in Clause 25? The definition reads that "poultry" means domestic fowls and, among other things, domestic ducks. I just wondered whether the noble Earl could at some point, not now, write to me and give me some assurance that there is no possibility of that definition being interpreted in the court so as to include, for example, normally wild species of duck which were kept in captivity and bred there, or a normally wild British bird which was kept in captivity and bred there, because they were thereby felt to be domestic—whether domestic duck, domestic fowl or what have you. It is simply that if the court did interpret the word "poultry" in that way, as a result of the definition in the clause, it would provide a major loophole in the provisions of the Bill. I hope that it does not. The noble Earl may be able to reassure me straight away or, if not, in due course.
I was worried about the same point. What is confusing is that we do not know how many of these nouns are qualified by the adjective "domestic". Is it all of them or does it qualify only the word "fowls", because pigeons and quails, without the qualification "domestic", are also wild birds within the meaning of the Bill.
I take both noble Lords' points. I am virtually certain that they have no need to worry, but I will certainly check on it and let them know.
Clause 25, as amended, agreed to.