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Mr. Paice: We move on to a specific matter that was debated in Committee, so I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing us to address it again because it is important and needs to be examined further.
We are worried about the open-ended nature of clause 44, which details the enforcement powers to be given to inspectors to deal with the Government's decision that is set out in clause 43 to make it an offence for people to possess certain chemicals that could be used to poison birds, primarily birds of prey. I emphasised in Committee and repeat now that we condemn anyone who unlawfully uses a chemicala pesticide or whateverto poison birds or mammals. It is already illegal to do that and we understand that the Government want an extra power to deal with the problem, but we are worried about the powers that will be given to inspectors.
has been committed. That does not require him to have reason to believe that the owner of those premises has committed an offence. An inspector will have carte blanche to go into any form of premises. That is excessive and, to be fair, I think that the Minister accepted that. I remind him of what he said in Committee:
"We cannot accept amendment No. 65 because it constrains our ability to deliver the clause properly. We understand the concerns that the hon. Gentleman and others have expressed. We would like to go away and consider carefully",
and so on. Hon. Members will understand my disappointment when, despite the Government's constructive approach and the considerable correspondence that the Minister sent to us in the recess, nothing has arisen to address that. As a result, we have tabled a new form of words in amendment No. 4 to ensure that the fishing trip, as he describedit was not my termis prevented. The amendment would prevent inspectors from wandering into any property on the basis that they are looking to see whether an offence has been committed. They would need reasonable justification to do that.
Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 and new clauses 1 and 2 are closely related. They address our continuing concerns about the powers of inspectors and the contradictions in the Minister's responses in Committee. Paragraphs (b) and (c) in clause 44(1) are about inspectors collecting
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evidence. Yet the Minister made it clear in Committee that inspectors will not have powers under PACE when he stated:
"Wildlife inspectors authorised under the Bill will not have powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act . . . Their function is purely to gather information that can inform a criminal investigation."
Clauses 43 and 44 deal with the use of pesticides to kill, primarily, birds of prey. Apart from an admission by the person who commits the offence, the most likely evidence to connect an individual to an offence is to find some of that pesticide or chemical on his property or in his possession. If the inspector uses his powers as set out in clause 44(1)(c) to seize and remove it, the only evidence will have gone, but it would not have been gathered under PACE. The Minister said:
However, there is no use going back to the premises because the inspector will have already taken the evidence outside the terms of PACE. Even given my scant knowledge of the lawgathered through being responsible on behalf of the Opposition for police issues for three yearsI know that, if evidence is not gathered under the terms of PACE, it is not admissible in court. The fundamental evidence that will be part of the prosecution's caseit may be the main point of the prosecutionwill somehow be lost. I am concerned that the Government have not thought through what they are trying to do.
New clauses 1 and 2 repeat what was tabled in Committee. The Minister knows that they are a direct lift from his Department's draft Animal Welfare Bill. I understand that the Bill is likely to be presented later this week. Whether the provisions remain in the Bill remains to be seen.
Our contention is that the law should be consistent. The prevention of an animal's current suffering is more urgent than resolving who killed a bird of prey. Both matters are extremely important, but relieving suffering must be more urgent than dealing with something after the event. Yet we have the contradiction that in the Bill the powers given to an inspector in dealing with the poisoning of birds of prey appear to be far wider, more draconian and much less constrained by PACE than the powers given to dealing with current suffering of animals in the draft Animal Welfare Bill. That is wrong.
Our contention is straightforward. It is that these analogous issuesthe powers of inspectors and dealing with prosecutionsshould be dealt with in the same way. That would make the situation clearer for everyone to understand. Our position is logical, given the analogy between the two different but related issues, which are both concerned with the protection of our flora and fauna. They should be governed by the same set of guidelines and rules for inspection, investigation and prosecution.
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I have set out the reasons why we tabled the new clauses and amendments. I hope that, given the three months that the Minister has had to reflect on the issues, he will now consider that changes need to be made.
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