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Madam Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 8—Restoration Of Habitat—

'After section 21 of the 1981 Act, insert—

"21A   Restoration order where offence under section 14 is committed

(1)   In addition to the penalties in section 21(4), where the operation in respect of which a person is convicted of an offence under section 14 has destroyed or damaged any flora, fauna or physiographical feature, the court by which he is convicted, in addition to dealing with him in any way, may make an order requiring him to carry out, within such period as may be specified in the order, such operations for the purpose of restoring the habitat to its former condition as may be so specified.

(2)   An order under this section made on conviction on indictment shall be treated for the purposes of sections 30 and 42(1) and (2) of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 (effect of appeals on orders for the restitution of property) as an order for the restitution of property; and where by reason of the quashing by the Court of Appeal of a person's conviction any such order does not take effect, and on appeal to the House of Lords the conviction is restored by that House, the House may make an order under this section which could be made on his conviction by the court which convicted him.

(3)   In the case of an order under this section made by a magistrates' court, the period specified in the order shall not begin to run—

(a)   in any case until the expiration of the period for the time being prescribed by law for the giving of notice of appeal against a decision of a magistrates' court; or

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(b)   where notice of appeal is given within the period so prescribed, until determination of the appeal.

(4)   At any time before an order under this section has been complied with or fully complied with, the court by which it was made may, on the application of whom it was made, discharge or vary the order if it appears to the court that a change in circumstances has made compliance or full compliance with the order impracticable or unnecessary.

(5)   If, within the period specified in an order under this section, the person against whom it was made fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with it, he shall be liable on summary conviction—

(a)   to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale; and

(b)   in the case of a continuing offence, to a further fine not exceeding £1000 for each day during which the offence continues after conviction.

(6)   If, within the period specified in an order under this section, any operations specified in the order have not been carried out, the authorised body may enter the land and carry out those operations and recover from the person against whom the order was made any expenses reasonably incurred by them in doing so.".'.

New clause 9—Harmful, Non-Native Species (Supplementary Provisions)—

'(1)   In section 14(1)(b) of the 1981 Act (introduction of new species etc) insert "or Part III" after "Part I".

(2)   In section 14(2) of the 1981 Act (introduction of new species etc) insert "or Part III" after "Part II".

(3)   After Part II of Schedule 9 of the 1981 Act (animals and plants to which section 14 applies, insert—

"PART III Potentially invasive or damaging animals and plants not native to Great Britain to which section 14ZC applies

Duck, RuddyOxyura jamaicensis
Fern, WaterAzolla filiculoides
Hogweed, GiantHeracleum mantegazzianum
Knotweed, JapaneseFallopia japonica
Parrot's-featherMyriophyllum aquaticum
Pennywort, FloatingHydrocotyle ranunculoides
Stonecrop, Australian swampCrassula helmsii".'.

Amendment No. 15, in clause 49, page 18, line 37, leave out from 'is' to end of line 38 and insert

'included in Part III of Schedule 9.'.

Mr. Paice: I shall try to deal briefly with new clause 6. We addressed a similar issue in Committee—or to be more precise, the Liberal Democrats did so—and it is right that it should be considered a little further. New clause 6 deals with the need to control invasive non-native species. Of course, not all non-native species are bad. I can cite species such as the rabbit, the fallow deer and the pheasant, none of which are native to this country. They have been here for hundreds of years, but they are not native and, with the possible exception of the rabbit, no one would argue that they were bad. There are many other examples.

New clause 6(2) relates to situations where there

There are certain examples where that is clearly an issue. Interestingly and very topically, the ruddy duck has been mentioned in today's paper. The north American ruddy duck, which was originally introduced to Britain, is now to be culled in Spain because it has flown there
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and mated with a local species, producing a hybrid that threatens the original. That is a clear example of an invasive non-native species causing a problem.

Jim Knight: I wish to advise the hon. Gentleman and the House that, if there is time for me to contribute to the debate, I should like to make an announcement on the ruddy duck.

Mr. Paice: I look forward to that announcement, and I certainly do not intend to take many minutes. I want to hear the Minister's announcement.

Other species are listed in new clause 9, to which I could add the signal crayfish, which is destroying our native crayfish in many of our waterways, including those in south Dorset, and, of course, the grey squirrel.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Tree rats.

Mr. Paice: The Minister is right: they are rats with fluffy tails. I am sure that, if we spoke to people walking across St. James's park or Green park, they would all think that they were lovely animals, but they cause immense damage to our trees, our forestry and, most importantly, to our beloved red squirrel. They are an immense problem. I shall not detain the House by quoting all the accounts of the problems that they cause, such as the damage to woodland, the competition with bats for roost sites and with birds for resources—food and nesting sites—the predation of birds' nests and, most importantly, the competition with the red squirrel. There is a belief that they may well spread disease to the red squirrel, and there has not yet been enough research into whether the grey squirrel is spreading the squirrel pox virus to our red squirrels.

The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw) said quite clearly in July last year that the Forestry Commission is engaged in the preparation of a policy statement on grey squirrels. I am told that that policy statement is due by the end of 2005. I hope that that is the case, but that is still a very long time. The Minister is looking somewhat doubtful about whether it will be produced even then. I hope that he will not delay it further.

New clause 6 would require the Secretary of State to tell Parliament how such an action plan would be implemented. We need more than simply an action plan. It is all very well to talk, as I am doing now, about the seriousness of the problems caused by the grey squirrel and those other species to our natural flora and fauna and the threat that they represent to red squirrels and other aspects of our natural environment, but we must do something about it. There is a common belief in the country that the Forestry Commission is dragging its heels. By its nature, the commission has a huge impact on the grey squirrel because it owns so much of our woodland and forestry. So whatever action it takes is central to controlling that species. If the commission is dragging its heels, as is widely believed and often reported in a number of different professional journals, that is not good news.

My purpose in speaking to new clause 6 is to encourage the Government to look again at what is going on with invasive species that can damage native
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flora and fauna. In particular, how will the Government turn policy and proposals into action? I remind them that 30 or 40 years ago we had an excellent rabbit clearance policy—although now we might say that it has not worked. More recently, we eliminated the coypu, which was doing huge damage to parts of the country. It is probably unrealistic to expect us to eradicate the grey squirrel, unfortunately. I agree entirely with the Minister about that. I suspect that if we advocated such a course we should bring the wrath of some members of the community down on our heads. However, the grey squirrel needs to be seriously controlled, especially outside urban areas where it does so much damage. New clause 6 would address that problem and turn policy into action. I commend it to the House.

8.45 pm

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