Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill


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Mr. Breed: I have listened to all that has been said. When my hon. Friends and I first read the clause, we had certain reservations, which have all been teased out in one way or another. First, the fact that the clause is headed, “Possession of pesticides harmful to wildlife”, when what we really want to prosecute is the use of pesticides to harm wildlife. I recognise the difficulty in obtaining evidence of use. People would have to be roaming all over the place and it would be difficult to gather evidence. Thus, we come down to the next best thing—possession.

The cause of all the problems is that sufficient evidence cannot be obtained to prosecute people for use, so the prosecution must be for possession. In many respects, the clause is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It is draconian and has spread outwards and caused great difficulties in respect of legitimate possession of material, ingredients or substances that could be used to poison wildlife if such were the intention. We then come to the difficulties of proving
 
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intent. First, use cannot be proven; therefore, it comes down to possession. Now intention must be proven, and that involves many difficulties.

The Minister referred to the whole idea of catch-up. I suspect that a constant succession of statutory instruments will be introduced to add other substances to the list. Presumably, every time one is added, there will be another six-month period. There will be six months for this one, and a different six months running into yet another six months. There will be a succession of six-month periods starting one month after the other.

There will be vexatious allegations. Already a considerable number of vexatious allegations are made about police going around looking at all sorts of things on farms and estates—not in potting sheds or garden sheds but on estates. I regret that people will make such allegations and that police time will be wasted.

My colleagues and I did not table amendments on the clause, which deals with a very difficult area. We recognise that the Government have tried to get as close as they possibly could to a solution, but we must register our real reservations about the clause. There will be difficulties in addressing the problem, and it could spread into other areas. The clause could create unintended consequences.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 44

Enforcement powers in connection with pesticides

Mr. Paice: I beg to move amendment No. 124, in clause 44, page 16, line 10, leave out subsections (1) to (3).

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 65, in clause 44, page 16, line 10, after ‘inspector’, insert

    ‘who suspects with reasonable cause that an offence is being committed under section 43’.

No. 125, in clause 45, page 16, line 29, leave out ‘and 44’ and insert

    ‘44, [Enforcement powers in connection with pesticides: entry and search without a warrant], [Enforcement powers in connection with pesticides: entry and search by force without a warrant], and [Enforcement powers in connection with pesticides: entry and search with a warrant]’.

New clause 4—Enforcement powers in connection with pesticides: entry and search without a warrant—

    ‘(1)   If a constable or an inspector reasonably suspects—

      (a)   that a relevant offence is being or has been committed on any premises, or

      (b)   that evidence of the commission of a relevant offence is to be found on any premises,

    he may at any reasonable time enter the premises and search them for evidence of the commission of a relevant offence.

    (2)   Subsection (1) does not authorise entry into any part of premises which is used as a private dwelling.’.


 
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New clause 5—Enforcement powers in connection with pesticides: entry and search by force without a warrant—

    ‘(1)   If a constable or an inspector reasonably believes—

      (a)   that evidence of the commission of a relevant offence is to be found on any premises, or

      (b)   that evidence is likely to be removed, destroyed or lost before a warrant can be obtained and executed,

    he may at any time enter the premises and search them for evidence of the commission of a relevant offence.

    (2)   Subsection (1) does not authorise entry into any part of premises which is used as a private dwelling.

    (3)   A constable or an inspector exercising powers under subsection (1) may (if necessary) use such force as is reasonable in the exercise of those powers.

    (4)   An inspector may not exercise the power of entry conferred by subsection (1) between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a constable.’.

New clause 6—Enforcement powers in connection with pesticides: entry and search with a warrant—

    ‘(1)   If, on an application by a constable or an inspector, a justice of the peace is satisfied—

      (a)   that there are reasonable grounds for believing that—

      (i)   a relevant offence is being or has been committed on any premises, or

      (ii)   evidence of the commission of a relevant offence is to be found on any premises, and

      (b)   that one or more of the conditions in subsection (2) is met, he may issue a warrant authorising a constable or an inspector to enter the premises and search them for evidence of the commission of a relevant offence.

    (2)   The conditions are—

      (a)   in the case of any part of premises which is used as a private dwelling, that the occupier of the premises has been informed of the decision to apply for the warrant;

      (b)   in the case of any part of premises which is not used as a private dwelling, that the occupier of the premises—


 
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      (i)   has been informed of the decision to seek entry to the premises and the reasons for that decision,

      (ii)   has failed to allow entry to the premises on being requested to do so by a person mentioned in section [Enforcement powers in connection with pesticides: entry and search without a warrant] (1) or [Enforcement powers in connection with pesticides: entry and search by force without a warrant] (1), and

      (iii)   has been informed of the decision to apply for the warrant;

      (c)   in either case—

      (i)   that the premises are unoccupied, or the occupier is absent, and notice of intention to apply for the warrant has been left in a conspicuous place on the premises, or

      (ii)   an application for admission to the premises or the giving of notice of intention to apply for the warrant is inappropriate because—

      (a)   it would defeat the object of entering the premises, or

      (b)   entry is required as a matter of urgency.

    (3)   References in subsection (2) to the occupier of premises, in relation to any vehicle, vessel, aircraft or hovercraft, are to the person who appears to be in charge of the vehicle, vessel, aircraft or hovercraft, and “unoccupied” shall be construed accordingly.

    (4)   Sections 15 and 16 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60) shall have effect in relation to a warrant issued under this section to an inspector as they have effect in relation to a warrant so issued to a constable.

    (5)   A constable or an inspector exercising—

      (a)   powers under a warrant issued under this section, or

      (b)   powers under Schedule 1 in connection with the execution of such a warrant,

    may (if necessary) use such force as is reasonable in the exercise of those powers.’.

Mr. Paice: Clause 44—

It being One o’clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at Four o’clock.

                                                                                           
 
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