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Lord Glenarthur: My Lords, if my noble friend will allow me to intervene, I certainly do not disapprove; nor do I believe that there is no need to carry out some experiments. However, it seemed to me that the phrase in Clause 3:
The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, it would possibly be best if we discussed the matter before the next stage. We do not wish to fetter the commission's discretion to pursue research which could have a useful application to deer management. My noble friend Lord Forbes stressed the importance of research, and we hope that it could become an important part of the commission's work.
My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy also raised the public safety issue, which is a new feature of this Bill compared to the 1959 Act. In my opening statement I mentioned airports, but we do not anticipate roads being within the purview of the commission. We do not believe that the many roads that cross the red deer range in Scotland, many of which are unfenced, could possibly be seen by the commission as part of its responsibility. Therefore the Tomintoul road, for instance, will not be policed by deer commission marksmen going about their duty. That is beyond the remit of the commission. Quite apart from wild deer straying on to airports, we are taking a fairly long-term look at deer management through this Bill. As my noble friend Lord Woolton said, if the deer range is moving and reducing, deer may be driven on to school playgrounds and perhaps into other parts of communities where, rather than just being a nuisance, they could be construed as a danger. We want the commission to have the ability to respond to those sorts of dangers.
My noble friend Lord Woolton used the phrase, "the spotlight on country life that is currently being applied by society at large". That is an important aspect. It raises the welfare issue, to which a number of noble Lords alluded in different respects. The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, reported the response of the SSPCA, and the noble Baroness, Lady Robson of Kiddington, also raised welfare, as did the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, and the noble Lord, Lord Forbes.
The important point is that the conservation and sustainable management of deer cannot in any way incorporate practices that do not take account of welfare. If there is abuse or cruelty to deer, that would not qualify under the terms of the Bill as being part of their sustainable management or indeed anything to do with conservation. The issue of the close season has possibly split contributors to the debate. Some, such as my noble
The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, hit on the most successful part of the commission's record to date and on the key to the commission's future success when she said that it must have the effective support and confidence of all those involved. Indeed, as was acknowledged at the start of the debate, if land managers do not have confidence in the commission and in the management systems proposed by the commission, or indeed in the potential of deer management groups, then the deer problem in Scotland will not be solved. In government we recognise that the commission must engender confidence. We must achieve the era of harmony to which my noble friend Lord Pearson referred when speaking of his old friends in SNH. I cannot be nearly so pessimistic as my noble friends Lord Burton or Lord Pearson about the provisions of the Bill and the way in which the deer commission will interrelate with other land users and land managers in the future. There is, as I hope my noble friend Lord Pearson appreciates, a very explicit balancing duty written into the Bill in Clause 1. The interests of owners and occupiers are a balancing duty which has not to date existed in the operation of the Red Deer Commission. Therefore, in the future, all the commission's decisions will have to take account of the wider implications of reactions set out by the balancing duty.
The new provision for the appointment of commissioners is also intended to seek that balance. A number of noble Lords are uneasy about the new provisions in this area. We are conscious that there has been a relatively inflexible situation developing whereby the choice of potential members of the commission is restricted to the nominees of certain organisations. There are many more organisations now with a genuine and legitimate interest in deer management than there were in 1959. We are conscious that good and contributing as members of the commission have been to date, there have been moments when there were people better able to serve on the commission but who could not be appointed because of the constricting procedures that exist at present. We want to maintain a balance and make sure that landowners and people whose primary interest is the sporting side of deer management, as well as those
I am conscious that many noble Lords have today expressed different depths of misgiving and have also contributed one or two suggestions about the way in which Clause 1 allows the Secretary of State to appoint the new commission. I promise that we shall read those remarks with great care in Hansard to see whether there are any adjustments we should like to make or consultations that we should like to carry out with any noble Lords here.
My noble friend Lord Glenarthur was worried about the way in which local panels could be appointed under Clause 2. The clause is designed to reflect the widely varying circumstances that might pertain to any particular situation. We are not sure where a panel might be needed. No local panels are in existence at the moment. We are not quite sure why a local panel might have to be set up and what problem it might address. Therefore, we do not want to prescribe to the commission exactly what sort of panel it has to be until the nature of the problem is evident. The strong likelihood is of course that the composition of the panel will be very similar to the composition of deer management groups but perhaps incorporating an interest to account for a particular circumstance.
In relation to Clause 4, the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, and two or three other noble Lords asked about either the right of appeal or the definitions involved. Clause 4 on marauding deer is primarily geared to an emergency situation. That is the difference between Clause 4 and the control agreements that are needed to solve long-term problems. Clause 4 is meant to be a device to be applied reasonably quickly. The commission must take all steps to inform all those whose land might be involved. Also, the authorisations in Clause 4 that might be given by the commission are time limited. What Clause 4 cannot do is create a longer-term situation that is entirely against the wishes of a landowner or land occupier in that area.
The definitions of "serious damage" are important. I make the same point as I made a moment ago to my noble friend Lord Glenarthur; namely, to prescribe "serious damage" or what the word serious might mean without knowing the area of Scotland, the sort of habitat one addresses and the sort of land uses that might also be part of the equation, is difficult. We fully expect that the composition of the commission, with its balance of expertise and knowledge, and the ability of the commission to draw on outside expertise--it might be SNH or another body of expertise--should provide a definition of "serious damage" that will pertain to the circumstances that it seeks to address. To try to define "serious damage" for a country as diverse in its landscape, topography and land use as is Scotland would be unnecessarily constraining and could be very counterproductive.
The noble Baroness, Lady Robson, asked about following deer onto other land during control agreements. The assumption that I make would be that they are injured, which necessitates, as it were, an act which would otherwise be a transgression on to someone else's private property presumably without any agreement. In normal terms, one would expect the Deer Commission to seek the agreement of all landowners likely to be affected by voluntary control agreements. Under Section 15 of the 1959 Act, the commission has the power to enter onto any land in pursuance of a control scheme but has to give at least 14 days' notice. In emergency circumstances, which may be what the noble Baroness has in mind, such as those involved in following injured deer, we should expect the stalker upon the ground to use his or her discretion, including, where possible, consulting the neighbouring land owner/occupier to ensure that a deer which is in distress is put out of its misery as soon as possible.
We shall look again at the word "exterminate", which the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, and the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, quite rightly drew to my attention. It may be a word which perhaps in earlier legislation caused less concern than it does today. There are other phrases, such as that suggested by the noble Lady of reducing numbers. We shall want to consider that matter very carefully.
The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, the noble Baroness, Lady Robson, my noble friend Lord Forbes and other noble Lords brought up the new provisions and removal of the exemptions on night shooting. We have thought about the issue very carefully. We are convinced that what we are doing is the right way to go forward in this difficult area. As I said, it involves animal welfare, public safety and law and order issues. The need for all those who want to night shoot to obtain authorisation from the commission should solve many of the problems that have been developing.
The definition of "vehicles" has caused some concern among noble Lords and the fact that it could include helicopters has provoked comment. I stress that once again the Red Deer Commission quite rightly assumed that it would not have another opportunity for primary legislation in this century and that we should be into the new millennium before being able to write a new Bill. I feel that it was taking a long-term view of some of the deer management problems which may occur in the next decade or two.
There is a realisation in the red deer range in Scotland that, over very large areas of terrain, there may be a very fast build up of deer numbers and that the only effective management technique may be somehow to move those deer to a point where they can be better managed. It has nothing to do with sporting purposes, as I said. There is no way that from a helicopter, for instance, one could seek to discharge a weapon at a deer. It would be controlled by a code of practice and would only be in very exceptional circumstances. The
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