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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, every one of whom has supported the amendment with the unfortunate exception of my noble friend the Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, asked about the definition of the carrying capacity of a deer range as regards the national heritage or whatever other management objective there might be. He asked who decides--and that is a very good question. The intention of the Bill is that it should be predominantly the new deer commission which would decide that, no doubt taking advice from Scottish Natural Heritage and in collaboration with the deer forest or the deer management group concerned. It is absolutely clear that the new commission will be the lead body. It may be that in a certain part of Scotland there will be a requirement to regenerate a lot of trees and everyone will agree with that and it will happen, and in another part of Scotland it may be different. I agree that I cannot answer the question and I agree that the amendment is not perfectly worded. That goes some way towards answering the noble Lord's question.

When we come to the comments of my noble friend the Minister--and I am grateful for the ray of pallid light that he threw out that he might be able to look at this matter again--I cannot accept that "welfare" is necessarily part of sustainable management or "conservation". I would have to point out that the definition of those two expressions is not to be found in Clause 9 of the Bill. Perhaps it would be helpful if we could make sure that the expression "conservation" were to be found in Clause 9 and that it included the concept of welfare. I feel that the word "conservation" is likely to lend itself to welfare more than "sustainable management", which may mean an awful lot of different things to different people. Whatever else one can say about the red deer in the Highlands of Scotland at the moment, they are certainly sustainable--perhaps too sustainable.

My noble friend says that welfare aspects have been strengthened in the Bill. We will come to some of those later. I am grateful to notice that the Government have tabled an amendment insisting that there will at least be a close season for female deer. My noble friend says that the commission will take account of this matter. If that is so, why should it not be on the face of the Bill? My noble friend also says that the legislation ensures--or will ensure; I am not quite sure what he said--that heavy culling, were it to be necessary, would be humane.

I have to point out to my noble friend, as we discussed in Edinburgh, that even the guidelines of the Red Deer Commission allow for animals to be shot at considerable distance, sometimes moving, and there is

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quite a paragraph in there about polishing off orphaned calves. This is not a scenario that encourages one to think that we are necessarily looking at the humane killing of wild animals, so I have to put a straight question to my noble friend. Even including the sporting interest in deer, can he envisage deer management including the use of helicopters to drive wild deer into corrals, of whatever size, for effective slaughter? If he can then I personally object to it, and I would not find that a practice which goes with the welfare of deer.

As to contraception--this eventually leading to shooting being banned--that seems to me such a long way off that if it does happen I have no doubt that shooting may be banned anyway. We need not look so far into the future with this Bill that we have to go down paths of that kind.

My noble friend then went on to mention herd management, saying that the amendment talks of the removing of old and unhealthy animals. I am happy to say that it also says,

    "for the purposes of reducing the herd to a number which does not exceed the capacity of their normal range".

I would agree with my noble friend when he mentions a "switch", a switch being a stag which has no points on its horns. If you have a number of switches it is a sure sign that there are too many deer for the carrying capacity in question.

For the purposes of reducing the deer herd, which we all accept, I cannot see why this word should not be on the face of the Bill. The contraceptive argument is a red herring and I suspect that if welfare does come to mean the right to life and shooting is banned, it will do very much more harm to the deer than the good which it may be intended to do.

4 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur: Before my noble friend, if he is going to do so, withdraws the amendment, I wonder if I may press my noble friend Lord Lindsay a little further. He seemed to indicate that, while he accepted the concept, there were serious difficulties about the legal position. He also said that the Deer Commission for Scotland will take account of it anyway, and that it could conflict with the control of deer numbers. He also indicated that he would try to find a form of words which would somehow match the concerns which have been expressed. Can he elaborate a little more and give some indication--because presumably it has been thought about--of what terms it might be possible to develop?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Before my noble friend replies, will he also address the question I put to him? Does he envisage that the Bill as drafted would allow the use of helicopters to drive wild deer into corrals for effective slaughter? I know we come to it in later amendments regarding vehicles but we ought to start talking about this issue under the heading of welfare.

The Earl of Lindsay: Regarding the point raised by my noble friend Lord Glenarthur, I can say that I have instructed officials to find a form of words which reflects the wishes of many Members at Second

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Reading, the evidence taken at the Select Committee and what is said in the Committee today. When we were preparing for today, there was no form of words which parliamentary draftsmen felt were safe to put forward. But the instruction to his officials from the Minister, who wants to achieve what everyone here wants to achieve, is that we should try to find that form of words. However, I must warn Members of the Committee that the form of words may carry some degree of risk. I hope that brings some reassurance to my noble friend Lord Glenarthur.

My noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked about helicopters. Helicopters could be used only with the specific authorisation of the deer commission and in compliance with the code of practice which will be drawn up by the deer commission. Welfare will be a central plank of that code of practice. So welfare could not be excluded or ignored in the use of helicopters.

I would just add for the enlightenment of the Committee that the Deer (Scotland) Act 1959 already provides a higher degree of protection for the welfare of deer than the new Wild Mammals (Protection) Act, which has just come into law. I am drawing a comparison here between the 1959 Act and the latest 1996 Act. When the new Bill hopefully passes into legislation, with its increased welfare elements, it will draw yet further ahead of the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act in terms of the welfare it affords wild deer.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I am grateful to my noble friend for that explanation, which will bear some examination over the next week or so. I am not sure I was listening as closely as I should have been to what the Lord Chairman said at the start of the proceedings. I believe it is in order for me to withdraw the amendment unless I am confident that there is unanimity in its favour. I do not think I can rely on that unanimity at the moment from my noble friend the Minister. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 22, leave out from ("to") to end of line 23 and insert ("have regard to").

The noble Lord said: This is grouped with Amendment No.3 to which I shall also speak. The purpose of Amendment No.2 is simply to ask my noble friend the Minister to give us some explanation as to the meaning of the expression:

    "to take such account as may be appropriate in the circumstances"

when it is the duty of the commission to consider the three categories of interest which come within this clause: the size and density of the deer population and its impact on the natural heritage; the needs of agriculture and forestry; and the interests of owners and occupiers of land.

I have been advised that legally the expression

    "to take such account as may be appropriate in the circumstances"

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is just about as weak as you can get and I tabled the amendment, which is of a probing nature, to suggest that instead of those words, the words "have regard to" might have more force on the face of the Bill.

Amendment No.3 suggests reversing the batting order of the three interests. I notice that under the Bill as drafted, the new boy of the Bill--if I may put it that way--namely:

    "the size and density of the deer population and its impact on the natural heritage"

has been elevated to the No. 1 slot. The needs of agriculture and forestry remain in the middle and

    "the interests of owners and occupiers of land"

go down to the bottom. I wanted to ask my noble friend if there was any legal significance in that. I feel that the needs of agriculture and forestry should come first, as they have done for many years now; then the interests of owners and occupiers of land, who have to make this thing work, if it is to work without all the ghastly threats that hide in the background of this Bill, and I should have thought that the new interest could come at the end. But they are both probing amendments to elicit some comment from my noble friend.

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