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The Earl of Lindsay: I stress the word "serious" as an adjective to the word "damage". For decades, if not for centuries, deer in Scotland have caused a level of damage just to ensure their own survival, but Clause 4 talks specifically about serious damage to woodland. That is of greater importance in terms of severity than merely talking about damage. It may not be woodland we are talking about. I am sure the noble Lord accepts that it could be open moor or other types of vegetation of natural heritage significance. Where a significant aspect or feature of the natural heritage is concerned, the ability to act quickly in cases of serious damage is of vital importance, but if it is merely damage and not serious damage, then quite properly Section 6 should not be available to the commission. There is a very important distinction here. I hope the Committee accepts that we must have this ability to act in emergency situations where the natural heritage is under threat, not simply because there is a continuing level of damage which is not categorised as serious but because there is a serious threat and the damage itself would be serious.

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The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, spoke to two other amendments. If I understood my noble friend correctly, he seeks to remove natural heritage as a ground for authorising out of season shooting under the proposed Section 33A(5), as proposed by Clause 7. For the same reason that I would defend the ability to authorise a Clause 6 power to protect the natural heritage against serious damage, I would also defend the ability of the commission to authorise out of season shooting to defend the natural heritage against serious damage.

My noble friend Lord Pearson also spoke to Amendment No. 84. I would point out that the definition was taken from the English Deer Act 1991, and it was the intention of the Bill to allow the use of vehicles to move deer subject to permission, authorisation and a code of practice. We have thought the matter through very carefully and will continue to look at the whole subject from all angles. There is sufficient concern, and it is a sufficiently provocative subject, that we should not resort to a closed mind. We will continue to keep an open mind.

However, our fundamental belief, which has come to us through advice from the Red Deer Commission, is that if legislation is only available to a government to revise the powers of the deer commission every two to three decades it is important to take a reasonably long-term view as to what powers and provisions may be needed in the medium term. It has been anticipated by the commission itself in discussions with us that deer on difficult terrain could be subject to very fast rising numbers and that the only way to remove that deer could be the use of some vehicle, be it airborne or a land vehicle. That would be the only sensible way to manage the deer over that ground.

We have made it quite clear that there is to be no sporting dimension to such movement of beasts. It may be that, both for welfare reasons, if there are too many deer on that particular range, or indeed for natural heritage reasons, deer might have to be managed like that. The deer commission would have to consider and authorise each case specifically, and the code of practice which is still to be worked up into its final form would be imposed upon any such exercise. I can reassure the Committee that the use of helicopters in deer management in Scotland will be discussed again in Committee, and again on Report. I can further assure the Committee that I will continue to discuss it with officials between Committee and Report stages. We are keeping an active mind on this.

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Before my noble friend Lord Pearson replies, on the question of deleting natural heritage in this context, if you asked people in Scotland generally whether they would agree that the deer commission should not have power in an emergency to do something quickly about serious damage to some aspect of the heritage by deer, they would ask what was the point of having a deer commission. I really do think that. I am not talking about helicopters at this moment. I can understand that my noble friend may have fears

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about the effect of the Bill on the ground--we have to look at that--but that must stay somewhere in this clause.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I am grateful to my noble friend and to my noble friend the Minister.

To my noble friend Lady Carnegy I would say that we accept that the deer commission requires emergency powers to deal with marauding deer. The question posed by Amendment No. 26 is whether the natural heritage can be the subject of such emergency action. The natural heritage lasts over a very long period of time and it may be that deer are moving into an area and threatening a rare species of plant, or some montagne environment. But if we allow marauding deer to be dealt with in a woodland--even vaguely within the definition of woodland--and everything that goes on in a woodland within this Bill and all the other categories for which marauding deer can be dealt with--then you are only left with the open hills for the use to which the natural heritage interests might be put. It is that which I am trying to protect.

I have to say to my noble friend that I take no comfort from his statement that the damage has to be serious. I imagine that the difference between damage and serious damage must be somewhat in the eye of the beholder. The beholder, on this occasion, will be the commission. If my noble friend can tell me what the difference between damage to the natural heritage on the open hill, not in the woodland, and serious damage to the natural heritage is likely to be, then we might all begin to understand what this clause could be about. Until that can be done, I view it with the very gravest suspicion.

Finally, I am encouraged that my noble friend is prepared to have another look at helicopters, because helicopters are not any good at driving deer in dense plantations; the deer simply turn round and go back. You cannot drive deer out of the modern forestry plantation with a helicopter. I have tried it and it cannot be done. Through the amendment we are trying to deal with the use of helicopters on the open hill under the excuse of the natural heritage to drive deer to their painful destruction. I regret to say that my noble friend has not comforted me on this yet and I hope we can continue to discuss it. If I have that assurance, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendments Nos. 27 to 29:

Page 3, line 25, leave out ("farm animals") and insert ("livestock").
Page 3, line 26, leave out ("those animals") and insert ("any such livestock").
Page 3, line 29, leave out ("and").

The noble Earl said: I spoke to Amendment No. 27 when moving Amendment No. 21 and I also spoke to Amendments Nos. 28 and 29. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 30:

Page 3, line 31, at end insert ("; and

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( ) that none of their other powers is adequate to deal with the situation,").

The noble Earl said: I spoke to Amendment No. 30 when we moved Amendment No. 23. This is the crucial amendment that defines when the Section 6 powers can be used as regards marauding deer, and it defines the fact that it must be a real emergency. However, I spoke to this earlier and therefore I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 3, line 31, at end insert--
("(c) that it is impractical for reasons of public safety or otherwise to kill the deer on the land where such damage, injury, danger or potential danger is caused,").

The noble Lord said: This is an amendment to page 3 line 31 of the Bill, which suggests that it might be impractical to move deer away from the area where they are causing damage, and, if that is so, they should be dealt with where they are. It seems to me a perfectly reasonable little amendment and I wonder whether my noble friend can view it favourably.

Lord Glenarthur: I rise briefly to support my noble friend. It does not seem to me to be a particularly difficult concept to bring to bear and for that reason, because of its simplicity, I very much hope that my noble friend will look at its virtues.

The Earl of Lindsay: I can promise that I will take this away and look forward to considering it in more detail. The spirit behind it is not something with which we will quarrel in that we would hope that, in the hierarchy of action that is applied to any situation where deer damage is thought to be occurring, the deer should be managed where the damage is occurring in the first instance and only in the second instance from where the deer are coming to inflict that damage. Indeed, the deer commission has therefore to contact those people with the right to shoot deer where they are more normally resident. I stress that what the noble Lord is trying to achieve through this amendment is something to which we are not unsympathetic and at which we shall look.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I am most grateful to my noble friend. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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