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Lord Glenarthur: I listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, said. It is important in all circumstances to understand two things, so far as I can tell from the Bill. Notwithstanding the fact that extravagant language is never very helpful, the fact is that the possibility of driving deer in the way that my noble friend has described is very real. We are dealing with a Bill which will open up all kinds of doors unless the precise terms are properly described, and that is what my noble friend is seeking to do, and to ensure that that point is well understood.

I do not think it is fair to challenge my noble friend in quite the way that the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, has done. Having said that, if I understood my noble friend Lord Lindsay correctly, he is saying, as regards these amendments relating to the sale of deer, that, under Section 6 of the substantive Act--and I may have misunderstood him--it may be necessary to sell the carcasses in order to recoup the cost of dealing with the deer in the way that is necessary, but that under various other sections of the existing Act, that authority

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would no longer stand. In short, I believe he is saying that he is tightening up the existing Act to some extent. Am I right?

The Earl of Lindsay: I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Glenarthur and to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, for returning some sanity to the discussion, because my noble friend Lord Pearson really had departed well beyond what I have said to date, and indeed what is said either in the Bill or the Act. The point of my amendments was to exclude some of the additional areas in which the commission could authorise action--for instance the new authorisations under new Section 33A--from the commission's right to recoup costs through the disposal of carcasses.

The only people the commission could authorise to use a helicopter or other vehicle to move deer for management reasons would be the occupier or his nominee; i.e. not the commission itself. In fact, the only area where we are talking about the commission needing to recoup costs where it, itself, has perhaps employed its own stalkers or contractors would be, as my noble friend Lord Glenarthur has just said, either in Section 6 or Section 7 schemes. The general principle of the commission being able to recoup costs in those circumstances has been established since 1959, but the controversy that they may have caused has been remarkably insubstantial and insignificant. We just want to ensure that the practice of carcass disposal by the commission is retained in the form envisaged under the 1959 Act and is not suddenly broadened in the proposals before us in the new Section 33A. That is the purpose of the government amendments, but it should also bring considerable reassurance to my noble friend Lord Pearson.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I am grateful for that explanation if my noble friend is saying that, under the provisions of Clause 4 as it will stand, helicopters cannot be used to drive deer. That had not been my understanding to date. It may be that in jogging backwards and forwards between the various Acts I have misunderstood the powers which it is proposed to grant to the commission or anyone appointed by the commission. As I see it, under the authorisation of certain Acts, it may be that that applies only to night shooting and nothing else--I do not know. If I have misunderstood the drafting of the Bill, then of course I apologise to the Committee. The simplest way to do that would be to ask my noble friend the Minister to assure me that Clause 4 of the Bill, as it will emerge, can in no way be used to authorise the use of helicopters to drive deer into corrals.

I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, that the picture I have given to the Committee is not entirely fanciful. It has actually happened in New Zealand where 3 million deer were shot in two years by the use of helicopters. I admit that, in New Zealand, they were actually shot from the helicopters. They were driven up the hill so that they stood exhausted on the top. In that way 10 times the Scottish wild deer population was obliterated in New Zealand in two years. I see no reason to imagine that what I have depicted to the Committee will be the

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subject of a future best seller. What I have depicted is perfectly possible and my understanding is that that is what the Bill authorises. If it does not, I withdraw the amendment with relief. Otherwise, I am simply making that point that the ability to charge the hapless owner for the destruction of his property is going too far.

The Earl of Lindsay: The owner would be asked to allow his carcasses to be sold by the commission only after the commission had employed its own stalkers or contractors to carry out the work where that owner or occupier had in the first place failed to carry out the action that had been required.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Perhaps I may interrupt my noble friend in order to pursue the point of Clause 4. Could that happen under Clause 4, because under Clause 4 we may not even have found the owner? In view of my noble friend's reply to the previous amendments this afternoon, we may not be about to find the owner or the stalker. It therefore seems a little unfair for this to happen and then for him to be charged for the expenses which could arise with the use of helicopters which are a new facet of this Bill. Helicopters were not available for this kind of operation before, and it seems perfectly reasonable to point out that the expenses would be very much larger.

The Earl of Lindsay: I think it best if I offer my noble friend a meeting because his understanding both of what I have already said today about the rights of owners and the extent to which they will be contacted, and his understanding in particular of Clause 4 which deals with the marauding powers, is so wide of some of the other assertions he has been making and the references to New Zealand and so forth that, rather than waste the Committee's time, it would be better if we sat round a table and sorted this out.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I am grateful to my noble friend for any offer of a meeting. I hope he will be able to convince me at that meeting that I misunderstood the Bill as drafted.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 36:

Page 3, line 42, at end insert--
("( ) This section may not be used by the Commission in any attempt to enhance the natural heritage"").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 47. Once again it is an attempt to understand how the new powers which are proposed in this Bill, particularly those in Clause 4, will be used. Those who support the amendment say that these powers should not be used to enhance or improve the natural heritage. We understand that they may be used to prevent further damage, but not to repair habitat which some may judge has been damaged in the past. Under Clause 4, as drafted, there is not a clear understanding of how the natural heritage interest will

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be affected. Indeed, the definition of "woodland" in Clause 4 seems extremely wide. We do not know where we stand with this intention.

I should remind the Committee that Scottish Natural Heritage, in a recent position paper entitled, Red Deer and the Natural Heritage, said in broad terms, and I quote:

    "The restoration of the native woodland eco-system is at the very heart of our vision for the uplands."

What these amendments are designed to do (obviously they are probing amendments at this stage) is to get my noble friend to be very precise as to what extent these amendments can be used to improve the natural heritage. I understand that he said they can only be used when there is serious damage or even damage, but as I said at our last Committee proceedings, damage and serious damage are matters which are in the eye of the beholder. Bearing in mind that the value of a deer forest can be very considerable to the owner--and no doubt my noble friend will put me straight when we have our meeting--as far as I can see, Clause 4 could be used to reduce that value very considerably. We need to be clearer, certainly clearer than I am at the moment, as to how these new powers will be used. I beg to move.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: I also feel that the term "natural heritage" is rather wide and needs definition. I have been given some notes on this which I had not expected to receive at this point, but I am concerned about the term "natural heritage". I suspect at this stage that the question of "natural" may be interpreted to mean grouse moors which are arguably anything but natural heritage. Most grouse moors are the product of the clearances of the old Caledonian Forest. In fact, some of the early Scottish history books refer to the ruthless clearing of the old Caledonian Forest in the last century for the production of sheep and for grouse shooting. I would certainly oppose the disruption of deer merely to enhance the dubious moral activity of shooting birds for sport. I wonder therefore what is meant by "natural heritage". Does one start in 1850 or now?. Can the Minister help with this?

Lord Mackie of Benshie: I have not hit a grouse for a very long time! However, I do know that to put a phrase like this into a Bill is political madness.

    "This section may not be used by the Commission in any attempt to enhance the natural heritage".

That is surely a very foolish thing to put into any Bill. The natural heritage is a question of definition. It may be defined as grouse moors, which is against the present thinking. But if the people of this country feel that the hills of Scotland should go back to an area of natural regeneration and into a different form from what they are today, the owners of the land have no right to stop them. It is perfectly reasonable to say that if the Bill can be useful in restoring or enhancing the natural heritage in any form, it should be done. But to include a clause saying that it shall not be used to enhance the natural heritage is, in my humble view, political foolishness.

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