Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 66:

Page 7, line 7, after ("Act") insert (", notwithstanding anything in any agreement between an occupier of land and the owner thereof").

The noble Earl said: I spoke to this amendment when moving Amendment No. 51. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 67, to 69 not moved.]

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 70:

Page 7, line 17, after ("woodland") insert ("or agricultural land").

The noble Lord said: This, I hope, is another fairly simple amendment in that, on page 7 of the Bill in Clause 7, the words "agricultural land" are not included. The paragraph reads:

I wondered why "agricultural land" was not included within that particular clause. I beg to move.

The Earl of Lindsay: I hope that I can help my noble friend Lord Pearson with Amendment No. 70. I made clear when I spoke to Amendment No. 50 that Section 33(3) of the 1959 Act already sets out the types of agricultural land where out-of-season action can be taken without the need for authorisation from the commission. I would therefore hope that Amendment No. 70 is not necessary.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I thank my noble friend and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6 Mar 1996 : Column CWH88

[Amendments Nos. 71 and 72 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: If Amendment No. 73 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 74.

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 73:

Page 7, line 31, leave out ("occupier or person nominated by him") and insert ("person concerned").

The noble Earl said: This amendment clarifies other amendments which are required for consolidation purposes. The present version of proposed new Section 33A, subsection (7) does not, as drafted, take account of the fact that the commission may authorise a person to take or kill deer out of season for scientific purposes. This minor amendment is by way of correction. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 74 not moved.]

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 75:

After Clause 7, insert the following new clause--

Carcass tagging

(" . After section 25F of the principal Act, there shall be inserted the following section--
"Carcass tagging.
25G.--(1) For the purpose of monitoring the quality and source of venison sold in Scotland the Secretary of State may by regulation introduce a scheme to make provision for the identification of all deer carcasses sold within Scotland ("the scheme").
(2) The scheme shall require any venison sold to bear a tag in a form approved and issued by the Commission and bearing an individual mark or number for each carcass, identifying the producer, the year of issue and the carcass number.
(3) It shall be a requirement of the scheme that any person requiring to sell a venison carcass shall obtain in advance from the Commission the relevant tags and shall affix them to any carcass sold in such manner as may be specified.
(4) At the expiry of the year to which any unused tag relates, the producer or dealer to whom it was issued shall return the same to the Commission.
(5) It shall be an offence for any person to sell, offer or expose for sale or to receive or to have in his possession, transport or cause to be transported for the purpose of sale on any premises any venison not bearing a tag in such form as may be specified by the scheme.
(6) A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (5) above shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale." ").

The noble Lord said: This amendment proposes to introduce a compulsory system of carcass tagging into the sale of venison. I should apologise to the Committee that in subsection (1) of the amendment the Marshalled List reads,

    "For the purpose of nominating the quality and source of venison sold in Scotland".

The amendment should read,

    "For the purpose of monitoring the quality and source of venison sold in Scotland".

I apologise to the Committee for the mistake which was only picked up this morning. I acknowledge that the suggestion in the amendment emerged relatively

6 Mar 1996 : Column CWH89

recently. It arises from the Red Deer Commission's working group on carcass tagging which was set up in 1995 and which reported to the commission in December last year. It is unfortunate, therefore, that at this late juncture there has not been much opportunity for consultation with all interested parties or indeed for a cost compliance assessment.

Nevertheless, the proposed introduction of a compulsory carcass tagging system has the support of the Red Deer Commission, the Scottish Landowners' Federation and Scottish Enterprise. I am not aware of opposition from any interested parties and the response from the principal game dealers in particular has been favourable. Furthermore, the proposal for compulsory tagging received overwhelming support from the members of the Association of Deer Management Groups at its annual general meeting on 22 February.

Carcass tagging is also an integral part of the recommendations contained in the venison marketing feasibility study undertaken on behalf of the association by SAOS Limited in 1995. The recommendations include the establishment of a Scotland-wide venison marketing group, and the Association of Deer Management Groups has the backing of its member groups to pursue this.

I wish to outline the case for carcass tagging in more detail. A stable venison market is of great importance in underpinning the employment of professional stalkers and maintaining an adequate level of deer management throughout Scotland. This employment also has implications for rural communities and for management of the natural habitat.

Important developments have taken place in the Scottish venison industry over the last four years. In particular, the proportion of venison sold in the United Kingdom has increased from less than 10 per cent to around 30 per cent of total production since 1992 and that proportion continues to increase annually. That is important. It reduces our dependence on traditional European markets, which are notoriously susceptible to currency fluctuations, and competition from other world sources, particularly New Zealand and eastern Europe.

Under the 1995 game meat regulation there is rigorous control of food hygiene standards in respect of all venison intended for export. However, this is not the case for venison for United Kingdom consumption. Yet our customers, in particular the retail multiples with whom we are making a good deal of progress, are increasingly demanding that game meat products should meet the standards of traceability required of other meat products notwithstanding the unusual circumstances in which they are produced.

The venison industry is characterised at producer level by a fragmented approach which reflects the relatively small size of the average producer business and its remoteness from the market and also a lack of co-ordination with neighbours.

As to our customers, the game dealers and processors, the larger companies have responded to the needs of the consumer by introducing partial tagging systems of their own. However, at this point in the supply chain there is

6 Mar 1996 : Column CWH90

again a lack of co-ordination which can only be addressed by a central system. The measures recommended in the Association of Deer Management Group's consultancy study are all intended to rationalise and co-ordinate the industry and to shorten the supply chain. The introduction of a universal system of traceability is a vital element.

I suppose that it could be claimed that our desire for the introduction of a carcass tagging system is slightly at odds with the deregulation philosophy of the Government. Also, if the case for tagging is based only on its importance for the industry, the industry could introduce it on a voluntary basis. However, the Red Deer Commission working group has concluded that a voluntary system would not be workable.

Agricultural occupiers and foresters are entitled to shoot deer to protect their interests either under authorisations from the Red Deer Commission in terms of the Deer (Scotland) Act 1959 or under agricultural holdings legislation where an authorisation is required. Those who fall into this category and shoot deer only on an irregular opportunistic basis do not have a primary interest in venison production and have little incentive to bow to the improving industry standards at which the ADM Groups is aiming.

Thus a significant quantity of venison is produced in Scotland which, in terms of the 1995 game meat regulations, can be legally disposed of in the United Kingdom without veterinary inspection, and without conforming to any accepted standards of handling or lardering. This significant proportion of total Scottish production has consistently been the source of the substandard product which undermines the efforts of the industry to improve the consumer image of venison.

A further aspect of the unregulated element of the venison trade is that lack of traceability creates a situation where no deer management group or indeed the Red Deer Commission can accurately assess the total cull that has been taken from the deer herd. Thus, the establishment of agreed culling strategies by deer management groups is undermined by uncertainty. The fact is that we just do not know how many we are shooting.

A related negative effect is that deer management plans, which have been developed by a joint working group of the ADMG, the Red Deer Commission, SNH and Forest Enterprise at present, will be unlikely to be taken up in all deer management group areas owing to the indeterminable "black loss", which makes the development of reliable population models difficult. A compulsory tagging system would result in a closer record of the annual cull in Scotland with reduced opportunity for abuse and illegal disposal.

There is a potential research benefit from a tagging system, if modelled on the successful Forest Enterprise system which comprises three tags, one of which is placed in the jaw, one inside the animal--the pluck as it is known, the liver and heart--and the third in the jawbone. The jawbone is used for ageing and can be retained for examination and through the tag can be linked back to the carcass information which will be recorded on the standard larder sheet which is to

6 Mar 1996 : Column CWH91

be introduced by the Red Deer Commission in 1996. This would provide a comprehensive data set in respect of each deer culled which will be a potentially valuable research resource, particularly relevant to cohort analysis and population modelling. We are making much progress towards accurate counting of the deer. I repeat: at the moment we just do not know how many are being shot.

The Red Deer Commission working group has concluded that a compulsory scheme would address all the points noted above and that it could be implemented without difficulty and at modest cost and without imposing a significant additional administrative burden on the commission itself, as follows. Tags would be purchased from the commission by all producers; the cost of a set of tags together with the associated administration, is estimated to be less than £1 per deer carcass. There I might add that deer forests have received a very substantial benefit in recent years in that the sporting rates, which we used to pay, are no longer payable. That has saved the industry roughly £1 million per year. The deer forests certainly have the money to set up this system themselves if they want it.

The tags would be indestructible and incapable of re-use. A simple system could be introduced whereby all those who shoot deer, either in the course of normal deer management or under authorisation or exemptions, would be required to obtain the requisite number of tags from the Deer Commission, submit a statutory return of deer killed, showing the tag number, and to return surplus tags at the end of the year. The commission already has the power to examine game dealers' records and, if these are amended to include the tag number for each carcass, a further check will be available as to the disposal of each carcass which can be cross-checked against its source. Thus all tags will be fully accountable, preventing abuse or the development of a black market in tags. I suppose it is possible that a small black market in tags will develop. However, I regard that as a very slight evil compared to the benefit which the scheme would bestow on the industry.

In summary, the Association of Deer Management Groups believes that the introduction of a compulsory tagging scheme will yield multiple benefits in terms of improved product quality, increased traceability, reduced potential for abuse and more accurate cull data, all of which would apply throughout the industry. I am advised that no existing legislation or regulation provides a basis for the introduction of such a scheme, and do not therefore wish to miss the opportunity presented by this legislation to press for the amendment to be included. I believe the amendment is widely supported by interests on all sides, and it would also be consistent with the recognised need to move to a more sophisticated system of integrated and sustainable deer management, based on a more rigorous and uniform approach. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page