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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I apologise if I was unfair in suggesting that he was not entirely with us in our unanimity in the Committee stage proceedings. On the other hand, what he has said tonight would not go far enough unless he agreed to bring forward at the next stage some version of the word "welfare" and the duty that the commission should have towards the welfare of deer.

I apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Buchan, if he thought I was accusing him of not attending to what I may have been saying in Edinburgh. My suggestion was that he was not fully aware of the extent to which the committee discussed the question of tagging at that time. I repeat any apologies which may be in order.

I thank all noble Lords who spoke in support of the amendment and I am sure that they join me in wishing my noble friend on the Front Bench every success in bringing forward at our next stage of the proceedings an amendment which will be acceptable to all sides of the land use and deer debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 2, line 6, after ("total") insert ("of whom six shall form a quorum").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friend the Minister may wish to add something to this amendment. It is a question of trying to get a quorum into the arrangements for the new commission whereby we are suggesting a minimum of six. Having read my noble friend's amendment, he may be about to suggest a minimum of five. I feel sure that we would welcome that. I beg to move.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, in this amendment. Indeed, I thought we had agreed that our amendment would say "five". I shall be happy therefore to have the amendment withdrawn in favour of that of the noble Earl.

Baroness Robson of Kiddington: My Lords, I intended to support the amendment because the commission contained representations from so many interests. On many occasions a quorum is often only three and that would not be acceptable. However, I am happy with the noble Earl's suggestion of five.

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The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, at the appropriate moment I intend to move Amendments Nos. 74 and 75 which do exactly what noble Lords anticipate; that is, ensure that the minimum quorum is five. I would add that the commission may determine to have a quorum of a greater number than five if it so wished and that option will remain open to it. On that basis, I look forward to moving Amendments Nos. 74 and 75 and hope that Amendment No. 3 will be withdrawn.

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

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 6, after ("total,") insert ("with such knowledge or experience of deer,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 4 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 5 to 10 and 12. I shall speak briefly in support of Amendment No. 5, tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, when he moves it and I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 7 and 10 separately when I have concluded what I wish to say about the other amendments in the group.

We come now to the composition of the new commission for which the Bill, as drafted, may hold a major change from what we have at the moment. It should be remembered that the 12 members of the present Red Deer Commission have to be appointed entirely from nominees of the various interested parties, apart from the chairman who is appointed by the Secretary of State.

The present Act requires that the 12 other members shall be appointed, one from nominees of the Nature Conservancy Council--that probably means Scottish Natural Heritage nowadays; one from nominees of the Natural Environment Research Council; three from nominees from organisations which appear to the Secretary of State to represent the interests of owners of land used for agriculture or forestry; two from nominees of organisations which appear to represent the sporting interest in deer; three from nominees which represent the interests of farmers and crofters and two from nominees of such organisations that appear to the Secretary of State to represent the interests of hill sheep farmers. That makes 12 in total.

It is generally accepted that this system has proved rather inflexible. It has not proved possible to appoint some good people to the commission because they were not nominated by one of the interests quoted. It may be generally accepted therefore that the Secretary of State needs more flexibility in making future appointments; but not the almost total flexibility envisaged by the Bill.

My noble friend the Minister was good enough to guarantee in our Committee proceedings that at least one member should be someone who manages deer for sporting purposes. I hope therefore that he will not think me ungrateful if I say that some of us feel that the Secretary of State should be further constrained. Indeed, at our hearings in Edinburgh there was widespread, if not unanimous, support for the suggestion that the Bill

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should reflect a halfway house between inflexibility and flexibility of appointment. That is what the amendments attempt to achieve.

Amendment No. 4 suggests that everyone on the new commission should have,

    "such knowledge or experience of deer",
as the Secretary of State considers appropriate. I hope that that does not seem unreasonable when one considers that the commission will be dealing with matters wholly concerned with deer. That is its entire remit.

Amendments Nos. 6, 8, 9 and 12 have the effect of obliging the Secretary of State to appoint at least three-quarters of the commission from people who appear to him to have knowledge or experience of one of the interests covered by Clause 1 (3)(3A)(a); that is to say, deer management which, under the Bill, is not necessarily the same as the sporting interest in deer. We therefore include that as a separate heading with Amendment No. 8.

The other categories of interest which are included are,

    "agriculture (including crofting) (iii) forestry and woodland management; and (iv) the natural heritage".
That would still leave one-quarter of the commission which the Secretary of State could appoint with a large degree of flexibility, constrained only by the suggestion under Amendment No. 4 that he should believe that they all have some knowledge or experience of deer. I accept that Amendment No. 4 may go a little too far; it may prevent the concept of the non-executive director or even perhaps two non-executive directors. I use that expression to describe someone who may be wise and generally knowledgeable in other fields and who could bring that authority to the commission. Nevertheless, I hope my noble friend will accept the amendment in the spirit in which it is offered.

Amendments Nos. 7 and 10 are in a slightly different category but, as they are part of this group, I shall speak to them briefly. They are tabled to enable me to ask my noble friend the Minister whether we really want people on the commission who have knowledge "or" experience of the interests mentioned. Surely we want people on the commission with experience of these matters, for the simple reason that experience gives knowledge which will be of value in its deliberations. I am not sure that knowledge per se will be quite so helpful. I shall be grateful for my noble friend's view on that matter. I hope that people with only a theoretical knowledge of deer will be in a small minority and that my noble friend can reassure me on that point.

I conclude by reminding your Lordships of how important it is that the interested parties in Scotland have confidence in the new commission. If all the various disparate interests which now bear upon deer in Scotland have confidence in the composition of the commission, it will find its remit very much easier to carry out. It is in that spirit that I have tabled the amendments. I beg to move.

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6.30 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, I am very grateful to Lord Pearson of Rannoch, as my Amendment No. 5 was included in his group of amendments. I am most grateful to have his support.

I want to give a slightly different view on the question of the balance of the commission. At present it appears that the deer commission tends to have a bias in favour of deer management or landowning interests. This can often be a conflicting interest with that of, for example, the crofting interest, and the crofting people are the people who have suggested that we put this amendment down. One group wish to control deer causing damage and the other wish to maintain deer for sport. Both of them are perfectly reasonable, but they can have conflicting objectives.

At present, there are many who feel that estates routinely ignore the reports of damage by deer. For example--again, this is in the experience of the Crofters' Commission--following reports of damage by deer in North Uist over a period of more than 12 months, there was no action by the estate. It was only on the personal intervention of the Chairman of the Red Deer Commission that the estate could be persuaded to take action. In this instance the action of the chairman was very welcome, but there is no obligation on the Chairman of the Red Deer Commission to engage in such action. It is difficult to envisage a deer commission with a bias of interest in favour of deer management interests being at the forefront of pre-emptive control agreements. Yet, a better balance of representation on the commission would encourage and foster a sustainable approach to deer management, taking account of all factors, without there being a bias towards one set of interests over another.

It would also allow the development of a proactive and pre-emptive approach to control agreements under Section 7 of the principal Act which, of course, is amended by Clause 5 of the present Bill.

Overall, it would begin to move away from deer being the domain of the few, and would provide a forum for tackling problems that would have the confidence of all groups. In other words, a well balanced commission could talk and begin to understand and appreciate the other point of view rather better, perhaps, than a smaller one.

A simple and practical suggestion is that it may be appropriate to look at Section 3A(a), and the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, referred to this. It lays down four distinct areas of interest, and with between nine and 12 persons on the commission, three representatives could be drawn from each interest group. That would be one way forward, but I am interested to hear from the Minister, who has gone a fair way with us so far, whether he is willing to insert this amendment in order to get a balance in the Deer Commission.

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