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Baroness Robson of Kiddington: My Lords, I would particularly like to support Amendment No. 6, which seeks to replace "may appoint any person who appears" with "shall appoint persons who appear". I am not English by birth, but my understanding of "may" is that it is a very vague request to the Secretary of State. It is important, if this Bill is going to be meaningful, that there are also duties laid on the Secretary of State. The word "shall" is more appropriate.
Viscount Massereene and Ferrard: My Lords, I apologise that the first time I did not declare an interest. In fact, I own a deer forest on the Island of Mull in the Hebrides. I am very glad to see that the sporting interests are going to be represented on this new commission, because something that has not really been brought home is that deer are an extremely valuable natural resource. They bring in a lot of foreign currency. Currently it costs around £250 to shoot a stag and around £60 to shoot a hind. If at all possible, they should be shot commercially rather than just culled out of hand.
The noble Lord mentioned crofters. I know of a crofter who shot 17 beasts and just left them on the ground. As far as I could see, they were not doing any real damage, as he only had grass. That was a very considerable waste of a natural resource.
The Earl of Woolton: My Lords, as this is my first intervention in this debate since Second Reading, I shall start by declaring the interest that I declared then, in that I own an estate in the Angus glens which, although not a traditional deer forest, winters large numbers of stags.
I would like to make a few general comments about what I see as the key issue here. Much has been said on this subject throughout the passage of the Bill and it is clear that there still remains not a little gap between the Government and other noble Lords. As has been said many times already, the issue here is for the future, as we all have a great deal of confidence in the current chairman and his team. There remains a genuine concern, with the current wording of Clause 1, that those with the day to day management of deer on the ground--the owners and occupiers of the deer range--could be under-represented on the new commission.
Interestingly, of those organisations, only a quarter seemed directly to represent those people with a sporting interest in deer, although a number of others enjoy the economic benefits from sport. This alone raises concerns among deer managers about their future representation on the new commission.
I know that the Association of Deer Management Groups and others believe that this is a real outstanding issue. Although I am broadly in favour of the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, I have some reservations about seeing the phrase, "the sporting interest in deer" on the face of the Bill. I would prefer a phrase such as, "economic interest in deer". My reservations spring partly from reasons that killing for sporting purposes is now somewhat controversial and may not have been something that would have concerned those who drafted the 1959 Act.
Also, and this may be somewhat more controversial, as I said at Second Reading, there is a belief in certain quarters that those who have managed deer in the past only for sporting purposes may not have done a particularly good job. Nevertheless, the new commission, as other noble Lords have said, needs to bring with it as wide a range of interested parties as possible. It seems to me that there must exist a compromise position, although I am still undecided on this issue. I am therefore most interested to hear what my noble friend the Minister has to say.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I should like to back up what my noble friend Lord Woolton has said. He lives very close to where I live and he knows all about deer and I do not. He is right to recognise the need for balance on the commission. For that reason I see the merit in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, and I see why the crofters want to include such a provision in the Bill. At the same time, the sporting interest in deer is an enormous factor in the economy of the deer country in Scotland. Where I live it is very important indeed.
The people whose main interest is the economic side of the sporting interest need to have confidence in the commission. We have to look for balance. I have said before that the new body will probably not speak entirely according to the balance that is held. You do not want teams of people opposing each other on such a body. You want a blend of discussion over the whole subject. I am sure that that can be achieved without necessarily making sure that one group has more representatives than another.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, we have just heard a very interesting suggestion from the noble Earl, Lord Woolton, and I shall be interested to hear what the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, thinks of it later on. I do not
The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, this is one of the most important parts of the Bill. I hope that through a combination of clarification and compromise we can achieve a Clause 1 which suits all interests.
Perhaps I may start with the clarification. Amendment No.4, moved by my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch and spoken to by a number of noble Lords, proposes that members of the commission shall have such knowledge or experience of deer as the Secretary of State considers appropriate to represent the interests groups set out in Section 1(3A).
The main aim, as noble Lords will know, of new Clause 1 on appointments is to ensure that future Secretaries of State have the flexibility they need to choose a commission which reflects a fair balance between the various interests in deer and also to choose the best candidates for the job, whoever they may be and whichever interest in rural land use issues they may have.
Amendment No. 5, to which the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, spoke, sets out that the Secretary of State shall endeavour to establish a balance of interests between those appointed to the commission. Maintaining a balanced commission is indeed essential so that all those in Scotland who have an interest in deer can have confidence that the commission will take decisions which reflect a fair and balanced approach to the various issues raised. However, Amendment No. 5 is unnecessary. The appropriate balance is achieved by the stipulation of the four interest groups set out in Section 1(3A)(a), by the stipulated proportion of deer managers set out in paragraph (b) and by the Secretary of State's obligation to carry out consultation before making appointments. My lawyers advise me that to go further would effectively mean a reversion to the 1959 formula which, I think most of us agree, is too
Amendment No. 6 is also unnecessary. Clause 1 as drafted has the effect already of replacing "may" with "shall". Moreover, the subsection would then become grammatically incorrect. The Secretary of State is already obliged by subsection (3) to appoint persons to represent the interests of the four categories mentioned in new subsection (3A). If we were to introduce the word "shall" instead of "may" to the beginning of subsection (3A) the Secretary of State would be obliged to appoint any person with the requisite qualities rather than those he considers most suited to the task from these four categories. In a sense "may" means "shall" because he has no surplus discretion in this area.
Amendments Nos. 7 and 10 would remove knowledge of a relevant subject as a reason to justify an appointment to the commission. Amendment No. 7 proposes the removal of knowledge from the general provision on appointments. I am uneasy about the inflexibility that this implies. It must surely be open to the Secretary of State to appoint, for instance, academic people who might have in-depth interests but have no experience. Amendment No. 10, when taken in conjunction with the other proposed amendments, has the same effect of excluding persons with knowledge only from appointment, and I cannot accept that principle.
Knowledge and experience are overlapping concepts and I believe that from a legal point of view it would be quite difficult to distinguish where knowledge stops and experience begins or where knowledge might be otherwise termed as experience. The flexibility of this part of the Bill is important. I do, however, understand the concerns over the distinction between knowledge and experience. Both may be equally valid depending on the circumstances. Our aim is that individual members of the commission should be able to contribute to the work of the commission and that collectively the commission has the necessary range of knowledge, expertise and experience.
I turn to Amendment No. 9. I have said that it is important that the commission retains the confidence of those who have the general duty to take or kill deer on their land and therefore hold both the rights and the responsibilities of managing deer throughout the country. Only if these people can be confident that their interests are represented to a significant proportion on the commission will they be confident that the commission is acting in their best interests. It was for that reason that in Committee I moved an amendment to ensure that at least one-third of the commission have knowledge or experience of deer management.
To make the issue even more clear I have decided to add a further stipulation to the effect that those chosen to represent the deer management category should be chosen from nominees of organisations representing deer managers. This will ensure that all those who manage deer on a day-to-day basis can have confidence that those chosen to represent them on the commission
Amendment No. 8 dealt with the sporting interest in deer. I do not consider it necessary to include a separate category to represent that interest since we have already made it clear in an amendment moved in Committee that deer management includes sporting interests. I believe what is of much greater relevance is the undertaking that I have just given to noble Lords to bring forward an amendment at Third Reading whereby the deer management members of the commission will be nominees nominated by the deer management organisations. Therefore, the priorities of deer managers can only but be represented by that element.
Perhaps I may make one quick comment on the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Woolton about economic rather than sporting interests. I am happy to talk with my draftsman about such terminology, but I suspect that "economic interest" is even more difficult to define in that the taking of deer, for instance, which are perhaps damaging crops or trees, could in a sense be classed as taking deer for an economic interest. I suspect that it is rather a wide title to use in the Bill.
I hope that through explaining some of the terminology in Clause 1; by promising to bring forward an amendment at Third Reading on that clause; and in quite genuinely looking at the debate we have had tonight on the various amendments moved as regards the appointments system that may give us further inspiration to bring forward further compromises on Clause 1, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
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