Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend and also to the other noble Lords who were good enough to support me in this amendment which, as I mentioned at Committee stage has been strongly put forward by the Association of Deer Management Groups. I would just mention that they had their annual general meeting the day before our Committee proceedings and they were unanimous in their support of this scheme and also in their belief that a voluntary scheme simply would not work.

My noble friend mentioned that two of the difficulties are that there are no statutory limits on the numbers shot at the moment. Also there is the problem of knowing who has the right to shoot deer. I would not have thought that either of those are really serious difficulties because all people have to do is apply to the Commission for the tags which they are going to put on the deer. Then the Commission will very soon know the people who think they have the right to shoot deer of whom the Commission is not already aware.

My noble friend suggested that the present information system works well enough because the Red Deer Commission knows roughly what is going through the dealers and gets the returns from the estates. All

21 Mar 1996 : Column 1456

I can say is that it may work reasonably well for the Red Deer Commission as to the numbers which are being shot, but it certainly does not work for the estates because the leakage is substantial--very often, I am afraid, from the estate larder itself when the owner is not there. That may be his fault for being an absentee landowner, but the situation where a van turns up at the larder door and the driver says to the stalker: "How many for you, Jimmy, and how many for the estate?" is not, perhaps, as rare a circumstance as it ought to be. Indeed, I suffered from that 20 years ago. Therefore, if the Red Deer Commission felt more able to reveal exactly which carcasses were going to which dealers from which larders, that might help us all.

I am most grateful to my noble friend for his helpful attitude in this regard. As I have mentioned, a number of dealers have come forward, saying that they strongly support this system, at least as an enabling measure. I do not know what further evidence my noble friend might require to get such a provision on to the face of the Bill during its passage, but perhaps we can discuss this. Maybe we shall be able to provide that sort of evidence. If not, I was most encouraged to hear him say that we might be able to have some short sharp legislation further down the road. I am personally fairly sure that within the next 10 years or so we are going to need a system of this kind. My own view remains that it would be a pity to miss the boat on this occasion. I am most grateful to my noble friend for what we said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 [Farmed deer]:

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 51:

Page 8, leave out lines 42 to 44.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this important anti-poaching amendment is an amendment I spoke to when moving Amendment No. 34. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 10 [Interpretation of the principal Act]:

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 52:

Page 9, line 16, at end insert--
(""animal foodstuffs", for the purposes of sections 33(3) and 33A(2) of this Act, includes foodstuffs intended for consumption by farmed deer;").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, Clause 9 of the Bill disapplies the 1959 Act in respect of farmed deer with the exception of the provisions relating to dealing in venison and the use of firearms for slaughter.

Deer farming was relatively new in 1982 and there were no codes to regulate the management of farmed deer. However, there is now sufficient protection and regulation for farmed deer, which can now be generally excluded from the 1959 Act.

However, we do not intend that farmed deer, which are classed as livestock, should not be given the same protection as other livestock under Sections 6, 7, Section 33(3) and Section 33A(2) of the Act. These sections provide protection for livestock for injury, or overgrazing or competition for foodstuffs from wild

21 Mar 1996 : Column 1457

deer. This protection is equally relevant to farmed deer as to other livestock, and this minor amendment will give them that protection. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 53 and 54 not moved.]

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 55:

Page 9, line 43, at end insert ("and, for the purposes of sections 6 and 7 of this Act, includes farmed deer.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, with my apologies to the House, I omitted to say, when moving Amendment No. 52, that I was also speaking to Amendment No. 55, which is connected to the purpose of Amendment No. 52. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 56 and 57 not moved.]

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 58:

Page 10, line 13, at end insert--
(""take", in relation to deer, means take alive, and cognate expressions shall be construed accordingly;").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment when moving Amendment No. 22. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 59:

Page 10, line 14, leave out ("includes") and insert ("excludes").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is an amendment which, again, was moved in our Committee proceedings. It seeks to exclude the use of aircraft, hovercraft or boats in the moving of deer for the purposes of culling them. It goes back to our debate on welfare. Some of us remain convinced that the use of a helicopter, particularly to drive wild deer must amount to an abuse of their welfare. It is in that spirit that I move this amendment again.

When he comes to answer, I would be grateful if my noble friend could confirm the understanding which I thought I gathered at the Committee stage that, in fact, helicopters can only be used by the owners and occupiers of land to drive deer. They could not be used by the Commission in any of the exercises we have been discussing earlier on this evening under Clauses 4 and 5 of the Bill.

That would do something to set one's mind at rest, I suppose, but the basic fact remains that to drive wild deer with helicopters is, in my view, unacceptably cruel. I beg leave to move.

9 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur: My Lords, I very much share the concerns of my noble friend Lord Pearson about this. I referred to it in Committee and I subsequently had the benefit of looking at the draft code of practice or code guidelines for moving deer by vehicle or aircraft with the intention of carrying out essential culling work.

21 Mar 1996 : Column 1458

When one looks at them one realises exactly what is at stake and what an unattractive proposition it involves. I am only too well aware from my professional experience of just how valuable, because of their manoeuvrability on all sorts of terrain, helicopters are. I certainly do not know whether my noble friend has carried out any consultation with those who might be asked to undertake this task but, so far as I can tell, what the code of practice seeks to do or seeks to allow by means of helicopters, or to control by means of helicopters, leads to an unacceptable state of affairs which I think would be very much resented all over the place by a great many people who would feel it is an horrific way to treat deer.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard: My Lords, perhaps we should also consider scrambler motor bikes and quad motor bikes which can go pretty fast if they are driven professionally and would also harass the deer very cruelly.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Pearson and spoken to by my noble friends Lord Glenarthur and Lord Massereene is something to which the Government have given considerable attention. In fact, it is something to which the Red Deer Commission itself has given considerable attention in that it was seeking to take a long-term view as to what procedures in exceptional circumstances may be necessary over the next number of years. I do not think anyone who has put the amendment forward sees this as being something that will be a normal activity. It will just be used in exceptional circumstances.

I respect the experience on this subject of the three noble Lords who have spoken, especially as I remember my noble friend Lord Pearson saying that he had in the past sought to drive deer by helicopter, and I know that my noble friend Lord Glenarthur knows something about helicopters. Therefore, I am not impervious to the suggestions they have put to me.

The first point to make is that the definition of vehicles as it stands was taken from the Deer Act 1991 and is therefore a standard definition incorporating the types of vehicle which might conceivably be found in a rural or a remote setting. Whether a vehicle--for instance, a helicopter--would actually be used to move deer would depend on the practicalities of each instance and in particular the size of the task and the nature of the terrain. Any use of vehicles will be subject to the code of practice to be prepared by the commission which will have welfare at its heart.

It is also important to keep in mind when considering the question of deer and vehicles that deer can be moved at present using vehicles. It is only an offence at present to use vehicles to move deer if the operation is carried out on unenclosed land with the intention of taking, killing or injuring them. It is our intention that the use of vehicles to move deer for essential culling operations

21 Mar 1996 : Column 1459

be subject to commission authorisation and a code of practice. The main aim of driving deer is to move them to areas where they can be more easily managed. It may simply be to move them to areas where the ground is less vulnerable to the numbers of deer involved. The commission will only consider issuing authorisations to drive deer when the provision of the code of good practice is met and there is a real need to take action in this way. I can reassure my noble friend Lord Pearson that only owners and occupiers can apply for this authorisation. The commission itself cannot, as it were, grant the authorisation to use helicopters.

I would encourage noble Lords perhaps to ponder my response to this amendment. The use of helicopters, hovercraft and so forth is something that we do not see as being an immediate need. I shall also ponder the amendment between now and Third Reading. If we are all thinking about this I am sure that we will come up with the wise and right answer.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page