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The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 8, line 43, at end insert ("and "vehicle" does not include any aircraft or hovercraft").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, anxiety has been expressed in the House over the use of helicopters to drive deer to take or kill them for deer management purposes. As the 1959 Acts stands at present, it is not an offence to use vehicles to move deer. It is only an offence to make such use of a vehicle with the intention to take or kill deer on unenclosed land.

It is our clear intention that all uses of vehicles to drive deer to take or kill them should require authorisation by the commission and be subject to the code of practice to be prepared by the commission. The Bill makes it clear that this requirement will apply to wild deer on all land.

In the light of comments during the passage of the Bill I have given considerable thought as to whether helicopters in particular should be permissible for such operations. I have discussed the matter with the chairman of the Deer Commission and believe that, if used with due sensitivity to the welfare of the deer, helicopters could be used in some circumstances without raising undue concerns. However, the continuing concern expressed at every stage of the Bill on this matter has tempted me to revisit this clause and to table the amendment now before the House. I am proposing that aircraft and hovercraft should be omitted from the range of vehicles which can be used for this type of work. I hope this addresses the contributions of noble Lords from the committee in Edinburgh onwards. I beg to move.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the Minister for omitting hovercraft and helicopters from the Bill. The matter was raised right at the beginning of our proceedings. There was a feeling that there could be horror stories in the popular press about helicopters chasing poor little deer over the Highlands. In Committee we heard some interesting information about the use of helicopters in New Zealand. The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, who is an authority on the subject of helicopters, made a considerable contribution to this part of the Bill. All in all the Bill without the helicopters will be given a better reception than it otherwise would receive. Certainly in the other place the issue would have raised very many doubts.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl for this amendment. Perhaps I may say a brief word about Amendment No. 17. When I first looked at Amendment No. 12 I thought that it was splendid. Then I suddenly asked myself why helicopters had been taken out of Clause 9 while the definition was left under Clause 11. I regret to tell the House that very unworthy dark suspicions entered into my mind and I became seriously worried lest there was some nefarious plot behind leaving the definition in Clause 11. I consulted the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. That is why I put down my amendment and it is

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probably why he put down his amendment. Perhaps when the Minister comes to wind up he will comment on what I have just said.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, this will be a good amendment if it allays suspicion. As I understand it, it means that one must not move a hovercraft or a helicopter in an operation to take or kill deer. However, rich noble Lords like the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, could have a helicopter and a hovercraft on their estate for the normal work of the estate, but they must not use it to take or kill deer. Is that what the amendment means?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I regret to say that once again the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, has misunderstood my position, if not my words. As to the amendments themselves, I have to join the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, in confessing that Amendment No. 16 was tabled with the idea of being a backstop in case anything my noble friend on the Front Bench had to say about his Amendment No. 12 had not been sufficient to remove any doubts that remained in our minds and, indeed, helicopters from the use to which we feared they might have been put. I support the government amendment and will not be moving mine when the time comes.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I shall make a brief comment because the purpose of the government amendments and therefore the problems posed by Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 have become clear. I would stress to the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, that there was no dark intent or conspiracy. However, the problems we had with Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 relate partly to the fact that if one excluded those two vehicles from the definition in Clause 10 one automatically removed much of the merit of an amendment which the noble Lady herself moved and which was accepted at an earlier stage of the Bill--namely, that it is an offence to shoot a deer from any moving vehicle and by changing the definition throughout the Bill to exclude from vehicles hovercraft and helicopters one suddenly legitimised the shooting of deer from hovercraft and helicopters. The issue is not as straightforward as it should be when one looks at the amendments that are tabled. But the intention is very simple. I hope that the House will accept the amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5 p.m.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 9, line 5, after ("the") insert ("owner or").

The noble Lady said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, in moving this amendment, I shall speak to Amendment No. 14. Clause 9 of the Bill introduces a new Section 33A(5) into the 1959 Act. The section allows the commission to authorise the taking and killing of deer out of season in order to prevent serious damage to unenclosed woodland, the natural heritage, or in the interests of public safety.

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The section presently provides that such an authorisation may be given to the occupier or his nominee. The noble Earl indicated at Report stage that he recognised that there may be occasions where the beneficial interest in the woodland or natural heritage feature lay with the owner of the land in question rather than the occupier. He said that he was therefore prepared to allow the occupier, the owner or their respective nominees, to be authorised. These amendments achieve that purpose.

I understand that, for reasons of safety, the commission's application procedures will require the applicant to notify the owner or the occupier, as the case may be, of the intention to apply for authorisation. Since tabling these amendments, I have been shot at down the telephone by a friend who said that he is horrified about this and that it is the lazy deer manager's charter. He said that the provision will allow the lazy deer manager, who has not been bothered to shoot his quota of deer in season, to obtain an authority from the commission to shoot what he has not shot in season, out of season. I wonder whether the noble Earl will be very kind and comment on that point when he replies. Meanwhile, I hope that he can accept the amendments that I have proposed. I beg to move.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I support these amendments. They seem to me to make sense of what we have been intending in this part of the Bill for some time. The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, suggested that they might be a charter for the lazy deer manager. I suppose it is possible that for one season they might be, but I would have hoped that, with the progress that is being made all over Scotland in counting the number of deer and making sure that the right number is shot through the co-operation of the Association of Deer Management Groups, the Red Deer Commission, SNH and others, before too long the powers which the commission will have under this Bill will be brought to bear against the lazy manager in question. Therefore, I should have thought that the benefits that these amendments confer are likely to be very much greater in the medium and long term than any disadvantage from that fast-disappearing breed, the lazy deer manager.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard: My Lords, these powers for shooting deer out of season ought to be granted only in the most dire emergency. I know that the Forestry Commission, as a matter of course, likes extending the season for culling hinds. As I said before, they should only be permitted in an emergency.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, as I hinted to the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, at earlier stages of the Bill, I am in complete agreement with the point she makes and I am very happy to accept her amendment.

These amendments will allow the commission to authorise either the owner or the occupier of the land, or their respective nominees, to take or kill deer out of season to prevent serious damage to unenclosed woodland or the natural heritage, or in the interests of public safety. There will be occasions where the

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beneficial interest lies with the owner rather than the occupier and it is reasonable that the owner should be able to initiate action in his own right.

Proposed new Section 33A(5) introduces what is, in effect, a new power to the commission. The nature of the action that may be authorised, for instance action on unenclosed land, will require careful attention by the commission as to its procedures for ensuring that adequate notification is given to those with a direct interest in the land in question.

I also stress that these are powers which are only to be used in the last resort and therefore they will not be part of a lazy deer manager's charter. Indeed, the discretion available to the commission should prevent that, even if it is unable to establish whether or not these are circumstances which justify last resort powers. In addition, I believe that my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch made the point that lazy deer managers are now a very rare breed indeed.

I also share and sympathise with the anxiety expressed by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard. The sentiment that he has expressed is one that we would expect to see in the Deer Commission itself in the exercise of such authorisation. The Government are happy to support this amendment.

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