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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Government introduced the offence of "intentional or reckless disturbance" into the Bill in order to close the loophole which, due to their lack of a place of shelter or protection, would make it very difficult to apply the Bill's original provisions on reckless disturbance to certain marine species. This addresses concerns that some of these species, namely the cetacean family (dolphins, whales and porpoises) and the basking shark, are vulnerable to reckless disturbance, particularly by fast personal watercraft such as jetskis.

However, this amendment to insert "molest" would negate the benefit provided by the inclusion of "reckless" disturbance. "Molest" implies that the act was carried out with a degree of intent to injure or annoy, thus reinstating the need to prove intent. I therefore believe that this amendment would weaken the protection being offered to these vulnerable marine species.

I should like to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, and all those involved in responsible sailing and yachting interests that accidental disturbance of these species will not be an offence; nor will the ordinary navigation of a vessel. If a cetacean seeks out a vessel to ride its waves, the vessel would not be acting in an irresponsible or reckless manner, and would not be committing an offence. Conversely, if the cetacean changes its course and is followed by the vessel and every time the cetacean alters course the vessel follows it, then this activity may be seen as causing disturbance. There is existing guidance outlining

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appropriate behaviour when sailing near cetaceans which will help to avoid the commission of any offence.

At this late hour, I am sure that Members of the Committee would not like me to read out the entire list. We even have a small card which many people have found it useful to carry round with them. It offers carefully thought out guidance on how to avoid causing distress and trouble to these creatures while pursuing normal activities in a responsible manner. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, will not feel it necessary to pursue his amendment.

Lord Greenway: I thank the Minister for that reply. I am slightly unhappy that the parliamentary draftsman could not come up with some rather more appropriate words to deal with my concerns. However, I am grateful for the noble Baroness's assurance that yachtsman going about their normal duties will not be committing an offence if dolphins are playing around their boat. Dolphins and whales are extremely difficult to handle. Indeed, most yachtsman would keep well clear of a whale because, in many cases, it is rather larger than the boat. However, dolphins are a different matter. I shall read carefully in Hansard the response of the noble Baroness. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 537:

    Page 108, line 19, after ("I),") insert--

("(a) after subsection (1)(d) there is inserted--
"(e) arrest that person where the constable has reasonable grounds to believe that a failure to do so would result in the concealment, alteration, loss, damage or destruction of anything which may be evidence of the commission of an offence or may be liable to be forfeited under section 21,", and.

The noble Baroness said: The aim of this amendment is to add a subsection to Section 19 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It would provide police officers with the power of arrest to prevent the destruction or loss of evidence for offenders against wildlife legislation that might be found at another place before the enforcement agencies had had the opportunity to obtain a search warrant.

There is no such provision in the legislation at present. Therefore, when egg collectors are apprehended, the police sometimes have great difficulty arresting those concerned prior to discovering the evidence. We believe that such an amendment would close that loophole and make the work of the police substantially easier in enforcing wildlife law. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: I share the concern of the noble Baroness that wildlife law should be enforced as effectively as possible. Indeed, I have some sympathy with the aim of the amendment and acknowledge the difficulties faced by police officers. However, it is also important that we do not make exceptions to provisions

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that have been drawn up for good reasons. Clearly, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 codified and rationalised powers of arrest and established a structure that aims to match police powers and penalties to the seriousness of the offence. I recognise that the power of arrest sought by this amendment is conditional in that it would be used only for specific purposes. Nevertheless, it would be outside the structure established by that Act, part of which was designed specifically to clarify and rationalise police powers.

I shall be happy to consider the matter further to ascertain whether there is any movement that we can make on this front. However, I cannot promise anything. I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank he Minister for his reply. I note that his colleague in another place was also sympathetic. As the noble Lord pointed out, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 has been in force for a long time; and, indeed, the value of eggs has grown substantially. Therefore, I believe that now is probably the time to move from being sympathetic to taking action on the matter. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Kimball moved Amendment No. 537ZA:

    Page 108, line 23, leave out from ("a") to end of line 25 and insert ("police constable").

The noble Lord said: Since the passing of the Act some 20 years ago, wildlife inspectors are now regarded with a certain amount of suspicion. One heard the other day of a wildlife inspector who got up in court in Norwich and announced that a kestrel was a rare bird. It is certainly not beyond the devious nature of these people's work when it comes to putting a poisoned bird on someone else's land, as in actual fact was proven by a case in the Western Isles with golden eagles.

I consider it quite wrong for the Secretary of State to authorise any individual to break into someone else's property at what is said to be a convenient time and take, or have taken, samples of anything that is found on the premises. Environmental sharp practice is not something new that we have to face. It was made clear in the debate that took place before many people had to leave this House when Lord Lytton introduced a debate about the lead shot order. During the discussion on that order, he pointed out that officials from English Nature had introduced a particular species into a certain area in order to try to get extra protection for that area, which it did not deserve.

I believe that my noble friend Lady Blatch eventually secured an answer at the end of last year. Since the Government came to power some 35 statutory instruments have been introduced to give powers of entry to private property. The time has come to stop that process. My amendment seeks to do so in a particular case. I beg to move.

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1.45 a.m.

Lord Marlesford: I strongly support my noble friend's amendment. It is inappropriate that anyone in this country who is described in the words of the Bill as a,

    "'wildlife inspector' ... a person authorised in writing by the Secretary of State under this subsection",

should have the rights we are discussing.

I tabled a number of parliamentary Questions for Written Answer with regard to the lead shot regulations. It soon transpired that it is not the Secretary of State who personally authorises someone in that regard; any official of the department who has the authority of the Secretary of State can authorise someone. It is quite wrong that someone who perhaps works for the RSPB should be allowed to enter private premises. Although there appear to be certain exclusions in the Bill with regard to entering dwellings, the proposed new Section 19ZA(d) states:

    "enter and inspect any premises for the purpose of verifying any statement".

Therefore, it looks as if anyone can enter premises. The entering of private premises in this country should be restricted to those officials who can normally do so. They include such people as Customs and Excise officers who have had that right by long tradition and, of course, police constables. In the case we are discussing, the appropriate person should certainly be a police constable. As I said, I strongly support my noble friend. I hope that if the Government do not accept the amendment, either he will test the opinion of the Committee or bring it back on Report.

Lord Hardy of Wath: I do not claim expertise in the law on rights of entry. However, I hate to think that the Committee might seek to curtail such powers and rights as are held, for example, by the inspectorate of the RSPCA. Sometimes those people need at least to secure entry into a property to tackle some people's horrendous treatment of animals. I would not like to see curtailed the work of some people I know of in the RSPB and other bodies. My mind goes back a few years to the occasion when an RSPCA inspector, working in co-operation with the police, secured the arrest of one of my most respectable constituents. She was a middle-aged lady of high repute. However, she was trading in falcons and hawks. She sought to sell one of those birds late at night in a motorway service area on the M62. If anyone wished to sell a bird such as a peregrine falcon at Birch services, it would be reasonable for an RSPB inspector to be present. It was particularly appropriate that a police officer was also present to secure the proper pursuit of justice.

I believe that there is a place for the inspectorate in such cases. As regards the cases to which the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, referred, there may have been an excess of zeal on the part of the inspectorate. However, one should recognise that it has a part to play and one hopes that it will always be assisted by the constabulary in the various areas in which it operates.

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