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Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: It has been a worthwhile debate, as indicated by the fact that the Minister had to speak so long in giving justification for the wording. I was slightly surprised, and perhaps not a little horrified, that he said we can always go to court. I would not advise any crofter to take anybody to court; it could do terrible damage before he could repay his court fees and seriously affect his circumstances.

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I am grateful to the noble Lord who referred to the natural heritage Bill, and perhaps the Minister will have a look at all this and realise that this is a subject that could arise quite soon, or it may be a long time off. While I have every confidence in the commission, we may not get another Act for another 20 or 30 years and this could be a lot of water under the bridge. So I hope the Minister will look at it and perhaps tell us whether there is another way or a reference in another Act that will allow us to solve this problem. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 58 not moved.]

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 59:

Page 6, line 44, at beginning insert ("Notwithstanding anything in any agreement between an occupier of land and the owner thereof, but").

The noble Earl said: I spoke to this amendment when moving Amendment No. 51. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 60 to 63 not moved.]

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 64:

Page 6, line 47, after second ("to") insert ("move, or").

The noble Lord said: This is a very simple little amendment, which is proposed at the bottom of page 6 of the Bill, subsection (3) of the proposed new Section 33A, where authorisation has been given to an occupier, or possibly also to an occupier, the owner or his agents, where deer are to be driven by vehicles in order to take or kill them for the purposes of deer management. It is made absolutely clear that the purposes of deer management are in no way sporting, so once again we are dealing with probable destruction. The purpose of the amendment is simply to suggest that it might be helpful to have in there the word "move", so that one could use any vehicle to drive deer in order to move, take or kill them for the purposes of deer management, rather than simply to leave the undertaker the option only of taking or killing them. The amendment has in mind the situation where possibly an area of ground has been fenced for regeneration, for a native pinewood scheme or something of that kind. When the deer thus driven out have also been removed from the area locally and more deer break in, it would seem sensible to have the option of moving them out, rather than to be stuck with the necessity of having to take or kill them. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: I would simply say I cannot find anything sinister in this amendment, try as I do.

The Earl of Lindsay: I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, whose eagle eye usually spots anything sinister, if it is there. I am grateful to my noble friend

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Lord Pearson of Rannoch for moving three amendments--Amendments Nos. 64, 65 and 84; or is he just seeking to speak to Amendment No. 64?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I am not going to move Amendment No. 65. I am only moving Amendment No. 64, unless we have a different grouping list.

The Earl of Lindsay: My noble friend dealt with Amendment No. 84 on Monday and we were unclear as to why Amendment No. 65 was there. Perhaps I may speak to Amendment No. 64. It is very important to keep in mind, when considering the question of deer and vehicles, that deer at present can be moved using vehicles. It is quite legal. I hope that answers one of the principal points raised by my noble friend. If you are not moving deer in order to cull them, then it is legal to use vehicles to move those deer. Therefore such lawful movement would not need authorisation.

It is only an offence, as I said, to use vehicles to move deer if the operation is carried out on unenclosed land with the intention to take, kill or injure them.

It is our intention to allow the use of vehicles for essential management reasons, but it would require authorisation by the commission and, in addition, any such operation will be subject to the code of practice which the commission is preparing in consultation with deer management and welfare interests.

My noble friend made a very good point, and we thoroughly agree with him, that the main aim of driving deer could well be simply to move them from one part of their range--it may well be a newly-established part of their range which is particularly vulnerable--onto a more normal part of their range. That could be done legally at present on unenclosed land if the objective is only to move them. With specific authorisation, it will then be possible to pursue management practices such as culling.

My noble friend used the word "destruction", i.e. moving them simply to destroy them. The fact is that management may involve some management of their numbers, but one may be talking about a normal culling percentage which can be between 10 and 12 per cent. or 15 per cent. Therefore I suggest that words like "destruction", when one is talking about that kind of standard deer management, is somewhat misleading.

I hope that I have reassured my noble friend by saying that moving deer for no other purpose than moving deer is already legal.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I am reassured on that and I am grateful for my noble friend's explanation on Amendment No. 64. Since, however, he went on to say that my use of the expression "destruction" was excessive, I may wish to move Amendment No. 65.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Strabolgi): Does the noble Lord wish to withdraw Amendment No. 64 first?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Yes, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 65:

Page 6, line 48, leave out from ("management") to end of line 2 on page 7.

The noble Lord said: I have suggested that the words

    "for the purposes of this section 'deer management' does not include driving deer in the course of any sporting activity"

should be removed from the Bill for the very reason that they indicate the destruction to which I have just referred. In the course of any normal sporting activity, the kinds of level of cull to which my noble friend has referred, 10 or 12 per cent. or even higher, are normal. Therefore, I tabled this amendment precisely so that my noble friend the Minister could say what the purposes of this section were if they were not sporting activity. I had assumed that they were the substantial reduction of deer numbers. In those circumstances, the word "destruction" is not necessarily too emotive a word. I would be very interested to hear what my noble friend has to say.

The Earl of Lindsay: As my noble friend well knows, deer numbers in Scotland are 600,000 or so, rising fast, and the deer range is reducing. Deer management is needed, and it may be that where emergency circumstances justify it, moving deer with the use of vehicles for management purposes could be justified. It would be subject to the various codes of practice.

The effect of Amendment No. 65 would be to allow the movement of deer with the use of vehicles simply for sporting purposes. The Government do not believe that vehicles should be used to move deer for sporting purposes. That would be the effect of Amendment No. 65 and that is why we oppose it.

Viscount Astor: I wish to ask my noble friend the Minister a question. I realise that we have had a debate on the fact that "vehicle" includes helicopters and hovercraft, but my experience is that the one thing you cannot use to move deer in is a vehicle--they take absolutely no notice at all. Is it not more valid to say that we are talking about moving them by some form of aerial means¬? My noble friend refers to "vehicle" but I have yet to see a vehicle which can successfully move deer. We must not become distracted by this, otherwise it may become misleading. Can my noble friend confirm that he is talking about using things which fly around in the air?

The Earl of Lindsay: I am talking about vehicles as defined in the Deer Act 1991, as has been understood in much other legislation. In many circumstances, it can be sensible to move deer by using vehicles. Noble Lords should not simply think about the red deer range--about large hostile terrains--as one might be thinking about other types of deer in other parts of Scotland where helicopters and other airborne vehicles are totally inappropriate. The point made by my noble friend does not therefore stand up. I am literally talking about all parts of a normal definition.

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I hope my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch accepts that we do not want to see deer moved by vehicles for sporting purposes, which is my main response to Amendment No. 65.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I am grateful to my noble friend. I am aware that some of our far eastern land owners in Scotland do use helicopters at present for driving deer for what they describe as sporting purposes. I am told it is very efficient and beastly.

I would take issue with what my noble friend said about deer numbers rising fast in Scotland. That may be true of roe deer--I am not an expert on roe deer--but my understanding is that the recent collaboration between the Association of Deer Management Groups and the Red Deer Commission has stabilised the deer population in recent years. There is every sign that the red deer population is declining. If I have misunderstood that, I apologise, but that is what I have been told by the Red Deer Commission.

I do not well know, as my noble friend suggests, that this is a problem which requires the deer to be treated in a way which, as far as I can see according to this clause, can only be described as destructive. I am sure we have had sufficient discussion on it and, if it is my amendment, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn:

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