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Earl Peel: My Lords, I am glad that my noble friend has moved the amendment because I believe it raises a number of rather important points. I am quite happy to admit that there are certain aspects of the Bill with which I am not yet fully familiar. However, if I fail to grasp an important point, I am sure that my noble friend on the Front Bench will put me right. It seems to me to be rather unjust at the very least if the Red Deer Commission is to have such powers to remove deer from a given piece of land without providing financial compensation to the owner. Indeed it is rather odd and would set up a precedent which I find rather disturbing. I accept that there are certain procedures through which the commission would have to go in order to exercise such powers; but, nevertheless, my interpretation of the Bill is that I believe such a position could arise.
As has already been identified, red deer are, for all intents and purposes, a commercial crop. Red deer are not the only creatures which overgraze. We have plenty of examples in both England and Scotland where sheep have created considerable difficulties through overgrazing. But I know of no provisions where the Ministry can remove sheep. I realise that the Ministry has powers of cross-compliance to remove subsidies in cases where sheep overgraze, but there are no subsidies attached to deer.
Non-compensation appears to go against the spirit of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. As I am sure noble Lords will know, under that legislation--it has worked extremely well--the old Nature Conservancy Council, now the Scottish Natural Heritage, would be obliged to enter into a management agreement with an owner or occupier if it wishes to see the habitat restored. Unless I have misinterpreted this section of the Bill, it seems to me that the Red Deer Commission would have powers to enter land to remove deer without compensating the landowner.
If that is so, it is clearly a dangerous precedent. One could envisage a situation where Scottish Natural Heritage might say to the Red Deer Commission, "There is a problem of acute overgrazing on this land. You have the powers to remove and not compensate. We have not. Will you do the job for us?" If that is right--I look forward to hearing what my noble friend says--we have a very real problem.
The financial importance of deer has already been touched upon. In many parts of the uplands of Scotland, the grouse population has declined to a point where a proper level of management cannot be sustained. The deer now provide such management. If the deer are to be threatened through removal without compensation, that management tier, which in many cases hangs on by its fingernails, may decline even faster. Many of the processes of management which are so important to deer--I refer to heather burning, and so on--may decline further. I look forward to hearing what my noble friend says on an important matter.
Viscount Massereene and Ferrard: My Lords, when speaking of enhancing the habitat, I daresay that we are thinking of re-establishing the Caledonian Forest which our ancestors destroyed. That is a laudable aim. To accomplish that, the deer should be fenced out rather than shot out of the area. Deer would have to continue to be shot out of the area. They would come naturally into that area because nature abhors a vacuum. The area to be enhanced would have to be heavily fenced and looked after otherwise it would just be scrub and couch grass. The area would have to be properly planted and managed.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, perhaps I may say a few words about deer fencing and capercaillie. The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, said earlier that there had been problems with capercaillie flying into deer fences and being killed. Much depends on two things. The first is where you put the deer fences. If you put them straight through or alongside the leks, the capercaillie will fly into them. If chicken wire fences are used, the chances are that the capercaillie will be temporarily stunned but they will not be killed. On the other hand, if you use chain lock fences, the capercaillie will be killed because for them it is exactly like flying into a brick wall.
As I am sure my noble friend on the Front Bench is aware, the economy of the upper parts of Scotland which my noble friend described is never as secure as it should be. There are many reasons for that, some of which my noble friend touched on. However, if what appears to be possible under this Bill were to take place in the way described, a large economic burden would fall on the shoulders of those who would otherwise have the benefit of the crop, as my noble friend Lord Peel described it. Therefore, it is essential that my noble friend clearly addresses the issue; otherwise the already fairly difficult situation could be made almost intolerable.
The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 26 and 28 have generated some important and useful debates. I listened carefully to the points made. I fully understand the issues which noble Lords have illustrated.
Perhaps I may stress two or three points before dealing with the text of the amendments. First, there is a clear distinction--it is made clearer with government Amendments Nos. 25 and 29--between enhancement and protection against serious damage. It is important also to point out that we are excluding enhancement as an objective from any of the compulsory measures available to the commission. They cannot be used to enhance the habitat. The management agreements
Secondly, I promised to bring forward an amendment at Third Reading to make it obvious that Clause 4 powers are activated only in circumstances where the deer involved are out of control, are not normally resident on that ground and are not subject normally to deer management measures. I hope to establish beyond doubt when those Clause 4 powers can be used. The distinction between serious damage and enhancement is critical in understanding the issue of compensation. In that sense, the approach taken by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, is in some senses against the basic principles on which the Deer Commission operates and on which the Bill is based.
It has always been clearly established that both the benefits and the costs of deer management should fall on those with the right to shoot deer on their land. The Deer Commission is not a grant-giving body, and nothing in the Bill or in these amendments would change that.
In preparing the Bill, my officials met representatives of the Scottish Landowners' Federation and the Association of Deer Management Groups to clarify the position on compensation. Those bodies accepted that compensation for the simple act of protecting existing features against serious deer damage was not appropriate. The distinction was made then and we will continue to reinforce it, that protecting against serious damage is not and cannot be an excuse for projects which are designed to enhance the landscape or change land use.
The SLF and the ADMG also accepted that compensation was not suitable for a control agreement where deer control measures are agreed between the relevant parties. However, they believed that if enhancement of the natural heritage was to be the result of compulsory deer control measures, then compensation should be payable. We have made it clear in Amendments Nos. 25 and 29 that such enhancement is not possible under compulsory measures, under either Section 6 or Section 7 of the 1959 Act. Therefore, there is no case for compensation to be paid in that way.
We wish to see enhancement of the natural heritage and woodland in certain areas but only with the agreement of the parties concerned. SNH and the Forestry Authority are willing to support enhancement measures through management agreements and forestry measures such as the new native pinewoods scheme. The Deer Commission will be able to use its powers to support such measures only by agreement with the landowners concerned.
In preparing the Bill, my department prepared a compliance costs assessment in keeping with the Government's deregulation initiative. That was prepared in consultation with deer managers and their representatives. It showed that for the most part the Bill would impose no extra costs, but in exceptional circumstances, under control schemes, estates might be faced with extra costs of up to £11,000 over three years. Any impact on the capital value of estates was omitted
The distinction to which I draw noble Lords' attention is the fact that there is a clear difference between protection against serious damage and enhancement. Enhancement through the voluntary control agreements will often attract compensation or the funds which act as an incentive and which can be paid by the Forestry Commission or Scottish Natural Heritage.
I shall be speaking to my noble friend Lord Pearson before Third Reading about various matters and I suggest that we put this on the agenda so that if there is serious doubt remaining on where and when money is made available, we can clear it up in sufficient time to address the issue at Third Reading.
Earl Peel: My Lords, with the leave of the House and before my noble friend sits down, is he able to answer the question of who will define "serious deer damage"? Is that a task for the Red Deer Commission itself or for Scottish Natural Heritage?
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