Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation, though it did not quite meet some of the objections I received from some of the other bodies in Scotland. It is just as well that the amendments have arisen now and that we have another stage in another place where more discussion can take place. Possible improvements in the wording

2 Apr 1996 : Column 172

may be made and matters may be cleared up to allow people to understand better than perhaps some of us are able what the full impact of the new clause is.

As a result of the introduction of the new clause, the majority of Scotland's nationally and internationally important habitats, such as peatland, heather moorland and scrub habitats, have been excluded from protection under the emergency powers available in the Bill. The role of Scottish Natural Heritage as the statutory conservation adviser in Scotland appears to be undermined.

The new clause specifically limits the application of Clause 4 to forestry, ignoring other habitats that may be seriously damaged by higher deer numbers. The Minister said--I wondered whether he would--that the issue is related to not merely the quantity of deer but also to the density. That may be obvious, but it did not appear to be the case from my understanding of the wording.

I received representations from the RSPB and the WWF. They consider that the consultation relationship between Scottish Natural Heritage and the Deer Commission should be a statutory one so that the commission seeks the advice of SNH, first, in order to satisfy itself that adverse change is being caused to the natural heritage and, secondly, for financial reasons. I shall not go into that; the Minister is aware of the grants made to SNH which could be affected if it lost a certain amount of status because of the Bill.

The new clause changes the situation dramatically in that regard. The Minister's explanation will be looked at carefully when the Bill goes to another place. For instance, as a consequence of the new clause, what role will SNH play? We all thought when the Bill was going through that it would be the fundamental body looking after the natural heritage of Scotland. What role will it now play in advising the commission on whether deer numbers are having an adverse effect on the natural heritage? Which body, other than SNH, would be the appropriate body to judge serious damage? The Minister mentioned the Forestry Commission. If that is suggested as an alternative body, what will be the appropriate body to decide that serious damage is being caused to natural habitats such as peatlands or montane features?

A number of issues are raised in the new clause. While its intentions are good, one of the reasons that a second Chamber is important is that the Bill will go back to the other place after all the discussions that have taken place here. I hope that the other place looks at it and we end up with something that at least I can understand.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I rise to support the amendments of my noble friend on the Front Bench. Though it is with a tinge of regret that I see the word "marauding" disappear even from the rubric of the Bill, I confess that once again his drafting is good and meets the majority of opinion advanced so far in our deliberations on the Bill.

It may not be my place to answer the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, but can I say to him that the Bill does not exclude damage done by deer to

2 Apr 1996 : Column 173

sites of special scientific interest, peatlands or whatever; all it does is ensure that if enhancement of the natural heritage is to take place, then that must take place with the consent and agreement of the occupier and owner in question, possibly through a management agreement.

The difficulty in the past has been how to define the natural heritage, which is the new feature of the Bill. It is easy enough to define agricultural production, crops, foodstuffs and so forth. But the amendment meets all the difficulties raised. Where the natural heritage is on enclosed land, Section 6 can still apply and indeed it can also apply on unenclosed land provided a significantly higher proportion of deer than is usual is present and is doing the damage.

I believe that my noble friend has met the main body of opinion advanced during our deliberations. I am grateful to him and feel sure that the amendments will do much to ensure the harmony which we all hope the Bill will introduce into the land in question. I support the amendments.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. I should have thought that the anxieties of my noble friend Lord Carmichael were covered by the effect of natural heritage in relation to SSSIs. I presume that any operation of the Deer Commission will need to take account of areas of land which are covered by SSSI provisions.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, the advisers to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, would do well to read what I said in Hansard. In fact, I could almost have moved the amendment by saying "This is a clarifying amendment". Not one piece of policy has changed with the amendment. All that has happened is that I have taken the assurances given from the Dispatch Box at every stage of the Bill in relation to Clause 4 and turned them into wording on the face of the Bill. We are therefore clarifying the situation.

The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, said that the intention behind the amendment was good. We have taken that good intention and put it into unambiguous language. I thank my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch for saying that the drafting meets that intention. Once again, that compliment will be passed on to the draftsman involved.

SNH is obviously a vital element in the management of the natural environment of the natural heritage in Scotland. Unavoidably it will be concerned with deer management generally and with advising at various instances on the activities of the Deer Commission. SNH is the statutory adviser to the Secretary of State on the natural heritage in Scotland. It is also a public body, so there will inevitably be a close liaison between SNH and the Deer Commission.

We decided deliberately not to make SNH the statutory adviser to the commission. There will be matters concerned with the natural heritage where the Deer Commission wants to seek advice from other quarters. It may be that the Forestry Commission and

2 Apr 1996 : Column 174

many other bodies are the right people to advise the Deer Commission on some elements of the natural heritage. We did not feel that the Deer Commission should be obliged in every instance to seek advice from that quarter. But the link will be close. I shall be grateful if the noble Lord can assure those who addressed their concerns to him on this point that the link will be close.

The grant-giving abilities of SNH are obviously important, especially if enhancement of the natural heritage is sought through voluntary agreements. It may well be that SNH is involved both as an adviser and as a grant-giving body in the drawing up of a voluntary agreement between the deer commissioner and the deer manager.

The definition of "serious damage" which the noble Lord mentioned will be sought depending on the circumstances of the case. I would not be surprised if SNH often provides advice on the definition of serious damage, but there will be other instances where other arbiters or advisers will be drawn in. At the end of the day it is up to the commissioners on the Deer Commission to make a sound judgment, balancing the advice they have had from experts and their other expertise and duties.

The central assurance that I have sought to give on Clause 4 at all stages of the Bill is that we are dealing with marauding deer which cannot sensibly be defined on the face of the Bill but can be described in, as it were, longer hand by saying that they are deer that are not being effectively controlled and that they are not normally established on the ground in question. The amendments that we have brought forward over the course of the Bill ensure that there is a tighter definition of what Clause 4 is intended to deliver. We have also stressed that Clause 4 powers can be triggered only in a genuine emergency--in other words, if the other powers available to the commission are not adequate or have not been able to deal with the situation. I believe that the concerns usefully raised throughout the proceedings on the Bill have led to a wise clarification of Clause 4 and I hope that noble Lords will accept it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 11:


After Clause 4, insert the following new clause--

Prevention of damage to natural heritage

(". After section 6 of the principal Act there shall be inserted the following section--
"Application of section 6 in relation to natural heritage.
6AA. Section 6 of this Act shall apply in relation to the natural heritage as it applies to woodland, where the Commission are satisfied that deer are causing serious damage to the natural heritage--
(a) on enclosed land; or
(b) on unenclosed land, but only if the Commission are also satisfied that the damage is being caused by reason of the presence on the land in question of a significantly higher density of deer population than is usual in all the circumstances.".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

2 Apr 1996 : Column 175

Clause 9 [Authorisation by Commission of certain acts]:


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page