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Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl for his reception of this small amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy moved Amendment No. 14:


Page 9, line 6, leave out ("such an occupier") and insert ("either of them").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 15:


After Clause 9, insert the following new clause--

Carcass tagging

("After section 25F of the principal Act there shall be inserted the following section--
"Carcass tagging.
25G.--(1) For the purpose of monitoring the quality and source of venison sold in Scotland the Secretary of State may by regulations made by order subject to an approval by resolution of both Houses of Parliament introduce a scheme to make provisions for the identification of all deer carcasses sold within Scotland ("the scheme"), as may from time to time be defined in the regulations.
(2) The scheme shall require any such carcass sold to bear a tag in a form approved and issued by the Commission and bearing an individual mark or number for each carcass, identifying the producer, the year of issue and the carcass number.
(3) It shall be a requirement of the scheme that any person requiring to sell a deer carcass shall obtain in advance from the Commission the relevant tags and shall affix them to any carcass sold in such manner as may be specified.
(4) At the expiry of the year to which any unused tag relates, the producer to whom it was issued shall return the same to the Commission.
(5) It shall be an offence for any person to sell, offer or expose for sale or to receive or to have in his possession, transport or cause to be transported for the purpose of sale on any premises any carcass not bearing a tag in such form as may be specified by the scheme.

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(6) A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (5) above shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we come again to the suggestion that deer carcasses might be tagged in future. Most of what can be said in favour of this amendment has already been said in earlier proceedings on the Bill so I shall not weary your Lordships with repetition now. However, I confirm that the amendment merely advocates an enabling provision, subject to regulations from the Secretary of State and confirmation by Parliament. Since our proceedings on Report, support for the amendment has continued to pour in and most of it addressed to my noble friend the Minister, with copies to noble Lords who have shown an interest in the matter. So I believe that my noble friend is fully aware of the strength of feeling in favour of this proposal.

When we last debated this subject my noble friend seemed minded to set off on a process of consultation. We wish him well on any such journey, although I ask him whom he proposes to consult, who has a legitimate interest in the subject and who has not already volunteered full support for the amendment. There is now unanimous support from producers, including the Forest Authority; support from dealers and processors who handle more than 90 per cent. of the produce, and the supermarkets have also made their position clear. So I have a little difficulty in understanding who may be left to consult in the eventual consultation exercise.

However, there is perhaps one aspect of our proposal which has gained strength owing to unfortunate circumstances since we last discussed it. I refer in passing to the problem of BSE and the emphasis which such a scare gives to the need for the traceability of meat sold in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The BSE scare might seem to be an irrelevance to the Scottish wild venison market and indeed it probably is. After all, wild venison must be about the most healthy meat that one can eat, free of all contaminants; high in protein and low in fat.

But now I must mention--again, somewhat in passing--Benbecula and the current suggestion that the inhabitants may have higher cancer rates, thanks to fallout from the Chernobyl disaster some years ago. I very much hope that Benbecula's problems may prove to have been invented or exaggerated by our ghastly media, who have bestowed on Benbecula much the same energies as they have bestowed on British beef.

One knows that much of the area of the Scottish Highlands where granite rock is exposed shows above-average radiation readings even in normal conditions. That was certainly the case after the Chernobyl disaster. Even if Chernobyl turns out not to be to blame for Benbecula--let us hope that that is so--one cannot rule out some similar disaster in future which might be shown to have a localised effect. It must surely be sensible to have a system which reveals which carcasses come from that area or at least to have the

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ability to install such a system quickly. That is what the amendment is intended to do. I very much hope that my noble friend can agree to it. I beg to move.

Viscount Mountgarret: My Lords, I apologise for the lateness with which I have involved myself in the Bill, but I have been following it with the greatest of interest since its early stages. I have done so because, apart from a short interval during the war years, my family owned or leased the same deer forest for over 50 years and I can recall very clearly that after the war when I was there much concern was expressed by many people on the question of the tagging of carcasses. When the Red Deer Commission came into being, we had many conversations with the commission during which the question of marauding deer was raised as, on every occasion, was the question of the tagging of carcasses. It was definitely felt that that was probably the best way of controlling the poaching of deer and of preventing deer that had been poached being described as "marauding deer". However, the idea never seemed to get off the ground. I have never understood why.

I should like to lend the maximum support possible to my noble friend's proposal. The question of the tagging of carcasses has raised its head yet again. Surely we should have at least an enabling provision in the Bill. I am only sorry that it is not a requirement in the Bill. However, I very much hope that my noble friend the Minister will feel able to take the amendment on board and to include such an enabling provision in the Bill.

The Earl of Woolton: My Lords, I, too, should like to support Amendment No. 15, which has been moved by my noble friend Lord Pearson, as I did on Report. Those of us who have been pressing the Government on this issue have been heartened in our attempts by the commitment of my noble friend the Minister to keep an open mind and to be willing to be persuaded by the weight of the argument.

As my noble friend Lord Pearson said, the Minister has now received further expressions of support for a mandatory scheme from organisations representing the great majority of producers, dealers and processors. Both sides of the industry are now united in a desire to see mandatory tagging introduced as a basis for participating effectively in the food industry.

On Report I raised the issue of food quality in relation to persuading the food retailers, the main customers for wild venison, that they could have confidence in the production procedures and in the quality of the meat. As my noble friend Lord Pearson said, since then the beef crisis has underlined how fragile consumer confidence can be even when existing hygiene controls are deemed satisfactory. I was interested to hear the Secretary of State for Health comment in another place during a recent beef debate that the United Kingdom is now the most highly regulated country in Europe for food production. That has been a powerful argument in giving British consumers confidence in British food products.

I believe that a mandatory tagging scheme should not be seen as compromising the Government's deregulation initiative; rather, it should be presented as

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strengthening the Government's initiatives to improve the quality of another British meat product. In the light of criticism currently being directed at the United Kingdom's public health procedures and at intensive livestock husbandry in general, the Government should be seeking to ensure that there is no possibility of substandard, poorly handled venison being sold either in this country or abroad.

I believe that the opportunity should be taken to introduce an enabling provision into the Bill to provide for a mandatory scheme once the new commission has put in place the necessary administrative details. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will agree that the arguments in favour of such a scheme have now been proved.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Nickson: My Lords, perhaps I may express the same sentiments as my noble friend Lord Woolton because I, too, have not played any part in the Committee stage or the Bill's progress to date, but I, too, have read with great interest the Minister's responses to amendments on carcass tagging. Although I have no interest to declare in relation to deer, the subject interests me greatly.

As some noble Lords may know, I have another even greater interest, salmon in Scotland--and I may be involved at some stage in legislation on that. I have had a very quick look at Clause 31 of the Salmon Act 1986 which provides an enabling provision, not too dissimilar to this, to create a dealer licensing scheme. There are about 70,000 rod-caught salmon in Scotland and about 80,000 red deer are killed there annually. I mention that only because that enabling legislation was passed by Parliament and is now on the statute book. I know that the Government have considered that provision since then although they have not found it practical or desirable to apply it. Nevertheless, that enabling legislation is on the statute book should implementing its provisions become either necessary or desirable at any stage. Therefore, I very much support the amendment because I think that such a system may well become desirable, even if introducing it may not be immediately possible now.


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