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The Earl of Selborne: My Lords, I wonder whether we are in danger of slightly over-stating the case. I find myself in slight disagreement with some of my noble friends on this side of the House. I should declare an interest, as chairman of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee from 1991 to, I believe, 1996. I have to report that during that time there was a lot of agreement from all sides of shooting and conservation interests as to what was required.
I do not want to go into the issues of whether or not these regulations contain draconian measures but I think that we need to put the record straight as to whether or not there is any serious dispute over whether lead is a desirable element to use in shot where there is a danger that wildfowl may ingest it. I do not think that is in dispute and I do not think that at this stage of the debate, which has been going on for many years, we need to put it in dispute.
I was interested to hear my noble friend say that he had sought to impose a ban by law and of course he has had to do this by means of an injunction. It is precisely the interests of, if I may say so, such far-sighted landlords of shoots which we are protecting in this measure. I do not think that many people would want to take a tenant to law in order to enforce such a covenant. It is very desirable that there are regulations of this kind, but I do not wish to discuss the minutiae because it is the principle with which we have to concern ourselves.
I find myself in agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that a voluntary measure would have been desirable but apparently it was difficult to achieve and therefore I think that we are now bound to follow this route.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Dormer: My Lords, we on these Benches certainly welcome these regulations and hope they will be the first step in moving towards greater protection for SSSIs and wildlife in general. After what we have heard this afternoon I think there is widespread agreement that lead is harmful, but I will not go further into that. The noble Lord who has just spoken has said that there had been a long process since 1991 and that there has been plenty of time to reach a voluntary solution.
It has been said that the landlord or the shooter should be the person accountable. However, it is plain that the landlord is the person who owns the land; he is there and he makes the rules for the people who shoot on the land. Therefore, the landlord is the person who is most easily held accountable. Most noble Lords who have spoken seem to be principally worried about the fact that the law enforcement is too draconian. I think that, given the state nationally of our SSSIs, and given the concerns that have been voiced about lead to the wildfowl listed in these regulations, their needs to be a sufficient power to say that this is a serious matter and one which will be taken seriously. Given the failure of voluntary agreement, I think a clear message needs to be sent out that these are wildlife and birds regulations.
In principle, I personally support the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, in this appeal. Perhaps, rather more importantly, this is yet another bad piece of legislation that has been poorly put together because at the heart of it there was really not much dispute, as we have already heard. There was a fair amount of agreement about the need for some kind of legislation if it was found that the voluntary agreement was not working. However, the whole business of lead shot--I will not spend much time on it--is still being debated. It is certainly not proven and Professor Bellamy himself says that "lead" is not the right word to use. He suggests that "toxic" is the word that ought to be used in this legislation, which puts the thing in a very different perspective from that angle.
Moving to what is prescribed in the first part, that any wild bird included in Schedule 2 to these regulations should not be shot anywhere, again, this is clearly poorly phrased. As we have heard from speakers around the House, the common snipe flies regularly over grouse drives and the mallard travels freely and regularly. The golden plover is also available a long way from wetlands where people may be shooting in semi-light and so on, and shooting with lead shot.
However, for the purposes of today's debate I think that we would accept the need for restriction over wetlands, even though I personally think that this is not yet proven scientifically. There are some percentages quoted in papers that I have read; one was 12 per cent of geese, and that actually refers to flying birds. Anyone who has seen geese in flight knows that they flight in thousands. Also, with due respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, I have seen a paper that I suspect she has also seen from English Nature. Clearly I did not draw the same conclusions from it as she did. I found it quite misleading.
I think there are a lot of things in the air that need further discussion before serious legislation is brought. I also think that to have legislation based on a species schedule was quite unnecessary--it really was--and it was unnecessarily restrictive. As has been stated by my noble friends, there is no disagreement. Those of us who shoot for sport clearly support protecting the wetlands from lead poisoning. In spite of that, I have to say that I live in a home where the water is kept in lead tanks and flows through lead pipes, and I have been drinking it for over 50 years. Your Lordships may regret it, but I am still standing here! Therefore
As to the second stage, which is really much more serious, this is yet another example, as we heard earlier, of over-restrictive legislation. It is draconian against the individual. Why should regulations like these be worded so loosely? They could have referred to "a policeman" or something similar. Inevitably people like myself and others are going to be suspicious. If we happen--God forbid!--to have a Secretary of State responsible for these matters who is strongly affiliated to the ALF or something similar, we can expect the ALF to be authorised to come and stop a grouse shoot in the middle of a moor because it is thought that somebody shot a snipe that they happened to have seen see through binoculars. The whole thing becomes ridiculous.
Over-prescriptive legislation should never be at risk of being ridiculous. I beg to offer that comment, and I seriously think that to have a law which cannot be enforced geographically because the borders cannot be clearly defined, the reason for which is hard to prove because the scientists do not yet agree and there is insufficient proof and evidence, and which really goes overboard in regard to taking actions against a private person and private property, is bad legislation. Arguments have been put from all around the House, and those are mine. It is a convention of this House that the Opposition do not vote against negative instruments and I do not intend to do so.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, for initiating the debate, and I should like to join with other noble Lords in paying tribute to his work, knowledge and contribution to the work of this House. I know personally from the detailed work that he carried out on the Rating (Valuation) Bill that his professional knowledge in his own specialist field is second to none.
Noble Lords all around the House have put forward their arguments--with, I must say, varying degrees of personal conviction--ranging from the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, who did not totally convince me that he believed that there was a need for this issue to be tackled in a determined way.
There is no doubt that the toxic effects of lead in terms of the reproduction, development and survival of animals and wildlife are well known, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, the stricter controls have covered areas far beyond the issue of protecting wildlife. However, in wetlands where hunting takes place, there has been widespread lead poisoning among waterfowl. Such losses to the bird population are simply unnecessary. Waterfowl are particularly prone to eating lead as they take grit to help in digestion, and it is estimated that in the UK 2 to 3 per cent of mallards have been dying each year from lead poisoning. That figure may be as high as 5 per cent for other waterfowl species in some areas.
As long ago as 1983, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution recommended that, as soon as alternatives were available, the Government should legislate to ban the use of lead shot and fishing weights in circumstances where they are irretrievably dispersed in the environment. Since 1987 the supply of lead fishing weights judged to be the most harmful to swans has been prohibited and the new swan population has risen by over 30 per cent since that date.
I am sure that all noble Lords would welcome the progress being made. Progress on restricting the use of lead in shotguns was slower because of the need to develop alternative shot types. Those shot types are now available and there is no reason why wildfowl should continue to be exposed to the risk associated with the deposition of lead shot.
From 1993 to 1996 the Government, with the assistance of shooting and related organisations, funded a ballistic testing facility to aid manufacturers in the development of suitable alternatives to lead. That facility tested the many different types of shot available today. Apart from steel, which has been used in the United States for a number of years, bismuth, tungsten polymer and tin shot are now available to shooters.
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