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Lord Burton: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that bismuth is not available in sizes seven and eight, which would normally be used on snipe?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I lack the noble Lord's detailed knowledge of the availability of specific shot for particular types of birds. I shall write to him with the answer that he seeks.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, raised the issue of the effect of steel shot in woodlands. The concerns he mentioned were raised during the consultation process, but they were not deemed significant enough to widen the total ban to woodlands. We have previously stated to the Forestry Commission that we do not intend to apply a complete ban in forested areas. However, we look forward to the consultation that will take place in the light of experience. If landowners are concerned about possible damage to their timber, they should, as stated in the response from the Forestry Commission, impose their own restrictions on the use of steel shot in that particular area.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, raised the issue of consultation with dentists. I must say that his contribution was quite evocative; I remembered the small lead pellets in rabbits that I ate as a child, and I must agree with the noble Lord that one had to avoid those as well as the harder steel shot.

The move to regulation was taken only after detailed consideration of the issues and wide consultation with all involved. In 1995, a working group of government, shooting, farming and conservation organisations, along with the gun and ammunition industry, was set up by the previous Government to consider the phasing out of the use of lead shot in weapons in the UK. Through a

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programme of research, guidance and publicity, the group encouraged the development of alternatives and of means to encourage people who shoot over wetlands to switch voluntarily to these. However, the working group reached a conclusion, after considerable publicity for the voluntary phase-out, that it was necessary to move on from the voluntary phase.

At the end of 1997, the Government carried out a consultation exercise with more than 60 interested organisations, local authorities, representatives of field sport societies, gun and ammunition manufacturers, shooting organisations, conservation groups and enforcement agencies. They all worked together to establish which approach should be adopted at the end of the voluntary phase-out period. Responses to that consultation revealed overall support for a move to a statutory ban as soon as possible. As a result, the Government took the view that a voluntary approach is not sufficient to ensure the protection of waterfowl, as my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone said.

A detailed consultation document issued on 8th April 1999 outlined draft regulations to restrict the use of lead shot in Great Britain. It was sent to over 4,000 individuals and interested organisations. Responses were accepted until the end of June. Following analysis of the responses, my right honourable friend the Minister of State at the DETR, Michael Meacher, announced on 2nd August that restrictions on the use of lead shot would come into force in England on 1st September, the start of the hunting season for ducks and geese.

The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and other noble Lords, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Monro, have referred to the fact that similar legislation in Scotland and Wales is a matter for the devolved authorities. The noble Lord, Lord Monro, and the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, raised the issue of cross-border shooting. It is a fact of life that frequently one needs to know whether one is in Scotland, England, or Wales. I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that he talks to his noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, who seemed to be clear as to who had a right to vote in the Scottish referendum and who did not. He must therefore know the borders better than anyone.

Much legislation applies to England only, and it is not a unique feature of this particular statutory instrument. If there is any question of prosecution, obviously evidence would be gathered as to whether or not the offence took place in England.

It was important that any regulation was easily understood by both the shooting community and those who would be responsible for enforcement. We considered prohibiting the use of lead shot in all weapons. However, there are difficulties associated with drawing up a working definition of a wetland. Wetland areas are dynamic: new gravel workings change flood control regimes; there are habitat restoration schemes, etc; and they are subject to fluctuating use by waterfowl.

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After consideration of a number of different definitions of wetland, it became clear that it would not be possible to define wetlands in such a way that all shooters would know exactly where the ban applied. Therefore, enforcement of legislation would be very difficult. For that reason, the Government decided to prohibit lead shot over those SSSIs on which waterfowl regularly occur, as well as areas below the high water mark which are, by their nature, wetland areas.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, I apologise to my noble friend for intervening. I should like to have spoken in the debate but I was fulfilling my duty to ensure that there is a quorum in our Select Committee. Is my noble friend aware that there is a particular need to ensure that the wildlife interest is safeguarded in those areas which are close to or within conurbations? One of the particular dangers faced in those areas is the use of air rifles by irresponsible trespassers. Is it possible to prohibit the ammunition which they use? Can we also be given some assurance that the Government will urge the police authorities, particularly in such areas, to ensure that enforcement receives some priority?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his intervention. I believe that he is referring to areas which are not covered by this statutory instrument. However, I believe that the issues and concerns which he raises will be covered by other legislation. If my noble friend writes to me giving details of the areas he has in mind, I shall look into those matters carefully and seek to reply to him.

While I accept that prohibitions would contain a substantial proportion of the most important habitats for waterfowl, a means needed to be found to limit the risk from lead poisoning in the areas where birds are generally hunted. Therefore, the most practical means of achieving a reduction in the deposition of lead shot outside the designated sites was to prohibit the use of lead shot for shooting ducks, geese, coot, moorhen, snipe and golden plover. Careful consideration was given to the list of species covered by the regulation. Those species directly at risk of lead poisoning were automatically included. As a consequence, birds such as ducks, geese and swans were included in the list, although swans are not legally hunted in this country. The other four species--coot, moorhen, snipe and golden plover--were included after advice from English Nature indicated that those species, although not at risk from lead poisoning, could be hunted in areas where ducks and geese occurred. Therefore, the risk of lead poisoning in those species would affect them adversely and put them at risk.

Several noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, in introducing his Prayer, asked whether the Government have any plans to extend the list of sites to cover all SSSIs. The Government have no plans to extend the list to cover all SSSIs.

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I understand the reservations expressed about blanket prohibition relating to certain areas. Later, I shall refer in more detail to the fact that there will be widespread consultation in the light of experience of the hunting season in the coming years.

We recognise that the cost of some alternatives to lead shot are more expensive. However, set in the context of the overall cost of shooting and given the environmental benefits which will accrue, we believe that the increased costs of certain cartridges are not unreasonable. I have been made aware of the concern of noble Lords that people might use steel shot in unadapted guns, which, I am reliably informed, could become dangerous very quickly if used in that way. Obviously, we, along with all those who are responsible in the field of hunting and shooting, will continue to ensure that people are made fully aware of those dangers.

The noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, raised the issue of the use of lead shot by a tenant against the wishes of the owner of land and property. There is no liability. In such a case, the liability lies with the person who uses the lead shot if he does so against the wishes of the owner.

The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, asked about the application of the burden of proof. It would be the responsibility of the prosecuting authority to prove that an offence had been committed.

The issue of enforcement has been referred to by many noble Lords. I say in response to the noble Lord, Lord Burton, that any evidence which environmental agencies or those who are concerned might have of tampering with evidence should be reported in great detail to the proper authorities. It is impossible for me to deal with such a generalised statement of concern.

Concerns have been voiced that regulations have introduced new draconian measures to allow undesirable organisations to police the ban, enter people's homes and seize property. Nothing could be further from the truth. The enforcement powers of the regulation are closely related to those in Section 108 of the Environment Act 1995. The enforcement provisions of that Act superseded those of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 under which the regulations were made. It is usual for regulations to have similar enforcement powers to the primary legislation under which they are made. As such, the powers contained in the regulation are clearly not new. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, raised that issue.


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