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Lord Forbes: I agree that Amendment No. 11, as a composition of the commission, is an improvement. I must point out that in dealing with deer and their effect on our natural heritage, the most important consideration is to obtain the correct balance. To achieve that the Secretary of State must have sufficient discretion and flexibility to find the best people--people of considerable ability and wisdom--to become members of the commission. The commission need not be composed of experts, can always call on scientific or technical advice from specialist bodies as and when it wants to. In furthering the conservation and control of deer, which was the aim of the 1959 Act, the
The Earl of Lindsay: I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch for raising this important issue, and I must express my gratitude to my noble friend Lord Forbes, who, in both his interventions to date, has stressed the importance of having the best accumulation of wisdom and the best width of experience on the deer commission however it should be composed.
I start by speaking to Amendment No. 11, which sets out what the Government have in mind. This amendment is designed to ensure that the composition of future commissions contains a significant proportion of members with knowledge or experience of deer management. Clause 1 of the Bill, as originally drafted, required the Secretary of State to appoint such numbers of members as he considers appropriate to represent the interests of persons or organisations concerned with each of the following key interests in deer; namely, deer management; agriculture (including crofting); forestry and woodland management and the natural heritage. It is essential that all of these interests have appropriate levels of representation on the commission.
I have listened carefully to suggestions that a significant level of representation of knowledge or experience of deer management is necessary on the commission to enable it to do its job properly, since the exercise of its functions, I admit, will continue to rely to a significant degree on the relationship of trust and respect it will maintain with those who manage deer on their land. At the same time, it is essential that the commission is a balanced body whose composition and mode of operation reflects all of the key interests in deer.
The various issues raised by deer in land management generally in Scotland and the conflicts that can arise because of them require the commission to have a range of knowledge and expertise in issues outwith the field of deer management alone. I consequently propose that a specific minimum proportion of persons with knowledge or experience of deer management be set, at the level of one third, which I regard as the appropriate level to ensure significant representation of deer managers, while maintaining an effective balance with other interests. We have just passed the amendment dealing with the minimum number of commissioners being nine, therefore if the Commission was as small as nine, that would mean there would be three drawn from those with direct experience and knowledge of deer management. If the commission just went up one to 10, then of course at least one third becomes four, so that is how the mathematics would work out.
The amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch, Amendment No. 6, would have the effect of stipulating that a majority of commissioners should have knowledge or experience of deer management. It is quite true that members of the commission need to have between them knowledge and experience of all issues relating to deer. It is true also that a significant proportion of the members need to have knowledge or experience of deer management per se, since much of its work will relate to deer management at ground level and to deer management groups.
It is, however, essential that the commission has balanced representation of all the relevant interests which are likely to arise in the pursuit of deer management, since the effectiveness of its operation as a commission will depend upon the relationship which it develops with all bodies with an interest in deer and in deer ranges. It is for that reason that Clause 1 stipulates the key areas of expertise that the commission will need among its ranks to do its job properly. I sympathise with the suspicions of my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch and therefore the line which he has taken with this amendment. But I stress that the one-third minimum proportion of deer managers, or those with experience in that field, is a significant proportion. It is especially significant given the extraordinarily wide range of interests which deer management now provokes, from farming, forestry and crofting to all the different parts of the natural environment. If the balance of interests on the deer commission is reduced or in any way skewed so that it is less of a level balance across the different interests, the commission would be in danger of losing some of its credibility and legitimacy in the wider community in Scotland.
It is terribly important that the commission commands status and respect among all those who are likely to have an interest in the way in which deer are managed, and is not simply seen as the supporter of one specific interest group. The fear is that if the deer commission was to lose credibility and respect, the ability with which it could promote voluntary action involving different parties would be more difficult, and therefore the likelihood of the Clause 5 compulsory control schemes being invoked would become more likely. It is thus very important that the deer commission commands that wide respect across the community.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Before my noble friend replies, perhaps I may say that, having spent a lot of my life on quangos and commissions of this sort, if such a body is carefully balanced and that balanced commission can come to a conclusion and then discuss it and sell it throughout Scotland, it is far more likely to command respect. If it is carefully balanced the discussion is much more constructive.
Let us suppose that the commission consists of the minimum number of nine, which is implied by the acceptance of the amendment of the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, five of whom are landowners and four simply representing the other interests. If that number were all
Lord Glenarthur: I very much understand the points that my noble friend Lord Lindsay is making about flexibility and the credibility of the commission. It is important that it is not too constrained and that, at the same time, those areas which should be covered are covered adequately by the interest groups which are represented. To that extent, although I understand the point made by my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch, I also share the views expressed by my noble friend Lady Carnegy. My noble friend Lord Lindsay has put down Amendment No. 11 which I find appealing. It goes a long way towards the case which my noble friend Lord Pearson has made but without over-egging it and removing some of that flexibility which might otherwise accrue or be available to the commission. I support that amendment, but not the other one.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I thank my noble friend the Minister and my noble friend Lady Carnegy for their interventions. I say to my noble friend Lady Carnegy that Amendment No. 6, which I am proposing, does not indicate a majority of land owners but it indicates a majority of people who appear to the Secretary of State to have knowledge and experience of deer management.
I absolutely accept the point made by my noble friend the Minister that the commission must command the widest possible respect. But I submit that there is no more important category of people whose respect it must command than those who actually manage the deer. I would say to my noble friend the Minister that under the 1959 Act as it stands the commission, which has roughly the same number of people on it, has to have two nominees of such organisations as appear to the Secretary of State to represent the sporting interests in deer. I would therefore ask my noble friend the Minister when he comes to reply whether my analysis of the amendment that he has tabled--Amendment No. 11--is correct, that it would allow there to be only one representative of the sporting interests in deer in future, and whether he feels it will be sufficient to command the respect of the people who will have to carry out this Act.
The Earl of Lindsay: I am grateful for the useful contributions that have been made by noble friends Lady Carnegy, Lord Glenarthur and Lord Pearson. I can reassure my noble friend that we have seen a very sensible way to meet the body of this concern, but perhaps not going quite to the degree he would like us to have gone to. We think that a solid and balancing proportion of those representing experience and knowledge of deer management should be there. I am advised by those who know deer management much
Let me also point out to my noble friend that wherever you sit on that commission, whatever label it is that has justified your appointment in terms of the knowledge and experience that you bring to that commission, there is still the balancing duty imposed upon you in the commission's deliberations. Not only must the commission demonstrate that it has reached a reasonable decision on an issue, but it must also take into account the balancing duty which, for instance, would include the interests of owners and occupiers of land. Therefore, inherent in one of the balancing duties there is a very strong sporting interest as an undercurrent.
I hope that Amendment No. 11 provides the reassurance without upsetting the balance of the commission. Many of us agree that the balance is vital for the credibility and that the credibility is vital for the voluntary principle and if we start rocking the balance we will lose a lot of the very good work that has been achieved to date. In the 1959 Act, of the 12 members, two were able to represent the sporting interest; eight represented agriculture and forestry of one sort or another and two represented environmental matters. Despite what nowadays seems a very unbalanced commission, it has achieved an extraordinarily good track record of balanced decision-making. I hope that the new proposal that we have lodged today as an amendment certainly produces a more visible balance than the 1959 Act seems to enable. Therefore, given how successfully the 1959 constitution has operated, I hope that the Committee accept Amendment No. 11 and that we will have very fine prospects from the new constitution.
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