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Lord Monson: My Lords, I am glad to support my noble friend's Motion. In doing so I declare a minor interest in that I shoot duck on about three half-days a year on average. My noble friend, with his usual thoroughness, has covered the ground so well that there is not a lot that can be added. However, I should like to put two or three questions to the noble Baroness. First, why are snipe included in the restrictions? If snipe are hit at all, even by a not very well aimed shot, they are almost certain to be killed outright. In this respect they are about as different from mallards as can be imagined. The latter can survive for a long time with a great deal of shot in them. Moreover, what about the availability of the newly-approved cartridges? Snipe are normally shot with size 7 shot or smaller, but very few non-lead shot cartridges containing such small size shot are made. The demand is so small that it is not economic to manufacture them.
My second question is by no means flippant; it is entirely serious. Have the Government consulted the dental profession about this instrument? However meticulous one may be, it is impossible to guarantee that all shot is removed from a game bird before it is cooked. Even lead shot can do terrible things to a tooth, as I know to my cost. Will not steel or tungsten shot be even more dangerous? There are also forestry considerations. One hears that the Scandinavians, apart from the Danes, who have very few forests of any size, are extremely worried about the effects of steel shot on trees. Apart from other considerations, once steel shot is embedded in a tree it can cause great damage to saw blades when it is felled or trimmed. But the main objection to the regulations, among many others, must be the draconian and disproportionate entry, search and seizure measures allowed therein, as the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, stressed. My noble friend Lord Lytton pointed out that these measures are normally employed only when there is a risk of serious harm to human health.
I conclude on a slightly different note. My noble friend Lord Lytton, conscientious as always--I am aware that his business commitments have prevented him from attending as regularly as he would wish--decided not to stand for election, at the possible expense of less qualified but more regular attenders. The House will therefore be deprived of the benefit of his particular expertise which is not so easy to replace. The same can be said of 50 or 60 other noble Lords in various quarters of the House who did not stand for the same reason or, being over 70, believed that younger Peers should be given a chance, or stood for election but failed to be elected because their faces were not particularly well known. What a tragedy that an amendment along the lines of that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, which would have secured the retention of the services of a modest number of speaking but non-voting Peers, was rejected
Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving the House the opportunity to question the Minister on why the decisions that the Government have taken are in this statutory instrument. I declare various interests, from involvement in Solway wildfowling to membership of the Nature Conservancy Council and as the Minister who took the Environment Act through another place in 1980. With that environmental background, it is perhaps all the more important that I demonstrate my concern at what has been done about the blanket inclusion of SSSIs in this statutory instrument. It shows that the heavy hand of what is now English Nature has the ear of the Minister and perhaps has overtaken what many of us believe to be common sense.
Noble Lords have covered much of the detail of the instrument. I indicated my interest in the Solway, having represented it in another place for over 30 years. This instrument applies only to England. Immediately, we run into a distinct conflict between Scotland and England as to precisely where in the Solway is the border and on which side we are permitted to use lead shot and on which side we cannot. We had this debate during the passage of the devolution Bill relative to the boundary between England and Scotland, which at the present time varies from the centre line of the River Eden, or River Esk, down the middle of the Solway to what was agreed in the Bill; namely, that there would be a specific indication by latitude and longitude of the precise boundary between England and Scotland. Has it been resolved? Do we know what is the exact boundary between England and Scotland, particularly in the upper Solway which is mentioned in the schedule to the regulations? If not, we have no right to place before Parliament an instrument with a vague idea of where the national boundary lies and what is legal and what is illegal. The Government should have resolved that and made it clear in the statutory instrument before they placed it before Parliament.
I share with other noble Lords grave concerns about the draconian powers given by this instrument. They go far beyond any possible damage that may be involved. The Government should look at this matter again, particularly in the context of a general discussion with the police in Scotland and England, and Wales for that matter, given the boundary between England and Wales, as to how they might interpret this draconian measure. It does no good to stir up unnecessary confrontation in the countryside where everyone works towards a common goal and understands the reasons for this statutory instrument, even if many believe that it is misguided and there has been insufficient consultation, particular on the availability of alternative types of shot, such as tungsten, tin and so on. One is aware that from the point of view of wounding birds it is far better to use
The Government have to give many answers on the statutory instrument. Will the Minister indicate the position as regards a punt gun? The regulation indicates that a shotgun is a smooth bore weapon but it does not indicate whether a punt gun is legal, as it is at present. I appreciate that under the regulation the punt gun would have to be used with alternative shot. However, there should be a reference if the regulation covers it.
I hope that the Minister will explain why we have included all SSSIs. Some are miles away from wetlands. An answer seems to have been accepted from English Nature without considering the original intention: to cover wetlands alone, and estuaries such as the Wash, the Solway and other parts of the United Kingdom.
As a landlord I have an SSSI within the land that I own. For the past five years I have leased out my shoot to a tenant. The lease makes it clear that he is not allowed to use lead shot over any of the waterways or lakes. To that extent he is meant to use bismuth cartridges. However, he seems inadvertently to use lead shots over those areas and recently we obtained an injunction to stop him doing so. My point is this. No matter how hard I try to regulate the lease, the tenant, his guests and other such people have inadvertently used lead shot over those waterways over which I have sought to ensure that it should not be used. Every time the tenant uses inadvertently such shot, I may be taken to court through his use of it. Surely the regulation is wrong. It should put the liability on the shooter and not the landlord. There is no incentive for the shooter to use non-lead shot. If the liability were on him, he would have an incentive to do so.
Lord Dunleath: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Lytton for raising this matter. I declare an interest. As the Minister will be aware, I live and shoot in Northern Ireland where, at present, like Scotland and Wales, we do not have restrictions on the use of lead shot. However, perhaps more unusually, I am fortunate (if that is word) to be invited each year to shoot in Holland where no lead shot in any form is allowed. When I go there, we are equipped with bismuth shot.
However, like my noble friend Lord Lytton, I, too, wonder whether these restrictions are the beginning of a more concerted campaign to do away with shooting of game and wildfowl in the United Kingdom. In the Netherlands the cessation of shooting has been a creeping process. For example, the raising of game for shooting is now wholly illegal. One cannot put down pheasants. In recent years, it has become illegal to shoot snipe and woodcock. Last year it became illegal to shoot partridges.
There are further restrictions. In Holland, one may shoot ducks but only more than a certain distance away from where they are fed. One is still allowed to shoot geese but only, for some reason I do not know, until 11 o'clock in the morning.
Like my noble friend, while I have no particular argument against the controlled use of lead shot in specific instances, I am concerned that the regulations are the beginning of something more comprehensive and worrying for the many thousands of people in the United Kingdom who enjoy shooting and wildfowling.
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