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Lord Kimball: My Lords, the noble Earl has made it clear that there is grave concern on the subject of lead. It becomes an emotive issue. We have had to remove the lead pipes from our houses. People have had to give up their lead soldiers; or they cannot buy more of those lovely toys. Lead paint is no longer acceptable in one's house; and fishermen have long given up using lead weights. We have to recognise that there is genuine concern about lead.
I think that I am correct in saying that most members of the Countryside Alliance accept the removal of lead shot where it is a proven cause of poisoning through ingestion by water fowl. We have accepted a voluntary undertaking not to use lead shot over marshland habitats and areas below the high water mark.
As the noble Earl pointed out, one of the problems is that it adds to the schedule many areas which do not fall into the definition. The Stamford training area in Norfolk is hardly a wetland. The Cairngorms are in Scotland, so that issue does not arise yet, but they are hardly a wetland. Those inclusions bring the regulations into disrepute. There should be a formal method to challenge the inclusion of an SSSI within the schedule.
The distressing and alarming matter--as other noble Lords have pointed out--is that the schedule has moved from the scheduling of areas to the scheduling of extra species. In no way can a golden plover and a common snipe ingest lead shot by going along the water with their beaks. They drill through the ground. I used to have a snipe bog on an SSSI. We used to put out dried blood from the slaughterhouse on mown strips. The snipe stuck their beaks through and caught all the lovely bugs underneath. It was a certain way of collecting them. But in no way do those birds ingest the lead shot over the marsh. So there is no evidence of poisoning of golden plover and common snipe. The
In introducing the Motion, attention was drawn to the question of enforcement. I remind noble Lords that the premises of every game dealer are subject to inspection. If there has been a complaint about a shoot, it is perfectly in order for the police to inspect the game dealer's register, and the game on his premises.
I believe that the regulations are more enforceable than people realise. But I am equally confident that the shooting community will not break the regulations. If this is the law, it will be abided by even though it is bad law, will be a burden on people, and we should not have allowed it to go through. Perhaps in the revised House we shall get rid of the convention by which we do not throw out unsatisfactory regulations. Perhaps we may have a good hunt and kill a fox next time.
Baroness Young of Old Scone: My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of English Nature, which has been mentioned on several occasions during the debate. I want also to declare an interest in ducks and water birds and in shooting. The management of land and water for shooting is extremely good for conservation. It would be wrong to see the regulation as a polarisation between the shooting and conservation communities.
I should like to think that the Government have made a move on this issue, not hastily in an ill-thought-out way, but carefully and far too slowly. For more than 15 years, we at English Nature have had an interest in the issue, and discussions with the shooting interests have taken place for some time. I assure the House that in our discussions we have not sought surreptitious government control by the back door or a cessation of shooting. We have simply been looking for a way forward that would suit the shooting community and conservation.
The toll on wildfowl due to ingesting lead shot is unacceptable in conservation terms. There is research evidence of that. Apart from the conservation impact, lead poisoning causes a nasty and lingering death. For that reason, the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement requires the British Government to produce regulations to enforce a ban by the end of next year, not just in England but in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
We looked for a voluntary ban. I should have preferred this to have been resolved without regulation, but that did not work. There was insufficient interest in the voluntary ban to encourage the market to produce adequate supplies of cheap non-toxic shot to allow sporting shooting to continue using such shot. As a result, the regulation is not the draconian measure it may appear in cold print, but is a signal to the market and the shooting community to move into the next generation of water fowl shooting.
I hope that your Lordships will accept that this is a reasonable way forward for the shooting community and for conservation; that the responsible shooting community will rise to the signal that this gives; and that in two or three years we shall consider this to have been a bit of a storm in a teacup.
Lord Burton: My Lords, I support the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, in his objection to the regulations. Despite being highly contentious, the regulations are a grave infringement of the rights of the individual. Until today, this matter has never before been debated in Parliament. It was sneaked in after Parliament rose for the Summer Recess.
There has been little scientific research into the issue in this country and certainly there have been no peer reviews of the little scientific work that has been done, and preferences within the regulations are largely American. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, mentioned America were some research has been carried out. The situation is different because a large amount of shot was found over a small area.
The result is that many inaccurate assumptions have been presumed. Probably the most extensive research in Britain was done by Dr G P Mudge in 1981. His report records very low or zero incidents in pink-footed, barnacle and white-fronted geese, wigeon, pintail, shoveler, scaup and moorhens. It seems that some of the lead pellets found in the very small number of other species affected may have been caused by wounding and not by the swallowing of lead pellets.
Yesterday, I spoke with one of Dr Mudge's researchers who monitored the Beauly Firth near Inverness; waters which were heavily populated with wildfowl at that time. The three most heavily shot-over areas were used for sampling. Twelve cores were taken out to a depth of three feet in each of the three places once a month for five months over an autumn and winter. Thus, 180 core samples were taken. These were carefully washed and strained. At the end of the experiment they found only three or four pellets. I hardly think that over such a heavily shot area the risk is serious.
Some of the best grouse moors are on hills which have been mined for lead; for instance, there are lead hills in south Scotland and in many areas of the Pennines. The regulations refer to the protection of "animals", but does that description mean birds, mammals or both? If it means mammals, what effect are the regulations intended to have on them? I thought that their intention was to protect birds.
If lead is banned, what are the alternatives? There is bismuth, a substance which is said to be highly toxic. Dr Bellamy seems to agree with the danger. Has research been carried out into the toxicity of bismuth? Bismuth, of course, is five or six times the price of lead, but that is another matter.
Then there is so called "steel". That is very dangerous. This shot is inclined to ball and can blow up gun barrels. It certainly severely damages the carcasses of any quarry shot at. We experienced that when Belgians came to shoot grouse. At lunchtime, the keeper said to the owner of the property, "I don't know what these people are firing at our birds, but they're not fit for the market any longer". For the rest of the day, he provided the Belgians with cartridges. However, the substance has already been banned in Sweden as it is so damaging to forestry. Any tree damaged by the shot will set the sawmill metal detectors bleeping in order to prevent damage to the saw and perhaps even to the saw-miller himself.
One wonders therefore whether there is any good alternative to lead. My noble friend said he was worried about wounding and I believe that most of the alternatives are likely to cause more wounding than is caused by lead.
I consider the draconian wording of Article 4(i) to be totally unnecessary. It empowers the Secretary of State to authorise any individual, not necessarily a police officer, to break into anyone's premises at what is termed "a reasonable time". It authorises such persons to remove private property and to have tested anything found thereon. There have already been many cases where environmental bodies have interfered with evidence. I know of three cases where certain bodies removed the evidence or clearly interfered with it.
I am not sure what will happen at the Country Landowners' Game Fair next year because I understand that that area is protected. I do not know whether the shooters will have to use bismuth, but what are they going to use to shoot the clay pigeons at the game fair? Apparently, one cannot use lead shot in that area. These regulations must be withdrawn, at least until proper research has been carried out, and I do hope that the Minister will understand the difficulties which have been talked about on all sides of the House this afternoon.
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