HC Deb 18 April 1975 vol 890 cc855-8

11.30 a.m.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

I beg to move Amendment No. 19, in page 5, line 21, after rare', insert 'either nationally or in local specified environments'. I am aware that the promoter does not feel that these words are necessary. It was our opinion that Clause 7, which enables the Secretary of State to make a protection order or to specify creatures or plants in the specified areas, might be inconsistent with Clause 12. In Clause 7, such an area could range from a county to a coppice. The amendment recognises that it may be appropriate to protect species for local reasons

However, if the promoter can assure me that he sees no conflict here and that local areas such as small coppices and quarter-acre plots of land are not omitted by the wording in the clause, I should be prepared to accept that assurance.

Mr. Hardy

I am grateful for the comments of the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) just as I am grateful for his interest in the Bill. I think that it would be wise for him to withdraw, or the House not to accept, the amendment. An earlier amendment to Clause 7 may mean that the basic point here is now covered. Clause 7 now says, …the Secretary of State…may…add any wild creature or plant to Schedule I or Schedule 2 either generally or with respect to any area specified in such order". It seems that there will be a capacity to provide the local protection which may be highly desirable. I see nothing in the Bill as it stands, or as one hopes it will stand, to diminish the capacity to provide the local protection which may be desirable, but it would be foolish at this stage to introduce more complexity.

One hopes that the Bill's contribution to the British environment will gradually increase, but it would be unwise to start off with a whole variety of arrangements for protection. I think that they should evolve rather than be provided from the outset. So while I entirely applaud the spirit and interest shown by the amendment, I believe that it would provide complexity and duplication which should be avoided, certainly in the initial stages.

Mr. Mather

I think that the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) has an important point. There are certain localities which harbour the kind of creatures with which we are concerned. I have in mind a rather scruffy little marsh near where I live which has recently been discovered to be one of the few places where the Scandinavian pipit comes. This may have happened only because of a particularly mild winter but various interests are now seeking to protect this marsh. Birds are not covered by the Bill, but the point is important. I hope that the promoter will bear that in mind as the Bill goes through its following stages.

Mr. John Silkin

I wonder whether I might help the House and explain why I think that the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) would be wise to consider withdrawing the amendment. The amendment affects the passage requiring the Nature Conservancy Council to advise whether …any wild creature or plant has become so rare that its status as a British wild creature or plant is being endangered". In other words, the matter is considered nationally. This provision therefore spells out the fact that rarity is a national matter rather than a local one.

I hope that I am the hon. Member's mind correctly when I say that the aim of the amendment is to give additional protection to a species which happens to be rare in a particular locality, even if relatively common elsewhere. But that is not our understanding of the general intention of the Bill. We understand that a species would be scheduled only if it were so rare nationally that its status as a British wild creature or plant was endangered.

The hon. Member's point is valid, but it is already covered. It is a good thing that we have this facility to make area orders. It adds flexibility to the Bill, although I think that it should be used sparingly. However, it might be appropriate when a species was in danger throughout the country although fairly common in one or two places. I am thinking here of the illustration given by the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) of his local marsh, which would be covered by an area order. But it would damage the whole character of the Bill if this facility could be used for purely local rarities when the species itself was fairly common throughout the country.

There is a small drafting point. I never make much of drafting points, because I have always said that, if the drafting is wrong but the idea is right, the Government should help out with the drafting. However, as drafted, the amendment would not achieve the hon. Member's intention. It would still assess the status of a species on a national basis.

Mr. Stephen Ross

I am very grateful to the Minister and to the other hon. Members who have spoken. With the assurances that I have received, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

A inendinent, by leave. withdrawn.

Forward to