HC Deb 18 April 1975 vol 890 cc847-9
Mr. Hardy

I beg to move Amendment No. 4, in page 2, line 2, after 'creature' insert: 'or any other wild creature being a bat'. In Standing Committee we spent a good deal of time considering the question of bats. Some hon. Members have received representations from people with an expert knowledge of bats who are anxious about the disturbance and damage done to all bat species by irresponsible or unskilled ringing.

The bat as a creature, by virtue of its structure and anatomy, does not lend itself to ringing. It seems to me and to others concerned about the balance of wild life that there should be some control over interference with a declining bat population. For this reason we propose that before people are able to ring bats they should be required to possess a licence given by the Nature Conservancy Council. The effect of ringing can be harmful, but the act of disturbance which accompanies ringing is often almost lethal to a number of colonies

We propose not merely to protect bats from ringing where they are already listed in Schedule I but to extend that protection to cover all species of bats so that those who wish to ring bats in the wild will have to have a licence from the council to do so.

I think that this will meet the wishes of those who served on the Standing Committee. I believe that it will also satisfy zoologists, who are becoming increasingly anxious about the ringing of bats and other wild creatures by individuals who are not necessarily competent to carry out the task

Mr. Mather

I have no objection to this amendment. It considerably extends the cover given to the greater horse-shoe bat to all bats. The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) is obviously of the view that, unless one is an expert, it is difficult to identify bats. If people in an amateur way wish to ring bats they will have difficulty in identifying the greater horse-shoe bat. If a bat got into the hon. Gentleman's bedroom and he wanted to evict it, how would he go through the process of identification? He would have to use a certain amount of force if he wanted to get any sleep that night. How will he identify the intruder and what means would he use to evict it from his bedroom?

Mr. Hardy

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that interesting point. He should bear in mind that we propose to protect not only the greater horse-shoe bat but also the mouse-eared bat. If a bat were to get into my bedroom, I do not think I should be keen on ringing it. I might be keen on removing it, but nothing in the Bill would reduce my capacity to remove a bat—hether it be the greater horse-shoe bat or the mouse-eared bat—from the room.

Almost all bat species are declining in numbers and in recent years the decline has been marked. One reason is interference by people who, although extremely well-intentioned amateur naturalists of all kinds, may be inflicting harm on the future of bat species. It would be extremely helpful if those species were allowed to survive in the wild. If they are to do so, there must be a greater degree of security in the various roosts.

Nobody is suggesting that any action in respect of the removal of nuisance will be discouraged by the Bill, but the Bill will prevent disturbance, particularly in periods of hibernation when bats are most vulnerable. On advice from all knowledgeable quarters, I have come to the conclusion that this extension of the Bill is highly desirable. The clause, if amended in this way, will not reduce the capacity of individuals to sleep at night.

Amendment agreed to

Amendment made: No. 5, in line 3, after ' creature', insert

'or any other wild creature being a bat'.—[Mr. Hardy.]
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