HC Deb 11 July 1975 vol 895 cc938-40

Lords Amendment: No. 5, in page 1, line 27, at end insert and any reference to dead creatures shall be construed as including the skins or skeletons of such creatures".

Mr. Hardy

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Perhaps it will be convenient to discuss at the same time Lords Amendment No. 18, in Clause 8, in page 3, line 29, at end insert and in paragraph (bb) of this subsection any reference to dead creatures shall be construed as including the skins or skeletons of such creatures".

Mr. Hardy

The amendment will restrict the sale of the skins or skeletons of creatures of a species specified in Schedule 1. As Clause 2 stands, the sale of live or dead creatures is restricted, assuming that they are the rare creatures mentioned in the schedule, but it is likely that stuffed animals and skeletons would not be covered since they would be regarded as parts of animals rather than of whole animals.

There may be some trade between dealers and collectors in stuffed creatures of protected species which would present [...] severe threat to the rare creatures dealt with in Schedule 1. Since there are irresponsible individuals—only a small number—with a capacity to wreak havoc with the remaining sparse number of rare creatures, this loophole needs to be closed, and I was delighted that in another place that closure was agreed.

12.30 p.m.

There is a similar provision in the Protection of Birds Act 1954, which has exactly the same purpose as the amendment, and restricts the sale of the skins or the plumage of the protected wild birds.

Lords Amendment No. 18 would give the Nature Conservancy Council the power to license the sale of skins or skeletons for approved purposes. Therefore, we are in no way trespassing upon sensible and necessary educational and scientific activities.

The same loophole exists in relation to the possession provision in Clause 1, although the problem is thought to be serious only when dealers are handling large numbers for sale. The "without reasonable excuse" provision in Clause 2 would provide a defence for actions arising from mistaken identification, but anyone in possession of skins before the passing of the Act would not be committing an offence.

Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)

I think that this is a useful amendment. It is a little surprising that when the Bill was originally before the House this possible loop- hole was not spotted, because it is, as the hon. Gentleman has said, included in the Protecton of Birds Act 1954. In days gone by, taxidermists were continually seeking the skins of wild animals for rather a different purpose from what we now consider to be a need. They used, by means of skilfully putting these animals together, to make curiosities. There was the duck-billed pheasant and the horned hare and so on. Those practices are now gone, and the objective of the amendment is purely to deal with the rarity value.

At the same time, inherent in the Bill and in the amendment is the contradiction that the more rare we make these animals by specifying them in the Bill and trying to close these loopholes, the more desirable we make them to collectors. But this amendment, I believe, will certainly deal with the problem that might have arisen had it not been put into the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.

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