HL Deb 06 July 1965 vol 267 cc1164-70

2.51 p.m.

Report of Amendments received (according to Order).

Clause 1 [Extension of protection for eggs of wild birds]:

LORD HURCOMB moved to add to the clause: () The prohibition imposed by section 6(1) of the principal Act on a person's selling, offering for sale or having in his possession for sale, and by section 7(1) of that Act on the importation of, the eggs of a lapwing. save as may be authorised by a licence granted under section 10 of that Act, shall, instead of being limited to the period in any year after 14th April have effect throughout the year; and accordingly in that Act section 6(1)(iii), in section 7(1)(c) the words on or after the fifteenth day of April in any year' and section 9(4)(c) and (d) are hereby repealed. () In subsection () of this section any reference to sale shall be construed as including a reference to barter and exchange.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment accepts the view expressed by many of your Lordships, that it should be lawful to continue to take the lapwing's eggs in this country up to April 15. But it also proposes what I understood to be the view of many of your Lordships, that their sale and importation should be prohibited not only up to April 15 but for the whole nesting period. I am assured that there is no difficulty on the part of the Customs in administering the law which now prevails after April 15 as from some earlier date; and I hope that your Lordships will agree that, while the owner or occupier of land should continue to be entitled to take the eggs, there should not be commercial exploitation by authorising all and sundry to search for them and to put them on sale. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 11, at end insert the said new subsections.—(Lord Hurcomb.)


My Lords, as I put down the original Amendment on the Committee stage regarding this question of plovers' eggs, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, for coming so far in my direction with this Amendment. The trouble is that, although the noble Lord's Amendment prohibits the sale of plovers' eggs, there is nothing to stop a farmer or a landowner or, so far as that goes, any private individual from saying to a tractor driver, "If you find any plovers' eggs, I will give you 10s. a clutch for them". I personally should have preferred this question of sale of plovers' eggs up to April 14 to be left as it was, but I should like to thank the noble Lord for having come so far regarding this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 3. [Disturbance of nesting birds]:

LORD HURCOMB moved, after subsection (2), to insert: () An officer of the Nature Conservancy, or any person for the time being approved by the Nature Conservancy for the purposes of this subsection, shall not be guilty of an offence by virtue of subsection (1) of this section or of any order made by virtue of subsection (2) of this section by reason of anything done by him for the purpose of examining the nest of any wild bird for scientific purposes.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment gives the Nature Conservancy power to authorise approved persons to visit the nest of one of the rare birds described in Schedule 1 to the principal Act. It may indeed be necessary, in the interests of conservation, that members of the Conservancy staff or the wardens of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and other people concerned with the protection of birds, should be able, for scientific purposes, occasionally to inspect the nests of some of these rare birds. One of the points which have emerged is the risk that many of the rarer birds of prey run from eating food contaminated by toxic chemicals, and it is necessary that the period of incubation should be watched and checked and for infertile eggs to be removed.

I am assured by the Nature Conservancy that approval will be given only to carefully selected persons, and subject to all proper conditions and, indeed, to strict supervision of their activities. I suggest, therefore, that your Lordships can accept this degree of latitude without feeling that the general purposes of the Bill will run any risk of being infringed. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 24, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Hurcomb.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, this is part of the same intention and allows the Conservancy to authorise people to take the nest or eggs of any wild birds in the circumstances which I have described. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 35, after ("birds") insert ("or to take the nests or eggs of any wild birds.")—(Lord Hurcomb.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 7 [Additional matters for which licences may be granted]:


My Lords, when the Bill was in Committee some of your Lordships expressed the view that this Protection of Birds Bill might read better if its plumage was a little more carefully preened. While not at all altering in substance the Amendment which, on the Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, was carried in Committee, this Amendment perhaps tidies up the English and makes the intention of the clause somewhat clearer. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 34, leave out from beginning to ("wild") in line 35 and insert ("to kill, in the course of falconry, within any area specified in the licence").—(Lord Hurcomb.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, this Amendment and the following Amendment are part of the same plan of tidying up the English of the clause. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 40, leave out ("paragraphs (a) and (c)") and insert ("paragraph (a) or (c)").—(Lord Hurcomb.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 3, after ("(b)") insert ("and (c)").—(Lord Hurcomb.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 10 [Amendment of Section 12 of principal Act]:

3.0 p.m.

LORD AIREDALE moved, after "or has", to insert "recently". The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a formal Amendment to Clause 10, which was a new clause introduced into the Bill on the Committee stage by means of an Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir. Your Lordships will see that Clause 10 empowers a constable to enter upon land and, without warrant, stop and search any person whom he has reasonable cause to believe is commiting the offence of egg-stealing, or has committed that offence. I think that the intention was to refer, in so far as an offence already committed is concerned, to an offence committed recently. I think that is the case, because the words used by the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, in his argument were in relation to the case of a person who has climbed down the tree from the osprey's nest and the kite's nest and who was not seen taking the eggs. Therefore, I think that a recent offence is clearly indicated here.

I have therefore ventured to put forward this Amendment, which introduces the word "recently", to make it clear that a recent offence is intended, and that if it were a stale offence, an offence which might have been committed at some time in the past, that would not be an occasion which would entitle the constable to go and search a suspected person without warrant. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 25, after ("has") insert ("recently").—(Lord Airedale.)


My Lords, I concur in what the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has said and I for my part willingly accept his Amendment, subject to anything which my noble friend Lord Tweedsmuir or the noble Lord, Lord Bowles, may wish to say. As we are discussing this clause, I ought to explain to your Lordships why I have not put down a further Amendment. While in fact I do not see very much the matter with the clause which Lord Tweedsmuir carried in Committee, I agree that the important point is to have this power to search for the purpose of checking offenders in respect of birds' eggs, and particularly rare birds' eggs. I need hardly remind your Lordships that when the ospreys nested in Scotland again after the lapse of nearly a century, their eggs were in fact taken by somebody who did it at night and escaped the watchers. I might perhaps also remind your Lordships that since then some ill-advised persons have actually tried, in the wintertime, to saw the tree down and bring down the nest. It is offences of this kind which we need to take every possible step to prevent so that the rarer birds are protected.

With regard to its being a trivial matter, as one noble Lord said in Committee stage, I should like to remind your Lordships that every year thousands of people go to look at the osprey nests. I do not exaggerate when I say that over the last few years ten of thousands of people have been to see them. It is not just the fad or hobby of a few cranks or scientific people. Because they are a very important part of the recreation and enlargement of the understanding of our environment among people at large, these interesting creatures should be protected. If it will help the Home Office and the Secretary of State to overcome their reluctance to accept the wide powers in the present clause, I shall be very glad to see an Amendment limiting the power to search offenders in respect of taking the eggs of the birds set out in Schedule 1.

I accepted the offer of the noble Lord, Lord Bowles, to discuss this matter further with the Home Office, but I find that time has not permitted them to suggest to me a form of words which would give effect to that intention. Although I am not implying that the Home Secretary or the Government are committed to acceptance of the principle of the clause, I look forward to having their assistance in devising the necessary form of words to restrict the scope of the power as it now stands in the Bill. But, as I have said, reasons of time alone have made it impossible to do that, and it will have to be left, perhaps, to be put right in another place if, as I hope, the Bill makes some progress when it goes there.

The only other point I would make on the clause is that it has not appeared necessary to make any alteration to deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Burden, that "land" does not include "the highway". I am informed that, in the official view, the phrase "any land" does not exclude "highway". I therefore hope the House will accept the Amendment proposed by Lord Airedale.


My Lords, as the mover of this particular Amendment on the Committee stage, I would point out that I find the addition of the word "recently", as suggested by Lord Airedale, acceptable; and I entirely concur with the restriction of the ambit of the clause as described by Lord Hurcomb.


My Lords, it may be helpful if I explain the Government's attitude to this Amendment. It will be recalled that at Committee stage I explained the doubts which the Government felt about the case for extending police powers of search, on suspicion, as provided in the clause which the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, moved and which was subsequently accepted by the Committee without a Division. I think there is general agreement that the clause as it now stands goes too far in providing for search without warrant, and the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, made it clear at the time that his mind was not closed to the possibility of restricting the Amendment to smaller dimensions. The noble Lord has already explained the position to the House.

After the debate he discussed with officials of the Home Office a more limited proposal, with the objective of limiting the new powers to offences against the eggs of rare birds. We have been looking carefully into the merits of this proposal, but we have met several difficulties which have made it impossible to find a satisfactory formula in the time available since the debate. The Government are not therefore in a position to offer any advice to the House to-day on the acceptability of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale's Amendment. We are, of course, grateful to the noble Lord for drawing attention to one of the weaknesses in the present clause, but there are several others. It may be that the noble Lord will wish to withdraw his Amendment in view of the further consideration which the Government intend to give to the clause, in consultation with Lord Hurcomb. I cannot give any undertaking to-day that a solution may be found before the Bill is passed by your Lordships' House; nor can I give an undertaking that the Government will feel bound to give support to a more limited extension of police powers of search than the clause now provides.

I made it clear at Committee stage that the Government fully appreciated the value to be placed on the national heritage in wild life and the problems of enforcing protection in present circumstances. We are not yet persuaded, however, that the original provisions of Section 12(1) of the Act are, in practice, as defective as has been suggested, but we are keeping an open mind on the matter and, as I have said, will have further discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, in the hope that a generally acceptable solution may be found.


My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I do not feel inclined to accept the Minister's invitation to withdraw the Amendment. After all, to do so would reduce the scope of the clause, which was originally agreed to without a Division in Committee, and I do not think that I ought at this stage to withdraw the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

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