HL Deb 20 March 1975 vol 358 cc888-913

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I introduced the Bill just over a year ago in a slightly different form and your Lordships gave it a Second Reading on that occasion. As your Lordships will recollect, during the past year there have been certain political upsets in the country. We had two General Elections and, consequently, the Bill was not carried any further. In the late summer—just before the second General Election—I was in touch with Her Majesty's Government, and I learned that it was quite probable that they might be able to introduce a Bill on this subject. Consequently, the present Bill has been in abeyance until now.

I now bring forward the Bill because I am given to understand that there are difficulties which Her Majesty's Government have been facing in connection with having their own draftsmen put any Bill into proper shape. In consequence, there is, I believe, some difficulty in their proceeding immediately. However, this Bill is still of importance. It is still a Bill which ought to receive the approval of Parliament, because, though one may say that this is not one of the most urgent problems facing the country at the present time, nevertheless the Bill concerns a problem which is of great importance throughout the whole world. It is a problem which we can play a part in solving.

My Lords, if we delay too long we shall find that a great deal which is irrevocable has occurred during the period of delay. We shall find that numerous species of plants and animals will have disappeared when we could have been taking steps to prevent that disappearance. I shall not suggest that it is possible to preserve indefinitely every single species in the world. That is not the point. It is quite clear that, for one reason or another—and for reasons which are very often beyond the control of man—species do disappear; but man has enormously accelerated the rate of disappearance, especially in this present century. Where as over several hundred years, a relatively small number of species have disappeared, during the present century species have been dying out at the rate of about two every year, and we have more and more which are in danger at the present time.

My Lords, this is a matter of which people have become steadily more aware. If one went back a couple of hundred years, I suppose that one would find that people took very little notice of the disappearance of species. When we went through an industrial revolution, its leaders and we ourselves—the people who benefited in many ways from that industrial revolution—did not worry too much about the impact of what we were doing on nature around us. However, poeple have gradually begun to realise that what takes place as a result of our civilisation and industrialisation can have quite disastrous effects on species both of animals and of plants. I think that it would be fair to say that in the United States, in the middle of the last century, there were a number of people who began to realise that, if they were not careful, they could not enjoy the very environment which they so much liked and in which they wished to live. People like Thoreau and Audubon played an important part in America in rousing people's consciousness of the ravaging of the environment.

I think it was in 1872 that the first National Park, the Yellowstone Park, was set up in America, and shortly afterwards the Sequoia Park was set up; and two or three other parks were set up immediately after the Yellowstone Park. This meant that a new attitude began to be created; people came to realise, not only that human beings matter, but that human beings could live their lives properly only in an environment in which they were attempting to conserve both the physical world round about them, and on top of that, the animal and vegetable world round about them, in order to have something which gave them enjoyment and beauty and which preserved life in this world. In this century this movement has gained pace, and I expect that your Lordships are well aware of a book called The Wildlife Crisis, written by the Duke of Edinburgh and James Fisher. It is a fascinating book because it gives one a great insight into what is going on all over the world. We find, for instance, that early in this century in Bengal there were about 40,000 tigers; I think the figure is now down to about 700. When a species falls below a certain point in numbers we are reaching the point of extinction, and surely we do not want that to happen.

We are not a country with tigers, wild boar, bears, lions, elephants, rhinoceros or anything like that roaming all over our countryside, and so one might say: "Why are we concerned with it?" We are concerned because the parts of the world which have these species are the parts of the world where it is very easy and very tempting for people to raid the reserves, to kill the animals, to sell their furs, and to sell parts of the animals; and these get sold not in the countries where the animals live, but in Western Europe, here in Britain, and in the United States of America. Therefore we can take our part in peventing this ravaging of wildlife by introducing legislation which prevents the export and import of such parts of wild animals, or wild animals, as are included in an endangered list. We can do this by a method which is not really very difficult; and that is the purpose of this Bill, the Endangered Species Bill. It is to prevent the unrestricted trade in wild animals and the parts of wild animals, and in wild plants and parts of wild plants.

My Lords, it may be asked whether this is something which we must do immediately. I believe we must do it and that we cannot afford to wait. I quote from the preface to the book to which I previously referred, written by Prince Philip, in which he states: Time is fast running out and it remains to be seen whether those in political authority can shoulder their responsibilities in time and act quickly enough to relieve a situation which grows more serious every day. That is the whole point. It is no use saying, "Oh yes, we believe that we should like to do this. Let us take time and consider how we are going to do it. We have plenty of time; after all, these animals have existed for centuries." They have, my Lords, but they are being obliterated daily. In other words, the time scale is not the time scale behind us; it is the time scale in front of us, the time in which they can continue to live.

Therefore this Bill is an attempt to bring to your Lordships' immediate attention, to the immediate attention of Parliament, the absolute necessity of dealing with this problem. Two years ago an international conference was held in Washington, in the United States. The conference was called by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and it passed a Convention which set up a model for preventing trade in the endangered species. Three appendices were attached to the Convention. The first appendix related to the species which were considered to be threatened with extinction; and trade in these species should be strictly controlled. Appendix 2 related to species not immediately in danger but which needed protection; trade in these species should be carefully regulated. Appendix 3 stated that any member State could add its own indigenous animals and plants to this if it felt they were in need of protection.

I do not want to go into all the details of how one implements such a Convention, but the Convention is finally imple- mented by sufficient numbers of countries ratifying it; and it was laid down that ratification by 10 countries would be sufficient to bring the Convention into operation. I am given to understand that seven countries have ratified, while two others have introduced their own legislation to carry out the terms of the Convention and, presumably, will be prepared quite soon to ratify. In other words, we have reached the point where, of nine countries, seven have actually ratified and two more will probably ratify in the near future; and it would need only one more country to ratify to make the Convention operative.

But, my Lords, while this is highly desirable, all of us have a certain scepticism about international Conventions and we begin to say, "Well, that's very nice; but supposing all sorts of countries pass these Conventions, where do we come into it?" It would be good for us to ratify the Convention as soon as possible; but we can come in apart from ratifying the Convention, because we can pass legislation ourselves to ensure that this import and export business does not occur within this country.

On the last occasion when I introduced this Bill, there were certain remarks made from the Government Benches about it. The then Minister, speaking from her brief, gave us to understand that the Government thought they could already ban this sort of trade through existing legislation. It is very interesting to know that perhaps they can; and, if so, one wonders why they have not done it. Only last year, to give an example of the way in which things are still slipping through, I am given to understand that 1,000 cwt. of baleen oil, either whale or dolphin, were imported into this country. It so happens that this is not permitted; but it was allowed in. But even more than that that, it was allowed to be reexported; in other words, we in this country were indulging in trade in a material which concerns a highly endangered species. If it is already possible for action to be taken under existing legislation, why has action not been taken in such a case?

Only the other day, attention was called to an action brought in this country against someone who was importing ivory in order to make certain artefacts, carvings and so on—something which is not supposed to be allowed. But no action has been taken! Private action had to be taken. The reason is that the existing legislation is not in one place; it comes under a number of different Acts and these concern, first, the prevention of the introduction of diseases and the prevention of the introduction of pests; and, naturally, they come under the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. We have bird protection. There are Acts dealing with bird protection, but that matter does not come under the Department of the Agriculture and Fisheries. Then we have conservation which comes under the Department of the Environment of Agriculture and Fisheries. We have bird protection. There are Acts Agriculture and Fisheries, the Home Office, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of the Environment all operating and involved, with no single legislation covering the whole lot.

Clearly, it is very troublesome for Customs and Excise officers to be operating legislation when they do not really know where they are in the matter; when it is covered by a whole lot of different Departments. It is not unnatural if a lot slips through, not because anyone wants it to do so, but because no single authority can stop it getting through. Therefore, I submit it is important that we have a single piece of legislation which clearly definies the position with regard to the import and export of different things. I do not wish to weary your Lordships with lengthy details, because we have had a discussion before. All I ask is that we should now go forward with this Bill, and thereby give power to the Government to operate properly the policy which I am quite sure they really want to use. My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Lord Wynne-Jones.)

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, it is with mix feelings that I intervene at this early stage in the debate to indicate the Government's view on my noble friend's Bill. Mixed feelings, because what I have to say may not entirely satisfy my noble friend, although I do have some very good news for him. And mixed feelings because this is a subject in which I have a close personal interest. I was delighted when the Convention on International Trade was drawn up in Washington. It was undoubtedly a great achievement by the many dedicated groups of conservationists involved, and it reflected great credit on the Governments of the many countries involved—although some may say: "Better late than never". Certainly, many will say: "Actions speak louder than words"; and without implementation, I am afraid that Conventions of this kind achieve something between "very little" and "nothing".

The British contribution to the Convention was notable, not just for its drive and expertise but also for its concern that the Convention should emerge as a practical document that could, and would, be made to work. The Convention is, nevertheless, a complex one. It covers a multitude of species and it requires different forms of control for those species in Appendix I which are presently endangered and for those in Appendix II which may become so if action is not taken to protect them. It requires the control of readily recognisable parts and derivatives as well as of whole specimens. It sets out detailed requirements to be observed by management and scientific authorities, and these vary in respect of exports and imports.

My Lords, I should like, if I may, to deal briefly with the Bill before us. As successive Governments have said repeatedly over the last year, fresh legislation to enable us to implement the Convention is not necessary. This remains the position. I hope my noble friend will not be offended if I say that I see this Bill, as I think he does, as being intended more as a spur to Government action, than as being necessarily the vehicle through which we implement the Convention.

The Government have always taken the view that although the existing powers are sufficient to implement the Convention, a new Government measure consolidating the relevant provisions and tailored specifically to match the Convention would be desirable at some stage. It was felt right to give priority to working out the means of implementing the Convention. But I frankly acknowledge that my noble friend's persistence with his Bill has prompted us to make preparation for a new Government Bill rather earlier than we might otherwise have done. The preparations for that Bill are very well advanced and, indeed, if the pressure of the Parliamentary timetable had not been so severe, it would have been introduced before now. I hope that introduction will not be long delayed.

Before a noble Lord rises to suggest that a Government Bill will not be needed if the Government will support, and possibly put forward Amendments to, my noble friend's Bill, perhaps I can explain very briefly why that is not practical. The legislation that is required here must provide for the fulfilment of the Government's obligations under an international Convention. With all respect to my noble friend, these are not matters which are really appropriate to a Private Member's Bill. The measure which we have in mind, and which I have indicated is in an advanced state of preparation, will be tailored to fit the import and export licensing controls that have been evolved between all the Departments concerned and in consultation with the trading and other interests. They are not simple matters to deal with and they must mesh closely with the existing powers of Customs and Excise.

I must advise the House that my noble friend's Bill, while sensible in itself, is simply not the measure that is needed. Nor, I am afraid, is it susceptible to simple amendment. It would be necessary to replace most, if not all, of its provisions and the Government cannot undertake to do that at this time.

I regret to say that I have more apparently gloomy news for your Lordships; because I am not yet in a position to announce a date on which we intend to ratify the Convention. There are still some problems outstanding. These relate in part to our Dependent Territories. It is not yet clear whether they will all have the legal powers they need before they are included with the United Kingdom in our Instrument of Ratification. The other reason is that we are still discussing the timing of ratification with our EEC partners. Clearly there would be great benefit if all nine member States were to ratify together. This would give a very considerable boost to the Convention and greatly enhance its effectiveness. We are doing all we can to bring this about.

So far, nine countries have ratified the Convention. Last week when I answered a Question on this matter I was two behind a noble Lord who said that nine countries had ratified. I said that I knew only of seven. I now gather that I am two ahead of my noble friend. The countries which have ratified are the USA, Sweden, Tunisia, Cyprus, Switzerland, Nigeria, Chile, Ecuador and the United Arab Emirates. It appears, incidentally, that some inaccurate information has been circulating about the position of the German Federal Republic. My understanding is that they have enacted the legislation they need but that, like the United Kingdom, they have not yet ratified. The next country to ratify will be the tenth, and this will bring the Convention into force. Some noble Lords may say that we ought to be that tenth country. But, my Lords, we are not trying to make a name for ourselves in ratifying, but trying to stop the deplorable trade in the most endangered species of wildlife.

At the heart of the Convention is the need for co-operation between exporting and importing States. We are aware, from experience of the controls we have been operating for years on the import of certain live animals and birds and of some products, such as furskins, that endangered species can be fully protected only through effective international co-operation. In some cases only control by both the exporting and the importing countries will stamp out indiscriminate slaughter or smuggling. We will do more good by working towards early ratification by all Nine Member States of the EEC than we will by going it alone. It is by no means certain that all EEC countries will be able to ratify together. But we consider that it is important to aim for coordinated ratification, particularly as this need not, and will not, stop us implementing the Convention.

My Lords, I am not surprised that my noble friend should be upset at the time it is taking us to implement the Convention. However, I believe that the work we have done on the many issues involved will enable us to operate the Convention as effectively and completely as possible. That is very important. In the time that has elapsed since we signed the Convention we have worked out a system of import and export licensing which will enable us to do a thorough job fully in accord with the spirit of the Convention. At least one other country has expressed its admiration for the system we have evolved and others who are not so far ahead as we are have indicated that they may use it as a basis for their own system. That is rewarding, because, as I have said, the more countries who can operate the Convention effectively, the better for the endangered species that we all wish to safeguard.

It is not sufficient for our licensing system simply to restrict trade in endangered species. It must also not restrict legitimate trade, and the control system has had to be designed in a way that allows proper trade to continue un- hampered with the minimum of paper work. We have had to take a great deal of care to safeguard legitimate trade. This is both to avoid putting United Kingdom traders at a disadvantage in relation to their overseas competitors, and to avoid unnecessarily affecting people's livelihoods and employment. That has not been easy, because it is necessary to control not only whole specimens of all the species in both Appendices to the Convention, but a considerable number of their parts and derivatives which enter into trade. We are required to control only readily recognisable parts, but this still presents very considerable problems. For example, the Indian, but not the African, elephant is protected by the Convention and we think it important to make our contribution to stopping the trade in Indian elephant ivory. But when cut it cannot readily be distinguished from the ivory of the African elephant, or from the tusks of the walrus or wild boar. There are, of course, many examples of this kind that can be quoted.

We believe we have devised a system which meets fully the needs of the Convention, while allowing trade in those species we are not seeking to restrict to continue unimpeded. We have put our proposals to the trade associations concerned and I am glad to say they find them generally acceptable.

For species listed in Appendix I of the Convention, importers will have to apply for an import licence, an authenticated copy of which is required by the exporting authorities in the country of origin before they will issue an export permit. Similarly, United Kingdom exporters will need to obtain a copy of the import licence from the importing country before receiving our licence to export, although this will apply in practice mainly to re- exports because few species indigenous to the United Kingdom are included in Appendix I.

For Appendix II species, the Convention requires only export permits. In the United Kingdom, however, importers will be required to apply for an import licence also. In this case we are going beyond the requirements of the Convention in order to facilitate swift handling of imports by customs officers. For some parts and derivatives we shall again impose wider controls than those strictly required by the Convention. Because some species are so seriously endangered and yet their parts and derivatives are not readily recognisable, we have decided that controls must be operated for all ivory, including the tusks and teeth of all animals, for all reptile skins and for all spotted furskins, although, of course, for the nonendangered species licences will be readily given.

Our new licensing controls will be operated initially under the Import, Export Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939. This Act, which is already used for conservation purposes in controlling the import of certain whale products and certain furskins and bird plumage, provides all the powers necessary. Instruments will be made under that Act to control the import and export of all the species listed in the Convention. I should like, if I may, to stress that point. We intend to control all the species listed in the Convention. Noble Lords may like to know that a copy of the Convention is available in the Library.

We have also reached decisions on other requirements for implementing the Convention. One of these is the designation of management authorities. The Department of the Environment will be the principal management authority, responsible for policy on the Convention and for contacts with the International Secretariat. Subject to agreement on final arrangements, I hope that the Department of the Environment will issue import and export licences under the Convention, although discussions are still continuing about the best arrangements for Northern Ireland. I know that many noble Lords and my noble friend would welcome a rationalisation of Departmental responsibilities of this kind. This will ensure that the policy decisions and the practical implementation will go hand-in-hand and that the system will operate smoothly and speedily. Other Departments will have responsibilities under the Convention which fit in with their existing activities, although it may not be necessary to designate them formally as management authorities.

We shall also appoint one or more Scientific Authorities to advise the Department of the Environment, as principal management authority, on all applications to import or export endangered species and on the other matters to which the Convention refers. We have not yet decided on the exact form that the Scientific Authority or Authorities should take. But we are in the fortunate position in this country of having a wealth of expert advice on which we can draw.

The Secretary of State does not require specific powers to appoint Scientific Authorities. He frequently appoints bodies to advise him and there is no need to provide for this in legislation. As a result of the progress we have made, I am glad to be able to say that we intend to start operating the controls in the United Kingdom this year—indeed, we hope to introduce them in the autumn. That will just about give us time to set up the necessary administrative arrangements.

My Lords, I am sorry to have detained your Lordships for so long, but I feel it is necessary to set out in some detail exactly what the Government are proposing to do. I cannot conclude without paying tribute to the deeply felt concern my noble friend, and others, have expressed that this country should do all it can to help save the endangered species of the world, a concern that I fully share. I should also like to pay tribute to the patience and the tenacity with which my noble friend has pursued the purpose of his Bill; it is a purpose that I fully share.

I hope that I have said enough this afternoon to show that we are now on the brink of implementing the Convention, and that our intention to start implementing the Convention this year is a firm one. My Lords, I have said before that the Convention raises complex problems. It has needed a very great deal of hard and dedicated work by officials at the Department of the Environment for us to get as far as we have. I hope all noble Lords will agree with me in paying tribute to the work that has been done, and to the spirit in which it has been done.

As noble Lords know, it is much easier to ratify an International Convention than really to carry it out in the spirit intended when it was drawn up. I believe that we shall implement the Washington Convention in spirit as well as in letter; that we shall stop the trade in and out of this country of truly endangered species; that our action will serve as a model for other countries and that our action in this respect will be something of which we can be justifiably proud.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, may I add my congratulations to those of the Minister and thank the noble Lord, Lord WynneJones, for the full and excellent way in which he has explained the purposes of this Bill to the House. He has explained that this Bill will enable us to ratify the Convention on the international trade in endangered species of flora and fauna.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, for the detailed way in which, both in principle and in detail, he accepts the Convention. I am delighted to hear that we are to ratify the Convention this year, and we shall be grateful to the Government for doing so. At the same time, may I express disappointment that the Government have not found time to introduce a Bill of their own; I feel that they could have done so, despite the reasons which the noble Lord gave to the House. In the absence of this other Bill, may I suggest that the Endangered Species Bill has flexibility. Clause 3 of this Bill is particularly adaptable, because the Secretary of State has power to add or subtract from that list of species, as he thinks fit. I totally accept the Government's contention that to have two forms of ivory trade, one allowed and one not allowed, would be extremely hard on the Customs and Excise officers. That is a point on which, if they were interested, the Government could amend the Bill with which we are dealing.

The Garden of Eden, into which our first ancestors were born, has changed considerably. We would all agree that the species which has most increased and which has looked after itself is homo sapiens. I do not know how cleverly it has done so. In our ever increasing desire to ratify ourselves we have in the past, perhaps inadvertently, done enormous injury not only to the fauna but to the flora of the world. I suppose it is obvious to us all that towns and cultivation do not go so easily with woods and forests which are populated by wild-life. However, it is only in this century that scientists have been able to measure the number of various kinds of wildlife, whether there is an increase or a decrease; and, in particular, whether mankind has been hastening the decrease to near extinction of certain species.

The book to which the noble Lord, Lord Wynne Jones, referred is so well known and accepted that it seems unnecessary to mention it. However, living in a highly industrialised and cultivated island like ours, it is easy for us to read about these matters, forget about them and turn to more local news in our newspapers. But now that this internationally sponsored body, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, has been able to list the various species which are under the threat of extinction, the action recommended to Governments by the Washington Convention will—when agreed to by all the countries concerned—give teeth to it. I accept that the Government are giving effect to this Convention, and I wonder whether, to take the words out of the mouth of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, in the absence of their own Bill they might be wise to accept this Bill, amended as they see fit, so that it may act as a spur to themselves. Occasionally, we all go into retreat to decide whether we are leading our lives in the way that we should, and whether we can improve them. Perhaps this Bill will act as a spur to the Government. At least, it has the advantage of giving power to a single Secretary of Slate. It would remove the subject from the three Ministries which the noble Lord has indicated is a cause of confusion.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I think this point ought to be clarified. I have said that the Government have made a policy decision, in that the Department of the Environment will be the management authority responsible for implementing the Convention.


My Lords, I accept what the Minister has said. However, I imagined that, until they had passed their own Bill into law, despite the Government's ratifying the Convention, there would be the confusion of three Ministries, because they would not have had Parliamentary action. However, I will take the noble Lord's word about that. It is in the wider field that we must think about this matter. As both noble Lords have said, unless there is more international agreement on these matters the danger of extinction and the rapid rundown of species will continue. An example is the heavy over fishing of salmon off the coast of Greenland. Most of the countries concerned agreed to limit their fishing; but one or two countries did not do so, with disastrous results. Similarly, although the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones would publicly proclaim that a spoonful of rhinohorn powder in your Lordships' tea would not do you much good, so long as other countries continue to believe that a little rhinohorn powder in their tea or a little sherbert will do them good Conventions like this will continue to do less good than they would if Conventions of this kind were adopted more widely.


My Lords, if I may add to the comments of the noble Lord, I believe that tigers' whiskers are equally efficacious.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his intervention. Countries which have tigers must be brought into this Convention! May I add that the rhinoceros is a rather interesting creature. There are several species of rhinoceros and the Schedule lists several of them. We remember that nearly ninety years ago it was thought to be extinct but now, in Natal, Zululand and South Africa, thanks to the excellent work done by the wardens of the game reserves, and thanks also to their fencing in, the white rhino is plentiful and is no longer in any danger of extinction. Therefore, there are checks and balances in these matters which have to be taken into account.

May I repeat that what I like about this Bill is its flexibility, so that if, and when, certain species become plentiful they can be removed from the Schedule. I am glad to see that the various measures to deal with the various flora and fauna will be advertised by the Government to as many people in the world as possible. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, said that it is only by setting an example by not trading in these parts of the animal or plant world which are in danger, because of our desire to gratify our desires and so on, that we shall get uninterested parties in the world to accept codes, and get other countries agreeing to protect flora and fauna as a matter of great importance. I was sad not to see, in the list which the noble Lord read out to us, more of the countries concerned in this trading. If we play our part in this world, as the Government intend, it will help the conservation of wild life and the preservation of nature throughout the world. These things are so finely balanced that it is important that mankind should do no further harm than has already been done.

In view of the Government's attitude towards this Bill, I am personally a little puzzled about what to do. My own feeling is to welcome the Bill and to let the Government amend it later, if they wish to do so. I do not wish to vote against this Bill, because it is a good little Bill which does no harm, and I think I must leave it to others to support it or to do it down. I myself welcome it as far as it goes.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, on introducing this Bill. Obviously it is a necessary Bill, because a number of Bills at present cover this subject, as the noble Lord has said; and this Bill consolidates them into one. I am very much involved with wildlife and think it is sad that apparently the Government are not supporting this Bill. With the political situation as it is, and as a devotee of wildlife, I hope that the Gov- ernment may not remain in power long enough to implement their own intentions! It is particularly important for us to ratify this Convention and to set up proper machinery so as to be seen to be putting ratification into effect, because of the stimulus that it will give to the different countries abroad. I am particularly interested in the Latin American countries, who, in their newfound strength, in many cases have created some very strict laws controlling their own fauna.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but he did say it was important for us to ratify the Convention and then set up the necessary authorities and controls. What I said to your Lordships was, that while we cannot as yet give a firm date for ratification, we are in a position to go ahead and set up the necessary authorities and controls to implement the Convention. I hope the noble Lord will agree with me that this will be very important for the countries he is referring to.


My Lords, I agree absolutely with the noble Lord. It may be too hopeful to try to get the whole of the EEC to agree to it at the same time, but even if we cannot get full agreement immediately, perhaps we might ratify the Convention independently within a reasonable period of time. The main difficulty is that the aeroplane has overtaken events and, particularly in Latin America, has made very easy the shipment of these animals in enormous quantities. Matters now seem to have come to a head, and there are now only perhaps two countries in the whole of South America which do not physically control the export of their animals and the internal trade of their animals. In Brazil, for example, I visited a pet shop, and the owners were proud because they had one African parrot and the remaining birds in the pet shop were chickens, pheasants, some baby turkeys and, I think, a French partridge or two.

I should like to draw attention to one particular animal. It is not in itself mentioned in the Schedule to this Bill, but parts of it are mentioned. We are told that present legislation will control the dealings in animals, alive and dead, and also parts of animals. To my certain knowledge, cloth of vicuna wool is on offer in two places in London—at least it was some six weeks ago. There is a loop-hole in present legislation which I understand enables the made-up cloth to be imported. The vicuna is an extremely rare animal and when the new Bill is introduced, I hope such a loophole will be closed.

I am in two minds as to what to do about this Bill. I would have hoped that it might have been put through, since it is a simple Bill, but it seems that we are not going to be allowed to approve it. I hope that the Government and the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, will see that a Bill replacing the present legislation will be passed very soon.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say very clearly that I did not ask anyone to deny this Bill a Second Reading. It has already been passed twice by your Lordships' House and it would be quite improper for me—though this is obviously a matter for your Lordships—to attempt to deny the Bill a Second Reading today.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord.

4.18 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said. In view of what the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has just said—of course, he can speak only for one side of the House—and in view of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, which I heard with great interest and pleasure, I do not think I need detain your Lordships very long. I am not sure whether I have any right whatever to detain your Lordships, for no one would deny that there are problems connected with this Bill. Promises have been given from the Government side and they are at least hopeful. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has more or less accepted that. Some of the points he made are familiar ones, and some might be made on Third Reading, when the Government have made up their minds more clearly and are prepared to give more details of what is to be done.

I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth used to say: We watch the political pointers, but they never all point in the same direction. I should have thought that the spirit of this Bill is something with which almost everybody would agree. The surge of interest in the preservation of animal life, in nature conservancy, the work of the county trusts in so rapidly improving provision for nature conservancy in this country is a matter for some gratitude. It provides a new interest for youth; it provides a moral impetus and it also provides fields for valuable international co-operation.

The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourtoo, referred to the white rhinoceros, and the success in Natal in preserving these creatures. After very difficult and arduous work, preservation of the species has succeeded so well that the white rhinoceros have increased and are now being supplied to National Parks, with special instructions for their care. The battle to save the Arabian oryx was astonishing. There was great co-operation between Dubai and California. The work on preservation has saved the Arabian oryx. Israel has to her credit the saving of the ilex. We in Britain had something to do with the extermination of the dodo and the great auk, but that was rather a long time ago.

My Lords, this is a most fruitful field, and one of intense interest to world agriculture, to world development and to world economy of land, because some of the great disasters that have occurred in the last few years have been caused by a disturbance in the ecology of nature before one knew just what would happen. In the precincts of this House I was asked facetiously whether we wanted to preserve the last rat. I prefer to sacrifice that particular species before any other, because due very largely to an imbalance in ecology, the rat has spread to the extent that it prevents all plans for economic control in tropical countries where it exists. It is the most damaging of all animals, the great spreader of disease. The damage it does runs into millions and millions of pounds. Therefore, it is with some pleasure that I call the attention of your Lordships to one of the birds which has exercised considerable control over rats in this country, the owl, which is in the Schedule to this Act, with the other wonderful species, the falcons, once the most educated birds in the world, perhaps not for the most noble purposes. I am told a falcon could be trained to perform minor miracles in the time of Louis XIII. This species includes the falcons, the kites, the eagles, the harriers and so on. I think it also includes the giant condor.

The United States has ratified this Convention and has passed an endangered species Act, which I have not had the opportunity of reading. This is a very considerable and significant event. I implore your Lordships not to divide against the Bill. I do so with less emotion than I should otherwise display because I gather that it is not the intention to divide. I am perfectly certain that the Committee stage of this Bill could provide an opportunity for your Lordships to show a much keener interest than we have been able to show on a brief Second Reading. I hope that we can examine these problems with benefit to everyone, including ourselves.

4.25 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to support the aim of this Bill, which is an endeavour to protect endangered species. Once a species dies out, it does so for ever; it does not just disappear and then reappear some years later. If this Bill is not to be enacted, I am very sorry that the Government have not come forward with their own Bill. I wish to speak briefly, and say why I believe a Bill is needed urgently to protect the endangered species, especially those in East Africa where valiant efforts are being made to protect many species from extinction by poachers, many of whom have been born and bred to kill wild animals for their existence. They now find themselves forced to take up other pursuits such as cattle ranching so that Kenya can develop tourism, which is to a large extent dependent on wild life, which includes some of the endangered species. Game wardens such as Mr. Bill Woodley and Mr. David Sheldrick are doing a splendid job in the cause of wild life, including endangered species, not just for Kenya but for the benefit of mankind the world over. Our thanks go out to them.

My Lords, game wardens, backed by their staffs of rangers, are engaged much of the time on anti-poaching duties, and have many successes. Nevertheless, they are fighting an uphill battle. The poachers are not just hunting for food, but are also hunting for money. The game wardens desperately need more equipment such as light aircraft, helicopters, wirelesses and so on to make their efforts more effective in dealing with poaching, which unfortunately is not only wasteful but cruel and highly profitable. Unfortunately, the man who really makes the money is usually the middle man or, perhaps more accurately, I should say the middle person, because sometimes it is the female of the species. In all this it is our duty to do anything we can to help the game wardens with their all important task, and not to hinder them.

My Lords, it is criminal to think that while the game wardens in Kenya are working 365 days a year combating poaching, we in this country have failed to discourage the sale of skins of certain endangered species, such as the magnificent cats, the leopard, and the tiger of India. The Sunday Times recently reported that in 1973 Britain imported 900 leopard skins; in 1974 the figure was 2,121. What a pathetic answer to the world wildlife problems! Of course, the first loophole is in the Animals (Restriction of Importation) Act 1964, which unfortunately dealt only with the traffic in live animals and did not refer to skins. The next omission comes from the fact that although the Department of Trade and Industry has the power to stop the import of many products, as often happens the power is only used like the Fire Brigade, to stop something that has happened and not to prevent it from happening. The Department of Trade and Industry in fact banned the import of tiger and certain leopard skins, but unfortunately the ban was on the raw skins and failed to cover skins made into coats.

What is wanted is that either this Bill should be enacted, or for the Government to bring in their own Bill immediately, so that the sale of skins of certain endangered species will no longer be legal. The Bill must not only afford protection to the endangered species of today but it must also be flexible so that the Secretary of State can add from time to time other endangered species, or delete the ones that come off the endangered list.

My Lords, wildlife provides a practical balance of nature which is very important to the survival of man. Furthermore, without wildlife our lives would be immeasurably poorer. We must protect it. Unfortunately, as often happens, man is irresponsible. He is often his own worst enemy. As he himself increases in number, so does the area of concrete covering the land, with the result that while man and the accompanying concrete increase, wildlife is pressed into smaller and smaller areas where it becomes further endangered.

My Lords, we should not forget the message that was given to us by His Majesty King George VI, who said : The wildlife of today is not ours to dispose of as we please. We have it in trust. We must account for it to those who come after. Wildlife, which is part of our heritage, must be seen not only by our children but by their children and their children's children. In fact, wildlife must go on as long as man goes on on this earth.

The only doubt I have about any law dealing with endangered species is whether we can ensure its implementation. It is much easier to make laws than it is to ensure that they are enforced. We should all do well to remember that those who are responsible for enforcing the law need our support. We must not stand by idly on the touchline, or, worse still, encourage evasion of the law, whether we like it or not. Possibly the greatest protection that could be afforded to endangered species is public opinion. Thank goodness leopard skin and tiger-skin coats are out of fashion! Thank goodness the interest shown by the public in wildlife and its preservation is growing daily, due, first, to the famous naturalists, and now to the really wonderful wildlife films which can be seen by millions on television!

Finally, my Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, for introducing this Bill and bringing pressure on the Government to take steps to preserve wildlife, our heritage. I support the Bill. If it is not to be enacted, I only hope Her Majesty's Government will act quickly, as endangered species will not wait for Governments, not even this unique two-sided Government!

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, the usual channels seem to have been under the delusion that I intended to make a speech today. I had not, but as they are under that delusion I shall endeavour to oblige with a few sentences, and I must apolo- gise for not having been present to do so when they thought I ought to have been here.

I must say that I take a very pessimistic view about the future of animal species in the world. We are rather unique as a people, because we love animals, and so on, but there are not many other people who do. Whether or not, eventually, the Africans and the Asians will learn to take the same kind of view as we do, I do not know; but it seems to me that it will take generations to arrive at such a state of mind. When one considers how Africa has been filled up with sophisticated weapons for political reasons, one cannot help thinking that these will be used upon animals in so-called poaching or sporting efforts.

Of course, there is another side to this question. There is not only the question of people who poach game for profit, but there is also the question of crop protection. When the noble Lord was deploring the disappearance of the Bengal tiger, I was wondering what the Bengalis thought about it; because, after all, when there were 20,000 tigers roaming the jungles of Bengal, they had to be fed on something, and it was generally the villagers' flocks and herds. Now that they are down to 800 or so, I have no doubt that the cattle and goats have a much better chance of survival, to say nothing of the occasional man-eater who was eating Bengalis as well.

When one comes to consider Africa, just consider the case of the poor peasant in a country where there is no social security whatsoever. He has his patch of crops and that kind of thing, and suddenly a herd of elephants comes down and destroys the lot. What does he do? There arc baboons, and there is every conceivable form of livestock which can come and destroy his living overnight, and threaten the life of himself and his family. So one cannot altogether blame some of these people when they perhaps break the law of their country and endeavour to take the law into their own hands. We can only hope that eventually education will lead them to realise that they are destroying their greatest asset.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, I wonder whether I may, by leave of your Lordships, answer a couple of points that have been raised during the debate which I think would probably be better answered by me than by my noble friend, because they really arose on what I said in my speech.

The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, mentioned ivory. I should like to re-emphasise, so that we have got it absolutely straight, that the Government are intending to go well beyond the Convention and control all raw ivory, because, as the noble Lord said, it is very difficult to tell one type from another. That is an instance of where we are going well beyond the Convention because of this difficulty. The noble Lord, Lord Fisher, mentioned the vicuna. I hope I have the pronunciation right. As I understand it, the hair and skin has been banned since October 1970 under our existing powers. But the problem arises where the wool is made up into cloth of one kind or another; it is, I am advised, impossible for customs officers to tell when this cloth contains vicuna wool. If the noble Lord has any further information or any new information on this matter, it is something we will be happy to have another look at.

The noble Lord, Lord Forbes, mentioned fur, and particularly the big cats, and he also regretted the fact that there is no Government Bill in the offing. As I said, we are able to implement the Convention with our existing powers. There is no need for a new Government Bill to implement the Convention. As I have no doubt the noble Lord knows, the Convention lists in the Appendix at least 15 species. I have just totted it up; I hope I have the right families, because it is all in Latin and I am not an expert on big cats. Therefore, when we implement it, we shall be controlling all those species and the recognisable derivatives of them.


My Lords, I quite agree that this is all coming in the future. What I was complaining about was that there is nothing at the moment on the Statute Book dealing with this matter.


My Lords, the noble Lord says " in the future ", and I have said that we are at a very advanced stage so far as implementation is concerned. In fact we aim to implement the Convention by the autumn. That just gives us enough time to set up the necessary Scientific Authorities and management authorities. So I think the noble Lord is being a little uncharitable, if I may say so. We are moving as fast as we possibly can. Indeed, I am going a long way by saying that we shall set this up by the autumn, because that only just gives us enough time. As I say, we can do it under our existing powers and no further legislation is necessary.

4.38 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to thank all those noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. Perhaps I may specially refer to the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, who spoke with extreme knowledge and understanding of the whole problem; not that others did not speak with equal understanding, but I felt that the noble Lord was able to put a point of view which was of great importance. As one who is not himself an expert in this field, I particularly welcomed it, because three people have been absent today who wished to be present and who would have added notably to the discussion in your Lordships' House. I refer to the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, who, unfortunately, is in hospital, the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, and the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, all of whom had hoped to be present.

I am certainly grateful to my noble friend Lord Melchett for the remarks he made this afternoon. I hope that the Government may find that as the Bill goes on they may be able to do something with it. Apart from that, I think the noble Lord has shown very clearly his intention of ensuring that the implementation of the purposes of this Bill will be carried out by the autumn, and that the actual ratification of the Convention will be before the end of the year. These are statements which are extremely welcome, and I thank my noble friend for conveying to us the intention of Her Majesty's Government. What my noble friend Lord Melchett said about those in his Department who have been working on this is echoed by all of those who are interested in this matter. We know that they have worked very hard and we should like it to be known that we regard them as valuable allies in the fight to ensure that endangered species are not obliterated, and we hope that they will continue their good work. One welcomes all that is being done, and one reflects on these lines: But at my back I always hear, Time's winged chariot drawing near, And yonder all before us lie, Deserts of vast eternity. I therefore hope that urgency will remain in this whole matter.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.