HL Deb 26 February 1976 vol 368 cc817-66

3.20 p.m.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The House has debated the trade in endangered species of wildlife a number of times over the last two years and last had occasion to do so only three weeks ago. But it is an important subject, well worthy of further debate, and I am very glad that I can now bring before the House a Government Bill.

My Lords, the purpose of the Bill is to provide specific powers to implement the Convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora. I think it will be appropriate, therefore, if I begin with the Convention itself and refer briefly to the international position. The Convention provides for the control of both the imports and the exports of whole specimens of certain animals and plants and of such of their parts and derivatives as are readily recognisable. The species to be most strictly controlled, which are those already considered to be threatened with extinction, are listed in Appendix I to the Convention. Other species which, though not in immediate danger, are considered likely to disappear if trade were not regulated are listed in a second Appendix. For this second group trade will be controlled and monitored so that action can betaken if a threat to survival develops. A third Appendix lists species which a contracting State may consider threatened within its own borders, and in respect of which it operates export controls. Other contracting States are to co-operate with such controls in these cases.

The United Kingdom was one of a number of countries which signed the Convention in Washington in March 1973. Altogether 58 countries have now signed and 22 have ratified it. The Convention came into force in July 1975, following the tenth ratification.

As I have mentioned on a previous occasion, the Government regret that, although we have implemented the Convention, we have not yet been able to ratify it. This is, of course, a reversal of the normal procedure and there are two reasons for it. The first is that we have been seeking agreement on the best course of action with the Commission of the European Community and our partners. Secondly, although we in the United Kingdom have powers which have enabled us to implement the Convention, not all of our dependent territories are in the same position, and naturally we wish to include as many of the territories as possible in our Instrument of Ratification in order to increase the effectiveness of the Convention.

Our discussions on these matters are well advanced and we expect to be in a position to ratify the Convention early this summer. We certainly intend to ratify it in time to enable us to play a full part in the first conference of the parties to the Convention. This, we have recently learned, is to be held in November of this year. The conference will consider the working of the Convention and the amendments that should be made to the Appendices. Work is already in hand to ensure that the United Kingdom will be able to make a very positive contribution at that conference.

To turn now to the domestic position, as the House knows, we brought the Convention into operation in the United Kingdom on 1st January this year under the powers of the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence)Act 1939, but I am glad that we have now found time to introduce the present Bill. It is specifically designed to meet the Convention's requirements and it provides an opportunity for the House to debate fully what we are doing under the Convention. I do not think I can over-emphasise that the Convention is a very complex document, covering as it does several hundred species of animals and plants and requiring a variety of forms of control. The measures we introduced last month were the result of detailed study of the Convention's requirements and the most effective means of implementing them.

This Bill embodies the measures we have introduced. However, I want to make it clear at the outset that we do not necessarily regard them as the last word on the subject and I am well aware that a number of people, including no doubt some of my noble friends and noble Lords opposite and certainly including a number of the voluntary conservation bodies, think that our current controls do not go far enough. They will doubtless have similar reservations on the Bill, especially perhaps on the Schedules. Because of this, the Government intend to consult widely and thoroughly on the Bill before the Committee stage is taken. This may be a small Bill, but it is not a simple one to get right and the Government do not pretend to a monopoly of wisdom on the subject.

We have three scientific authorities to advise us, but I think those authorities will readily agree that the voluntary conservation bodies have a valuable corpus of practical experience in this field and have their own specific contribution to make. Indeed, they have already contributed most usefully. The other people whose views we shall wish to hear are the importers and exporters who will be affected by the Bill's provisions, as they are now by the import/export licensing system which we introduced on 1st January. The species and parts and derivatives in the three Schedules to the Bill are the same as those we have been controlling since 1st January. If, however, there are to be additions or other amendments, the trade interests are, of course, among those whom we must consult. I wish to emphasise that in setting up our control system we have had very much in mind not only the need to protect rare species of animals and plants but also the need to avoid hampering unnecessarily the free flow of legitimate trade. The Government attach great importance to that. In certain sectors, such as the fur trade and the tanning industry, there is an important trade which provides employment and valuable exports and these are assets which we must preserve.

As I have indicated, the Bill reflects the way in which we are now implementing the Convention, so it may be helpful if at this point I outline the arrangements. The importor export of all the animals and plants and parts we control is allowed only under licences issued by the Department of the Environment or, in Northern Ireland, by the Department of Agriculture. The Department of the Environment is the principal management authority, to use the terminology of the Convention. That Department is also responsible for any issue of policy raised by the Convention and for communication with the Secretariat, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which is based in Switzerland. We thus have the advantage that only one Department now has overall responsibility in this field.

I know that some noble Lords are concerned about the division of responsibilities for animals between different Departments. There are sound reasons for this division. But here, in the field of nature conservation, it has been possible to bring within one Department responsibilities which were previously divided among several. For example, the Home Office were previously responsible for issuing import licences for birds of prey and owls, while the Department of Trade issued import licences for plumage and certain fur skins and also issued licences on behalf of the Department of the Environment for certain live animals. This at least we have now rationalised to the benefit, I hope, of all concerned.

The Convention requires that import and export licences should be issued on the advice of the scientific authorities. As I have mentioned, the Secretary of State now has three scientific authorities. The Nature Conservancy Council, which is the Government's statutory adviser on all matters concerning nature conservation, gives advice on the wider issues of policy raised by the Convention extending beyond the operation of the import and export controls. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is the authority for plants and advises on the issue of licences for them. The director of Kew is appointing a committee, with representatives of other major relevant institutions, to advise him on the operation of the Convention. The Scientific Authority for Animals is a newly established body of individuals with expert knowledge of the status of endangered species and related matters. Its chairman is Professor Wynne-Edwards, who is also the chairman of the Birds Advisory Committees for England and Wales and for Scotland.

We are controlling the import and export of all the animals and plants listed in the Convention. Licences for the endangered species listed in Appendix I of the Convention are, and will continue to be, granted only sparingly. They are not available for primarily commercial purposes. We are going beyond the Convention in requiring import licences for the species in Appendix II, since the Convention places responsibilities for monitoring and regulating trade in species that are considered vulnerable, but not yet endangered, primarily on the exporting country. We have concluded that this is necessary if Customs are to operate the controls effectively.

The Convention is also, of course, concerned with trade in readily recognisable parts and derivatives. I should like, if I may, to emphasise the words "readily recognisable ", since this is undoubtedly the most difficult aspect of the Convention and those words are the key to its successful operation. It is very tempting to say that we should operate controls on anything that is derived from an endangered species. But this would be wholly impracticable. A Customs officer has to know what he is looking for when he is examining a consignment of imports or exports. A clearly defined list of items to be controlled is essential if the Customs officer is to be able to do his job, and is equally essential for traders, who must know what they may import or export.

It may also be argued that controls should be exercised within this country as well as at the time of importation. In other words, it should not be possible to trade in a part or product simply because it has proved possible to bring it in. This is perfectly right, and we have powers under the Customs and Excise Act to take action over any goods which have been illegally imported. But it must be possible to show that the item was brought in illegally, which means that it must be possible to identify it and to trace its origin.

It must also be remembered that the aim of the Convention is to control trade —if there is no trade in parts or derivatives of endangered species, it may not be necessary to take powers to control them. Indeed, it may be most undesirable to do so. Because the problems of identification are much more severe when an animal or plant has been cut up and processed, it may be impossible to control the products except by taking powers to control a much wider range of similar products derived from non-endangered species. We must beware of building up a spectrum of controls which impose unnecessary bureaucracy on our traders.

For certain products, however, we are already requiring licences for all the items in a group, whether or not the species involved are endangered. In the case of fur skins, reptile leather, ivory and tortoiseshell we are requiring licences for Appendix II and non-Convention species so as to make sure that we control effectively the trade in those which are endangered. The skins of many of the big cats, such as the leopard and the cheetah, are highly prized. The number of these animals has been badly depleted and licences are not available for commercial trade. But there are other spotted fur skins from non-endangered species which a Customs officer without expert advice cannot readily distinguish from those of the endangered species, and licences are therefore to be required for them all.

I should like now to say something about the form and content of the Bill. It is designed both to meet the requirements of the Convention, and also to permit adequate flexibility in administration and to allow for possible future changes in the Convention. Clause 3, for example, which provides the Secretary of State with power, after consulting the scientific authorities, to modify the Schedules, gives the maximum scope for necessary changes. I need, perhaps, hardly say that where these would affect trade interests the trade would also be consulted before changes were made.

I should like to draw attention to the fact that Clause l makes it illegal not only for a Scheduled item to be imported or exported without a licence, but also to make a false statement in applying for a licence. Customs and Excise have power under existing legislation to prosecute for a false statement on a Customs document, but not for a false statement on an application for an import or export licence. Clause 1(4) would permit the Secretary of State to prosecute for that. This power would be especially useful where a statement was discovered to be false before a licence had been issued. I think, too, the House may be glad to see that we have included a power in Clause 4 to prevent a rare live animal, once imported, from being moved away from specified premises without permission.

The great bulk of the Bill, of course, is made up of the Schedules and J hope it will be helpful if I give a brief explanation of their contents. It may be worth my saying a word first about the reason for using scientific instead of common names. Those of your Lordships who, like myself, have little Latin and less Greek may be regretting that. But the fact is that many animals and birds have more than one common name, or sometimes the same is used for different creatures. For example, we might think there is no doubt about what a robin looks like, but in the United States that name is given to a quite different bird. When one comes to plants, there simply are no common names in the majority of cases. However, for the guidance of noble Lords who, like myself, lack a classical education, I have had a number of copies of a list of the common names of the species in Schedule 1 placed in the Printed Paper Office, but I must emphasise that the list is for guidance only.

What it adds up to is that only the zoological and botanical names will do for legal purposes and for international trade. One may begin to feel sorry for the traders, but I believe that most of them are familiar with the scientific names of the generally limited number of species which they import or export and, of course, the wildlife conservation licensing section of the Department of the Environment gives all possible help in any case of difficulty. Schedule 1 includes all the animals on Appendices I and II of the Convention. It also includes all birds of prey and owls, thus continuing the restrictions we have imposed on the importation of these for a number of years. In the same way Schedule 2 includes all the plants on Appendices I and II of the Convention.

There are good reasons why the two Appendices of the Convention have been amalgamated in the Schedules in this way. If there were separate Bill Schedules for Appendix I and Appendix II species, the Secretary of State would be obliged to make fairly frequent orders to transfer species from one to the other, either to take account of amendments to the Convention or where he, on the advice of a scientific authority, decided that transfers were necessary. The amalgamation of the Appendices in the Schedules permits such changes to be made without delay. All changes would, of course, be given publicity and, in particular, be drawn to the attention of importers and exporters. The different criteria required by the Convention in licensing Appendix I as opposed to Appendix II species will be applied administratively on the advice of the Scientific Authority for Animals just as at present. The controls under the Animals (Restriction of Importation) Act 1964 were on this basis and worked well throughout the 11 years of its operation.

I should say a word, however, about a difference between the Animals Act and the Bill. The Animals Act specified whole families of animals within which some species were regarded as endangered. The Advisory Committee that was set up under the Act then drew up two lists to distinguish between the endangered and non-endangered species. Licences for the non-endangered species were issued virtually on demand. The Convention lists the species, not whole families. In principle, however, it adopts a similar basic idea to the one we had in this country with the Animals Act. It has two lists: an Appendix I of endangered species and an Appendix II of species whose trade requires monitoring because they may become endangered.

The Government have thought it right, in the new situation created by this Convention, to keep as closely as we reasonably can to the internally agreed system. If each country were to go it alone in this aspect, the international co-operation that is so vital to the true success of these measures would be less easily achieved. Some of the species in the families which were controlled under the Animals Act, but which were licensed freely because they were not endangered, do not therefore appear in Schedule I. We received scientific advice that this was acceptable, but we have also asked the new Scientific Authority for Animals to take a further look at this, as it appears there may be a case for adding one or two of these species to the Schedule.

My Lords, to turn to Schedule 2, which covers plants, as I said it includes all the plants on the Convention Appendices I and Il, and is made up of individual species or, in a few cases, groups of species covered at generic or family level. The group approach was developed to cover areas where a large number of endangered species were related to one another and where they could not readily be distinguished from the less threatened species in the form in which they entered trade. Orchids usually travel as what I believe are called pseudo-bulbs, and succulents such as the cacti travel as small plants or cuttings. The Schedule goes further than the Convention, however, in covering all the tree ferns, where recent changes in the grouping of families could cause confusion.

Some of the plant species are never likely to enter trade and should not, in our view, have been included in the Convention. However, monitoring of these species over the next year or two will, we believe, show them to be false candidates and they will be recommended for removal from the Convention Schedules. I would like to emphasise again that these controls arc not intended to discourage legitimate trade. Indeed, we believe it should be encouraged. Here I should declare an interest, in that my family business was very much connected with horticulture in several aspects.

Horticulturists who propagate large numbers of species from stock material will be relieving the pressure on wild populations, and playing a positive conservation role, while ensuring the continuance of a healthy export trade. However, those who rely on wholesale pillage of species from the wild for resale will find it increasingly difficult to obtain export permits from the country of origin, particularly for large numbers of specimens.

I now turn to Schedule 3 which presents the most problems. Here I should like to emphasise two points. The first, as I have already said, is that the Convention requires us to control only readily recognisable parts and derivatives of the species listed on the two Appendices to the Convention. When the Convention was drawn up in Washington, a great deal of thought was given to the means of controlling parts. It was eventually agreed that they must be readily recognisable and a great deal of importance was attached to these two words.

The Government believe that was right. We think it is essential, for the purpose of both Customs officials and traders, to define the articles being controlled. This sometimes means controlling similar items that do not come from endangered species in order to constitute a reasonably identifiable group. We are doing this in a few particularly sensitive areas, such as fur skins and reptile skins, which I mentioned earlier. But it would be very difficult indeed to justify imposing licensing arrangements on a large volume of legitimate trade simply to "catch" parts and derivatives of a few endangered species, the trade in which might be almost negligible.

I think your Lordships will agree there is a balance to be struck here. We have no compunction at all about stopping commercial trade in endangered species. It is a trade that is abhorrent. But we have to take a wider view should we be asked to impose a considerable burden of paper work on an important trade in items from non-endangered species, in order to catch a perhaps minute trade in the parts of some endangered species. We should require a very strong justification before we could contemplate adding to the costs of legitimate trade, especially in present economic circumstances.

From what I have said it will, I think, be apparent why Schedule 3 does not include any manufactured products except fur coats and a few other items made of spotted fur skin. I am glad we have been able to cover that sensitive area. But generally to control trade in manufactured products would compound the problems of identifying simple parts of endangered species. It could, for example, mean trying to trace back through different stages of production in different countries in order to ascertain the origin of the product. However, I certainly do not rule out all possibility of controlling certain manufactured products. I hope we may be able to isolate some of which it is practicable to control. We are looking into that.

My Lords, before concluding my remarks on Schedule 3, I should just say that the recognisability of seeds and timber of some of the Convention species is so difficult that we have not covered either product in Schedule 3. Seeds can be removed from mature plants without damage and can be cultivated by the horticultural trade to produce many individuals, so relieving the pressure on the wild population.

As regards possible additions to any of the Schedules, I can assure the House that we shall give the closest consideration to the merits of any proposals put forward. As I indicated earlier, it is the Government's intention to give this House, the scientific authorities, all the many voluntary conservation groups and trade interests adequate time to consider the proposals and the extent of the Schedules before the Bill goes to Committee. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Baroness Stedman.)

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the whole House will wish me to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, for her very detailed and most lucid introduction of this Bill, which has been gestating for so long in the womb of the Government. Now that the long-awaited delivery has occurred, let me at once say that we on these Benches wholeheartedly welcome the Bill. May I further say that the noble Baroness has pre-empted me in many of the points that I was going to make by seemingly guessing what would be the objections and questions. I find myself all the more grateful to her for the fact that she has been able to explain so much of that which has been worrying me personally about the Bill. I should also like to thank her and her Department for providing us with the common name translations of the scientific Latin names, which I am sure will be of great assistance to us all in understanding Schedule 1. I only hope noble Lords in this House will be able to resist the temptation to make funny speeches about some of the names, because they are not unamusing.

My Lords, may I also express my concern on the question of ratification. The noble Baroness has really taken this part of my speech from me by telling me that the meeting of the countries has now been put back from the autumn to November. Had it taken place in the autumn, the expectation of ratification in the summer seemed not to give us the 90 days we need if we are to take part in voting. However, I must say that I am very grateful that the 90 days is now a possibility—and we have the assurance from the noble Baroness that the Government will make sure it is.

Your Lordships would probably like to know that this meeting in November of the ratifying countries is a fairly important one, and if we are going to submit any alterations to the basis of the Convention we need to give 150 days' notice, although if we are in within 90 days it will be quite all right. One thing which was worrying me concerns our Dependent Territories, in particular Hong Kong, where they might be dragging their feet. I imagine that the noble Baroness will be able to assure me that if a Dependent Territory were to drag its feet we would, with what Dependent Territories we could carry, still ratify it to be in time—I see the noble Baroness nod. Anyhow, I hope that the noble Baroness will also be able to say that the Government will consider the evidence which she mentioned that the lists of various plants and animal species covered in the Convention do need urgent investigation and analysis. It is for this reason that our voice has to be authoritative and therefore we must have a vote.

The noble Baroness acknowledged that there are some species which are not on the list but are known to be endangered by trade. Among them are the chestnut-bellied humming bird, the American spur-thighed tortoise and the South American red lined turtle, to mention a few. Incidentally, these also are not on the Schedule to the Bill with which we are dealing, and I was delighted to hear the noble Baroness say that her advisers and those of her right honourable friend were aware of these facts and would be covering them. with subsequent additions. The flexibility given to the Government in Clause 3 is absolutely vital. It follows the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, which gave the Secretary of State similar powers. To be aware of something is to be able to deal with it.

I think it has been agreed by Parliament that the Convention list should probably include all species in the Red Data books and not, as at present, only those species actually threatened by trade. This is something which the Government should be able to discuss and vote on at the next Convention. I hope they will be considering these points. They are wide points, but they are points of principle. Once something is endangered by trade it is probably getting late in the day to effect a remedy. In this context I was going to ask the noble Baroness—again she has pre-empted me —what is to be the fate of the EEC partners? Do we anticipate that we shall all ratify together, or do I take it from what the noble Baroness has said that, whether or not they do so, we shall still be going ahead? I should like to know the state of play with our EEC partners. This is important for our traders, especially for those in fashion goods. If the main competitors in the field of fashion, who obviously come from our EEC partners, are not ratifying or implementing this Convention it will be upsetting for our trade. I am sure our traders are willing to hurt themselves a little in aid of a great cause, but it is annoying for us to do this if others are not seen to be doing it too.

There is one point about which I was not absolutely clear. The noble Baroness mentioned the Animals Act. I had it in mind to ask her whether in some cases in these Schedules there might be a simplification of what might be called the "envelope "principle. The Schedules are admirable. I am sure that the Government, their scientific advisers and the key bodies mentioned, have given enormous thought to this matter. There may be one or two species missing, or one or two slightly unnecessarily included. Nevertheless, it is a fact that when several species in a genus or family of animals arc threatened with extinction because of trade it becomes slightly difficult for the Customs. The noble Baroness mentioned several times that one of the key principles of this Bill is to have things "readily recognisable ", and with these two words I would go along with her all the way.

Last time I voiced the worry lest the Customs and Excise might have too great a load put on them. For example, take the otter family. Some are threatened with extinction because of trade in their pelts, but I am told that it is difficult taxonomically to distinguish those in danger from those not in danger. In such a case, is there not a good case for suggesting controlling the trade in a whole group or family of animals? In one or two cases, do we have to say that it can never be done to a group? I suggest that there might be a case for simplification. This principle has already been applied to plants and some bird groups, so the principle exists and I do not think we need worry unnecessarily about it. I should like the noble Baroness to look at that.

I should like to discuss one of the main differences between this Bill and that of the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, to which he gave so much time and effort which has resulted in the Government bringing forward this Bill; that is, the prohibition of the trade in made-up goods from listed species unless, as the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, mentioned the other day, the seller can show that the item was not unlawfully imported. I know that this omission from the Bill is causing worry to many good conservationists. I sympathise with the Government's view that it is important not to complicate matters unnecessarily for the Customs and Excise authorities.

As we have said before, "readily recognisable "is the keynote in this matter. I feel that over this question there will be a certain amount of unnecessary worry generated in the debate today. As countries ratify and implement the Convention, the sources of these endangered species goods will become gradually exhausted. Obviously there is a certain number of goods in the pipeline and storehouses, in warehouses abroad, waiting to be shipped and being shipped; but, once existing stocks are used up, it should not be hard for the various countries concerned to prosecute offending traders for smuggling in prohibited species skins and plumage and other things of that description.

We know that conservationists are particularly worried about the crocodile and alligator families, the vicuna and tortoiseshell. These are the most frequently mentioned causes for worry. The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, said that some of these matters are specifically mentioned in Schedule 3, and Schedule 3, like the other Schedules, is capable of flexibility. Other goods can be added if it is thought necessary; taking into consideration that Schedule 3 exists, plus the drying up of stocks, this worry of conservation bodies is probably unnecessary and this Bill will probably meet the case.

This Bill is, of course, our national Bill helping to implement the Convention, and other countries will have to produce similar Acts. It will be important that world opinion is mobilised to influence any country which might try to cash in on scarcity value, and the implementing countries are going to have a common interest in enforcing these Statutes. I should like the noble Baroness, if she can, to give some indication whether there will be any extra manpower necessary to implement this Bill, and also—it seems rather unkind to carp on these matters—whether this Bill will cause extra public expenditure. I do not see that there should be any necessity for these things, but I should like to be reassured.

My Lords, it only remains for me to repeat my welcome to the Bill, and to thank the noble Baroness very sincerely for the great steps the Government have made and anticipated, and for the welcome news about the ratification during the summer, in time for the 90 days, to enable us to play our full part in this Convention and use all our influence. I welcome the Bill, and I look forward to hearing what other noble Lords and Ladies will say.

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, this is the fourth Second Reading in which I have taken part upon an Endangered Species Bill. I need hardly say that I welcome very much the fact that the Government have now come forward with a Bill which will, one hopes, guarantee that we have an Act on the Statute Book before the end of this Session of Parliament. It may be, of course, that your Lordships are not unfamiliar with dealing with problems of legitimacy. There are two Bills before your Lordships; they are both called the Endangered Species Bill, and it may be argued that perhaps one or other should be clearly defined as to whether it is legitimately before your Lordships' House.

I want to make it perfectly clear that so far as I am concerned the Bill which received its Second Reading three weeks ago is a Bill which I do not wish to press against the Government's Bill, but I should like your Lordships and Her Majesty's Government to look carefully at the two Bills and see whether they cannot make the Government's Bill approximate a little more closely, in its features and lineage, to the Bill which I put forward and to which your Lordships gave a Second Reading. It is not that there are vast differences because both Bills are trying to do the same thing. Both Bills are concerned with what your Lordships have agreed on several occasions should be done, which is to ensure that endangered species throughout the world are not exploited and are removed from being endangered, are kept in existence, because we believe that it is wrong that we should obliterate species merely in order to satisfy the vanity, the whims or any other purposes of mankind, that mankind ought to have a more responsible attitude towards the whole of the environment in which we live. So I think that in looking at the Government's Bill we should ask whether the Government's Bill goes far enough in this direction.

That it goes a considerable way I would agree completely, and I was glad that my noble friend Lady Stedman made it perfectly clear that the Government felt it right that there should be an Act to control the whole importation and exportation of these endangered species and not leave the matter to the very dubious expedient of using a wartime trade regulation in order to try to deal with this problem. I am very glad the Government are prepared to do this. We want to be clear as to exactly what we are trying to do in a Bill dealing with endangered species. The matter is put, I think, rather well by Sir Peter Scott in an article in today's Times. If one reads that article one sees that he understands the position very clearly. He does not attempt to hector; he does not attempt to tell people exactly what they are going to do. But what he does do is to explain what ought to be done if we are genuine in our attempt to conserve these endangered species. The title given to his article is, "Plugging the Loopholes that Threaten Animal Survival ". We want to bear this in mind—that if we are out to do this we really have to plug the loopholes.

It is not a matter of making a wide-meshed net which a whole lot of exceptions can go through. I would agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, that we do not want to take unnecessarily troublesome procedures, we do not want to interfere with perfectly legitimate trade. All this is perfectly true. But one knows perfectly well that it is very easy to have well-meaning legislation which nevertheless leaves such loopholes that there is no problem in getting a horse and cart through them.

It is important that we should try and ensure that the legislation is not onerous but is effective, as effective as we can hope to make it. No legislation can ever be completely effective, as we all know, but at least we can try to do those things which will ensure that the purpose of this Bill, the purpose with which I think all of us are agreed, is properly carried out. There are one or two points where I would ask Her Majesty's Government to look carefully again at the Bill, and be prepared either to move Amendments themselves or to accept Amendments put forward at Committee stage.

In the first place, if one compares the Bill to which your Lordships have already given Second Reading, called the Endangered Species Bill, with the Bill before us, called the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Bill, one notices that in the Long Title, coming after the initial title of Endangered Species, of the first Bill it says: A Bill intituled An Act to control trade in wild animals and wild plants and their parts and products ". In the Bill which we are considering now we have: A Bill intituled An Act to restrict the importation and exportation of certain animals, plants and items; to restrict the movement after importation of certain live animals; and for connected purposes ". The main difference between those two is that in the present Bill there is no mention of trade, no mention at all of the trade in the animals and their parts and products.

This matter is not trivial because the Bill, as it stands, is aimed at controlling at the point of importation or exportation, whereas the Bill I presented to your Lordships' House was concerned not only with that but with ensuring that the subsequent trade inside the country would be controlled. In other words, if material had been introduced into this country which, by one method or another, had avoided the customs regulations, then the subsequent production of anything out of those plants and those animals—out of their products—was also illegal and was governed therefore by exactly the same kind of control. Therefore, if someone brought a leopard skin into the country, and if the leopard skin had evaded the customs and was turned into a coat, or if the coat had been brought in, then the sale in this country, the advertising for sale in this country, would have been illegal.

It can be said, and it has indeed often been said, that one cannot tell for certain whether something is a lizard, a crocodile, or whatever it may be. You may not be able to do so. But the real advantage in trade is to advertise it in exactly that way and to say that it is lizard, crocodile, or leopard. You do not sell a leopard skin and pretend that it is goat skin. Surely you sell the thing deliberately as leopard skin. You do not sell a shoe and pretend that it is ordinary leather when it is lizard or crocodile. In order to make money out of these things, you advertise them in that way, and my Bill specifically aimed at that point.

I hope that the Government pay some attention to this and are prepared to modify their Bill in a suitable way in order to accept this point. If they would themselves amend the Bill, I should be extremely happy. If they are not prepared to do so, I shall move an Amendment to this effect. I have little doubt that my noble friend, being extremely reasonable and having gone so far in this matter, will be prepared to go the whole way and ensure that we make the Bill quite satisfactory in that respect. I do not want to detain your Lordships for long, because we have had so many Second Reading debates; also, I must say that my noble friend the Minister has given us a remarkably clear exposition of the whole Bill, so it is quite unnecessary for me to go into deail. But I shall also call attention to the fact that there is no control of transit. This may seem unimportant. We control importation. We control exportation. But I think it was only last year when there occurred at Heathrow something which rather shocked the conscience of people in this country.

A load of monkeys, I think, came over from India, and was landed at Heathrow but not imported into this country, because it would never pass through customs. It was put on to another plane, or was going to be, in order to be sent to America, but all the monkeys died. They died because of the bad conditions under which they had been brought in. This is transit. It is neither importation nor exportation. I have asked legal friends and they have assured me that the terms "importation "and "exportation "will not cover such a case, because the animals have not been imported into the country, they have not been exported from the country, they have been merely in transit.

We should surely control transit. It may be argued that we are not entitled to do it. If one looks at the Treaty of Rome, one finds in Article 36: The provisions of Articles 30 to 34 shall not preclude prohibitions or restrictions on imports, exports, or goods in transit. In other words, it is clearly recognised by the Treaty of Rome that we are entitled to control transit. Therefore, I would ask Her Majesty's Government to take this point into consideration and to introduce into the Bill—a Bill I warmly welcome—this restriction on transit as well as on importation and exportation.

4.16 p.m.


My Lords, like the noble Lord who has just sat down, I am grateful to the Government for at long last bringing in this Bill. I think we can reasonably be ashamed of ourselves that our country has hung so far behind other nations. It is almost three years since we signed the Convention, and three years will have passed by the time we get this Bill on the Statute Book. However, I am grateful to the Government and I am not blaming the noble Baroness. Perhaps if she had been here three years ago we might have got the Bill through in the twinkling of an eye. I should like to say one thing in passing: we are still behind every other nation in the world. If the noble Baroness will look at the Schedules to the Convention she will see retained there the conventional method of writing scientific names in italics. We in this country do not bother to do that. Perhaps she might stand in a white sheet about that and see whether she can put it right.

This is going to be an exceedingly difficult Bill to administer. The appendices are based on the rarity of animals. This is all very well in its way but, by and large, the real ones at risk are those in which there is a trade, and pure rarity is of little importance at the present moment. On the Committee on the Importation of Rare Animals, which controls the importation of animals and on which I sat, we found that we had to make this differentiation between animals which were the subject of trade and were really at risk and those which might be at risk if they became the subject of trade because they were already rare. I have no doubt that the noble Baroness will appreciate that factor as much as anybody else. The problem is going to be tricky administratively, and it would be useful to those of us who are interested in these things to have some form of report making it clear which are the animals we are concentrating on and which ones are not so much at risk.

I do not want to detain your Lordships too long because most of us have already talked on this subject innumerable times and over the months have become rather tired of the sound of our own vcices. However, I should like to raise two points which are certainly not mentioned in the Bill. I should like an assurance from the noble Baroness that even if we do not put this in the Bill, we know that the appropriate administrative decisions will be taken, and that again we shall get a report which tells us what is going on.

On import permits for live animals the Convention itself in Article 33B says this: The scientific authority of the State of import must be satisfied that the proposed recipient of a living specimen is suitably equipped to house and care for it. I have had several years experience of this, and I can say quite frankly that the Committee of which I was chairman made mistakes at the beginning, when we let rare animals go to places which were not capable of looking after them. What is important is that those animals which are exceedingly rare should go only to places where they can be kept in breeding colonies, and we should not waste individual specimens of a single sex. We found in the end that we had to inspect these places and virtually make a list of those which were capable of looking after the creatures.

I have no doubt that the noble Baroness has it at the back of her mind that something like that will have to be done. It would have been better to spell this out, because it is important that we know how this is proceeding, where these animals are going and what is their survival rate to ensure that rare animals which are imported so as to build up breeding units are not taken by any institutions which are not capable of looking after them. Clause 1(6) states that in certain circumstances, …the animal, plants or item shall be liable to forfeiture… It is important that the appropriate scientific authority, whatever the management authority, is geared up to deal with creatures which are forfeited. It must be able to decide where the creatures are going and these creatures should not be left in the hands of the unfortunate Customs without anybody really knowing what to do with them. These may seeem quite small points and perhaps we can deal with them in Committee.

I reiterate the plea made by the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, about animals in transit, although I realise, as he no doubt does, that that has nothing to do with the Bill. However, it is a disgrace that we do not control the transit of animals and it will be even more of a disgrace, beyond the inhumanity which is involved when disasters occur, if some of the terrible things which we have heard happen to some of these endangered species. Perhaps the noble Baroness will be able to comment on that and say whether it is possible to include a provision in the Bill to deal with it. I welcome the Bill and hope that it will speedily get on to the Statute Book.

4.23 p.m.


My Lords, it will come as a relief to the House to learn that I shall be brief am due to chair a committee in eight minutes from now. I congratulate the Government for introducing this Bill, but I must admit that I preferred the Bill which the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, introduced, although I quite understand that when it comes to ratifying a Convention, there must be a Government Bill. I commend to the noble Baroness, for whose speech I am full of admiration, especially for the beautiful way in which it was delivered, what Lord Wynne-Jones said about advertising, because when exotic furs and certain scents are advertised, this is bound to induce rich women or their husbands—usually, unfortunately, it is their husbands —tobuy them. It is a pity, therefore, that advertising is not covered by the Bill. There is no reason today, with good plastic imitation furs and other materials being available, why any endangered species should be killed for the adornment of the human being. I should have preferred the Bill to have covered the products of all these species, although I understand, from the trade point of view, why the Government might find that difficult to do at the moment.

Further to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, I cannot understand why otters have beeen left out of the Bill. I am not aware that the Pacific otter, whose fur is the most valuable among otters, has increased in number greatly. One can still read advertisements, especially in the West of Scotland, of dealers seeking otter skins. I realise that these skins are probably not for export, but I believe that the otter is becoming an endangered species. For this reason, I am surprised that it is not included in the Bill.

I, too, am concerned about Clause 1(6) because it might happen that somebody bought an endangered species without realising that it had been brought into the country illegally. As I read the clause, that person, who I will call the possessor, could be charged and fined. I should like to see the onus of proof put on the seller. Perhaps I am not reading the clause correctly, but it seems to me unfair that an innocent person could become the possessor of an endangered species—a plant, or whatever it might be—and be fined although, as I say, he or she is completely innocent. I do not have time to make many of the points that I should otherwise have made. I must point out, however, that it will be very difficult, especially where rare plants are concerned, to prove the contrary if, for example, somebody says that he has bred the plants and produced them when in fact he obtained them from the wild. The same could apply to animals, because certain endangered species are quite easy to breed in captivity. It is a pity that the Bill cannot somehow cover that point, because that would block what might become a loophole.

Does the Bill cover the Crown, by which I mean the various organisations which come under the Crown? For example, will RAF falconers—I suppose they come under the Crown—be subject to the Bill? And what about museums which come under the Crown? Certain other difficulties seem bound to arise, for example when teeth are brought into the country. Will it not be extremely difficult for Customs officers to differentiate between the various types of teeth? This may even prove difficult with ivory, but teeth could present a problem and I do not know how the Customs officers will be able to differentiate.

My noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton spoke about the sources of endangered species coming into the United Kingdom eventually drying up. I do not think that will always be the case, particularly when one thinks of the areas from which certain exotic species come. Are all the administrations of these areas 100 per cent. free from corruption? I doubt whether the sources of exotic species will dry up in the way the noble Lord suggested. Indeed, I think they will still come to this country, and I therefore hope that when the Bill becomes law the Government will enforce the regulations with all the power at their command. Some people say that laws are made only to be broken. I certainly do not agree with that, although I accept that it is very difficult to make them absolutely foolproof. If your Lordships will excuse me, I must now leave.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I believe that the House would like to look at the position of Great Britain in relation to this Bill. Now that the United States has clamped down, Britain is one of the main consumers of Wild Life. In fact, Britain, Hong Kong and Japan are, I regret to say, top of the world league, followed by France, Spain and West Germany. So, without doubt, the world looks to us to set an example. I, like other speakers, was indeed glad to have the firm undertaking given by the noble Baroness that Britain will be in a position to attend the conference in November.

It has been difficult to assess the extent of the world trade in these hundreds of animals and thousands of plants listed by the Convention as threatened with extinction. The difficulty is that the legitimate trade is augmented by the smuggled trade. However, with the assistance of the Fauna Preservation Society, I have obtained some statistics which should interest your Lordships. In 1974,the Kenyan trade statistics disclosed an export of 53,000 kilograms of ivory to Hong Kong. When that ivory arrived at Hong Kong, it had grown to 113,000 kilograms —a total of about 4,500 elephants. In 1974, the Kenyan statistics disclosed an export of 3,600 kilograms of ivory to Japan. When that ivory arrived, it had grown to 63,000 kilograms. All in all, Hong Kong imported 461,000 kilograms of ivory in 1974. That is the equivalent of 18,400 elephants.

I am not surprised that my noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton, speaking from the Front Bench, referred to the dragging of feet. Japan is probably little better. Japan imported about half as much ivory as was imported by Hong Kong. In fact, when the Bill is on the Statute Book and is working as I know it will, Japan may soon be the greatest offender. Whales, elephants, rhino horns, coral, mollusc shells, deer, elks and reptiles, including on last year's estimate alone, 1,440,000 lizards have all been imported by Japan.

One slightly more cheerful fact is that the need for measures similar to the present Bill is clearly in the hearts of people all over the world. People everywhere realise the danger that Wild Life is being destroyed. I remember with pleasure the occasion when, many years ago, workers in the fur factories of America refused, with the support of the trade unions, to make up fur coats from the skins of spotted cats. The Bill is necessary and I believe that this nation will make it work.

As has been said, we had a Second Reading debate a short time ago and I do not want to make another speech covering the same points. However, I wish to deal with a few major points. I agree with previous speakers that the Bill has met many of our fears. The noble Baroness trailed her coat—I was glad to hear her—when she pointed out that a single Department was dealing with the whole Bill. She bore out what those of us in the conservation world have been saying for years. I believe that I wrote the same letter to 11 different Ministers, sending them all original copies, about one conservation problem. However, the Bill can he improved and I like other speakers, have a few points to make.

First, my noble friend Lord Monckton asked that it should be in the English language. I see the difficulty, but even if only the family name were given in English, those of us who have little knowledge would be helped. My worry concerns the Schedules. Schedules 1 and 2, as drafted, restrict the import either of the complete family or of a named kind within that family. It is in the naming of the kinds that the danger lies. There should be not an alternative but an additional listing altering some of the lists to those families where the kinds of that family which may be imported are given, thus excluding all other kinds. I know that the Department thinks that this is impossible. I agree that it will be difficult for some families but with other families it is not only possible but the Department will find that it is absolutely essential. There are two reasons for this. One is that a new population of a kind which was thought so rare as not to be worth listing may be found. This has happened in Australia in the case of some small mammals called dibblers and barrannys and it appears to be happening now in South America with the marmot.

However, the greatest risk, unless some of the lists are reviewed as I suggest, is already known. It is that the animals may become endangered while they are not included in any list. For example, for the past few years the import of tiger skins and of the larger spotted cats has been restricted. Noble Lords know that this has resulted in the import of ocelot, and many and varied smaller spotted cat skins. The figures are, 27,000 skins in 1974 and 77,000 skins in 1975. It may already be too late to save some of the smaller cats which were thought not worth protecting. The noble Baroness mentioned crocodiles. They became rare and that led to the import of lizards, snakes and reptiles. The blue whale was banned, so the import of the humpback whale increased; when that was banned, importers turned to the fin whale and, when that was banned, they went to the sei and brydes whales. Those were banned, and now the minke whale and the dolphin are coming under pressure. This could be cured with the right kind of Schedule.

Tortoises have been a great worry. They were over-exploited in the Northern Mediterranean. Vast quantities were exported and the importers turned to the North African tortoise. They became over-exploited, so they are now taken from African regions which are warmer and drier. Another variety, Testudo Horsefeildii, is the only variety which is still available in quantity. Unfortunate little tortoises! Because they come from warm climates they are quite unsuitable to live in the conditions and climate of Britain.

Finally, when the noble Baroness looks at the schedules, she will see that a schedule of what may be imported as opposed to what may not will be a much easier and safer Schedule to administer. All concerned can do it and the scientific authorities will not only be able to advise with greater certainty but will be able to do what Britain, as the main offender should do, which is to give the endangered species the benefit of the doubt.

I now come to the trade in Scheduled items. I find this very difficult. It is almost a Committee point. I would ask the noble Baroness not to answer me now but to write me. I have a feeling that lines 29 to 35 of page 2 of her Bill meet, to some extent, Clause 1(2) of the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones. I appreciate the difficulty of manufactured items, but that I think we might solve at another stage. I believe it goes some way to meet the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, but I nevertheless support him. I think I also support the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, over the difficulty of transit, certainly if they were landing at the airport. But my noble friend Lord Cran-brook may be right—he is so often right in these matters—so I should like to keep my powder dry here.

The only point of which the noble Baroness made heavy weather, I thought, was about not being quite clear as to the definitions of animals. As she said as to the definitions of both animals and plants, "any readily recognisable part or derivative thereof "should be controlled completely. I think she agreed that the Bill does not really meet that point, except in a very small way, and in particular I am worried about the snakeskin products. She said the Bill protects them. I do riot think it does; but I think one could find an Amendment which would ensure that it did. I really believe that there is a halfway house between the words "recognisable "and "easily recognisable ", and I should like this to be considered in greater detail at another stage.

Running parallel with this point is the question of licences. In the debate on 5th February I spoke at some length on the treatment of species which could be rarer in the wild than they are in captivity. With this Bill, in an ideal situation the Secretary of State, backed by his Scientific Authority, should be able to grant licences in certain cases provided that the plant or animal originates only from a named country. Certificates of origin are a normal part of world trade. In this Bill for the protection of threatened species, should there not be powers to stop up the loopholes, which the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, mentioned, that are not going to occur the world over? Our Bill should be able to do this—and here I am on more difficult ground. I merely ask the question: should it not be possible to issue licences under a quota system both for animals and for plants?

My final point is a minor one, but I think it is important. It is about records. Could the noble Baroness, either now or at a later stage, if she thinks it is not in the Bill—I do not think there is anything about keeping records in the Bill—give us an administrative assurance (which your Lordships will always accept from a Minister on the Front Bench) that records will be kept in some detail? What we fear—I hope I am wrong—is that the only significant records which will be kept will be those for the period after there is a significant trend. How can we prove that an animal is becoming endangered if the imports are going on growing until there is a significant trend and it is too late? With that, my Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for the Bill, which has my full support.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, I was listening with such interest to the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, and indeed trying to assimilate a mass of important facts that I almost forgot that I put my name on the list of speakers, and I am almost beginning to wish that I had not done so because it is equally true that at about 12 noon today I read the article by Sir Peter Scott in The Times. This struck me as an absolute model of its kind. It makes clear to any observer how tremendously important this measure is if it can succeed in its operation and how much worthwhile it is that our House should deal with it.

I find a fascination in the amazing influence of animals upon history. We had a programme the other night in which we were told that during the war the Admiralty persuaded the Government to embark on a systematic destruction of the peregrine falcon because they had found out that it could sink a dreadnought—not precisely as King Kong would do it, or indeed the legendary ostrich which could eat a cathedral, but because the peregrine falcon was capable of destroying the carrier pigeons which were taking the last "May Day "messages from a crippled ship.

My Lords, when I saw this Bill for the first time I welcomed it immensely. Many years in politics have led me not to expect much from Governments and at such a time as this. However important this measure, I had almost resolved that at this time of financial twilight I would try not to support any measures which added unnecessary or even necessary burdens upon the public purse. As the noble Baroness in her admirable explanation said, the virtue of this measure is that we can virtually use the existing organisation. We have available the necessary methods and we intend to use them, and in any event the cost of the measure will be minimal. So I am not anxious to be critical of the measure.

I think that after Peter Scott's article for the first time in my political life I have to make an apology on behalf of my former constituents because at about the time when Daniel Defoe visited Oldham and described it as containing the most contented unindustrious people on the face of the earth "— a tribute which was later repeated in more felicitous terms by the first Viscount Norwich—their principal industry was the making of the beaver hat. I cannot believe that even my constituents made beaver hats without beavers, and beaver hats of course were absolutely essential. Nobody quite knows why now, but things are always essential if people have enough money to buy them. I can only urge—and it is a somewhat disreputable argument—that it was a result of the trade in beavers and otters that we got the Dominion of Canada because a couple of French trappers had been refused a licence by the Governor and Charles II was persuaded to grant the charter which led to the Hudson Bay Company and the subsequent struggles. Perhaps it did not have all that merit on our part.

Of course there are points of detail; there are real problems of detail. The noble Lord who is to follow will know much more than me about the definition of a "succulent plant ", but I did find some problems in "euphorbia ", which is a very large classification. After reading Peter Scott's article, a quick glance at the question of otters suggests that perhaps there are some observations to be made on the number of species of otters which are eliminated from the Schedule. There are a number I have failed to find, but in the main I think that I agree with my noble friend who introduced the measure and I hope he will get rather more credit for his labours than John Fielden, the Member for Oldham, who secured the passing of what is known as the Shaftesbury Act in the absence from Parliament at that time of the late Lord Shaftesbury. I think it is an important measure.

I might perhaps irrelevantly conclude by saying in this time of financial twilight while we are celebrating the bicentenary of Gibbon and having some arguments about it, I am on the side of Walter Savage Landor and his saying, "Nature I love and after nature art. "I think he had his priorities right. Perhaps when Piccaso's doves—which an ornithological friend tells me could not fly—are to be seen flying over "Truncheons ", and perhaps some future young Gibbon, possibly an Angolan with a degree at Havana, impressed by the sight of the bare-footed mendicant friar of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, after a simple meal of Campbell's soup, singing vespers in the colonnades of the London Brickworks, resolves to write the "Decline and Financial Fall of the British Empire ", I am confident that, starting from the middle of 1910, he will conclude in a moving passage in which he felicitates us all here today on our part in a comprehensive measure which helps preserve the boa constrictor, the python and the lesser celandine.

4.51 p.m.


My Lords, there are many reasons why I enjoy being in your Lordships' House and one of them is the opportunity to hear the noble Lord, Lord Hale, speaking as he has just spoken—something which I have been enjoying since 1945. I join in welcoming the fact that the Government have now presented this Bill and I should like to add my voice to those noble Lords who have congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, on his persistent and polite needling of his own Front Bench, which has been very effective. Everyone is agreed that from the international view-point the Washington Convention was long overdue and that this is a horrid trade exploited by the mindless misbehaviour of many people at both ends of the trade, and in the middle of it. In a way, I think it is a very sad and shaming commentary on our so-called civilisation. Therefore I very much hope that this Bill will be on the Statute Book before long.

I should like briefly to raise three questions: one about ratification, one about the Bill's Schedules and the last about the need for time for further consultation without delaying ratification. On the first point about ratification, I—and, I think, all of us—should like to make sure that I have understood this correctly. I understand that the Government originally should have ratified by 7th March to conform with the Convention and to he in time to propose amendments; but that now the TUCN have confirmed that where any Government intends to ratify before 4th August, amendments may be proposed up to 5th June, subject to the agreement of the Conference in Berne in the first week in November. I believe that I have that right. I thought it would be clearer to give dates rather than to talk of 90 days et cetera. I am glad to see that the Minister is nodding agreement.

I am pleased that the noble Baroness has confirmed the Government's intention to act jointly with our partners in the EEC, which should avoid any problems in intra-Community trade. The Commission, it goes without saying, are strongly in favour of joint action, as they were with regard to the Council of Europe Convention for protecting animals during international transport, which was drawn up for signature in Paris as long ago as 1968. But it is well known to all of us that views differ widely in the Community countries on this subject as on many others and we are by no means all in step. For example, there is a wide divergence of view between West Germany and Italy. That, I feel, would be the classic example. I hope that in spite of the fact that it would be nice to proceed together, if we cannot do so, we will regret that fact and go along with those other countries which are prepared to go along with us.

I should be grateful if the noble Baroness could tell us about the attitude of the Dependent Territories, the progress made with the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. I am thinking of those territories which should be associated with the Instrument of Ratification. There are some Dependent Territories, obviously, that have little importance in this context. Hong Kong has been mentioned and perhaps it has more importance than all the rest put together, being a well-known centre for international trafficking in rare animals and their products.

My Lords, this leads me to the second point about the Schedules to the Bill. I do not feel that they can be regarded as satisfactory in that they do not go wide enough and seem to include many anomalies. Naturally, I shall carefully avoid putting what noble Lords may regard as Committee points, but I must give an illustration or two. For example, why include tortoise shell but not turtle skin? We all know that a great deal of use is made of turtle skin and also that tortoise shell comes from the turtle. There seems to be an anomaly here. Why are at least six species of birds listed in Volume II of the Red Data Book as "rare and endangered "but not in the Washington Convention and not in Schedule 1 to the Bill; although all six have been imported into this country in the last three years? As a last specific example, why does the Convention list the comb duck which is common in three Continents as needing protection while the bald ibis, described as "very rare and localised with its numbers rapidly decreasing ", is not listed at all? The bald ibis has been traded in the United Kingdom, although it is a rare bird, in the last few years. The more one looks at the Schedules the more it is clear that there are a great many anomalies which will have to be put right.

Should not the Schedules to the Bill serve as models for other countries, giving the benefit of the doubt where necessary to the flora and fauna, taking into account that supply and demand is unpredictable; and when trade in one item is restricted, trade can swing very quickly, sometimes before it is barely detected, and certainly before it can be controlled. I cannot help wondering whether the distinction in the Convention between Appendix I and Appendix II which are taken together in Schedule 1 to the Bill and Appendix III is a satisfactory and real distinction. Should not, to put it another way, all the really rare species of fauna—and I leave aside flora for obvious reasons—be added to the Schedules now if there is a risk of the survival of these species being endangered by trade? Personally I think so. I should be grateful if consideration could be given to that.

Should not thought also be given to adding to the Schedules species or subspecies of birds which cannot be reliably distinguished from their rare and endangered relatives? Unless this is done, enforcement will be difficult and law breaking made easier. I notice that the noble Baroness who opened the debate stressed the importance of fauna which have to be controlled or restricted where trade is concerned being readily recognisable. This is again a valid point from the point of view of the Customs officer and the legitimate trader. Would not the legitimate trade in birds be at any rate easier to control if another Schedule were added to the Bill listing certain species of birds; for example, the nectar-eating humming birds or the insect-eating hoopoes which suffer such ghastly mortality rates in transit. Then it would be easier to enforce the IATA standards which are so widely broken, I am told, in up to 90 per cent. of all the instances of birds being imported into this country.

Lastly, how can proper control be exercised over trade in rare birds if there is no control over their eggs? I may have missed something, but so far as I can see there is no mention of that at all. I was very pleased when the noble Baroness said that she had an open mind about amendment of the Schedules, and I am sure that many of your Lordships will share my view of that. Incidentally, I see nothing in the Government's argument, which I understand has been used over the past few months, that the Schedules to the Bill must conform as precisely as possible with other national lists or, for that matter, with the Washington Convention. In any case, the Government seem to have conceded this point by including birds of prey and owls—and rightly so, if I may say so. Article XIV of the Convention (paragraphs 1 and 2) makes it absolutely clear, and perhaps I may quote two lines from paragraph 2, which read as follows: The provisions of the present Convention shall in no way affect the provisions of any domestic measures….". Therefore individual countries can take what measures they think right in this context. And what better backing could there be for British Government amendments to the Washington Convention than that after the fullest consultation in this country the Schedules to the British Act are really comprehensive from the British viewpoint, having taken full account of national and international expertise, both statutory and voluntary?

My final point concerns the need for genuine consultation with all speed, in order to make up for a great deal of time which has, if I may say so respectfully, been wasted during the last few years and of which far greater advantage should have been taken. I was very pleased to see this matter dealt with in a letter which was sent by the Department of the Environment to all the voluntary conserva tion bodies on 12th February which contained this sentence: Ministers have decided that it would be best to publish the Bill now, but to leave a sufficient interval between Second Reading and Committee stage to permit adequate further consultations with all concerned. That has given the voluntary bodies a great deal of pleasure, and I am pleased that such a promise has been made. But it contrasts very sharply with the failure to consult the voluntary conservation movement earlier. After all, the Convention was signed three years ago, and I should like to remind the noble Baroness that last July all the major voluntary bodies, working together, asked her Department to meet them. However, they were unwilling to do so and it was not until 14th November that there was any meeting at all, and then only, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, if I may quote from his letter dated 5th November, to explain to conservation groups the measures we shall be taking. My Lords, that is not consultation; it is simply informing people what the Government intend to do. I do not think that was either right or excusable.

Many people feel that until recently the Department's advice has not been adequate, and therefore I was extremely pleased to hear the noble Baroness say that the Schedules arc by no means the last word—I must not put words into the noble Baroness's mouth; I think she actually said that they were "not the last word ", which is not quite the same—and that there were to be wide and thorough consultations in spite of the fact that the Bill is now in the middle of its Second Reading. I am grateful for that as well. Time is of the essence, and if full use is made of it the Bill and the Schedules can be suitably amended without delaying ratification or restricting the Government's chance to move Amendments, as I hope and believe they will, when the parties to the Convention meet in Berne in November.

I would conclude by saying that I look forward to the Government's comments on the questions I have raised about ratification; on the need for substantial changes in the Schedules and on the importance of genuine consultation, not least with the voluntary bodies, because they have much to offer. The stiffer the controls in the recipient countries, the tougher and more uneconomic becomes the poacher's game and the role of the profiteer in the middle. This country has frequently given a lead in conservation matters, and I am quite sure that we can do so again.

5.6 p.m.


My Lords, I am pleased to support this Bill, which implements the Convention of 1973 to which we were, and are, a party. I regard the Bill as a step forward in regulating this important matter and I should like to join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, on his continuous efforts to keep this subject in our minds. I must say that, in certain aspects, I prefer this Bill to the one we are now discussing, and especially on the point made by the noble Lord himself this afternoon; namely, the inclusion of trading in these items, as well as their importation and exportation. That is the point to which I shall now refer, as briefly as possible.

The particular aspect which is not covered by this Bill, and which I think represents a shortcoming which could delay the speed with which the intentions of the Bill can become fully effective, is the total disregard for existing stocks of hides, skins and other parts of those endangered species which are already in this country and waiting to be made up commercially for sale in shops and markets. This matter was referred to by my noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton, and I believe it to be a very important one. As long as these articles continue to be made and sold from these endangered species there will be a demand for these commodities. This demand will encourage poaching in the countries of origin and the smuggling into this country of yet more of these restricted items. If these existing stocks, as listed in Schedule 3, and especially in paragraph 10 and subsequent paragraphs, are not enforceably registered now, the words "existing stocks "will become the continued excuse for maintaining the sales of these items made from endangered species.

I believe the noble Baroness implied that authority already exists to make such registration compulsory, but I should be grateful if she would confirm that, because without that the effectiveness of this Bill will be greatly reduced. If existing stocks are continually being "topped up "by smuggling into this country or other means, this will lead to all sorts of problems such as increasing the work of the Excise both here and in the country of origin.

Perhaps I may take the vicuna as an example; and I should like to do so partly because I have seen this beautiful and graceful animal in its native Peru but also because it is listed in the Schedule under its Latin name, which happily coincides with the English one—I was not aware of the list so kindly provided by the noble Baroness before I drafted my speech, and so I clung to a word that I could readily identify. The vicuna, which inhabits the high grasslands of the Andes, provides the finest and softest wool in the world but, unlike its more common cousin, the alpaca, it cannot be cropped annually and each vicuna can provide only a very small quantity of wool. Nevertheless, the demand throughout the world in the more expensive shops and markets everywhere has been very high. Until recently, due to this strong demand, it has been heavily poached in Peru and killed to such an extent that it was almost extinct. My noble friend Lord Mowbray told me yesterday that within the last 12 months eight guards of wild parks in Peru have been shot dead, which shows the viciousness of this form of poaching. It also indicates our responsibility to see that the trade in this and other rare items is rapidly discouraged.

Thanks largely to the personal efforts of Senor FelipéBenairdes, who is President of the Peruvian Wild Parks and of the Lima Zoo, and also first winner of the Paul Getty prize for the preservation of wild life, I am happy to say that the vicuna is now rapidly increasing in numbers again. But it is still possible to procure vicuna wool here in London, and the reason given last week was that it was existing stocks, which strengthens my argument on that point. A length of kashmir wool sells for, say, £40, but if it is called kashmir/vicuna the same length will sell for double that figure. The inference is that it contains 50 per cent. kashmir and 50 per cent. vicuna, which may or may not be true. But if that is so, then it is more a matter for the Consumer Council than for this Bill. Nevertheless, my point is that if we were now to require existing stocks of vicuna wool, and, indeed, of all other items listed in the Schedules, to be registered in order to determine the quality of the stocks now available, and were also to insist on the percentage proportion to be clearly marked—for example, when vicuna is mixed with another material—it would apply pressure to the existing stocks, and thus the principles behind this Bill would become more effective more quickly.

I have one final point on which I should be grateful if the noble Baroness could give me an assurance—and I am continuing with my example of vicuna, although the principle applies to all the other items in the Schedules. I have been told that one European Community country has rather large existing stocks of vicuna wool. Would the restriction on imports envisaged in this Bill apply to the cross-transfer, and therefore the importation, of existing stocks from one Common Market country to this country, even though the wool did not originate in Europe? This is similar to the point made by my noble friend Lord Mowbray when he spoke about regulations throughout the EEC needing to be in parallel, as otherwise the effectiveness of what we are trying to do in this Bill will be greatly reduced. I have concentrated on what I regard as the one short-coming in the Bill, but otherwise I am very pleased that the Bill has been introduced and am happy to give it my support.

5.14 p.m.


My Lords, I find myself in slight difficulty in being the last speaker in this debate before the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, and, inevitably, I shall have to follow, and perhaps even follow-up, some of the points made earlier by noble Lords. I make no apology for this because, with a little luck, it might help to drive these points home and make the voices heard rather more loudly by the Government. I also find myself in some difficulty on this occasion, because we arc debating the Second Reading of a Bill which is broadly similar to that introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, to which we gave a Second Reading less than a month ago, and on which I made my maiden speech. It must be something of a record that your Lordships are debating this subject for the second time in such a short period, and the temptation for me is to repeat what I said on the previous occasion, which would surely serve no useful purpose. I shall also try to resist the second temptation of comparing this Bill with the previous Endangered Species Bill, in competition with others who have already spoken much more competently than I could on this aspect. I feel that it would be wise to treat this Bill on its merits, with some reference to the International Convention which it seeks to ratify. I have no intention of taking the Bill apart in detail, but I have several general and, I hope, quite valid points to make.

My first point is in regard to the Title, which the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, mentioned at some length. As we know, it is called the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Bill and one would at first assume that it was one of the rare species of legislation dealing with conservation. One would, in a sense, be right, but, on looking at it a little closer, it becomes apparent that it does not seek to control species of animals—in the broadest sense of the word "animals "—including lepidoptera, birds and species of plants in their wild habitat per se. It does, in fact, seek to conserve them by regulating the trade both in the species and in their readily recognisable products, and I feel that the word "trade "could with advantage appear in the Title.

Secondly, it appears to be constructed primarily for animals, with plants tacked on almost as an afterthought. Here I have to declare a similar interest to the Minister, both as a professional horticulturalist on the production side and as an amateur gardener on the consumer side. On the plant side, it is immediately apparent that this is not a Ministry of Agriculture Bill but a Customs Bill, and those parts of the Schedules which refer to plants could at least be said be to extremely vague.

The obvious example is the genus cyclamen, under the family primulaceae in Schedule 2 on page 23. Some cyclamen are extremely rare for example, cyclamen libanoticum and mirabile from Turkey, and cyclamen rothsianum from North Africa. But others are very common in the wild, such as cyclamen hederifolium. This may not be a name which your Lordships will recognise, but the botanists have renamed the cyclamen neapolitanium which so many of your Lordships will have in your gardens and which flowers in the autumn. They have also been attacking, not to say mucking about with, cyclamen purpurascens, which used to be called cyclamen europaeum, and which, again, can in no sense be described as endangered. All cyclamen, whether rare or common in the wild, are to be controlled as to import and export. This would seem to be completely unnecessary and, though I can see that it is quite impractical for a Customs officer to tell the difference between the corm of one cyclamen species and another, a botanist can tell almost at once at the point of entry of the goods, in the nursery or in the stockroom of the importer or exporter.

This raises another point. There is no date given for the introduction of the Bill. It would surely be in the interests of both the Government and traders for the latter to be inspected before the introductory date, to show that they will not be exporting items that are imported illegally. This point probably needs a little amplification. As I understand it, under the order which came into force on 1st January this year, an importer has to have an export licence from the country of origin of the goods before he or she can obtain an import licence. One assumes that items imported before the Bill comes into force are not imported illegally, but, in theory at least, unless an inspection is made before the introductory date, it will be impossible for the exporter to prove that he has not imported the goods illegally. For example, like the noble Earl. Lord Cathcart, I understand that there are comparatively large stocks of vicuna hair already in this country, which are used for manufacturing wool mixtures. This manufacture is, I understand, quite legal until the Present stocks are used up. If there is no inspection, it will be impossible to tell at what point illegally imported hair is used, as the Secretary of State will have no idea how long the existing stocks can be eked out.

For my next point I must turn to the Convention, which itself has appeared recently to be an almost endangered species. It has proved to be very difficult to obtain, probably because it is filed under the title of "Animals ". Perhaps this goes some way towards illustrating my second point, that of plants being an afterthought. At the top of page 16 there is Article No. XVI, which is about a third Schedule dealing with animals and plants which a country wishes to protect unilaterally because they are locally endangered. I can see nowhere in the Bill where this is even mentioned. In this country we have the Wild Plants Protection Act whose Schedules surely make an ideal starting point to a fourth Schedule to the Bill that we are discussing now. I have heard a rather unconvincing argument against this from one of the advisers to Her Majesty's Government; that is, that what is endangered in one country is not necessarily endangered in another. This is probably quite right, but I hope that when she sums up the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, will agree with me that a species that is endangered in one country today is quite likely to be endangered in another country, or, even worldwide, at a future date. A fourth Schedule to this Bill, covering our own species, would provide a very good lever for the United Kingdom at a future control meeting of the Convention. This would allow us to have a particular species moved up a grade from Appendix 3 to Appendix 2, and so on.

Departing for a moment from my horticultural brief, I will take my example from the lepidoptera. In doing so, I shall also support my noble friend Lord Craigton regarding his point about species in which there is no trade at the moment. Although the large blue butterfly is not traded in at the moment, it could well be and there is concern for it. This species is endemic in North Devon and Cornwall, where it is now very rare, and in Northern France, where it is fairly common. The reason for its rarity in this country is purely environmental. During one stage of its life the grubs feed on wild thyme. This itself is dying out in the areas in question because, due to the rigorous control of rabbits, the grass is growing taller and swamping it. Therefore, we have a situation of no thyme and nothing for the grubs to feed on—hence, fewer large blues.

The taxonomists among your Lordships will know all about lumping and splitting. However, since this is an even more specialist subject than my own, I shall explain briefly that there are two ways of naming plants and animals. One is to lump together as many as possible different animals or plants under a species or genus, so long as they show even a superficial resemblance to one another. The splitters do exactly the opposite and tend to proliferate the number of genera and species; and new ones are created for quite small differences. By nature I am a lumper, both taxonomically and legally, and I can see no need for two genera species, or even Acts, where one will do. From statements that he has made recently in this House, I rather think that I have an ally in the shape of the noble and learned Lord who is not on the Woolsack. Is it too much to hope for an ally in the noble Baroness the Minister?

Another criticism that I have of this Bill and, indeed, of the Convention is that it brings politics into the world of conservation, which is not always a good thing. One can understand countries being keen to have their own endangered species recognised, but I am alarmed that species which are not endangered appear in the Schedules. I would refer your Lordships to page 64 of the current journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, the Garden. This is so rigorously edited that I have no hesitation in believing what I read.

In a couple of paragraphs on the monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana, the point is made that, though rare, it is by no means endangered. I should like to quote from the Society's journal: They seemed like vegetable dinosaurs. Unlike dinosaurs, however, they are far from extinct or even threatened. In their own country they are doing fine, with their younger generations following on their parents and grandparents as vigorously as ever. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us an assurance that it will be possible for the United Kingdom representatives at future control conferences to make the point that Her Majesty's Government would like to see conservation of endangered species and not the preservation of rare species. There is a definite difference between not only "endangered "and "rare "but also "preservation "and "conservation ". I was glad to hear the Minister pre-empt me on this point.

I will now turn very briefly to the issuing of licences. This may well be something which should not properly concern your Lordships, but it revolves around one of my earlier points—that of the distinction between animals and plants. I understand that a trader can apply for licences in a very straightforward manner. However, a licence has enough space on it only for six species. This is probably a fine arrangement for animal species where the numbers to be imported or exported are necessarily limited; but it is quite common in the plant world for a licence to be required for at least 30 species, and I have heard of one application for 100 species. As the rules now are, this means five licences, which inevitably means five pieces of paper that have to be kept track of. May I respectfully suggest—even though (unlike what the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, told us yesterday) I am neither a man nor a woman of the trees—that conservation should begin at home: less paper, less trees. That, I hope, will not look quite so flippant on paper as it sounds. It is supposed to be a serious point.

Lastly, I should be grateful for clarification of Clause 5 of the Bill. I cannot quite see what the Government are getting at. If they are saying that a corporation should be responsible for its employees' behaviour, why not go so faras to say that a corporation would be fined because of the action of its employees? If, on the other hand, the employees of the corporation are to be the targets, why not prevent the corporation from either paying the fines of its employees or reimbursing them after the event?

I have been somewhat critical of this Bill, and your Lordships will probably be quite right in levelling at me the accusation that possibly I have been making Committee points. However, it is a very complicated piece of legislation and we have been told that there will be ample time to discuss it before the Committee stage. Perhaps, however, it is worth while that I should have given your Lordships my ideas on what I hope are valid points. I feel very strongly that there is a great deal to be tightened up in Committee, and in the day-to-day operation, but I also support the aims and objectives of the Bill and shall have no hesitation is supporting its Second Reading.

5.29 p.m.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, if I may say so, I think that this has been a very good debate. As a comparative newcomer to this subject I have been impressed not only by the degree of concern that has been revealed here today but also once again by the very wide specialist knowledge of the Members of your Lordships' House. Certainly the debate has been very useful to me and I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to it.

This is not the time to make another long speech. Many points which have been raised today we shall no doubt come up against at the Committee stage of the Bill. May I, though, refer briefly to one or two of them. Both the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, and the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, referred to the question of the position with our colleagues in the EEC. When the Washington Convention was negotiated the view was taken that it was desirable that all the members of the EEC should become parties to the Convention at the same time and subsequently they set themselves a target date for simultaneous ratification. But it was quite apparent in advance of 31st December 1975 that they were not going to be ready to proceed together at that time. The matter has now been further considered by the Community and the Commission has now set a target date for the Community of 30th June1976. All the Member-States are working towards this and indeed they have, I think, fully recognised the importance of making progress in implementing this Convention. They have also recognised the need for as many Member-States as possible to have ratified the Convention, independently if necessary, in time to take part in the first conference which has now been arranged for November. I understand that we have seen considerable movements in the Federal Republic of Germany, which although it has not yet formally ratified the Convention has made arrangements to put that in train. So there is some movement on the European front.

The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, also raised a question about the difference between the number of species in the Red Data book and the number in our Bill, but I think it is important to remember that both the Convention and our Bill are concerned with trade whereas the Red Data book includes many species which are endangered, not by trade but by the destruction of their habitats. To add to the Schedule large numbers of species for which trade is not the relevant factor would, I think, tend to weaken the controls rather than to strengthen them.

Several noble Lords have referred to the difficulties about manufactured products. This is something that is causing the Department and its advisers much concern and we are giving a great deal of thought to it because we accept that there are difficulties here. There are strong feelings, too, in some quarters that restrictions ought to be imposed on the manufacture of goods, especially in reptile skins, in ivory and in turtle products. I sympathise with those views but when we come to identifying the manufactured goods we get into even deeper water and greater difficulty and we must have some regard to the side effect on legitimate trade while we are considering all the other things. However, I can assure your Lordships that we are looking carefully at this aspect to see what we can do about it.

The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, also raised a question about our reservations on the concept of Appendix 3 as it appears now. We see considerable complications in trying to operate it because the contents are open-ended; it would entail elaborate instructions to traders and customs officers and it could result in a big increase in licensing, much of which might be of little value. But we are seeking the advice of the scientific authorities on the implications of the various proposals by other countries for Appendix 3 as they emerge. We shall keep our options open but we are aware that there are difficulties here. Lord Mowbray and Stourton mentioned —quite rightly in our present economic position—the possible manpower needs and the public expenditure requirement in implementing the Bill, and I am sure that since then he will have looked at the financial provisions and the background provisions and will have seen that this is something we can get on the Statute Book without very considerable cost to the nation in so doing.

My noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones gave this Bill a most generous reception, and I am grateful to him for that. He has worked so long to see something come on to the Statute Book and I am grateful to him for the way in which he has accepted the Government Bill. He and all the voluntary conservation societies have done a lot of work and a lot of prodding, and that prodding has at last paid off in that we have something before us today. In the Department we want to work very closely with any noble Lords who are interested and who have ideas as to how this Bill might be improved, and with the voluntary conservation societies, in the few weeks between now and the Committee stage. I too read Sir Peter Scott's very valuable and reasoned article today and I hope we shall have more opportunity for open discussion and expressions of opinion through the media while this Bill is going through all its stages. We have waited a long time for it and it is essential that we should get it right now.

My noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones and the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, also asked us to look at Amendments to the Title because it did not cover trade, and trade is important. I will consult with my advisers and with both noble Lords to see whether we cannot come to some agreement or find some means around this before we get to the Committee stage. Lord Wynne-Jones also raised the question of the control of transit. The care of animals in transit, which are only really changing planes, as it were, in this country, is the responsibility of the carriers or the exporters. But I noted the reference made by my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones to the Treaty of Rome and I will ask my advisers to have another look at this point.

We also had points raised about the goods which have been imported contrary to prohibition or restriction. Here again there are powers under the Customs and Excise Act to seize the goods and to prosecute people who are importing contrary to the restrictions. A point of sales control might raise some difficult problems, but in the Department we are already aware that there are strong feelings about this and we are examining the position to see whether we can also tighten that up.

The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and also the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, raised the question of otters. These pose certain problems of identification and control. If we are going to try to control them we might be controlling a number of common species in which there is a legitimate trade. It is one of the matters that we are investigating and about which we are still having consultations.

The noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, spoke of the Schedules and the printing type. It was a valid point and I will certainly ask my adviser to look at it in order to see whether we can conform with the way other people do it. There will be reports from our scientific authorities and we shall have an opportunity of knowing what is going on, how we are working and how the Act itself, once it is on the Statute Book, performs the duties which we hope it will perform. I am not in a position at the moment to give answers to the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, as to how we set about identifying teeth, but I will see what I can find out about it and will write to him on that point.

I take the point made so positively by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, about the position of the United Kingdom as a consumer of wildlife. I hope we shall be in the forefront with our Schedules and that they will be the sort of Schedules that other countries will want to copy and to use. The noble Lord, Lord Craigton, also raised the question of ivory. The African elephant is not mentioned in either of the Appendices to the Convention; the Indian elephant is, but we require licences for all ivory and we hope that may help to stop up some of the gaps.

The noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, asked about the arrangements for the disposal of animals that were seized by the Customs. When these are covered by conservation restrictions and are seized the Customs always seek advice from the Department of the Environment, who in turn ask the scientific authority. The disposal of them is usually to a reputable zoo or a safari park approved by the scientific authority. I hope the noble Earl will accept my assurances that we really do care about these animals and we do look alter them once they have been taken into our care. The noble Lord, Lord Craigton, also raised the question of lizard and snake skins. We are having consultations about these. We appreciate that there are trade implications but consultations are going on and we are aware of the concern felt by noble Lords and by societies outside this House.

We were also asked, I think again by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, about the number of specimens that were likely to be licensed and how we would know. We are proposing to keep statistics which will show the number of specimens that are licensed, how many have been actually imported and exported, by species and by importing and exporting country. The statistics will be required of us anyway, annually, by the Convention Secretariat and they will be produced at more frequent intervals by the scientific authorities. We intend to make these summaries available and they will be made public. They will enable us to keep some track of what is happening.

The noble Lord, Lord Craigton, and other noble Lords asked about the Dependent Territories. In order that we can take part in this first conference we must ratify the Convention at least 90 days in advance, which answers another colleague's point. It seems almost certain that the Dependent Territories will have to have powers to implement the Convention under their domestic legislation if they are to be able to be included in our Instrument of Ratification, since it is now unlikely that our Bill will be enacted in time to be extended to them. But we are having discussions with the Dependent Territories. Those discussions are very well advanced, and a substantial number of the territories have already indicated they are willing to be included and hope to have the powers in force in time.


My Lords, can the noble Baroness tell us whether that includes Hong Kong?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, not at this stage. We cannot be precise about the number of territories likely to be included. We believe that Hong Kong is the territory likely to take us perhaps a little longer in negotiation than others. I put it at no more than that. But we expect that attention will be concentrated on the domestic United Kingdom implications of the Convention.

The noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, raised points on the ratification which I have confirmed. I have noted his comments about tortoiseshell and turtle shells, and also about the distinctions that ought to be made. The noble Lord also asked how we are to distinguish between birds: or how parts of them can be recognisable. He asked why we could not have a separate Schedule to make it easy to enforce standards. We will look at the points raised. On the question of consultation, also raised by Lord Chelwood, my right honourable friend in another place has been particularly insistent that this Bill at all stages is to be the subject of the widest possible consultation with the voluntary organisations and all others interested. We want these consultations to be ongoing. We want their advice, help and suggestions all the way through consideration of this Bill and even after it is on the Statute Book we shall still want their help in suggesting necessary additions or Amendments to the Schedules.


My Lords, can the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, confirm that the assurance is an absolutely firm one that there will be ample time between Second Reading and Committee stage for voluntary bodies to be consulted, with particular reference to Amendments which they may wish to put forward to the Schedules?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, it all depends on one's definition of "ample time". I would hope we might have started Committee stage before Easter, which gives us some four or five weeks. Whether we complete Committee stage in one day, or whether we have time left over after Easter, I should not like to say. But I know that the officials in the Department are anxious to get on with the consultations, and will be very happy to meet anyone who has points of view to raise.

On the question of existing stocks of things which it will now be illegal to import, compulsory registration of that stock is not provided for at present, but the officials are having discussions with traders who might be holding those stocks. We hope voluntary arrangements might follow. This is something to take back and look at again between now and Committee stage. The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, raised this question and went into some details on the question of vicuna. We already ban the import and export of vicuna hair and skin. It is not easy to identify cloth which contains vicuna hair, but we are considering the possibility and having discussions with various organisations at the moment about adding cloth and yarn to the controls. If this happens we will come back to your Lordships at Committee stage with suitable Amendments. We are going to talk to the trade and are hoping we might have such an Amendment to put forward on Committee. The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, also asked about trade between EEC countries. Our controls will operate against other EEC States until they, too, implement the Convention, so they will not be able to dump stuff on us just because they have not implemented.

The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, spoke about the difficulty of obtaining a copy of the Convention. It is perhaps not customary to put in "a commercial "from the Dispatch Box, but copies of the Convention are still available from Her Majesty's Stationery Office; it is Cmnd. 5459 and it will cost your Lordships 38p. The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, was also concerned about the import of plants. I share his concern on the question of licence forms. Having in the past had to deal with some of the licensing forms issued. I have noted his comments, and I will ask the officials to give consideration to the format of licensing forms for plants to see if we can alter it. We have had the needs of plant growers much in mind, and have consulted expert botanists at all stages on the development of the licensing system we are proposing. I hope the noble Lord will not have too many harsh comments to make about it a little later on in the Session. We are continuing consultations on the content of the Schedules, and these will be continued at all times.

My Lords, very many points have been raised, of which we shall take very careful note. If any noble Lord wishes to have any further information or help in understanding what we have done I hope he will contact us, and come and see us. We consider the views of the scientific authorities, of the voluntary conservation groups and of the trade interests. I hope we will have a fruitful exchange of views between one another over the next few weeks. I can assure your Lordships that all possible steps will be taken to ensure that the provisions in the Bill will be as sensitive and as effective as the subject demands. It is not customary to have a dedication to a Bill from this House, but if it were, this Bill ought to be dedicated to the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones.

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