HL Deb 15 October 1981 vol 424 cc466-7

17 Clause 8, page 10, line 24, after 'means;' insert— '(aa) while that bird is being shown for the purposes of any public exhibition or competition if the time during which the bird is kept or confined for those purposes does not in the aggregate exceed 72 hours;'

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I beg to move that this House cloth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 17. This amendment reinstates the provision of Section 8(2)(b) of the Protection of Birds Act 1954 allowing birds to be kept in small cages whilst at shows or exhibitions provided any period of confinement does not exceed 72 hours. Noble Lords will remember this provision was included in the Bill when it first came to this House and was removed by Government amendment on Report in order to meet the concerns expressed in this House about the use of small cages at shows and exhibitions. The Government did not and do not share this concern. If the birds, and it should be remembered we are concerned only with captive bred specimens, were not happy and content with entering and staying in these cages they would not meet the requirements of all show classes that the birds should be steady and exhibit themselves to advantage. We are also satisfied that bird fanciers as a group care very much for the welfare of their birds and, indeed, it is their concern that larger cages can give birds the feeling that they comply in response to the reflexes induced by sudden movement in their vicinity and then Will damage themselves. This is, of course, one reason why small cages are permitted for transport.

We took the view when we moved the amendment prohibiting the use of small cages at shows that this would provide for an independent review of cage sizes. In most cases it was thought unlikely there would be any need for changes to show cage sizes which have evolved over many decades with the aim of showing birds that feel secure and are therefore steady. These cages could then be licensed for continued use. In the event, the Government receive many representations following the decision of this House and concluded that though there are arguments on both sides we would do better to continue to provide a statutory exemption for birds being shown rather than to deal with the matter by licensing under Clause 16. We have never had substantive reports of harm to birds in small cages in 27 years that this provision has been law.

It applies only to Schedule 3 Part 1 birds which, by definition, must be captive-bred. It would still be an offence to keep wild-bred birds in such a cage. No doubt there are some who will try to condition wild-bred birds to small cages so that they can be passed off as captive bred as the noble Lord, Lord Melchett suggested in Committee on 2nd February. Our widely welcomed proposals in Clause 6 and its schedule to provide a sound basis for aviculture should go a very long way in stamping out this particularly undesirable practice. We believe that the great majority of aviculturalists now support the safeguards which Schedule 3 Part 1 gives them by ensuring that only species plentifully available from captive-bred stocks are shown.

The debates in both Houses have brought home to the avicultural world that there is a concern about show cages. They are therefore taking steps to mount a full review of standards taking into account all that has been learnt in recent years about bird behaviour. Officials from the Department of the Environment are continuing their liaison work with the National Council for Aviculture on cage sizes and the Nature Conservancy Council will be involved. If the experts agree that any of the existing cages are harmful and cause undue stress to the birds it can be expected that the exhibitors who care so much for their birds will make the necessary changes. This review coupled with the new rules on exhibition should ensure that only truly captive-bred birds well used to small cages are eligible for showing. I therefore urge the House to accept this amendment retaining the existing rules on cage sizes.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said amendment.—(The Earl of Avon.)

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Nugent of Guildford)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby has put down an amendment numbered 17AA as an amendment to the Commons Amendment No. 17.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I do not intend to move that amendment.

On Question, Motion (on Commons Amendment No. 17) agreed to.