HL Deb 07 February 1985 vol 459 cc1275-300

7.51 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Lyell) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 22nd November 1984 be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that this order be agreed to. Your Lordships will see that this order is of considerable importance, as it is the first comprehensive piece of wildlife legislation to cover Northern Ireland. The provisions of the order will afford protection to many species of wildlife and they correspond quite closely to Part I of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which brought the law in Great Britain into conformity with four International agreements entered into by the Government of the United Kingdom—the EEC Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds, the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, the Ramsar Convention, which is concerned with the establishment and protection of internationally important wetlands, and the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

The draft order now under consideration contains a considerable number of changes made as a result of the consultation undertaken last spring. The Northern Ireland Assembly welcomed the legislation and in its report to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State put forward some 70 recommendations for amendment, largely concerning matters of detail rather than of principle. Thirty-eight of the suggested amendments are included in the draft report and it has been possible to give the Assembly an assurance that a number of their remaining recommendations are covered in substance by the provisions of the order as at present drafted. I shall refer specifically in due course to some of the more substantive changes resulting from both the consultation process and consideration by the Assembly.

The order has four parts. Part I is procedural and deals with the title and commencement of the order. Part II relates to the protection of birds and other wild creatures and plants. The cornerstone of wild birds protection under EEC rules is that all birds, their nests and eggs are fully protected, and that requirement is achieved in Article 4. Control of bird species is, however, essential; for example, in relation to pest birds which can be damaging to legitimate and necessary activities of mankind, such as agriculture, and to those birds which have traditionally been used for sport or food, or both, to an extent that will maintain populations—I hope that refers to bird populations—at a satisfactory and acceptable level.

The necessary exceptions can be found in Article 5, although inhumane methods of killing and taking of such wild birds are prohibited by virtue of Article 6. This article restates the existing law in relation to the prohibition of traps, snares, hooks and nets, and includes several new methods banned under the EEC directive.

An additional provision has been added since the proposal was published for consultation, making it an offence for a landowner to permit or suffer the use of these prohibited methods on his land. This provision is repeated in connection with wild animals.

Article 7 deals with the sale of live or dead wild birds. The sale of any live wild bird is prohibited and only one species of dead wild bird may be sold; that is the wood pigeon. Regulations will be made, however, to exempt certain individuals, such as taxidermists, from the ban on trade in dead species.

Under Article 9 it will be an offence for any person to be involved in any event where captive birds are liberated for the purpose of being shot or hunted by trained birds of prey, immediately after their liberation. This latter offence is a substantive change made since the proposal was published.

Provisions on the protection of other animals commence with Article 10 and are significant inasmuch as there is no existing law on the subject in Northern Ireland. Thus creatures such as the badger, pine marten, otter, red squirrel and certain butterflies are protected for the first time. A full list of protected creatures is contained in Schedule 5. As your Lordships will see, the English is given in the left-hand column and the Latin names, which I always find to be a source of great amusement and, indeed, of great instruction, are in the right-hand column. If we go back to the articles in the order, your Lordships will see that special protection of plants is covered in Article 14.

I am conscious of the difficulties that there are likely to be in the enforcement of these particular provisions, but it is my intention that the widest forms of educational publicity be employed to impress upon the public the importance of adhering to the need to leave the countryside almost untouched. I say "almost" for the provision is not entirely restrictive; the picking of wild flowers, apart from those in the specially protected category, is still permitted, but for obvious reasons it is an offence to uproot or destroy any wild plant.

Article 15, which deals with the introduction of new species, has a corresponding inclusion in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Many animals which one might think of as being native to Northern Ireland were in fact introduced. That was so long ago that they are now accepted as part of the Northern Ireland scene; for example, the fallow deer, the grey squirrel, the brown hare and, I understand, even rabbits. Perhaps because we have fewer species of animals and plants than other European countries, people in the past introduced exotics to add variety to the countryside and for sporting purposes. Others have escaped from captivity or have been deliberately released. The examples of introductions I mention are, of course, historical, but today there are two important reasons why introductions should be strictly controlled.

In the first place, foreign species may thrive and spread rapidly because of the lack of competition and, like the grey squirrel and mink, they may cause damage to trees, livestock or other forms of property. Secondly, they may cause the number of our native species to decline, by competing for their food and space. The presence of American mink in Northern Ireland is an expensive reminder of how an introduction can be harmful to both property and other wildlife. The penalties for an offence under this article are high and reflect the need for strict controls on non-native species of plants and animals.

Article 16 deals with the establishment of wildlife under which, for example, bird sanctuaries may be designated by order. The provision of this article will not override the existing statutory rights of landowners, as designations will be by agreement only.

The licensing provisions of the order are contained in Article 18. There is a substantial list of activities that may be carried on that are otherwise in contravention of the provisions of the order, provided they are done under and in accordance with a licence issued by the Department of Environment; for example the facility to photograph specially protected birds at or near their nests. In this article there is a further change from the published order, in that a licence relating to the killing of a species will require to specify the particular species which may be killed and the person authorised to do so.

Part III of the order covering Articles 19 to 23 relates to deer. During the late 1970s a number of abortive Deer Bills were introduced at Westminster, and on each occasion they included the protection of deer in Northern Ireland. The final version, the Deer Act 1980 turned out to be a truncated version of earlier Bills, which for technical reasons did not embrace Northern Ireland. An undertaking was then given by the Government that the protection of deer would have inclusion in any wildlife measure coming forward in Northern Ireland. Until now Northern Ireland has had the unenviable distinction of being the only country in Western Europe not to have national laws for the protection of deer.

The new provisions closely follow those contained in the Deer Acts 1963–80 and cover items such as close seasons, nightly shooting times, prohibited weapons, poaching and the purchase and sales of venison. Certain exceptions have been provided which will allow for the veterinary treatment of deer and the killing of deer out of season by an authorised person on certain agricultural land and garden grounds. The exceptions provided for deer farmers and for the purpose of protecting any person threatened by a deer have been limited, in the former case, to specified acts, and in the latter, to circumstances where there is an immediate threat and by the application of a standard of reasonableness to the act carried out. This, again, is a change introduced following the consultation process.

Part IV of the order contains the miscellaneous provisions and deals with standard items such as enforcement, summary prosecutions, penalties and forfeitures and regulations, orders and notices. The level of penalties emphasises the gravity with which any breach of the laws on wildlife is considered.

The order winds up with 13 schedules associated with its various provisions. Although I have touched on several of these I do not wish to take up your Lordships' debating time on the order by covering these in great detail. But on a general basis they describe the various species which are protected and, in the case of deer, prohibited firearms and ammunition. A number of changes have been made to the schedules since the order was published and of course the schedules can be altered by subordinate legislation if circumstances so dictate.

I am confident that your Lordships will agree that this order is necessary to protect the quality of wildlife in Northern Ireland. It places Northern Ireland on an equal footing with the remainder of the United Kingdom on such matters and ensures a comprehensive code that will stand up to the requirements of various international agreements, to which the United Kingdom is a contracting body. With that, I commend the order to your Lordships and I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 22nd November 1984 be approved.—(Lord Lyell).

8.3 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I should like to thanks the noble Lord for his interesting introduction of this order. I think that he has given to us in this House a rather fuller explanation of the order than his colleague the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Northern Ireland in another place gave to Members of the House of Commons. But I suppose one must recognise that the arrangements for the government of Ireland are so unsatisfactory and makeshift that one gets matters relating to Northern Ireland at all sorts of difficult times.

In another place, the Minister rose at three minutes to 12 one evening to move this order and the debate lasted till a quarter-past one. Then a second order came forward, a conservation order relating to Northern Ireland, and the debate on that finished at 20 minutes to three. It seems as if legislation for Northern Ireland goes through an Assembly which is virtually powerless—it is not voiceless, but it is virtually powerless—then it comes to the Westminster Parliament and is spatchcocked in at any odd time, when it is thought it will not matter very much whether many Members of the legislature are present. So in the House of Commons it is a kind of watchnight service, and in your Lordships' House it was intended to be taken during the workers' meal time, when the Floor of the House was deserted because the Refreshment Department had a better menu to offer.

It seems to me that this is no sort of way to govern Northern Ireland and one wonders whether we shall ever see the end of this. It is not parliamentary democracy and it is in sharp contrast to what is done for Scotland. One cannot overlook the consequences of the dreadful state of affairs in Northern Ireland, even on matters of this kind. It goes right down the process of government and administration.

Another point to mention is that it has taken such a long time to come to this order. I admit, as the noble Lord has said, that the lapse of time has enabled changes to be made to bring it more up to date than the literal application of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Nevertheless, we passed the Wildlife and Countryside Act in 1981 and it is now 1985, but none of its provisions is in operation in Northern Ireland so far. One wonders whether something better cannot be done to apply to Northern Ireland legislation passed through the Westminster Parliament which could be broadly applicable to conditions in Northern Ireland.

The noble Lord pointed out that this is the first comprehensive measure of animal protection introduced into Northern Ireland. That is true. Northern Ireland is dreadfully short on protective legislation for animals and wildlife. It is literally the most lawless part of the United Kingdom in this field. I have looked up the significant measures for the protection of animal life in this country to see whether they have applied to Northern Ireland, but the historic Protection of Animals Act 1911 did not apply to Northern Ireland. Scotland had its own Act in the following year, 1912. That Act has been the mainstay of protection for animals in many directions for a long time, but it has not applied in Northern Ireland. I will come in a moment or two to a direction in which that Act could be used in Northern Ireland were it in operation—at least, that is my opinion.

The two matters that I wish to raise on this order relate, first, to badgers—a species in the order—and, secondly, to live hare coursing in Northern Ireland, which is not in the order but which occupied most of the debate in another place from Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland, with one or two English interventions. As regards badgers, the Badgers Act 1973 did not apply to Northern Ireland and, so far as I am aware, there is no protective legislation of any kind in Northern Ireland for badgers. Tomorrow, by coincidence, in the House of Commons a Bill to amend the Wildlife and Countryside Act will be introduced by Dr. David Clark, Member of Parliament.

Clause 1 of the Bill contains a proposal to strengthen the protection of badgers. So here we are, three years after the 1981 Act was passed applicable to the rest of the United Kingdom, on the eve of the introduction of a Bill to amend that Act in one important respect dealing with one important species. I hope that when that Bill comes to your Lordship's House we may look closely at the last proviso which says that it shall not apply to Northern Ireland. Otherwise there will be a lapse of time before we can get the additional protection into the law of Northern Ireland. I am not going to anticipate or to dwell upon the provisions of the Bill which comes before another place tomorrow morning but I stress that it will have an important bearing on what we are doing now.

The other matter with which I want to deal concerns this barbaric practice in Northern Ireland of live hare coursing. I raise it only because, while it is not in the Order, the Minister gave no assurance that the Government anticipated introducing any legislation to deal with it. This particular kind of live hare coursing in Northern Ireland has been described as, more barbaric, cruel and evil than the style practised in the rest of the United Kingdom". What it does is seriously to curtail the opportunity of the hare escaping from the hounds. One of the principles of hare coursing in this country—at any rate, by practice—is that the hare should be given a reasonable chance of getting away; but in Northern Ireland in certain districts—it is probably not universal in Northern Ireland—they practise what is called "Park" hare coursing. This gives a very short run to the hare when it is released and the hounds then drive the hare into an enclosed smaller space where the risk of escape is very much reduced. Indeed, in order to shorten the preceedings, according to the account I read of what happens, the stewards who are in the enclosed part of the area kick the hares to death when they are up against the fence and cannot escape, and then the dogs can go for them and worry them. The stewards kick the hares to death in order to spare them further agony. I must make it clear that this is not my own observation. I have merely read what members who have been present have said. They have indicated also that they have protested on the site of where it is being done.

If we had the Protection of Animals Act 1911 in force in Northern Ireland the probability is that those hares could be regarded as captive animals and not in a wild state at that time. Prosecution would then lie against the perpetrators for unnecessary cruelty to animals. But no such protection is given in Northern Ireland as can be relied upon in this country and so what I have described goes on without restraint except to the extent that a degree of compassion may come upon some people in Northern Ireland, which has not got there yet, and they will voluntarily give some respite to animals subjected to this barbarous treatment.

The Minister was unable to give any assurance of action being taken and indicated that it was a subject with which a Private Members' Bill might deal. Here again I am bound to say that I cannot overlook the shocking way in which successive governments have regarded some matters as suitable for relegation to all the hazards, frustrations and obstructions of the Private Member's Bill procedure. We go on and on, year after year—I was in the House of Commons for 25 years and 30 years altogether in Parliament—and see time and again efforts to make reforms (particularly with animals) make no headway because of the absurd conditions under which legislation by ballot is introduced into our affairs. Governments should either do something themselves or give facilities for Private Members to see their Bills through when they get a Second Reading in either House on a matter of public interest and concern.

That I think, my Lords, ought to do for my contribution to this debate although I do not apologise for it. We are more relaxed now; we are keeping nobody from his supper and keeping nobody else, it seems to me, from his further overtime. So we can at least dwell upon the conditions of Northern Ireland in this respect with a little more peace of mind than otherwise would be the case.

8.16 p.m.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, I should like most warmly to welcome this order. I have anticipated it for so long that I wondered whether any of us here would live to see it. We have been waiting and waiting, and therefore I welcome it most sincerely.

May I say that I was very sad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, talking about hare coursing in those terms because quite honestly he really is not talking sense about what happens. I am not an advocate of hare coursing and would support its abolition. But his description of the barbaric stewards kicking the hare to death is laughable, and in fact destroys the goodness of the case. I believe that this is such an important order that the question of hare coursing should not in any way be allowed to hold it up. It is far too important and there are far too many matters of great importance to worry about that. I wish that before people started talking in those very, very extravagant terms, they would go to Crebilly, the only place in Northern Ireland where it occurs, and see it. It is no way near as barbaric as the noble Lord described, and you do not get people from Ballymena kicking hares to death against a fence. It really is not very sensible.

I welcome most strongly Lord Houghton's advocacy of the protection of the badger. I have a vested interest. The crest of the Brooke family—brock—is a badger so I therefore do not like seeing badgers killed. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, after what I have said about that, will not feel that one brock should be killed in this House.

I should like to tell you, my Lords, that the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, who was a colleague of mine in 1977 during the passage of the 1977 Bill and finally a colleague during the passage of the Deer Act 1980—although I was not able to take very much part because Northern Ireland was in fact excluded—is very sorry not to be here to support this order. But the noble Lord and his band of helpers in Northern Ireland deserve our gratitude for their contribution to the deer section of the order. To Mr. Hotchkis, and to the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, we in Northern Ireland say "Thank you", because if their Bill had not been produced before and passed by Parliament, I think it would be a very long time before we saw any protection for our deer.

This order is about far more than just deer. It is a massive step forward in the protection of wildlife. My noble friend referred to the question of the taking of representations from other people, and I should like to congratulate the Minister and his officials. They have been most attentive and have taken on board such a lot of representations. In spite of the fact that we do not have a government of our own, we have in this order an almost perfect example of consultation and representation.

I have not always felt the usefulness of the Assembly, but I must pay great tribute to them for their work and their attitude in respect of this order; it is the Assembly at its very best. The reports which they have produced are really well worth while reading.

I have few comments to make on the part of this order dealing with birds except to say that I find the schedules difficult to understand. I cannot understand why the curlew is still a bird of quarry in Northern Ireland and not in Great Britain. I should like the Minister to explain why that is so, because I believe it is a mistake. I also find in Schedule 5, which is headed, "Animals which are protected at all times", that there is a list beginning with the badger, followed by bats, butterflies, the newt, etc. In legal terms, is this the right way to classify these animals? Is it all badgers? Will this nullify the problem?

I now turn to the schedule dealing with deer. Here again I must declare an interest. In the 1860s my family introduced into Northern Ireland sika deer, which still inhabit my own home although they travel widely all over the place. They are not our deer in any way; they are the deer of whomsoever's land they live on. Over the past few years, the amount of cruelty that has been imposed upon those wretched animals has increased as the mobility of people has increased. Up until now, they have been liable to be snared and to have any cruelty inflicted upon them.

Five days ago, our local police sergeant found a man crawling up a hill with a crossbow. That is the kind of thing that is going on. Two years ago we picked up 40 animals inside our place which had been shot, either with shotguns or with .22 rifles. Some had died after suffering 14 days of starvation. People imagine that if one shoots a deer in the head the lethal target area is large. In fact, it is very small, and often the deer are wounded in the jaw and then die of starvation. So nobody could welcome this Bill more than I do.

My noble friend has said that the main sources of this draft order are the 1963 and 1980 Acts. My noble friend Lord Northfield's original Bill, as I have said, extended to Northern Ireland, but for reasons of speed the Bill was truncated and was passed without applying to Northern Ireland. But this order has my enthusiastic support.

With regard to deer, I wish to raise four points. The first concerns deer farming; the second, the very complicated subject of ballistics; the third, the marketing of venison; and lastly, the matter of bodies corporate or companies owning land. In the case of deer farming, I wonder whether the Department of Agriculture will examine the provisions in the Scottish legislation; that is, that farm deer should be marked conspicuously and that a deer farm must have an enclosed, deer-proof barrier. It is quite obvious that if deer are not properly fenced, they could easily be shot as being wild deer. A deer-proof barrier must be erected for that reason.

Ballistics is a very complicated subject. I understand that there is a new Scottish regulation which defines the ballistic requirements of rifles or firearms to shoot deer in a proper fashion and without cruelty. So far as I am concerned, I do not like shooting deer; we execute them in order to keep their numbers down and to control them at a reasonable level. I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister this question: if there is a Scottish amendment which finds favour with the Houses of Parliament, will he consider moving an amending order, or will he accept an amending order from somebody like myself?

My third question concerns the marketing of venison. This point was raised in another place. In England, Wales and Scotland, venison may be sold only by licensed game or venison dealers, and their records must be open for public inspection. Will the Government give an assurance that the same will happen in this case? It is vital to get evidence from such records. It should be mandatory that those records should be inspected. Lastly, will the Government make it clear that this order does apply to company-owned land or to corporately owned land?

A problem arises on page 24 of the order. Article 22(3) states: A person shall not be guilty of an offence under paragraph (1) or (2) by reason of anything done in the reasonable belief that— (a) he would have the consent of the owner or occupier of the land if the owner or occupier knew of his doing it and the circumstances of it". This means that if somebody poaches on somebody else's land and is caught, he may go to the person on whose land he was poaching and say, "I am in trouble. I am going to be prosecuted. Will you say that you would have given permission if I had asked for it—even though I didn't ask for it?" In a small country such as Northern Ireland, I believe that will get an awful lot of people off. I should like my noble friend the Minister to explain why, when the Assembly recommended the deletion of that provision, he has in fact included it.

Finally, it is all very well to produce new duties which have to be performed, but I would like an assurance from the Government that they will provide sufficient resources to enforce these new duties, which are being imposed on an already overworked group of people who have, without proper legislation, done a very fine job. I welcome this order.

8.27 p.m.

Lord Dunleath

My Lords, this order deserves a broad welcome because, like the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands Order which we debated last Monday, this is something of an enhancement to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 effective in Great Britain. Whereas I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, that there has been impatience and that we have been waiting this long, perhaps the intervening years have not been entirely a disadvantage because certain lessons have been learnt over that period of time.

Turning to the detail of this order, reference was made to Article 4(1) and (5) by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough. We wonder why both the curlew and the scaup have been omitted from Schedule 1, Part I, of the order but appear in Part I of Schedule 2. This means that those two varieties of birds—the curlew and the scaup—do not appear in the schedule of birds which are protected by special penalties at all times, but they do appear in the schedule of birds which may be killed or taken outside the close season. I shall be grateful if the noble Lord will tell us why it is considered that these two varieties of birds are not so much worthy of protection in Northern Ireland as they are in Great Britain.

In Article 4(10) I assume that power will now be given to give particular protection to quarry species during prolonged periods of cold weather. This has been something of an anomaly in the past in that such protection was apparently available in Great Britain but not in Northern Ireland. I sincerely hope that the department will make use of what seem to be new powers to afford such protection when weather conditions so justify it.

Article 7(2)(a) refers to the sale of dead wild birds. Perhaps I have not read this correctly, but I wonder what is to happen to people who have large pheasant shoots whereby they supplement the wild pheasant by pheasant which they have reared and help to defray the cost of rearing pheasant by selling what are left over at the end of the shoot. Similarly, if the sale of pheasants is not permitted—and who can tell whether they are wild or reared birds which have been shot—how will the restaurants and hotels be able to obtain them to put them on the menu? The same applies to grouse, which are certainly wild, and the more expensive restaurants regard it as a matter of pride to have them on their menus as soon as possible after the shooting season opens.

I move to a matter of somewhat greater substance. Article 12(2)(b) and (c)(iv) if I am reading them correctly, makes it an offence to take by means of a net or artificial lighting any of the wild animals listed in Schedule 6. Among the wild animals listed in Schedule 6 are the brown hare and the Irish hare. Therefore, if that is a correct interpretation of the order, how, I ask, will those who conduct hare coursing be able to catch hares in the future? Those hares are not caught in twos or threes. They have to be caught by the dozen in order to furnish, in particular, the two-day coursing event which takes place at Crebilly, near Ballymena, on 26th and 27th December each year. If the Irish Coursing Club is correct in saying that no hare is coursed twice on the same day, it must take two, three or even four dozen hares to provide for those activities on those two days alone.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, referred to the brutality and bestiality of this so-called sport. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, seemed to feel that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, had been given an exaggerated impression of the cruelty involved. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said that he had never been to a coursing meeting. I do not know whether or not the noble Viscount has been to one, but I have been on three occasions and I can testify that when the hare is caught before it reaches the escape hatch and is in process of being torn to pieces while still alive by two greyhounds the stewards move in, sometimes with commendable rapidity and sometimes with deplorable lethargy. They attempt to remove the hare from the two hounds that are pulling it apart and when they have done so they either beat it to death with sticks or kick it. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that he need not be comforted by the words spoken by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough. It is every bit as cruel as he imagines it to be; and I can say that from personal knowledge.

The honourable friend in another place of the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, has been patient in explaining on several occasions the difficulties involved in introducing legislation to ban park coursing of live hares in Northern Ireland—park coursing being quite a different activity to open coursing as practised in Great Britain. But the question I should like to ask now is: am I right in interpreting Article 12 as stipulating that hares cannot be taken by netting or by the use of artificial lights? Does the noble Lord feel that that article, and the clauses to it, can be enforced? If they cannot be enforced, those clauses should not be there. We all know that unenforceable laws are bad laws. If they can be enforced, I envisage this as being the end of live park coursing of hares in Northern Ireland. If coursing continues next winter, I suggest that the department, backed by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, should investigate how those hares are caught and should not be fobbed off by any excuses.

One cannot catch enough hares to run a coursing meeting with a sack or by putting salt on their tails, or anything like that. Therefore, I suggest that this is something which should be followed up with the greatest assiduity. The subject of live hare coursing in Northern Ireland has been talked around many times, but this evening I should welcome and be very grateful for an unequivocal answer from the noble Lord as to whether or not he is prepared to ensure that this part of Article 12 will be enforced and whether he will take steps to find out, if it is enforced, by what other means the hares can be captured for the purpose of coursing.

In Article 20 there are exemptions to the provisions of Article 12, including one which refers to Article 12(2)(e). Will the noble Lord be kind enough to tell us what paragraph 2(e) consists of? I cannot find it in my copy of the 1984 draft order. I may be stupid—in fact, I know I am stupid because not only my adversaries but also my friends never weary of telling me that I am—but I cannot see it and I should be grateful if the noble Lord would tell us what it is about. Perhaps it is a misprint. Perhaps it is supposed to be (d) and not (e), which appeared in the 1983 draft referring to the use of mechanically propelled vehicles for, I think, mainly the purpose of pursuing deer. If it is an error, what will the noble Lord do about it, bearing in mind that we are told that these orders, unlike Bills, cannot be amended. I shall be glad to hear his kind explanation of this apparent inconsistency.

Finally, Article 16(5)(b) refers to the notification of landowners and interested parties where action involving reserves and similar restrictive action is to be taken in the interests of nature conservation. Where it is not practicable to notify each interested party individually, it is said that they will be notified by advertising in the local paper circulating in the area. I respectfully suggest that when the time comes it should be by several prominent advertisements in all the local papers circulating in the area. I know, as I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, knows, that when there are several local newspapers some people read one paper and others read another. All too easily, therefore, such advertisements can be missed, particularly in cases of applications for planning permission. Similarly, I suggest that such advertisements should be prominent, be repeated and be in every newspaper which is likely to be read in the area in question.

I welcome the order. I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on having brought it forward. It has received a broad welcome in Northern Ireland by the Assembly and by the Assembly's Environment Committee, but I should be most grateful to the noble Lord if he could reply to the various points that I have made.

8.40 p.m.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, I should like to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, who complained that debates on Northern Ireland legislation always appear to take place in the dinner hour, when there is nobody here. I think that that is rather an insult to Northern Ireland.

I shall not follow the noble Lord over hare-coursing, but I have seen it in Northern Ireland and here. My noble friend has left the Chamber, but let me say that one cannot compare coursing in this country with coursing in Northern Ireland. It is like comparing chalk with cheese. In this country it is completely open and all the hares are wild. There are 12, 20 or 30 beaters who may bring the hares in from an area of up to 2,000 acres. There are two posts, say 100 yards apart, and a few of the hares will come between those posts. It is completely open. There is the slipper with two greyhounds. He has a man beside him who passes the hare—in other words, if the hare is not strong, he will not give the slipper permission to loose the greyhounds. The greyhounds are unleashed 70 or 100 yards behind the hare, and the hare has to go only 400 yards before he can get cover in kale or gorse. The object of the coursing is not to kill the hare. It is to test the greyhounds. The first greyhound to turn the hare gets the points. Of course he may turn it twice or even three times, but the hare nearly always gets away.

That cannot be compared with coursing in Northern Ireland. I have seen it in Ballymena, not lately but a few years ago. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that it is almost akin—although this is an exaggeration of course—to the circuses of ancient Rome. I would call it barbaric.

I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister one or two questions, and I shall be extremely quick. Article 4 concerns bird-nesting and all that sort of thing. But how are children to know the various birds? I used to bird-nest as a boy. To a certain extent I can also bring in here Article 10 regarding butterflies. How are adults to recognise the various butterflies? I am rather hurt that in the list of butterflies is not included one of the rarest butterflies in the country—the Massereene Blue. I am afraid that they have rather died out in Ireland. There are one or two around in Scotland still, but they were in Ireland. Perhaps in post offices and on public notice boards there should be diagrams and pictures of these rare butterflies and birds that are not allowed to be taken.

The other matter about which I was rather perplexed, like my noble friend (I am not allowed to call him so but of course he is my noble friend) Lord Dunleath, is dead or captive birds. My noble friend mentioned dead birds but I am talking about captive birds that are released to be hawked or shot. It has been against the law in this country ever since the turn of the century, or even before, to allow captive birds out of a cage and shoot them. They are certainly never hawked. I am all for this order, but I do not think that this part is really necessary. It appears to be repetitive.

The other point that I should like to speak about is this question that my noble friend brought up. If one has a big shoot it need not involve reared pheasants. It could be wildfowl. There are no big shooting parties in Ireland now. What happens if one is duck-flighting with four or five guns and 40 or 60 duck are shot? One cannot eat them all. One cannot sell them. Is one supposed to bury them? I should like to know the answer to that.

Going back to Article 10, I think it is an excellent article concerning the complete protection of what are described as structures for concealing, for instance, wild birds. They like particular cover. The article is widely drawn of course, but I think that that is all to the good. One may sometimes infringe the law unwittingly. For instance, owls are now very scarce in Ireland. I do not know whether there are any barn owls left. If there are, presumably the order will stop people pulling down old barns, which of course are the chief nesting places of barn owls, as well as old trees. I suppose if there was an owl in an old tree and one cut down the tree, one could be infringing the order.

The Northern Ireland legislation copies the English Wildlife and Countryside Act to a great extent, but it varies a bit. A great advance on the English Act is the provision regarding self-locking snares. I think that it is excellent that they cannot even be brought or manufactured now. That is how I understand the order. Perhaps I am wrong. But free-running snares can still be used. I should like to see all snares abolished. I have seen horrible results from snares. As a small boy I used to go round with my parents' keepers, and I did not like snaring at all. I think it is extremely cruel.

I shall try to end as quickly as I can, but I must say something about deer. I introduced all the original Deer Acts into this House—the basic Acts. There are very few deer in Ireland. There are a few red deer in Donegal, Glen Veagh, and some down in Kerry and Killarney. We have quite a lot of fallow deer. The landowners used to have deer in their parks. I think that my father had about 800 to 1,000 fallow deer in his park, but at the same time he allowed the public free access to the park on Sunday. The deer have escaped from a great number of these parks now and they are all over Ireland. There are a few Sika deer in County Down, as my noble friend pointed out. He has disappeared again; I saw him a moment ago! I am so glad that deer are to be protected in Ireland now.

The other excellent thing about the order is concerning weapons. One can shoot only with a rifle of 240 calibre. One article says that nothing may be shot—that is including deer—with any missile unless it is a dischargeable firearm. That presumably excludes crossbows, so it will outlaw them. But it also mentions a spear. I have never heard of anyone chasing game with a spear, unless it was in prehistoric times.

I think that I have said pretty well everything that I want to say. However, I shall say something about the curlew. On Monday, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, lamented the fact that the curlew was not on the protected list. I quite agree with him. It is very beautiful to hear that plaint cry over the marshes. But in the North of Ireland there are on the whole more curlew per acre than there are in the rest of Great Britain. I may be wrong on that point. I cannot understand why anyone should want to shoot a curlew. They are filthy to eat. They are just palatable if they have been feeding inland, otherwise they are extremely unpleasant. However, I suppose one must give some opportunity to Irishmen to shoot something. It might stop them shooting themselves.

In relation to hares, I hope that one day something will be done to stop the revolting practice of coursing an enclosed animal. If the hare escapes, it escapes into a small enclosure and it is then caught again. In other words, it is recycled. It can be coursed again the next day. I think that is appalling. I welcome the order. I apologise, my Lords, if I have spoken for too long.

8.51 p.m.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, it is with a sense of déjà vu that I have studied this order because I have found so many passages that were identical, or nearly identical, to the Wildlife and Countryside Act with which we in this Chamber had so much fun four years ago. Of course the difference is that on this occasion we cannot put down any amendments. If we could, I should probably have put down a dozen or 20. We have either to accept the order as it stands, or reject it. I understand that at some future date there may be an order in council under which parts of it could be changed. If that is so, I hope that some suggestions that have been made tonight, and some of those which I intend making, may be embodied in that order.

I should like to start by expressing my complete agreement with all or most of what was said by my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby regarding the coursing of hares. We heard soon afterwards from the have been completely accurate in his description of the coursing when he said that the hares were not actually kicked to death by the officials. However, whether they are or not, I think this odious practice should be ended at once.

The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, has left us for a few moments. When he expressed the belief that Article 12(2)(a) of this order would prevent the taking of hares for use in coursing, I am afraid that he did not notice that it makes it illegal to set in position any of those articles, traps, gin snares, hooks etc. of such a nature and so placed as to be calculated to cause bodily injury to any wild animal included in Schedule 6. Of course when hares are being taken for coursing, the last thing you want to do is to cause any bodily injury to them. Therefore, as I read it that article does not provide any protection for the unfortunate hares that are taken, by one means or another, in order to be coursed the next day or the following day in the ways described so eloquently by my noble friend.

I am principally interested in wild birds. I wish to refer to one or two matters in the schedules in this order, to which I feel I should draw your Lordships' attention. I withstand the temptation to raise any objections to parts of this order that do not differ from the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Although I could object to those parts which are identical, they have been accepted in the Wildlife and Countryside Act and I cannot expect them to be any different here.

However, may I ask your Lordships to glance at Schedule 1, which is the list of species? I wish that the parliamentary draftsmen would use the word "species" rather than "kind" because "species" is quite specific and means precisely what it says, and "kind" is a very vague phrase which could mean anything. In Schedule 1, Part I of the order there are set out the species that are protected by special penalties. There is a similar schedule in the Wildlife and Countryside Act. It differs quite considerably from the list in this order.

For example, the avocet, the little bittern, the bluethroat, and several of the buntings are included in the Wildlife and Countryside Act but not here. The long-eared owl, the short-eared owl, the storm petrel, the tree pipit and various others are included here but not in the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

I know that in most cases this is because the distribution of these birds differs as between Northern Ireland and Britain. Some birds that may be more common here are scarce there, and vice versa. But it does seem to me that there are some strange omissions from this list. For instance, the brambling, which is a charming little bird, which I have seen in Ireland, not in the north but at my home which is only 10 miles away, is excluded from this list. The redstart, which is not included in Britain, is included here but the black redstart is included in the Wildlife and Countryside Act but not here. Both species occur in both countries. So the list does seem to be drafted in rather a capricious way.

The fault about this list, which was also a fault in the corresponding schedule in the Wildlife and Countryside Act, to which I drew attention at the time, is that this contains the fairly rare birds but not the really rare ones—which are not given any special protection. Therefore, about two or three years ago when an American Kingfisher mysteriously appeared, not in Northern Ireland, as it happens, but in the Republic—the only one that has ever been seen there and no one can explain how it arrived—soon after it arrived it was shot and stuffed. I have spoken to the taxidermist. It is quite illegal in the Republic. However, if that bird, a really uncommon bird, is shot in Northern Ireland, it is not subject to any special protection.

Noble Lords have already heard references by the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, and I think by the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, to the scaup and the curlew. I particularly want to refer to both of these. The scaup is an uncommon duck. It seems to be quite extraordinary that in Britain, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, it comes under the list of those birds that are specially protected at all times. In this order it is specially protected during the close season but outside the close season it is one of the species that can be shot dead. That seems to me to be most extraordinary. If it is specially protected during the close season and specially protected all the year round in Britain, why are you allowed to shoot in outside the close season in Ireland?

Then we have the curlew. The noble Viscount has spoken about the melancholy cry of the curlew which most of us know so well. I do not want to appeal to sentimental instincts, but why shoot a curlew? You cannot eat it. The noble Viscount perhaps has eaten it—or he says it does not taste very nice. I do not know of people who go out and shoot the curlew for the pot. Every other species on the list in Part I of Schedule 2 without exception is edible. They are legitimate game birds. All are duck or geese with the exception of the golden plover, which is a reasonably edible bird. The curlew, a charming bird, is a wader and inedible. It is not all that common. Yet it can be killed or taken outside the close season. I wish to put in a plea for the curlew.

I have spoken already for longer than I had intended. I think that the feral pigeon should be included, as it is in the Wildlife and Countryside Act, with the wood pigeon in Schedule 3. I believe that the collared dove, which is doing a great deal of damage and which has reached more than pest proportions, but which is ignored in the order should be included, as it is in the Wildlife and Countryside Act, in Part II of Schedule 2.

I wish to mention the extraordinary Part I of Schedule 9, dealing with animals that may not be released into the wild. I do not know why one should have a special prohibition on introducing, in particular, the birds on that list. There are two American ducks, the Carolina Wood Duck and the ruddy duck, which are already established in the wild. There is the barnacle goose and the Canada goose, one of them a natural wild bird and the other introduced and now established. There is the golden pheasant, which has also been established in the wild although it is not indigenous. Suddenly we are told that none of these birds may be bred and released. You cannot release a golden pheasant but the other introduced pheasants such as Lady Amherst's pheasants, and so on can be introduced. That is a great pity. People should be encouraged to breed and release into the wild birds of this sort that do no harm. In some cases they are game birds or birds of quarry. It is extraordinary that they should be prohibited.

9.2 p.m.

Lord Prys-Davies

My Lords, I, too, wish to thank the Minister for his explanation of the background to the order and also for his very full explanation of its main provisions. We have had an excellent debate. One regrets that the Benches are so empty. I am sure, however, that the Minister and the department must be very pleased with the contributions that have been made by noble Lords.

We have been told that the draft order draws heavily on the basic principles and many of the detailed provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 applying in Great Britain. There has been delay in following the example of the 1981 Act. But, as we have heard, the delay has meant some gain as well as loss. Indeed, some conservationists regard the order as being in some respects an improvement on the 1981 Act. Again, all the provisions of the order are not new. To some extent, the order consolidates the existing law. We should take this opportunity of acknowledging the important part played by the Wild Birds Protection Act (Northern Ireland) 1931.

We welcome the order because it goes far beyond the scope of the 1931 Act, beyond the consolidation, and protects, as the Minister has explained, flora, fauna and the deer. We agree that it must be seen as a huge step forward. We congratulate the Minister and his team on the order. The Northern Ireland Assembly quickly recognised the potentially wide public interest in the subject matter of the order. We know that it invited evidence from a wide cross-section of the public in Northern Ireland and, indeed, from United Kingdom organisations. It received evidence from about 34 organisations that had gone carefully through the order. There emerged many points that were thoroughly scrutinised by the Assembly, which also had the benefit of the valuable guidance of my noble friend Lord Melchett.

According to my calculations, the Assembly came up with about 59 amendments to the original draft. We are pleased to find that most of the interested organisations, which have specialist knowledge in this field are broadly satisfied with the Government's response. The Government have incorporated most of the amendments in the draft order now before the House and have given a satisfactory response to most of the remaining recommendations. According to my calculations, only about half a dozen of the Assembly's recommendations have been rejected. The Government have rejected the argument for compiling a register of rare captive birds. And, rather surprisingly in the light of experience in Great Britain, they have rejected the need for a public inquiry where more than one landowner or occupier raises objections to the establishment of a wildlife refuge.

The Government have not gone as far as some people would wish in strengthening protection against the unlawful pursuit of deer. Wildlife protection is difficult to enforce. There is disappointment that the Government have not accepted the argument for giving powers of enquiry to bona fide wardens. However, we appreciate the difficulty of giving such powers to wardens.

As we have heard more than once, the Government have resisted the insertion of the curlew and the scaup in Schedule 1, Part I, although the curlew was not supported by the Assembly, as I understand its proceedings. I should like to place on record the concern of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds as well as the concern expressed by many noble Lords that these two birds may still be hunted in Northern Ireland. The Government have also rejected the amendment that would make the coursing of hares in enclosed parks illegal.

There is no way of amending the order. That is the tragedy of government in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, we can best help by asking whether the Government, in rejecting these amendments, have failed to tackle a major mischief which calls for legislation or whether they have failed to tackle a basic weakness in the structure of wildlife preservation in Northern Ireland.

On the evidence given to the Assembly—and I have no other information on the matter except the evidence of noble Lords—it would appear that the coursing of hares in enclosed parks is seen by the majority of people in Northern Ireland and elsewhere as a major mischief which calls for legislation. It has been described as barbaric, revolting and odious. Subject to the Minister's reply to the question arising out of Article 12 from the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, it seems to me that the Government think that the mischief can be met by the sport, if that is the correct word, reforming itself.

The Government have refused to introduce legislation in this particular order, claiming that this would represent a significant change in the policy content of the order. Can the Minister tell us in what way the Government see this as a significant change in the policy content of the order? I understand the words, but I am not quite certain that I understand the meaning of the words.

Then the Government claim that they could not accept the amendment that would make hare coursing illegal without a further round of consultations, and with resultant delay. I accept that that argument is not without merit, but if that is the argument, why do not the Government commit themselves to the introduction of new legislation at a later stage instead of relying, as we have seen, on the sport to reform itself or, as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has said, on a Private Member's Bill, assuming that a private Member is lucky in the ballot? Why do we have to rely on these procedures?

I have already mentioned that the Government are not prepared to give to bona fide wardens powers of inquiry similar to those vested in the police. One appreciates the Government's position, and there are difficulties. On the other hand, there is considerable concern in the Assembly and among interested organisations—and this concern has been voiced in the House this evening—as to whether the enforcement provisions in Article 25 are adequate. People are very anxious that the provisions of the order should be fully implemented.

I see in the Explanatory Memorandum that the Government have taken note of this concern and have promised to monitor the implementation of the order over the first years of its operation and to take appropriate action if it proves to be necessary. But we hear so often nowadays of a government or an organisation monitoring this, that or the other. Can the Minister tell the House how the Government propose to monitor the implementation of this order? How will they monitor the enforcement of the order? What steps will they take to this end?

Again, there is the question raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, as to what additional resources in terms of staff and money would be made available to ensure the effective implementation of the order. Indeed, can it work without additional staff and money? Anticipating what the Minister may say, we obviously appreciate that the sky is not the limit. But when the 1981 Act was passed in Great Britain the Secretary of State said that he was not going to be responsible for passing legislation and then not producing the money to make it work. That was the assurance given to Parliament in 1981. Can the Minister give a similar assurance to the House in respect of the application of this order?

In this context I should also wish to make reference to Article 4(10), which enables Northern Ireland to join in the special protection measures for quarry species in cold weather, which is currently in force in Great Britain but which to date anomalously excludes Northern Ireland. Interested organisations are concerned that the application of this article should not be weakened by any lack of resolve on the part of the Northern Ireland Office. Will the Minister give the House that assurance? I believe that one of the noble Lords who has spoken this evening also seeks that assurance.

This leads me to another question, which is this. Given the resources, can the order work effectively without the backing of an independent body? A number of witnesses proposed that such a body be set up, and they were powerfully supported by my noble friend Lord Melchett. Indeed, they were powerfully supported by my noble friend Lord Underhill in the debate on the other order on Monday evening. As I understand it, it would be a body combining nature conservation and countryside interests. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Melchett had in mind a wildlife and countryside commission. In his evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly, my noble friend Lord Melchett concentrated much of his advice and attention on this omission. It was his considered view—and these were his words—that there was an: absolutely overwhelming case for an independent commission to get this legislation working". Those were his words. Such a body would take the initiative, where initiative was called for; and it would be an important centre of information and expert knowledge. Is there not a good precedent for saying that, in the non-political arena, an official framework at one remove from Government is a more suitable structure for consolidation and advance, than departmental control?

Therefore, we have our reservations. There is a major mischief which has not been met. We have our reservations about the resource implications of the order and the reservation that it is not supported by an independent commission. But, having said that, we give our support to the order. We, and more importantly the organisations with a special interest in conservation of wildlife and our heritage, are very pleased at the way in which the order will enable Northern Ireland to fulfil its international obligations and at the same time meet local demands in the Province for the preservation of the wildlife and the countryside of the Province.

9.16 p.m.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships will be immensely impressed and grateful for the very close attention which has been given to this order this evening. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton—who takes such a close interest in these matters—opened with a fair attack upon the Government and the "usual channels" for permitting such matters to be discussed at a late hour. This has been a fascinating discussion and a far higher proportion of those of your Lordships who are actually in the Chamber have spoken than certainly on any other measures when I have been present. I am sure that the noble Lord and all of your Lordships will agree that the quality of debate and discussion and, as the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, has put it, the interrogation of Ministers and of the Government has been at an exceptional level this evening.

I shall begin with the questions and queries that were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and I shall try to answer some of them. I would stress to the noble Lord that we in your Lordships' House are a different species from any of those mentioned in the order. The noble Lord made one or two references to the Assembly. As the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, has continued to play a very full part in the Assembly, I should like to take the opportunity to express the Government's gratitude for all the work that has been done by the Assembly and by many others to bring the order into the shape that it is in this evening. It could not have been done were it not for the tremendous work carried out by all kinds of interested bodies and in that respect the Members of the Assembly are very much to the fore.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, raised the Protection of Animals Act 1911. The noble Lord will not be surprised to know that I was not entirely aware of all the measures and how they did or did not apply to animals which may or may not be still alive or extinct in Northern Ireland. But I understand that the Act did apply to Northern Ireland and that it was replaced by the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 1972. That Act updated and widened the provisions of the 1911 Act. The noble Lord will be interested to note that the 1972 Act outlaws actions which cause unnecessary suffering to wild animals, and of course that includes badgers.

I understand that no prosecutions have ever been taken out regarding cruelty to hares at coursing meetings. That of course will not necessarily be news to the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, who fairly recently this year took close interest in the Crebilly coursing meeting. I and others of your Lordships acquainted with the Northern Ireland press were interested to read of the adventures of the noble Lord at this meeting. I understand that he suffered treatment that was close to the treatment purportedly meted out to some of the hares. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, wished to take a fairly strong line—as indeed did many of your Lordships who have spoken—with park hare coursing.

The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, will be aware—I hope he will bear with me—of the objections raised by the Northern Ireland Assembly about certain specific rules and the practices of park coursing. These were discussed with the controlling body of coursing in Ireland, the Irish Coursing Club. That body has now introduced a number of practical changes this season to bring coursing in Northern Ireland more into line with coursing as practised in Great Britain.

The Government believe that voluntary action of this sort is both the quickest and the most fitting response to the objections to park coursing, but that in view of this particular development we do not think it is appropriate for the present to introduce legislation on this particular subject, especially when we are considering the order before us this evening. We consider that the introduction of provisions banning park coursing would have gone a great distance away from the policy content of the draft Wildlife Order as we have it this evening, and would certainly, under the existing conventions of legislation, have required considerable further consultation which would of course seriously delay progress on the order before us this evening.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and all your Lordships who have spoken would agree that this would have been unacceptable in view of the obligations of the Government under the European Community directives on standards for the conservation and the protection of wild birds. I hope that that goes most of the way, even if it might not go all the way, to answer some of the questions which have been raised on park coursing of hares.

My noble friend Lord Brookeborough raised a number of points. In answer to my noble friend Lord Brookeborough, the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken—the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, left the curlew at rest—I am able to tell your Lordships that the curlew appears in Schedule 2 because in Schedule 1 these birds are detailed as carrying a special penalty.

These birds in Schedule 1—whatever their other attributes, and whatever the attributes of the curlew—carry a special penalty because they represent a threatened breeding species in Northern Ireland. That is the reason they appear in Schedule 1. Their continued existence requires additional protection from human interference. I think that the protection is set out fairly clearly in the ferocity—if I can put it that way—of the penalties for shooting or killing these birds.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, if the noble Lord is leaving the curlew, may I intervene to point out that we are not saying that the curlew should be included in Schedule 1 and given special protection. We are saying that it should not be in Schedule 2, Part I, which allows people to shoot it. The great mass of birds do not come into either schedule, and we say that the curlew should be one of them.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I think my case will rest if we could pursue this. I shall write to the noble Lord, if he has a specific point. We believe that it should be satisfactorily placed in Schedule 2.

Lord Kilbracken

But, my Lords, that is not correct.

Lord Lyell

I am sorry, my Lords—

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, this really—

Baroness Trumpington


Lord Lyell

My Lords, I am sorry if the noble Lord does not agree, but I must get on with this; otherwise we shall be with the curlew all evening. I appreciate the strength of the noble Lord's feeling, but I hope he will accept that we believe that the curlew receives adequate protection—apart from the question of its attributes. It may or may not be edible; I shall not ask my noble friend Lord Massereene whether it is. We have heard his records of other birds.

My noble friend Lord Brookeborough raised the question of deer and deer farming. Article 20(2)(b) recommends that we adopt the Scottish provisions which are found in Section 7 of the Deer (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 1982. We recommend in particular that the areas are conspicously marked to indicate that deer are kept.

The present provisions of Article 20 were drafted on the basis that it would be difficult simply to define deer farming, but a system whereby the Department of Agriculture had to certify deer farmers as being suitable to receive the exemption should be adopted. This was agreed with the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland. The conditions included in the Scottish definition of "deer farming" will be brought to the attention of the Department of Agriculture, Northern Ireland, in connection with its certification of deer farmers.

My noble friend also asked about offences under Article 7. I am given to understand that such a provision already applies in connection with offences against Section 20(2) of the Interpretation (Northern Ireland) Act 1954. This is applied to the order before us by Article 2(1).

My noble friend asked about specified firearms. He and your Lordships will notice that the description of firearms and ammunition is very complicated. I am afraid that we shall need to clarify any aspects which require this through meetings with the representatives of the relevant sporting organisations. But I stress to my noble friend that we shall take account of any measures in the Scottish order on this subject.

My noble friend also asked about provisions for game dealers. I am happy to tell him that a licensed game dealer is already required to maintain appropriate records regarding deer, as he will find in Section 3 of the Game Preservation (Northern Ireland) Act 1928. He will find a reference to that in Schedule 12; but in Section 3 of that Act there are requirements in regard to records. Also, there are further requirements in the Miscellaneous Transfers Excise Duties Act 1972.

The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, had a query, as had the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, who raised it in absentia warning me that he hoped that we would be able to protect the scaup. We feel that it is justifiable to include this particular species in Schedule 2, Part I, which has what we call the quarry list because, first of all, unlike the British situation, this duck occurs mainly inland in Northern Ireland rather than on the coast, as I understand is the case in Great Britain. Secondly, on Loch Neagh which I am given to understand is its major haunt in Northern Ireland, the scaup occurs in large flocks with other quarry species from which it is difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate in conditions of average, let alone, poor visibility. One can see other species which fly in association with these flocks of scaup, such as tufted duck, golden eye and pochard. I am told that even to those of your Lordships who are expert, perhaps like the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, or my noble friend in average visibility it is quite difficult to differentiate between a scaup, the golden eye or the pochard.

The third reason that we are including scaup in Schedule 2, Part I, is that in practice we believe the species is not subject to any pressure or danger from shooting. But, as with all species in all schedules, the status of scaup will be kept under constant review; and should the case for increased protection for the species become apparent, the department will make the necessary alterations to the schedule.

My noble friend Lord Brookeborough, if I may return to one of his queries which I am afraid I did not cover, asked me about Article 22, paragraph 3, concerning the prevention of poaching. This particular paragraph 3 in Article 22 is drawn straight from the Deer Act 1980 and its purpose is two-fold. First, it is considered desirable in our opinion to make provision for the case where a person acts under a genuine misapprehension—in spite of what my noble friend spelled out to me—and also to enable a deer hunt or to pursue deer without necessarily obtaining the prior permission of the owner or occupier of the land. The term that we used, "the reasonable belief' provides, we hope, an objective standard to the court to apply. We do not see the provision as providing a major loophole enabling offenders to escape prosecution.

If I may return to the query of the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, about the sale of pheasants, from my preliminary reading of the order (and it has been confirmed) the noble Lord will see the sale of live or dead birds dealt with in Article 7. He will find that in Article 2, in the definition clause, a "game bird" covers any pheasant the like of which he was describing. But I am sure that he would appreciate that these birds, pheasants, wild, reared or whatever, may be sold as they are covered by the game preservation Acts of Northern Ireland. The sale and trade in dead pheasants certainly are covered by these particular Acts. Should my noble friend wish to sell pheasants or instal them in his deep freeze for further sale, I do not think he will be committing any offence, so he can sleep easily in his bed tonight.

The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, also raised the question of wildlife refuges. He will find this in Article 16. In practice, we hope that as much publicity as possible will be given in as many local newspapers as the department deems fit. If the noble Lord believes that we have not advertised in local newspapers in his area or if any of your Lordships believe that we have given insufficient publicity, we shall very soon hear about it and we shall take steps to see that this omission is remedied.

The noble Lord also had a query about the taking of the creatures, the animals, in Schedule 6: these may not be killed or taken by certain methods under the provisions of that schedule. The provision relating to the taking of hares for coursing, or indeed its regulation, is in the Game Preservation Act for Northern Ireland of 1928. That is amended by the Game Law (Amendment) Act for Northern Ireland of 1951. The noble Lord will find this in Section 7D, paragraph 4, of the 1951 Act.

The noble Lord had one more query about Article 20 and paragraph 1 of that—exceptions to Articles 12 to 19. I must apologise because that was a misprint: it should read Article 12(2)(d). I am advised that a change of this nature can be corrected by the printers in the final version of the order, should we pass it this evening.

My noble friend Lord Massereene made a number of interesting points during his speech and referred naturally to hare coursing. He asked how one would identify varying species. I am able to tell him that it is the intention of the department that as much publicity as possible, including photographic reproductions of certain protected species, will be given to school children, to other interested bodies and also of course to the general public.

My noble friend, I am afraid, lost me over the matter of hawking. He is an expert on that, and of course hawking is banned in the order. My noble friend asked me about crossbows. I understand they certainly will be outlawed under the provisions of the order. My noble friend further asked me about the sale of ducks—for example, if one held a wildfowl shoot, could one sell them? I understand that from time to time orders will be made by the department allowing the sale of duck species under the conditions which are referred to. I believe the power is given in Article 7(2)(a) and perhaps my noble friend would study that. I understand the sale of duck is permitted under certain conditions so that, should my noble friend organise a wildfowl expedition, he will not be breaking the law if he sells such birds as he decides not to eat.

The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, was quite correct in saying that some birds are more rare in Britain than in Northern Ireland. I hope that goes some way towards his thoughts on the curlew. He asked me about the brambling. I understand this occurs in winter only. We have no records of it in the summer in Northern Ireland. The noble Lord mentioned—is it the black redstart?—

Lord Kilbracken


Lord Lyell

I am obliged to the noble Lord. I understand this does not breed and does not qualify in Schedule 1, Part I, in Northern Ireland. I am advised that is very much applicable to those birds which breed in Northern Ireland and not to birds which visit Northern Ireland.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, how about the Bewick swan and the Whooper swan, neither of which breeds in Northern Ireland?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, perhaps I may take that up with my advisers and write to the noble Lord. We may in the course of our discussions discover that this creature is really a bird of passage and not a resident.

Lord Kilbracken

It is a winter visitor.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, perhaps we might define what is meant by winter when snow comes in October, and classify the bird under Schedule 1, Part I. The noble Lord also mentioned the American belted kingfisher. I look around your Lordships' House and wonder whether we are blessed with one of this species. But if species such as this appear, and appear from observation likely to breed, they will certainly be placed in this schedule. I stress to your Lordships that if such a bird appeared and was taken, harmed or killed the offender would be liable to be fined up to £400, which I think is scale 3 in the list of penalties at the back of the order.

The noble Lord also referred to the collared dove. I understand that that has not yet reached what we call pest proportions in Northern Ireland, though it may have done in the noble Lord's immediate vicinity. Therefore, we do not believe that it should be in Schedule 2, Part II. The noble Lord also mentioned Schedule 9, Part I. I understand that the species classified in that list can be released but only under licence, and unrestricted releases would probably damage the balance of nature. I think that we should have fairly strong representations if there were unlicensed and unrestricted releases.

The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, who was kind enough to wind up the whole tenor of the debate, referred to the Assembly's recommendation relating to a register of captive birds. The licensing system to be introduced under Article 18 of the order will provide for the maintenance of such a register by the department. So I hope that that will go some way towards alleviating the noble Lord's qualms on that issue. He also mentioned the question of monitoring the articles and how the order is working in practice. The Committee for Nature Conservation which is established under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Northern Ireland) Order, which we discussed earlier this week, will be checking on the working of both orders and will be making recommendations to the Department of the Environment. That body was set up under the earlier order and I hope that it will be an effective monitoring machine.

The noble Lord raised the question of the cold weather shooting ban. So far as I was aware, Article 4, paragraph 10, of the measure meant that in Scotland, which affected my personal wildfowling activities, it covered only the 14 days from 16th January. But, as I pointed out, that effectively brought the close of the season forward. I understand that the ban on shooting wildfowl, which may have applied in England as well, is now lifted. But as regards Northern Ireland, the department will be producing criteria for the weather conditions which might lead to a ban. Certainly, we shall be consulting wildfowling and preservation societies on drawing up the criteria for bad weather. The noble Lord will appreciate that bad weather can also strike Northern Ireland, but we might need to have different criteria from Great Britain. I hope that the noble Lord will accept the assurance that we will certainly be consulting the wildfowlers and the preservation societies to see that we get those criteria right.

I feel that I have trespassed enough on your Lordships' time in trying to answer all the questions and I hope that the Government have got most things right. It seems that your Lordships believe that with this order we have made substantial progress in the preservation of wildlife in Northern Ireland. Without further ado, I commend the order to your Lordships' House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.