HL Deb 17 May 1994 vol 555 cc127-9

2.45 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will oppose at the Council of Environment Ministers the proposal by the European Commission to amend Directive 79/409 on the protection of migrating birds.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (The Earl of Arran)

My Lords, the proposal, which was considered at the Environment Council of Ministers in March, would clarify the birds directive's provisions for hunting migratory birds. The European Parliament has been asked for an opinion and the matter will be referred back to the Council of Ministers. The Government's statutory scientific advisers, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, are advising on the proposal.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

My Lords, I appreciate that the Question has been partly overtaken by events, and thank the noble Earl for thatpro tanto encouraging Answer. Will he undertake to ensure that the Government will point out, with suitable emphasis, that the control of shooting is not an example of subsidiarity since if migrating birds are blasted by Frenchmen in the Dordogne, it is the British and other Europeans whose moorlands and estuaries will be denuded of wildlife?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, the Secretary of State for the Environment secured assurances at the Council of Ministers that the protection of migratory birds would continue and that conservation and scientific evidence would be the main ingredients when decisions are made in the future.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, perhaps the Minister will assure my noble and learned friend that a committee of this House is about to look into the effect of that directive and hopes to advise the Government on it soon.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, when that directive comes to your Lordships' House it will be given due consideration, as such matters always are.

Earl Peel

My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that the proposal in the directive to restrict the activities which are carried out at present would not affect the migratory status of those birds? Will he also confirm that the criteria that have been drawn up by independent scientists and experts would lead to the sustainability of those species and ensure that the hunting would be compatible with those important words "wide use"?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, the words "wide use" are important. My noble friend Lord Peel is a great expert and knows a considerable amount in this sphere. We shall have to take seriously and consider again the conclusions that have been put forward by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, one of which is that the proposal has no implications for the hunting of species in the United Kingdom or for United Kingdom hunting law.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, I accept that we have to wait a bit for the Government's view on this directive. Would it not be sensible now for the Government to declare, as part of their campaign, that they will implement immediately the habitats directive?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, of course that is being given due consideration. It will come before your Lordships at the appropriate time.

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