HL Deb 11 February 2004 vol 656 cc1198-200

8.46 p.m.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Donoughue.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Baroness Fookes) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Amendment of Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996]:

Lord Donoughue

moved Amendment No. 1: Page 3, line 5, at end insert "and the National Gamekeepers' Organisation jointly The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 1, I shall, with the permission of the Committee, speak also to the related Amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

Not wishing to delay the Committee, especially those such as myself who will be heading for Dover at dawn, I shall explain very briefly the related amendments, which respond to the Minister's Second Reading comments about a certain lack of balance in the authority as between the three main groups; that is, the welfare groups, land use and field sports. I accept those comments and to meet them I propose the following.

In Amendment No. 1, I propose that the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and the National Gamekeepers' Organisation have just one representative. Amendment No. 2 would remove the separate representation for the National Gamekeepers' Organisation. Amendment No. 3 would include the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare in the list of organisations. Therefore, the sports bodies' representation would be reduced by one, the welfare groups' representation would be increased by one and there would be a broad division of 3:3:3 representation as between welfare, land use and sports groups. It is not a perfect balance and perhaps the Minister may say that, but my noble friend will know, as a member of the present Government, that nothing is perfect. I beg to move.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

I speak in full support of the noble Lord, who has explained his amendments. I believe that they strengthen substantially the authority. We must not forget that the Secretary of State can accept or not accept the conclusions of the authority. The amendments would achieve a far better balance in the authority than was the case hitherto and would address one of the major points that was made by the Minister when we debated the matter previously.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty)

I am grateful that my noble friend heeded my words at Second Reading. I therefore welcome the amendment. I regret that he has to leave the country early tomorrow morning, and I hope that that is nothing to do with the Bill.

The provision does not go far enough, however. Although I do not wish to object to the move, we still have an authority that in my view and the view of not only those concerned with the animal welfare dimension, but of a number of neutral observers, is still not balanced. It over-represents the interests of the field sports and under-represents the views of those concerned with animal welfare, particularly given that views on the issues expressed by those whom my noble friend described as land-use bodies tend to coincide with those of the shooting and hunting organisations.

There is probably a more fundamental problem about how the authority ever reaches a consensus, as it is difficult to see how it would do that on the codes. Therefore, many items would be referred to the Secretary of State, whereas it would be really helpful if the authority were sufficiently balanced to sort out such matters. It has also been suggested that the balance could be redressed by additional members appointed by the authority, but that authority is unlikely to appoint people who would change its overall balance significantly.

Although I accept that the amendment is a move in the right direction, it is not sufficient to address the central points of balance that I raised at Second Reading.

Lord Donoughue

I thank those who have spoken, including my noble friend. As always, we shall look carefully at what he has said. However, I firmly believe that the amendment improves the balance of the authority.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Donoughue moved Amendments Nos. 2 and 3: Page 3, leave out line 6. Page 3, line 6, at end insert— ( ) the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare,

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

House adjourned at seven minutes before nine o'clock.