PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.

DRAFT WILDLIFE (AMENDMENT) (NORTHERN IRELAND) ORDER 1995

Tuesday 28 February 1995

LONDON: HMSO

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1

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Sir Giles Shaw

Banks, Mr. Tony (Newham, North-West)

Canavan, Mr. Dennis (Falkirk, West)

Corbyn, Mr. Jeremy (Islington, North)

Day, Mr. Stephen (Cheadle)

Dunn, Mr. Bob (Dartford)

Elletson, Mr. Harold (Blackpool, North)

Hordem, Sir Peter (Horsham)

Jenkin, Mr. Bernard (Colchester, North)

Knight, Dame Jill (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

Lewis, Mr. Terry (Worsley)

Livingstone, Mr. Ken (Brent, East)

MacKay, Mr. Andrew (Lords Commissioner to the Treasury)

McNamara, Mr. Kevin (Kingston upon Hull, North)

Mitchell, Sir David (Hampshire, North-West)

Moss, Mr. Malcolm (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland)

Spellar, Mr. John (Warley, West)

Tracey, Mr. Richard (Surbiton)

Walker, Mr. A. Cecil (Belfast, North)

Mr. D. W. N. Doig, Committee Clerk

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3 First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Tuesday 28 February 1995

[SIR GILES SHAW in the Chair]

Draft Wildlife (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1995

4.30 pm

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

4.32 pm

On resuming

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Malcolm Moss): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Wildlife (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. A draft of the order was laid before Parliament on 30 January 1995. The order will make minor changes to the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. The purposes is to enable annual general licences to be issued for the year-round control of magpies, crows and nine other species of pest bird. Those species are listed in part II of schedule 2 of that order. The changes are necessary to ensure that the legal basis for control of those pest species complies with the technical requirements of the EC wild birds directive. The Commission has previously ruled that derogations from the directive, which requires member states to protect all wild birds, must be specific as to time, place and the nature of the threat posed by the species concerned. A reasoned opinion recently issued by the Commission has held that the scheduled pest list as currently provided by the 1985 order does not meet those requirements, although at the time that the order was enacted it was believed that it complied fully with the directive. The present arrangements have, nevertheless, been effective and it is important that farmers and others should be able to continue to deal with those pest species, albeit under a different legislative framework. The general licensing system to be introduced will allow pest control to continue with the minimum of interference. I am confident that those involved in pest control will not notice any significant difference. Under the present arrangements, authorised persons may kill or take the 11 pest species listed in part II of schedule 2 of the 1985 order. For these purposes "authorised person" is defined in the order as "the owner or occupier, or any person authorised by the owner or occupier" or any person authorised by the Department of the Environment for Nothern Ireland. The new licensing system will similarly permit an authorised person to kill or take all year round the same 11 species of wild bird. 4 There is no intention to alter the species covered by the licence. However, arrangements will be made to monitor the species concerned. The Department will therefore be alerted if populations fall to a level at which care is necessary to maintain a satisfactory conservation status. In such cases, appropriate action will be taken. There has been widespread consultation in Northern Ireland on the proposal with interested parties. There was only one objection to the proposal, although some concern was expressed about the population status of some of the species listed. The order will ensure that we meet our obligation under the wild birds directive, which is recognised as being an important step forward in nature conservation in the European Union. At the same time, it will enable us to introduce an efficient system of licensed pest control which will not place any additional burdens on farmers and others who need to carry out the action. I commend the order to the Committee.

4.36 pm

Mr. John Spellar (Warley, West): We broadly welcome the order which conforms with the European legislation. I have been in correspondence with the Minister on certain provisions and thank him for his courtesy and help. I also thank the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds which took the matter up with the Minister. The society is concerned about the Monitoring of species. It referred to one or two species and, surprisingly, expressed concern about herring gulls and starlings because it believes that the breeding populations are starting to show a slight decline. I hope that the Minister will arrange for that to be monitored. The RSPB is concerned about the methodology of the census for common birds. I hope that he will take into account the concerns expressed by the RSPB and try to incorporate them into the work of his Department so that we can ensure that this necessary and useful measure is matched by an understanding of the effect on wildlife populations before there is a decline in any of them. With those observations, I welcome the order.

4.37 pm

Sir David Mitchell (Hampshire, North-West): I should like some clarification. If I understood my hon. Friend the Minister correctly, the order applies to the shooting of crows, magpies and other birds which are regarded as no friend of the farming community. What has happened to subsidiarity? Why do we have a directive that goes into such detail, which surely should be left to the nation state to decide for itself. I understand that in some parts of the continent magpies and crows are something of a rarity and need to be protected. That is certainly not so in this country and a different regime should apply in different countries according to the status of these predator birds. May I have some guidance on why on earth we are faced with this order? Under subsidiarity it should be left to us to deal with the matter; it should not come as a directive from Brussels. 5 Secondly, will my hon. Friend assure the Committee that the order will not apply to the shooting of pheasants or rabbits?

4.39 pm

Mr. Moss: I am more than happy to confirm that this is an Order in Council applying to United Kingdom legislation. There is an element of subsidiarity in that it covers the shooting of our own magpies and certainly not those in the rest of the European Union. It is our stock of birds that we are describing as pests and those are the ones on which we shall be concentrating. Most of the birds listed are indigenous species and do not travel from southern Europe to our shores during the summer. 6 I confirm happily that the order does not apply to the hon. Gentleman's sport of shooting pheasant and/or rabbit, if that is his predilection.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Wildlife (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.

Committee rose at twenty-one minutes to Five o'clock.

THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Shaw, Sir Giles(Chairman)

Dunn, Mr.

Elletson, Mr.

Hordern, Sir Peter

Jenkin, Mr.

MacKay, Mr.

Mitchell, Sir David

Moss, Mr.

Spellar, Mr.

Tracey, Mr.