§ Amendments made:
No. 84, in line 2, leave out 'trade in them' and insert
'to restrict certain transactions in respect of them or their derivatives'.
§ No. 85, in line 4, leave out 'ports' and insert 'places'.—[Mr. Guy Barnett.]
§ Title, as amended, agreed to.
§ Bill reported, with amendments; as amended, considered.922
§ 1.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Guy Barnett
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
To begin with I should like to express sympathy with hon. Members who may feel that the Committee and Report stages of the Bill have been unduly compressed. I myself have some regrets that we have not been able to debate some of the amendments more fully. The House will recollect that the delay before Second Reading was due to the failure of the motion to take Second Reading in Committee instead of on the Floor of the House. In the circumstances, I think my right hon. Friend the Lord President has done remarkably well to enable this very desirable Bill to complete its passage this Session.
We have had to look at a considerable number of Government amendments in Committee, but most of these resulted from undertakings given in another place and from tidying up of the drafting. There is little new material except that resulting from Appendix III of the Convention. The House may be reassured that all the Government's amendments have been the subject of long and careful consideration before today.
We have also considered very carefully the other amendments that were tabled. The House will be aware that none of them came as a surprise to us. Some were tabled, although perhaps in a different form, in another place. All have been the subject of prior discussion and I hope the hon. Members concerned will accept that I have gone as far as I can in trying to meet their wishes.
On Second Reading the question was raised as to what guidance is provided for Customs. Customs officers are generalists and cannot be expected to identify accurately all the wide range of species which this Bill subjects to control. They are, however, given broad descriptions of the types of animals, plants and goods to look out for. If they require detailed advice on any particular consignment, they can call on the services of a panel of experts employed by my Department who between them cover the range of knowledge required.
I am satisfied that we are now on firm ground both in the text of the Bill and in the schedules. We shall keep the 923 schedules under review and continue to consult closely with trade and conservation interests. It may well be that the first order to amend the schedules will have to be made fairly soon, following the conference of the party States in Berne next week. But our delegation to the Berne conference will be greatly fortified by the knowledge that this Bill has now passed through both Houses of Parliament.
It remains for me to thank hon. Members for their close interest and constructive approach this afternoon, without which we could not have concluded our business so efficiently.
§ 1.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Sainsbury
We on this side of the House are delighted that the Bill has reached this stage, especially considering that this is the eleventh hour of the Session—although perhaps, in view of recent developments, we are now back to half-past the tenth hour.
We can claim some credit for the fact that we have an opportunity to speak on Third Reading because of our motion on the Order Paper. Before completing our proceedings, we should pay tribute to the work done in another place. In view of what is often said by those who doubt the value of proceedings there, we should be grateful for the skill and expertise which was brought to beat there on this Bill.
We in this House can also claim credit for good behaviour. For example, we passed Amendment No. 41 without the slightest discussion although it dealt with black-winged love birds and rosy-faced love birds, which in other circumstances could have led to an interesting and even lengthy debate.
The Minister mentioned the Berne conference. I am delighted that he feels that the United Kingdom contribution will be strengthened by the Bill. I am sure that he will agree that this is an area in which only international action will be effective. However willing and effective we are in operating these conventions, all the countries concerned will have to work to achieve the objectives we all seek.
I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that he will keep up con. sultations with those for whom we have a particular responsibility, particularly 924 Hong Kong. His hon. Friend was kind enough to write to me about the situation there, which came up on Second Reading. I understand that, at Hong Kong's request, reservations were entered on its behalf on the Asian elephant and on reptiles to cover trade in ivory and reptile skins. As we have said, those are important areas. I hope that discussions will continue with the authorities in Hong Kong and anywhere else that these matters arise to try to ensure that there are no unnecessary and avoidable loopholes.
I join the Minister in thanking those who have taken part in the debate for speeding the progress. I pay a final tribute to the voluntary bodies which have prodded us, briefed us and encouraged us.
§ 1.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Ross
I also thank the Minister and his Department for their helpful attitude towards the Bill. I am delighted that it has reached its Third Reading and will now go on to the statute book. It is another worthy step forward in conservation, and probably the most important measure on this subject to come before the House.
As I said on Second Reading, this is one of our happier debates. Hon. Members have often drawn attention to the amount of legislation which is not relevant to our current economic situation, but this Bill is the result of worldwide activity and a wonderful advance in conservation.
I do not know who will represent this country at the conference next week, but we know that Ministers regularly go to and from the EEC. If we could persuade some of our EEC colleagues—particularly the Italians—to stop shooting migratory birds, that would also be a great step forward. If they do not stop soon, there will not be many left anyway.
I pay my tribute to the conservation societies. Sometimes people feel that there are too many amenity groups in this country taking up attitudes and prodding us and it is sometimes thought that they are being too selfish. The Friends of the Earth, the RSPB, the RSPCA and the World Wildlife Fund have played a most constructive role. The relationships of these societies with the Department of the Environment are on a good basis.
925 I also pay tribute to the work done in another place, especially by Lord Wynne-Jones, whose Private Bill this first was and who took the trouble to come to a meeting about it in the House of Commons. I congratulate him.
I also congratulate the Minister on his helpful attitude today. I am sorry that the Bill has had to be taken on Friday with so few hon. Members present. We know that there is a lot of pressure on Members of Parliament and that if they have a free Friday they will take it. Members of the public who are intensely interested in the subject no doubt will be disappointed that so few Members of Parliament have been present, but I hope they will not take that as showing that Members have no interest in this subject. There is great interest in it in the House.
I welcome the Bill and I hope that it will soon be in effective operation.
§ 2.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Burden
I greatly welcome the Bill. Since I have been in the House there has been growing concern about the welfare of animals. We have had enormous support from the other place in our efforts to improve animal welfare. On at least two occasions Bills were started in the other place because there was difficulty in starting them in this Chamber. The Ponies Bill was one and the Badgers Bill was another. Those Bills eventually reached the statute book having been started in the other place, just as this Bill was started in the other place, The House should pay tribute to those of their Lordships who are so interested in animal welfare. Lord Silkin, the father of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, introduced the Ponies Bill and went to great lengths to ensure that it reached the statute book.
The Bill is necessary because there is no doubt that many species are in grave danger of extinction. We are trying to ensure that there is no decline in the number of the animals who are threatened with extinction. Between 1600 and 1974, 130 full species of birds and mammals became extinct. That was a great loss to civilisation.
I was interested to see a recent television programme about the orang utang. The ape is seriously threatened with extinction because of threats to its natural habitat. There is no mention of apes in 926 the schedule, but I hope that the Minister will try to ensure that when he is at the convention in Berne something is done to protect the orang utang. The orang utang is the most tractable and friendly of all the apes. There are so few tractable and friendly creatures in the world that we should do all we can to ensure that they do not become extinct.
In the Second Reading debate I pointed out the difficulty that Customs officials would have in recognising species. I suggested that an illustrative chart might be issued for that purpose. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man and the ingenuity of printers and others to produce a coloured chart. I know that a panel of experts is available when there are any doubts about a species, but it would be helpful to Customs officials to have immediate guidance in the form of an illustration.
I see from the schedule that there is a species of bird called babblers. They have nothing to do with the Chamber. The species includes the white-throated laughing thrush and the white-crested laughing thrush. I feel sure that there will be many difficulties arising in the recognition of these birds.
The Minister promised before the end of the debate to tell us who would have authority to enter premises which were to house imported species. He has not done so, but I hope that he will intervene to give us this information.
The Bill is a step forward. If other species become endangered I hope that they will be included in the schedule and in the legislation applying in other countries. I pay tribute to the Minister for the kindly and sympathetic way in which he has handled the debate. I feel sure that he will show the same sympathy and kindliness in seeing that the Bill works and that it is added to as and when necessary.
§ Mr. Guy Barnett
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, I should like to answer two questions he put. I apologise to him for not having referred earlier to the question he raised about the authority in Clause 5. The authority is a panel of inspectors appointed by the Department of the Environment, and it will include some veterinary surgeons.
§ Mr. Burden
I assume that the premises to which these animals are going will be inspected before they arrive and from time to time thereafter to ensure that the necessary standards are maintained?
§ Mr. Barnett
That is my understanding. I accept the hon. Gentleman's valuable suggestion that Customs officials should be given descriptions of the species to watch for. The hon. Gentleman's suggestion would make their work more effective. That would be our desire. as it is his, and I shall consider the suggestion.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.