HL Deb 21 June 1979 vol 400 cc1112-4

3.23 p.m.


My Lords, 10 days ago I was giving preliminary thought as to what I should say on this occasion, bearing in mind that it would have been the third time of asking your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this particular Bill. However, I am glad to be able to tell you that this afternoon the scenario is somewhat different, for reasons which I will now explain. Owing to the rather late arrival this morning of the Official Report in your Lordships' House, many of your Lordships may not have had the benefit—at least I hope it is a benefit; I think it is—of seeing my Question for Written Answer and the Answer to it given by my noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton, so with the leave of the House I will take the unusual step of actually reading from column 1102 of the Official Report. My Question was to ask Her Majesty's Government: Whether they intend to strengthen legislation to protect wildlife in the near future". My noble friend's reply was: Yes. It is our intention to introduce in this Session a Bill which, in broad terms, will seek to strengthen the protection afforded to wildlife and their habitats and to embrace our international obligations". As your Lordships are undoubtedly aware by now, the aim of my Bill, to which I had intended to ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading today, was to extend and strengthen the provisions for protecting and conserving wild creatures and wild plants, as indeed does the Government Bill which we now know has the draft title of the Countryside and Wildlife Bill. My own Bill, the Conservation of Wild Creatures and Wild Plants (Amendment) Bill, had the support of the Nature Conservancy Council, the Government, the Department of the Environment itself—which, I might say, do not necessarily go together—and all the voluntary conservation bodies, all of whom worked extremely hard and extensively with me in its preparation, as indeed did the loyal servants of this House, who so often do most of the work but so seldom get any of the credit, and I hope on this occasion they will take it as being given.

It is my experience in the field of conservation legislation that the Nature Conservancy Council and the various voluntary bodies, who in effect operate and police our wildlife legislation, need more time than other sections of the community to forward their ideas to the appropriate Government departments and the voluntary pressure groups. I shall be most grateful, therefore, if my noble friend will be prepared to elucidate just a little more at this stage as to the broad fields that the wildlife section of the proposed Government Bill will cover. Also, bearing in mind the great expertise in this subject held by Members of your Lordships' House, I hope he will use his best endeavours to ensure that this important Government Bill comes up for discussion in this House before it goes to another place. Notwithstanding the answers to those two questions, in the circumstances I beg leave to withdraw the Conservation of Wild Creatures and Wild Plants (Amendment) Bill.

Moved, That the Bill be withdrawn—(Lord Skelmersdale.)


My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend for having agreed to withdraw his Bill. I regret that I am unable to elucidate for him further what the Government intend to put in their Bill. We have said that we arc willing to take cognisance of all his proposed legislation, and if in the interval he would like to be in touch with me and with my right honourable friend, we will do everything possible to take his views into account. Whether it will start in this House or another place I am afraid I can give my noble friend no guarantee, but I can assure him that I will do my best to see that any wishes he has are put into practice, or those of any other of your Lordships who have special interests.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, from this side of the House I should like to say how much we welcome the opportunity in the near future of perhaps having a rather wider Bill than this one; and, at the same time, I should like to offer my regrets to the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, after all the work he has put into this Bill, that he is not going to have the credit for it.


My Lords, I am very grateful to both the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, and my noble friend.

On Question, Bill, by leave, withdrawn.