We plan to liberalise the game laws to help to boost the game bird industry while continuing to improve hygiene and welfare standards.
Will the Minister take this opportunity to acknowledge the real and growing contribution to rural employment that is made by the game bird and shooting industry, which employs more than 26,000 people? In the light of the passing of the Hunting Act 2004, as well as the pro-regulatory views expressed by the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and by animal welfare groups, will he reaffirm the Government's commitment to the principle of self-regulation of the game bird and shooting industry? To what extent has he considered the case for deregulation, particularly of the anachronistic provision for licences to shoot and to sell game?
I am happy to give the hon. Gentleman all the assurances that he seeks and to confirm that the Government intend, subject to consultation, to abolish game shooting and dealing licences, which are archaic. That will give a welcome boost to the game shooting industry.
Does the Minister agree that game birds are a very healthy alternative to factory-produced poultry, and what does he intend to do to improve the marketing of game?
Again, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. Game is extremely nutritious and tasty, and contains some of the vital oils that are shared with oily fish, which we know to be very good for one's health. The Government already give marketing help to the industry through various grants. We hope that one of the consequences of doing away with some of this archaic legislation—I have to say that that was not dealt with under the Conservative Government—will be a welcome boost to the shooting and game dealing industry, ending the ludicrous fact that game can be sold only for very limited periods of the year.