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Schedule 5 - Enforcement powers in connection with wildlife

Part of Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:15 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of John Mann John Mann Labour, Bassetlaw 6:15 pm, 28th June 2005

I beg to move amendment No. 145, in schedule 5, page 60, line 22, at end add—

POWERS OF CONSTABLES EXTENDED TO OTHER WILDLIFE LEGISLATION (1) Section 19(3) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (c. 69) applies for the purposes of the provisions specified in this paragraph as if the reference to reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence under Part 1 of the 1981 Act has been committed were a reference to reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence under the specified provisions has been, is being or is about to be committed. (2)The provisions specified in this paragraph are— (a)Part 3 of this Act, (b)Part 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (c. 69),

(1) Section 19(3) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (c. 69) applies for the purposes of the provisions specified in this paragraph as if the reference to reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence under Part 1 of the 1981 Act has been committed were a reference to reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence under the specified provisions has been, is being or is about to be committed.

(2)The provisions specified in this paragraph are—

(a)Part 3 of this Act,

(c)the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 (c. 51), and

(d)such other provisions as the Secretary of State may specify by order.

(3)Orders made by the Secretary of State under sub-paragraph (2)(d) are subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(4)The Secretary of State may not make an order under sub-paragraph (2)(d) unless he is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient to do so in the interests of protecting wild birds or wild animals.’.

I do not intend to delay the Committee for too long, but I present for its edification and that of the Minister what I call the bird and bat amendment. Members will be aware that my constituents are keen on birds and bats, and particularly unkeen when developers uproot trees and bushes in which birds and bats may be nesting. Some developers suggest, always informally and off the record, that the best way to deal with things such as trees is to get them chopped down quickly before anyone says that they should not be chopped down and before a preservation order can be put on them. If a developer is witnessed and caught chopping   down trees in which bats and birds are nesting, at some stage a wildlife crime officer from the police might attempt to prosecute the developer.

Of course a developer who chooses so to act knowingly may not inform the local residents of his intention to chop down the trees. In constituencies such as mine, one day a group of trees and bushes will be standing there, with birds nesting and bats flying around in the dusk, much to the edification of my constituents, but the next day said trees and bushes have been uprooted, chopped down and burnt, and the wildlife has disappeared.

What should one do if one suspects that a developer is about to act in such a way? Dialling 999 and suggesting to the police that they should appear in order to witness a crime against bats and birds that has not been committed is unlikely to get a positive response. However, if the bats are roosting in a barn, things are rather easier. Because the barn is covered by various planning Acts, one can inform the planning enforcement officer about the bats, and if there is a fear that the barn is to be demolished, the planning enforcement officer can act.

Therefore, there is a slight imbalance in the law. It has been raised quite vocally by a large number of my constituents, who have been upset by the actions of developers and others who have removed trees in which there have been bats and nesting birds. They have found that there is no remedy in law. I have no idea whether the Minister thinks that the amendment will precisely address the point, but it might. I would therefore be interested to hear his view on that and whether he could suggest an alternative remedy to deal with a major loophole about which my constituents implore him to do something.