Section 1A — Exception: stalking and flushing from cover

Part of Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 13th February 2002.

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Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative 2:15 pm, 13th February 2002

Why am I surprised that Mr Finnie is so attracted to the expression "under control"? In the Rural Development Committee, I suggested that Mr McConnell should provide a definition, but that was not to be. Those who have looked closely at the Official Reports of the Rural Development Committee's stage 2 consideration will know that the committee considered that issue at great length.

Dr Elaine Murray, to her credit, lodged the amendment that inserted the term "under control" into the bill, but it was generally felt to be the best that we could do. The view was that it was not perfect, but the best that we could do. At that point in the Rural Development Committee's consideration, we did not have the minister's forthright and clear enunciation of views. It was not always possible to gauge which way the Executive or its law officers were leaning.

I felt that it was important that we bring the definition of "under control" back to Parliament today. I did so first to see whether anybody would come up with anything better than the definition at which the committee had arrived and that could be inserted into the bill and, secondly, because it raises clear issues about exactly what expressions such as "under control" mean. We must ensure, when passing legislation that will criminalise individuals, that that legislation and the guidance that individuals have as they go about their ordinary lives is clear on what activities are and are not criminal.

The minister has put forward a very robust case for the deletion of the phrase "under control". As the debate progresses, I will consider whether to press the issue to a vote. Moving amendment 5 helps. The minister's statement at this late hour—particularly the comments that he made to Mr Swinney and Mr Home Robertson—was helpful in clarifying the position.

There has been a persistent misconception that amendments that were introduced during the stage 2 process were intended to wreck the bill. That was not the intention. A majority of members agreed to the amendments. Labour members such as Rhoda Grant and Elaine Murray voted for the provisions in question. From what the minister has said, amendment 5 will allow legitimate gamekeeping activities to proceed and will counter any suggestion that the amendments at stage 2 were designed to wreck the bill. I support the position that has been set out by the minister.

I move amendment 5.