Lord Benyon Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Benyon) (Con)
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My Lords, I speak in support of the Bill on behalf of the Government and thank noble Lords on all sides for the quality of this debate. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Fookes and my honourable friend Henry Smith in the other place for their progress with the Bill thus far.

It is clear from the debate and from the noise around it that trophy hunting is a controversial issue. There are those who point to the evidence about the potential benefits of well-managed hunting and those who point to the evidence of harm or poor practice. The Bill is about imports to Great Britain. The import ban will, of course, not prevent a UK resident or citizen from participating in hunting while overseas. Trophy hunting will continue around the world, and it is right that each country should be able to decide how best to manage its wildlife. The Bill does not change that, but it is also right that we listen to the British public, and there is a clear and strong message to bring an end to the import of endangered animals taken for the purpose of trophies. The Bill before us will therefore fulfil our manifesto commitment to do just that and, in doing so, it would help us to better protect some of the world’s most endangered species.

On the Bill itself, Clauses 1 and 2 together make provision for the import ban; it will cover trophies brought into Great Britain from animals hunted after this legislation comes into force. The definition of a hunting trophy in Clause 1 is:

“the body of an animal, or a … part or derivative of an animal, that … is obtained through hunting … for the hunter’s personal use”.

That is how hunting trophies are defined in our current controls under CITES—the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. This means other types of item will continue to be subject to our current controls—for example, under CITES. Trade in those other types of items will not be affected by the Bill.

Clause 2—and this leads to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Mancroft—means that the import ban will cover all species listed in Annexes A and B of our wildlife trade regulations, which implement Appendices 1 and 2 of CITES in Great Britain. The annexes cover species that the global community has agreed to protect through trade restrictions in the light of their endangered status. The Commons narrowed the scope of the Bill by making an amendment to remove a power for the Secretary of State to add the species that would be covered. To use Annexe A and B listings with no additions or variations is the best way for the Bill to address imports from endangered species. As a result, the Bill will end the permits system for imports of hunting trophies from these species. There are no provisions for exemptions to the import ban for hunting trophies from those species.

Clause 3 is about movements from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. Let me be clear that we will do as much as we can to ensure that Northern Ireland is not used as a stepping stone for imports to Great Britain. The EU wildlife trade regulations continue to apply in Northern Ireland under the Windsor Framework. Our CITES authorities will carefully scrutinise permit applications for Northern Ireland to ensure that imports meet the strict requirements set out by those regulations to ensure that trade is sustainable and legal. We also have controls in place for movements of endangered species from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, and those controls will apply to all hunting trophies in scope of the Bill.

Clause 4, added on Report in the Commons, is about the advisory board on hunting trophies—and some comment was made on this. My colleague speaking in the other place welcomed the principle of receiving expert advice, and I agree. For example, we already receive advice on international wildlife trade issues from the JNCC, which is the UK’s scientific authority for CITES. We are aware there is an unclear reference to “Committee” in Clause 4(3)(a), which a number of noble Lords have raised with me. That will be corrected to “advisory board” on printing. There is no need for noble Lords to make an amendment in this regard, and I put on the record that the Government have no concerns about the drafting.

Lastly, Clause 5 considers extent, application, commencement and short title. The import of endangered species is a reserved matter, and consequently there is no need for a legislative consent Motion, which saves me the embarrassment that I indulged in on an earlier piece of legislation today. I was always told that it is crucial on the Front Bench to make everyone think you know what you are doing, but clearly I failed on that occasion. However, I am grateful for the engagement of the Scottish and Welsh Governments on these issues.

On some of the comments raised in this debate, the difficulty with issues such as this is that it becomes an argument of “I see your experts and raise you mine”. Undoubtedly, there are a plethora of experts of varying degrees, scientists and not scientists, bringing their sway into this argument. They can be prayed in aid by different sides of the argument, and everyone has to make a judgment on that.

With regard to the eloquent words of the noble Lord, Lord St John, I think the whole House agrees with him about canned hunting. However, I urge noble Lords not to go down a rabbit hole that tries to define it. The repulsive prospect of an animal being contained in a small enclosure and shot with none of the danger that one would find shooting even a cow in a field is abhorrent to all of us. However, if one tries to define that in law, one starts to say, “How big an enclosure?” There are some wildlife conservancies that are contained but which are to an extent false ecosystems, because animals cannot move within and without them. However, I think we all share the noble Lord’s and others’ abhorrence of certain hunting practices that may be defined in that way.

I understand the points raised by many noble Lords, but I do not quite know whether to commiserate the noble Lord, Lord Mann, on Leeds or to congratulate him on Wrexham—maybe both. But he made a very interesting point.

The point about UK exports was raised. The Bill is about imports of hunting trophies from endangered species and animals abroad. We are taking action to address the public’s concerns over that. We have appropriate controls in place to protect our wildlife and to manage hunting in this country; we will not be amending any of our legislation or regulations on hunting in this country.

The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, and others raised issues about support for communities in countries that may be affected by this legislation. I know that the letter from my honourable friend the Minister that was referred to may have been misconstrued. I urge noble Lords to delink this legislation from all the other provisions we make to support countries to maintain their environment and wildlife. That is an ongoing commitment of support, whether through ODA or a variety of different international fora. For example, our £90 million Darwin Initiative and Darwin Plus are hugely appreciated in these countries for the work that they do to protect wildlife. The £30 million action on illegal wildlife trade and the £100 million biodiverse landscapes fund, which works across six landscapes and multiple different countries’ borders to protect wildlife, are nothing to do with this legislation. That is ongoing and our support for our friends, whether in Africa or elsewhere, will continue. The UK is fully committed to practical, meaningful support for conservation and for developing sustainable livelihoods based on wildlife. Our official development assistance will not replace trophy hunting and that is not what it aims to do.

My noble friend Lord Lilley made an impassioned speech, and I just say that we have appropriate controls in place to protect domestic species. According to CITES data, the UK has recorded only seven exports of hunting trophies from annexe A and B species in the past 10 years. Of these, two trophies were from barasingha deer, which were hunted in this country. The barasingha is not native to this country and is kept in private collections. Other trophy exports recorded by the UK were re-exports, originally from other countries.

My noble friend Lord Swire asked about impact. We recently published an impact assessment for the Bill, which discusses the impact of this reform on the UK, in line with the usual practice. Our impact assessments discuss some of the difficulties in evaluating the wider impacts of the Bill; it is complex and difficult to assess the impacts of further action on UK imports.

My noble friends Lord Reay and Lord Hannan and a number of others spoke about Kenya. I know a bit about Kenya and the declines in wildlife are for more complicated reasons than may have been prayed in aid in this debate. Differences of animals’ abundance will occur within particular parts of countries, and there are parts of Kenya where animal abundance is being restored in remarkable ways. I join with my noble friend Lord Selkirk in paying tribute to Iain Douglas-Hamilton, whom I know, and his daughter Saba and other members of his family, for the remarkable work they have done with Save the Elephants.

The noble Lord, Lord Rennard, asked whether there will be time to deal with amendments. I cannot give him that assurance. I do not know and have not spoken about that in detail, but in the process of this Bill we will seek to tease that out.

For my final point, I am grateful for the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, but I urge a little caution because, domestically, some of the richest wildlife habitats that we find anywhere on these islands are sustained through the activities of people who hunt for sport. They do that off their own back, out of their own pocket and often with little impact on the public purse. We need to be careful with the language that we use and make sure that we support those who deliver wildlife hotspots up and down the country.

This Bill to ban imports of hunting trophies has come from the other place with cross-party support. It is here with the Government’s full support. I urge noble Lords to lend their support as it makes its way through the House. We know from repeated rounds of consultation that the public expect us to deliver on this commitment. In closing, I thank my noble friend Lady Fookes for her efforts in leading this important Bill.