19 November 2015
Article by Nia Seaton, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
On 10 November 2015 the Law Commission for England and Wales published the findings of its review of wildlife protection law. In 2011 the Law Commission was asked by UK Government’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), with support from the Welsh Government, to review current legislation and consider whether it was fit for purpose.
In its final report the Law Commission has concluded that current law on protecting wildlife in England and Wales is complex, overly complicated and sometimes contradictory. It has therefore recommended that a new Wildlife Bill should be introduced to replace a number of the existing pieces of legislation in this field. It has published its proposals for a Draft Bill (PDF 2MB) alongside its final report.
The Law Commission suggests that this Bill could be taken forward as an England and Wales Bill with a Legislative Consent Motion being laid before the Assembly or as two identical pieces of legislation by the separate institutions. It will be for the UK Government and Welsh Government to decide which approach is taken.
The Current Legislation
Legislation to protect wildlife covers a vast range of subjects from the protection of badgers and deer to the protection of wild plants. It covers the law relating to the illegal destruction of nests to the setting of traps and snares and the illegal trade in protected species. In its final report the Law Commission identifies 12 different Acts that could be replaced by a single piece of legislation. These include:
- The Deer Act 1991;
- The Conservation of Seals Act 1970;
- The Weeds Act 1959;
- The Protection of Badgers Act 1992: and
- The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
In publishing its proposals for a new Bill the Law Commission states its aim is to maintain the current levels of protection for wildlife whilst increasing the consistency and transparency of the existing legal framework. It suggests that the introduction of a new piece of legislation will assist both regulators and individuals whose work is affected by this law.
Stakeholders such as the RSPB and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) have welcomed the publication of the final report and have stated that detailed consideration will need to be given to its contents before they are able to reach a view on the proposals. The UK Government and Welsh Government haven’t yet responded formally to the report.