Have we won the lead ammo debate by default?
By Ian Summerell Gunmaker
This is my own personal view of the lead ammunition debate.
The Lead Ammunition Group (LAG) was set up by the Labour Government in 2009 to advise them of the risks of lead ammunition to animals and humans. If you read the letters from the WWT, RSPB and BASC (John Swift) it looks to me that it was a “set up”.
If the LAG found a risk and recommend a change to the law, the government could take action under a Statutory Instrument commonly know as an SI. The SI can be used to change the rules or scope of an Act of Parliament without the need to have a full debate under an amendment to an Act, taking up Parliamentary time.
A government minister can only sign an SI if, after consultation all sides agree. So the LAG was formed to bring together all sides of the lead shot issue.
With the WWT and RSPB calling for a total lead ban and the shooting organisations, you would hope? Would be fighting to prevent a lead ban. They also had scientists with interests in food and human health and animal welfare.
However, if John Swift as Chairman could get them to agree that “lead” is bad and should be restricted or bring in a total ban, then the government Minister would be able to sign the SI. In the same way they brought about the lead ban for wildfowling. The WWT and RSPB wanted lead banned to protect wildfowl and BASC agreed. So the ban on lead was bought in by the then Tory Government in 1999.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, we now know that John Swift the then CEO of BASC was anti lead at the time, so the wildfowlers had no chance of a fair hearing. If there is no evidence supporting a ban on lead now, was there any evidence back then?
However: there was one problem with their plan, they did not reckon on Sir Barney White-Spunner, of the CA, the LAG was having a free ride until then. I believe he questioned the science and the wishes of the WWT, RSPB and its Chairman John Swift then CEO of BASC (who we now know was in favour of a lead ban all along) to write a report calling for a lead ban.
If the LAG had written a report with the full backing of all its members the Minister would have been forced into signing the SI for a lead ban. The fact that Sir Banrey and the other shooting members resigned has changed the game.
The Minister now has two reports from the LAG group, one from the anti-lead side, which I believe would have been written mainly by Dr Pain and John Swift and the other for the shooting side by Sir Barney and friends.
If John Swift as chairman had to be independent, the four members left of the LAG could only write a minority report. With the majority report being written by the group headed by Sir Barney as they had five members.
That leaves the Government with a two different views on the lead issue. The Minister therefore is unable to take any action or sign an SI to alter the rules on lead ammunition. Have the shooters won the day by default?