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Westminster Hall debate on "usage of lead shot in ammunition"
Tom Bonner writes: On Tuesday Gerald Jones, the Labour MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, secured a one hour Westminster Hall debate on 'usage of lead shot in ammunition'. Even the title of this discussion was odd in that it seemed to exclude discussion of lead bullets, but given that Mr Jones had never previously shown any interest in shooting it may just have been a misunderstanding.
He read out his opening statement from a script which sounded remarkably similar to the public statements made by the RSPB and Wildfowl and Wetlands trust. Indeed it was noticeable that there were more staff from those organisations in attendance than the three MPs (including Mr Jones) who were willing to argue for further restrictions on lead ammunition. As I have said before it is very sad that two organisations that do so much brilliant conservation work give such priority to a campaign which, is at least in part, clearly motivated by an antipathy to shooting as a whole.
A number of MPs, led by our own Chairman Simon Hart argued forcibly that there was no justification for a ban on lead ammunition. Simon declared an unusual interest in the debate by stating the fact that he was “probably the only Member who has been shot by a lead cartridge… It was about 35 years ago and I still carry 20 lead pellets in my left knee"' he added that "colleagues will judge whether that has affected my physical or mental state.”
Charles Walker MP stated that “tungsten, bismuth and hevi-shot cost five to seven times as much as lead. A significant part of most people’s shooting budget.”
Jim Shannon MP brought his experience shooting and wildfowling in Northern Ireland to the debate arguing that attempts to ban lead ammunition are “unjust and unfair and highlight the way in which science can be used and manipulated to suit a political agenda”.
Rishi Sunak MP and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP argued that evidence on the impact of lead ammunition in the UK has failed to pass rigorous academic scrutiny and the risks have been exaggerated. They also stated that a ban on lead would have serious implications for the gun trade, the rural economy and the natural environment
Alex Cunningham MP, a shadow Defra Minister, was forced to concede that there was no evidence in the UK of any premature death caused by lead ammunition which prompted Simon Hart to suggest that “unless he [Cunningham] can come up with that evidence, he is doing nothing more than mischief making”.
George Eustice MP responded for the Government and stated that since half of the Lead Ammunition Group members had resigned “we are therefore in a position in which we have no expert consensus about the impact of lead ammunition on wildlife or human health”, but did acknowledge that current compliance levels with existing legislation were disappointing.
This is not a matter of debate and is something that all speakers agreed on. Adherence with the current restrictions for shooting wildfowl and shooting over wetlands is non-negotiable. Using lead shot in contradiction of the regulations is not only environmentally damaging, but also risks the future use of lead ammunition for all shooting. None of us should think that it is acceptable either personally, or from those who we shoot with.
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