Charles Walker voices concerns about phasing out of lead-shot in hunting and shooting

Speaking in the House of Commons

Speaking in a debate on the phasing out the use of all-lead ammunition in hunting and shooting, Charles Walker voices concerns that the proposals would cause the closure of many shooting grounds unless a viable alternative shot can be found.

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): As the hon. Gentleman said, the shooting of birds with lead shot has been going on for many centuries. Where is the public health crisis to which he alludes? It would be news to many colleagues, because we have not had people coming to our surgeries or writing to us with any experience of a problem with eating lead-shot birds, whether personally or in their families.

Gerald Jones: It is not a case of the vast majority of members of the public speaking out on an issue such as this, but the studies are out there. I have outlined some in my contribution and will outline more.

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Mr Charles Walker: In advance of the debate I talked to a number of clay pigeon shooting grounds in and around my constituency, and their problem with steel shot is that it ricochets. If lead shot is banned, all those shooting grounds will be put out of business—not just in and around my constituency, but across all Members’ constituencies. Has the hon. Gentleman thought about how that could be tackled?

Gerald Jones: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, but there are alternatives that could be looked at. We are asking for this matter to be properly looked at and investigated, with a timescale to phase out lead.

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Mr Charles Walker: I am listening closely to my hon. Friend. Will he address my concern that steel shot ricochets, which will cause the closure of many shooting grounds, and that tungsten, bismuth and Hevi-shot cost five to seven times as much as lead? That would be a significant part of most people’s shooting budget.

Simon Hart: My hon. Friend makes a good point. We have to consider all these things in the round. It is no doubt very easy to find reasons to argue in favour of a general phase-out of lead, but unless we have applied the same rigorous test to the alternatives—whether it is about the cost, humaneness or toxicity—there is no reason to believe we will go from a bad place to a better one, so I take his points entirely on board.

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Mr Charles Walker: The hon. Gentleman said that there is no safe level of tolerance for lead, but we have heard this afternoon that lead is present in many foods that we all consume, and in alcohol and beer, so clearly there must be some level of tolerance or we would all be dropping down in the streets.

Alex Cunningham: Just because there is a level of tolerance does not mean that it is not dangerous. Somebody may smoke over a lifetime and then suffer deterioration or a specific condition, and that can apply in this case too.

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