The Lead Ammunition Group (LAG) has come under yet closer scrutiny, as ex-members team up to deliver an alternative report to DEFRA.
Members of the group who resigned from the LAG in protest at its “abuses of process” have submitted their own report to DEFRA, which aims to represent the important scientific evidence that the discredited LAG report failed to include. It also seems that the LAG’s official website has been taken down, fuelling speculation that this could be the end of the fractured group.
The LAG was set up by Labour to advise the government on the environmental and health impact of lead ammunition. The group, however, has been beset by controversy; early this year emails emerged under the Freedom of Information Act suggesting that some members of the group had already come to a conclusion. One member said, prior to any official report, that “the LAG process will point with complete certainty to the toxic nature of lead ammunition.”
Since November 2014, every member of the LAG with shooting interests has resigned, starting with Ian Coghill who represented gamekeeping and conservation, and cumulating with the resignation of John Batley of the Gun Trade Association on 9 June. In his letter of resignation, Mr Batley claimed that his expectations of a report being “objective, based on firm scientific evidence” had not been met, and his position in the group had become “untenable”.
Despite numerous criticisms of the LAG’s processes – which Sir Barney White-Spunner claimed made the “group’s work so flawed it can never reach any scientific conclusions” – it has pressed forward, with chairman John Swift submitting a report to DEFRA and the FSA on the potential dangers of lead ammunition. Mr Swift insisted that the resigned members’ concerns were not detrimental to the integrity of the report: “As none of the comments were fundamental or added to the uncertainties already set out, they are not preventing conclusion.”
Sir Barney White-Spunner said: “Two Lead Ammunition Group (LAG) reports have now been presented to DEFRA. The first report has been tabled by the chairman John Swift, and is the same report over which we raised over 170 comments and with which we refused to be associated, hence the resignation from the LAG. A second report has now been tabled by the now four ex-members of the LAG. As well as the Countryside Alliance this new group includes the Gun Trade Association, National Game Dealers’ Association and the Country Land and Business Association, with the support of the British Association of Shooting and Conservation.
“Our report has made full use of all available scientific material, reached balanced and objective conclusions, and we have made a series of recommendations to DEFRA based on the evidence presented rather than on any previously held positions as regards the use of lead. We will release the full report in due course once we have received an indication from DEFRA that they are happy for us to do so.”
DEFRA is now in possession of both reports, with no fixed timescale for a response. Sir Barney said that the ex-members feel “quietly confident” that DEFRA will come to the right decision.
BASC has also issued a statement: “Not only were we concerned that due process was not being followed, we questioned the evidential base apparently being used to inform the LAG,” said chairman Alan Jarrett. “We will continue to work with our sister organisations on this important issue. Collectively, we will not let our guard drop; we will continue to insist that any review of lead ammunition is conducted on sound evidence and proper process.”