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Sir Barney White-Spunner quits LAG

The full and unabridged copy of Countryside Alliance executive chairman Sir Barney White-Spunner's resignation from the Lead Ammunition Group

Sir Barney White-Spunner has resigned from the Lead Ammunition Group (LAG), citing a “lost confidence” in the group chairman John Swift.

The LAG was set up under in April 2010 at the behest of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the RSPB, to advise Defra on any risks to wildlife, human health and livestock from the use of lead ammunition, and how to mitigate them, with their findings expected to be published in a paper later this year.

For the full report, pick up this week’s edition (May 27) of Shooting Times.

Below is the full text of Sir Barney’s resignation letter:

I have, further to submitting my 172 detailed comments of evidence and process on your draft Lead Ammunition Group (LAG) Report, been reflecting on how you came to write a draft that is so very far from reflecting the LAG’s discussions. I find that your draft is subjective and draws incorrect conclusions from what evidence the LAG has agreed. More seriously, many of those conclusions are based on evidence that the LAG has simply not agreed and which you are now presenting to us as a fait accompli.

You have my detailed points but I object in particular to your drawing conclusions from the Sub Group paper “Evaluation of the Risks to Human Health”. I and three other members of the LAG have pointed out repeatedly that we cannot accept a paper on such a potentially serious issue unless it is written by professionally medically qualified experts; neither of the authors is a medical professional let alone a human toxicologist. One works for the RSPB and the other for the Wetlands and Wildlife Trust. Whilst both are eminent in their chosen fields, and whilst I accept Professor Levy’s oversight role, the fact remains that for such an important paper not to be authored by fully qualified medical professionals questions the whole basis of your process. The LAG has never accepted this paper and nor can it.

Secondly, I have consistently pointed out that I agreed with the first “Evaluation of the Risks to Wildlife” paper, written by Dr Alastair Leake and Dr John Harradine, as did four other members of the group. I did not agree with commissioning a second paper which was also, like the Human Health paper, written by Dr Debbie Pain and Professor Rhys Green. Neither did I agree with the preparation of a so called consensus paper which relied disproportionately on this second paper and which, again, has never actually been agreed by the full group. Your draft is therefore based almost entirely on the opinions of two people, both of whom have previously stated their intention to have lead shot banned.

I also object strongly to the way you have misrepresented the conclusions of the Risk Mitigation Sub Group which I chaired. My view was that, given the lack of any agreed evidence to the contrary, the most the LAG should be recommending to DEFRA and the FSA was a series of measures based on improved advice and possibly labelling and stricter implementation of the existing ban on the use of lead on wildfowl in England and Wales and over wetlands in Scotland and N Ireland. I pointed out that this concurred with the current reversal of a previously imposed ban in Norway and with the current view in Brussels.

I am also disappointed that you have not chosen to disclose to the whole group those to whom you shared an early draft of your paper (your e mail of 18th December refers). Maybe if you had then we could have started to sort out some of this. I find it strange that we have been copied comments on your draft from some members of the LAG but not others. Subsequently I regard your intention to hold the final LAG meeting on a date when three key members of the group are unable to attend as hardly conducive to genuinely addressing their concerns.

Taken together, these abuses of process mean that your draft is so flawed that I cannot agree to it forming the basis of any final report. It is based on papers that have not been accepted and with which I and other LAG colleagues profoundly disagree. Consequently I have no confidence that any final report you produce will reflect my misgivings; in the two years I have served on the group my views and interventions have not been accepted. I regret that I have lost confidence in your chairmanship and must therefore resign.

I would be grateful if you would record on your final report that I could no longer serve as the representative of the shooting community on the LAG because of my profound disagreement with the way process has been conducted. I will also write to The Secretary of State in similar terms. Neither I nor the Countryside Alliance will be walking away from this issue. Given the failure of the LAG process we will be consulting with the shooting community, other representative shooting groups and public bodies as to the best way to proceed.