§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 1.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Jasper More (Ludlow)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This Bill has a background of some length and antiquity which I think it might be of advantage to the House if I were briefly to summarise. From the earliest times of our history the preservation and conservation of the wild deer of this country has been a preoccupation of government. In a fascinating work of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I published in 1598 and entitled "Manwood's Forest Laws" we read a summary of the law as it then stood. The law was then based on the conception of the forest which was described asa certain territory of wooded grounds and fruitful pastures".That was conceived as a shelter fox the—as they were called—wild beasts of the forest, which were specified as including the hart, the hind, the hare, the boar and the wolf.
Even from the times before the Norman Conquest the hunting and killing of the deer and beasts of the forest was confined in principle to the Sovereign and to those licensed by him, and at various times in the Middle Ages Parliament took steps to see that discipline in the forests was controlled. For example, in a Statute passed in the reign of Edward I powers were given to the Royal officials to apprehend trespassers and, even, the citizen was laid under the obligation when needed to assist them by the venerable process of English law known as the hue and cry. In the reign of Henry VII a Statute was passed to prohibit hunting in a legal forest by night or with painted faces. That was declared to be a single felony.
Following the union of England and Scotland interest in the deer as such shifted, rather naturally, to the northern kingdom, which had always had a so very much larger stock of the red deer, but the deer population of England and Wales was still not ignored by Parliament. Both in the reigns of George I and George III Statutes were passed on the 872 same lines as those of Edward I and Henry VII, emphasis being again laid, rather strangely, on those who sought to tresspass with blackened faces or otherwise disguised.
I cannot claim to have made completely exhaustive researches, but my impression is that those ancient Statutes have, at any rate in substance, been now replaced by a Statute which is over a hundred years old, or by certain Sections of that Statute, namely the Larceny Act, 1861, to which I ought, perhaps, briefly to refer. Section 12 of the Statute prohibits the stealing of deer in an unenclosed forest. Section 13 similarly prohibits the stealing of deer in an enclosed forest or deer park. Section 14 imposes penalties for being in possession of venison, deer skins, and so on. Section 16 provides power to seize guns and weapons used in the commission of such offences.
During the last hundred years Parliament has done very little in this field, and so far as I have ascertained there are only two other Statutes which affect the subject of deer at all. One of them is the Protection of Animals Act, 1911, which is concerned almost entirely with domestic animals and only incidentally with wild animals. The other is the Agriculture Act, 1947, one Section of which, I think Section 98, puts certain obligations on owners and those who are entitled to kill or destroy deer if they are doing damage to crops.
While Parliament has played little part over the last hundred years conditions both in England and Wales and Scotland have undergone serious changes in a number of respects. First, I think that it will be remembered that the years of the war and the post-war years, when food was so short, created obvious temptations to an increase of poaching.
Secondly, the tree planting programme which was initiated after the First World War and continuously developed now for something like forty years has created, both in England and Scotland, a greatly extended afforested area which provides natural shelter for deer and should, normally, lead to an increase of the species.
Thirdly, the mere fact of the tree planting has created many more targets, so to speak, for deer damage, for it is the small tree which is perhaps most 873 vulnerable in this respect; and that has been paralleled in the great increase of arable cultivation, where, again, deer, as we know, can be very destructive.
The fourth thing which I think I should mention is the very great increase, particularly during the last fifteen years, in the number of gun licences. There are now a very greatly increased number of weapons in private hands, and it is inevitable in such circumstances that the temptation to use these weapons should be yielded to.
It was largely on that account that matters were brought to a head and the Government decided that some investigation should be made. What the Government did, as hon. Members will remember, was to set up in or before 1951 a Committee on Cruelty to Wild Animals, a Committee which we know now generally from its chairman as the Scott Henderson Committee. That Committee produced a Report with which many hon. Members will be familiar and which, I think it is not untrue to say, constitutes now a veritable bible on the whole of the subject of wild animals, and among them the deer. A separate section of that Report is concerned entirely with deer in this country, and I think it fair to say that every aspect of the subject was exhaustively investigated.
I do not think that it is necessary that I should go in detail into the recommendations which that Committee made. The last two of them are very germane to this Bill. The first of them was that all methods of deer killing in the nature of snares, traps, poisons, and methods of that kind should be prohibited as constituting an obvious source of unnecessary suffering and cruelty. The second one was that some means must be devised of control over and prevention of long-range shooting at deer.
It was clearly in consequence of the recommendations of the Scott Henderson Committee that the Government decided to take action. The Government decided, I think naturally, to take action first in the kingdom where deer bulk more largely in the public consciousness, namely. Scotland. In 1959, they introduced the Deer (Scotland) Bill, which became law in that year. I think that I should very briefly summarise the provisions of that Act, as it is in so many 874 respects relevant to this Bill I am presenting today.
The first 20 Sections of the Act dealt with a problem which is not directly relevant to England and Wales. The big problem in Scotland was the conservation and control of the red deer. Without going into the details of the Scottish Act, that was done by setting up a commission for the control of the red deer, which has now been in operation in Scotland for some three years. The remainder of the Act, which extends to about 30 Sections, is very relevant to the Bill I am now presenting. The object of it, as it is of the Bill which I am presenting, was the avoidance of unnecessary cruelty to the wild deer and at the same time the conservation and control of the various species.
I think that it might be an advantage if, when I go through my own Bill, I refer Clause by Clause to any corresponding provisions of the Scottish Act. Broadly speaking, the Scottish Act has Sections to prevent poaching, to create a close season for night shooting and to prohibit gilling except by shooting, and there are ancillary provisions with regard to offences committed by two or more persons, unlawful possession of firearms, powers of search and seizure, forfeitures, and so on. There is also in the Act an important exemption Clause which to a large extent is repeated in this Bill and on which I should like to talk at more length when I come to it in my Bill.
The Measure having passed into law in 1959, the question remained of what was to be done with regard to England and Wales. That question was raised in another place in 1960 by Lord Winterton. Several noble Lords participated in a debate at the end of which the subject was reviewed at some length on behalf of the Government by Earl Bathurst, and he concluded with some words which are so relevant to my Bill that perhaps I might read them. Referring to the bodies which were interested in the subject, Lord Bathurst said:I wish them well and hope that all those bodies, whether they be farmers, landowners, the animal preservation societies or individuals, will be able to get together one day and find lines upon which to agree … the solution … must be practicable and enforceable …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 23 June, 1960, Vol 224, c. 641–2.]875 To the bodies and individuals concerned in this matter, those words were a challenge. That challenge has been accepted, and the Bill is the result.
This is the first occasion when I have had the good fortune to be able to introduce a Private Member's Bill. Though I count myself fortunate in that, I want at once to disclaim any credit for the conception or contents of the Bill. The preparation of the Bill has been a matter of great labour and great time and has occupied the attention of a great number of public-spirited people. I think that it is right that I should mention some of the bodies which have most powerfully contributed to bringing it into its present form.
First, the sponsor of the Bill has been the British Field Sports Society, which, as its name implies, has always been concerned about the welfare of our wild animals. It has been supported by the Forestry Commission, which bulks increasingly largely in this whole subject for the reasons that I have mentioned and because, probably more than any other body, it comes into daily contact with our deer. Others who have given help and time to this are the Nature Conservancy, the Council for Nature, the Flora Preservation Society, the Universities' Federation for Animal Welfare, the National Farmers' Union, the Country Landowners' Association, the Devon and Somerset Staghounds and the New Forest Buckhounds. In addition, a large number of individuals have given their help.
It is always invidious in a matter of this kind to mention a single name, and one knows the risks involved, but if I may on this occasion take that risk, I should like to mention the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball), who has given unlimited time and trouble to the preparation of the Bill and has been of immense assistance to me in bringing it before the House. There will be one later important acknowledgment which I hope to make when I go through the Bill.
The species with which the Bill is concerned are set out in the Schedule. We have, first, in England the red deer, which is the finest and largest of the wild mammals living in this country. Though much less extensive in England than in Scotland, it is assumed here to be indigenous, 876 living mostly in Devonshire, and to a smaller extent in the Lake District, and it is thought now to have a population of something under 1,000.
Next is the smaller and perhaps more familiar roe deer, also believed to be indigenous to this country. Thirdly, there is the fallow deer, which it is generally supposed was introduced into this country by the Romans as a semi-wild species, originally kept in parks, but in subsequent centuries in many cases it escaped. Fourthly, there is the imported deer known as the sika.
One of the principal matters with which the Bill is concerned is close seasons, and those four species appear in the Schedule in connection with the close seasons. I think that I can, therefore, go straight to the Bill itself because the close seasons are dealt with in the first Clause. I should like just to explain the principle under which the close seasons are framed. First, with regard to the hinds and the does the object is obvious—to protect them in the final months before the calves or the fawns are dropped and until the calves or the fawns are large enough to fend for themselves. So, referring to the Schedule, it will be seen in all cases that the close season for the hinds or the does is from the beginning of March to the end of October inclusive.
For the stags and the bucks the consideration is a wholly different one—namely, to give protection to them during the period when they are in velvet or growing their horns. Referring to the Schedule, it will be noticed at once that while close seasons are specified for the stags or the bucks of the red deer, the fallow deer and the sika, there is no close season specified for the roe buck, and that is because it is during the months when the roe buck are in velvet that they are apt to be doing extensive damage, particularly in the forests, and it has been thought necessary that they should not be protected in this way.
Clause 2 brings in a matter which is of no less importance, the question of a nightly close season. This is the first of the Clauses which follows the Scottish Act and will be found in Section 23 of that Measure. Hon. Members will, I think, agree that this is an obviously desirable provision, although I shall have more to say about it in connection with Clause 14 subsequently.
877 Clause 3 is, perhaps, the most important and also the most complicated. It tries to carry out in extenso the things which the Scott Henderson Committee obviously thought were the most important in regard to deer. It deals, broadly, with three different subjects: first, the types of shooting which are to be permitted; secondly, such other methods of killing as are to be prohibited; and thirdly, the use of vehicles.
The methods other than shooting are set out in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1). Also relevant are paragraphs (c) (vi) and (vii). The Scott Henderson Committee was emphatic that the use of traps, snares, nets, poisons and stupefying bait should be prohibited by law. That is what the Clause seeks to do.
Subsection (3) of the Clause deals with vehicles. This matter was of great importance in the Scottish Act and particularly in connection with the poaching which prevailed so largely after the war because, obviously, in many cases, vehicles formed an integral part of the operations.
Difficulties may be caused to certain interests by this attempted prohibition of vehicles. I am informed that complications may be caused for those who administer the Royal Parks and for those who have private parks. I want to make it clear, however, that the reason for these difficulties is that experience has shown that in some cases the most practical form of dealing with deer humanely and of shooting them as they must be shot is done by means of such things as Land Rovers, which can be used for driving and separating the deer. If, in Committee, it is possible to remove these objections to the Bill, I shall be more than willing that that should be done.
The provisions concerning weapons are the most complicated part of the Bill. Technical matters of some detail are involved. I wish at this stage to record the obligations of myself and of the sponsors of the Bill to Mr. W. H. R. Robson, past-president of the London Gunmakers Company, who has given us great assistance on the detail of what is here required.
The Bill specifies in Clause 3 the weapons which may not be used: first, rifles, and, second, shotguns. Shotguns 878 are referred to in paragraphs (i) and (ii) of subsection (1, c) and rifles are dealt with in paragraphs (iii) and (iv). The object in both these cases is clear. As regards shotguns, what is essential, obviously, is that the shot used shall be sufficiently large to cause instant and painless death. That is the object of the details set out in subsection (2), in which the different types of cartridges which can be used are specified, first, in relation to roe deer, and second, to deer of other species.
The question of rifles is more complicated. Hon. Members will see in paragraph (iii) of subsection (1, c) the formula which we have included to try to achieve the desirable result of painless death. I refer to the phrase "muzzle energy" as one which is, perhaps, familiar. I have been into this matter. It is a term which is accepted and well-known in the gunmaking trade and I believe that it will not cause any difficulty if it should have to be used as a basis for prosecutions under the Bill when it becomes an Act. The other point about rifle bullets is that they must be of the kind which tend to kill and not to wound That is the object of providing in paragraph (iv) of subsection (1, c) that these bullets must be soft-nosed, or hollow-nosed.
The following Clauses follow more or less directly various Sections of the Scottish Act. Clause 4 reproduces Section 24, Clause 5 reproduces, almost exactly, Section 25; Clause 6 reproduces Section 26; Clause 7, Section 27; Clause 8, Section 28; Clause 9, Section 29; Clause 10, Section 30; and Clause 12, Section 31. For that reason, it is not necessary for me to go into great detail on any of these provisions. They are all ancillary to the main objects of the Bill which I have so far set out, the object being to make it possible for the authorities to enforce the main provision of seizing firearms and other ancillaries used in illegal operations and to make the procedure of the Bill workable in courts of law.
Clause 14 is important and reproduces Section 33 of the Scottish Act. Whatever feelings one may have about the humanitarian arguments in favour of controlling deer, the fact has to be faced that much damage has been done, and can be done, to entirely innocent farmers, ley farmers, and so on, and that liberty 879 must be given to protect their property against depredations of that kind.
Clause 14 is in three subsections. The first is directed purely to the main object of the Bill, that is to say, to prevent the suffering of an injured or diseased deer, and permits anybody to kill a deer which is obviously in that state. Subsection (2) refers to the Agriculture Act, 1947, and preserves the necessary provisions of that in their present state. It is subsection (3) which is important to farmers and foresters, and I should like to make it clear precisely what it does and does not do.
What it does do is to say that in the taking or killing of a deer it is to be a defence against Clause 1 if the conditions of Clause 1 are satisfied, that is to say, the provision for a close season. It is not a defence against the Clause which deals with weapons. The owner or occupier concerned must also be able to prove that his action of killing or shooting was necessary to prevent damage. The fourth condition is that he must be able to show that shooting was the only practicable means of preventing that damage. Those provisions, broadly speaking, have been worked out on the basis of the Scottish Act, and I hope and believe that they are an acceptable compromise of all the conflicting interests in this matter.
Clause 15 would give power to grant licences for certain necessary purposes which might themselves be humanitarian, that is to say, it might be necessary on occasion for deer to be moved from one place to another for scientific or educational purposes. Authority has been given in certain cases to the Minister of Agriculture and in others to the Nature Conservancy to grant licences for such purposes. During the course of our discussions, it may be shown to be desirable to extend this licensing system to cover certain other matters, some of which I have already mentioned.
I have mentioned the Royal Parks and perhaps my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will say a little more about that aspect and also about private parks. What is essential is that the provision about weapons should be maintained. It is that which is important. If that is maintained, some system might be worked out to enable vehicles to be used in these parks.
880 In these rather complicated Clauses, reference is made to arrows, spears and similar missiles. In this country we have a number of honourable societies of bowmen and archers who are very much concerned that we should not interfere with their sport. It would be a matter of great regret to me if by any action of ours we were unnecessarily to do so. I cite the instance of a society which is local to myself, the Kidderminster and District Archery Federation, which is on the borders of my constituency and whose president is my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro), who has expressed regret that he is unable to be present with us today.
§ Mr. More
Anything which can be done to help bodies of this kind would be appreciated.
As I have already indicated, the Bill represents a great deal of self-sacrifice, labour, and substantial compromise of conflicting interests. I emphasise that the Bill is not directed to promoting any sporting interest; it is not directed to promoting any agricultural interest; it is not directed to promoting any forestry interest; nor is it directed to promoting any commercial interest. Conversely, it is not directed to restricting or interfering with any of those sporting, agricultural, forestry or commercial interests. What the Bill is directed to doing, and this is its dominant purpose, is promoting humanitarian interests. As such, I believe that it is a worthy Bill and I commend it to the House.
§ 1.56 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) upon the hard work which he has obviously put into the preparation of the Bill. I also congratulate his hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball), who has done a great deal of the work behind the scenes.
Every Bill to protect animals receives a sympathetic hearing in the House. The hon. Member for Ludlow represents one of the most attractive parts of the whole United Kingdom. It is on the borders of Wales and it looks to the land of opportunity and it is only natural that the hon. Member should have introduced a Bill of this kind.
881 I wish only to say that I should have much preferred the Bill to have gone a great deal further. For the life of me, I cannot understand the mentality of those who find their enjoyment from getting dogs to chase deer until they kill them. It is such a cruel business. I wish that the Bill had made it illegal for these people to spend their money on keeping dogs simply for the purpose of chasing other animals. I wish that they could be prevented by law from this exercise of their sadistic desire.
Those are strong words, but I feel strongly on this subject. Every time I have seen a picture of a deer jumping over a cliff, or up to its neck in water, trying to get away from dogs which have been let loose upon it by human beings, I feel ashamed.
I shall not oppose the Bill which is designed to protect deer by providing for proper seasons and preventing even more cruel ways of killing them, but I earnestly hope that the day will not be long when the House will make it illegal for blood sports to be pursued in this country.
§ 1.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)
I should like first to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Moore) on the most happy timing of the introduction of the Bill. This is the first Private Member's Friday since the close seasons in Scotland came into force, and it is most appropriate that today we should be discussing the control and mangement of deer in England and Wales. I also congratulate him on the happy timing because it is only I0 days since the formation of the British Deer Society, at Woburn last week, which gives the Bill its wholehearted support. I take this opportunity of thanking all those who voluntarily gave a great deal of time to producing this Bill.
My hon. Friend has given the full range of interests covered in this working party. In fact it covered everybody who was involved in the practical management of deer. These people gave evidence before a voluntary committee which had no statutory backing at all. They did not know what effect their evidence would have, or what effect their work would have, and they were dependent on getting someone like my hon. Friend to introduce this Bill.
882 Not being a Government-sponsored body, it lacked many facilities but it published a memorandum of evidence, which has been circulated to many hon. Members, giving the details of its deliberations with regard to many points, including those raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). I had the privilege of being chairman of the working party. The criticism has been made that it was a strange collection of bedfellows, and that an amazing number of interests were got together. The working party was sponsored and paid for by the British Field Sports Society of which the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison) is chairman. This society is devoting its energies to seeing what can be done for the preservation and proper management of all the sporting animals in this country.
The House must face the fact that with the increase in forestry planting the whole face of the countryside is being artificially changed. It is being changed by motorways and by buildings. We have a very artificial society if we have to keep 50 million in this country, and one has to face the fact that if we are to have wild animals they must be properly managed. The balance of nature is being upset by these artificial things, and we therefore have to devise a means of providing for the proper control and management of wild animals.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
What is the definition of wild animals? Recent writers say that they have undergone a biological change. According to experts on animals in Africa they have gone wild because they do not like being shot. When they found that Europeans with guns left half their comrades wounded and dying on the plains, they began to develop an antipathy to Europeans which was not natural. Does the hon. Gentleman say that a deer is an animal ferae naturae?
§ Mr. Kimball
Various species of deer have become naturalised in this country. To give these deer a chance to develop and survive, they must, as we have discovered in Scotland—and the Scottish Act has made this clear—be properly managed and the right numbers killed every year and a proper census taken. One of the things which the Bill shows is the great ignorance of the total stocks of deer in England and Wales. One of the things which the Scottish Act has 883 done is to make everybody take an annual census of the deer and then shoot one-twentieth of the total number counted in June.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West rushed in to this discussion and raised the issue of hunting deer with hounds. Let us dispose of this argument once and for all. The working party came to the conclusion that the management of the red deer herd on Exmoor, as practised by the Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds, was one of the best examples of the proper management of deer in this country. The interesting thing is that during the period 1830 to 1855 when the Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds were not in existence the population of red deer on Exmoor, which is now about 1,000, fell to under 100. If, therefore, we want deer on Exmoor, we must have the Devon and Somerset Staghounds.
This was brought out pretty clearly in the evidence given to the Scott Henderson Committee which devoted paragraphs 207 to 239 of its Report to examining the whole problem of hunting deer on Exmoor. The Committee came to the conclusion in paragraph 419 of its Report that hounds were a useful and necessary method of controlling red deer on Exmoor, as without them the deer could not be destroyed or controlled without danger to persons or stock or in a way that would not cause suffering.
If the hon. Member for Cardiff, West tries to write into this Bill any prohibition about hunting with hounds, he will get himself into a frightful muddle, and I shall explain why. We all agree that the management of deer in woodlands as practised by the Forestry Commission in the New Forest is probably the most advanced, intelligent, and best management that we can find. The Forestry Commission in the New Forest has found it necessary to pay its keepers an extra allowance to enable them to keep hounds.
The hon. Gentleman has to face the fact that man is the most inefficient predator. A man with a shotgun is an inefficient predator. He has no hope of collecting wounded deer without the use of hounds which can be put on the trail of a wounded deer and bring it 884 to bay and draw the keeper's attention to it so that it can be properly dispatched. Hounds are very important to the proper control and management of deer. Scrope, whose book on deer stalking is perhaps the most authoritative work on the subject, devotes three chapters to the need for having properly trained and properly controlled deer hounds.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Is the hon. Gentleman trying to tell the House that these hounds to which he refers in Devon and Somerset are there to keep the deer at the right number, or are they there because the hunters enjoy the pleasure of the dogs finding the animals, and enjoy the kill?
§ Mr. Kimball
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Scott Henderson Committee which came to the conclusion that unless there were hounds on Exmoor there would be no deer.
Having disposed of that argument fairly, I deal now with the deer population of this country, because I do not think that the House realises how many deer we have in all. My hon. Friend gave the population of red deer. The total in the West Country, in the Lake District, in the New Forest and Thetford Chase is about 1,000. Roe deer in private woodlands and Forestry Commission land number about 20,000 bucks and does. Fallow deer, about 20,000 again. Sika deer, the imported Japanese deer, which is becoming indigenous and getting fairly strongly established, number between 300 and 500.
The Bill gives power to the Ministers to make orders at a later date for close seasons of many other species of deer. I think that the House may be interested to know just how many other species of deer have been imported into this country and now show signs of becoming firmly established. The first, and the largest group, the Mountjack or barking deer, is about the size of a springer spaniel, and weighs about 20 lb. These have escaped from private parks in the Midlands and are becoming established in Bedfordshire, Dorset, and north-west England. If it had not been for the bad winter, they would have increased considerably, but the evidence from the Forestry Commission is that this hard winter has taken a tremendous 885 toll of these very small deer. The estimate is that there are about 500 Mountjack deer now naturalised in this country, of which the Forestry Commission destroyed 10 last year.
Then there is the quite rare Chinese water deer, which is found in Berkshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. In some parts there are reports of quite a few American black tailed deer. The Mountjack, the Chinese water deer, and the American black tailed deer are left out of the Bill because we do not know enough about their breeding habits or when they cast their antlers. We know a little about them in parks, but it is not possible to make close seasons for them until we know more about them in the wild state. The Bill contains provisions enabling this to be done.
After the discussions that we have had on other sporting Measures it is important to make it clear that the Bill does nothing to make deer game. It does not extend the definition of game in any way. I must warn the House that under Section 4 of the Game Licences Act, 1860, a game licence is required for shooting deer, rabbits, snipe, woodcock and other animals with which we are familiar. My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow has dealt with the point about deer in private parks, and how they are preserved and protected under the provisions of the 1861 Larceny Act.
I now want to say a little about the feelings of the working party on the whole question of close seasons. Hon. Members will probably be familiar with the Bill that the University Federation on Animal Welfare decided to introduce in another place last Session. It kindly agreed to withdraw that Bill in order to see if we could reach agreement on a much more comprehensive Measure—which I submit the present Bill is. That Bill gave great prominence to the whole question of close seasons, but the more we studied the problem the more convinced we became that it was nothing compared to the problem of the way in which deer should be destroyed.
At this point we must not compare conditions in England and Wales with those in Scotland. The Scottish Bill deals with one class of deer that has been driven out of its natural habitat—the children of the mist, driven out into the high and unprofitable parts of 886 Scotland. This Bill deals with deer that live mostly in woodlands, which have much better feeding available to them, and which drop their calves and grow their horns at different times of the year.
It was equally difficult to obtain evidence throughout the United Kingdom about the times of calving and of casting of horns. If hon. Members have copies of newspapers published at about this time and in April of last year they may find in them pictures of the Badminton Horse Trials, showing the horses going round the course with fallow deer watching in the background, still with their horns. At the same time, we had evidence from a very distinguished estate agent that he had been in Essex the previous week and had found that the deer had cast their horns. This shows how difficult it is to try to fix the close seasons.
On the evidence available to us we came to the conclusion that in the case of male deer the important thing was to provide protection for them when they were growing their horns. Unlike what happens with other parts of the body, while this colossal length of horn is growing on the deer's head the blood supplying the nerves and everything else is on the outside. It is contained in the velvet covering which is on the horn while it is growing, and if the deer are disturbed and are made to rush through the undergrowth they are liable to damage this velvet, and this is followed by deformity and suffering. That was the background against which we fixed the close seasons.
It was not possible for us to do what was done in Scotland, namely, to provide a close season for bucks just after the rut. That is possible in Scotland because nobody wants to shoot deer at that time, because they are valueless. In England, however, most people try to reduce the numbers of deer—and they are considered by farmers and landowners as pests—during the time when the bracken is down and the leaves are off the trees, allowing the deer to be seen. That meant that it was not practical to provide for a close season immediately after the rut, and so we provided for the close season when they were growing their horns.
It was a tragedy that we could not come to a decision about the close season for roebuck, which do so much damage 887 to forestry plantations and private woodlands, and which have a different cycle from that of the fallow, Sika and red deer. They rut at a different time and cast their horns at a different time.
By far the most important part of the Bill is the weapons Clause. I will deal with the provisions about rifles first. Obviously, the best way of controlling deer is to shoot them from a seat high in the trees. From there it is possible to shoot downwards on their feeding grounds. The right deer can be selected, so that the job can be done properly and unhurriedly. One of the most effective ways of controlling roebucks is by calling them during the rutting season, getting them into the rides, and then shooting them. But even with these methods the roebuck will not be killed in the numbers required properly to protect forestry and farming interests.
Hon. Members may wonder why we arrived at the decision that only rifles with a muzzle energy of 1,700foot pounds or more, or a calibre of 240 inches or more should be legal. We did so because although we have no doubt that experts can kill deer with a .22 or a .23 rook rifle, a person who is not quite an expert and who is using such a rifle may haunch the deer, or hit it somewhere else in the body, so that the deer does not realise that pit is hit. It feels as though it has been stung by a wasp or a bumble bee and the person who has fired the shot does not know whether he has hit the deer.
The importance of using the foot poundage definition is that this is a measure of the punch with which the bullet hits the deer. Hon. Members who have stalked deer know that even if they are unfortunate enough not to hit the deer in the vital place, provided the bullet has sufficient punch there can be no doubt that the deer has been hit. The stalker knows that the animal is wounded, and that it is his duty to see that it is killed. But if it is hit with a .22 bullet and is only haunched, it is not possible to know whether the deer is hit, because there is no reaction.
The working party received many representations from people who argued that smooth bore guns should not be allowed. I would refer hon. Members to the Report of the Scott Henderson Committee, which, in paragraph 211, 888 makes it clear that the use of smooth bore weapons for use against deer must be allowed. If we are to allow them, we must allow for the use of weapons with sufficient penetration. Therefore, we have provided that the gun must be a 12-bore gun, and that a 16-bore or 20-bore will not do. We had much discussion about the question of shot sizes, and carried out a good deal of research on the subject. I admit that if we are going to use a smooth bore weapon we should use one single shot—either a rifle slug or a spherical ball; one solid bit of buckshot.
On a well-known estate in my constituency, which has some of the best forestry in England, the keepers are issued with cheap Spanish single-barrelled guns, which are permitted because the owner has a firearms certificate. These guns and shot are issued to the keepers at Brocklesby, in order to control the deer. The snag is that this can be done only if a firearms certificate is obtained. The National Farmers' Union supports the Bill, but it could not support something which provided that the shooting and control of deer could be done only when a firearms certificate had been obtained. I do not want to draw a red herring across the debate, but I ask the House what it thinks about the issue of a firearms certificate. There is a good deal of unhappiness, uncertainty and dissatisfaction about the way in which these certificates are issued; about who has the power to say who shall have them, and under what conditions.
Because of the necessity for obtaining a firearms certificate, the spherical ball and the rifle slug are out. An article in this week's Shooting Times, by Kenneth Whitehead—one of our greatest experts on deer—makes the point that the Bill falls down by not insisting on the spherical ball and the rifle slug, as used on the Continent. He says that the Bill is wrong in that it lays down two different shot sizes for use against deer, and also that we should specify the exclusive use of the LG cartridge, with six pellets in it, for all deer, and that the SSG is a quite unsatisfactory cartridge for this purpose.
Anticipating this Bill, the Deputy Surveyor of the New Forest carried out some extensive experiments on using shotguns and shot sizes. This is the result of his experiments. I will quote from his letter:I anticipated the Bill by issuing 'LG' to all the keepers in the New Forest last season, 889 instead of the usual 'SSG' … By Christmas I was getting complaints from the keepers to the effect that 'LG'that is the cartridge with only six big pellets in it—was not satisfactory and more wounded deer were resulting than ever before.By the 31st January the keepers had used up all last year's stock of SSG and they were using only LG. During the last 15 days of the open season—the Forestry Commission already observe the close seasons laid down in this Bill—they used only LG and they had six wounded deer.
Because the Deputy-Surveyor of the New Forest had thrown doubts on the use of LG, we arranged, unofficially, so the House must take it for what it is worth, for several experiments to be carried out with shots of this kind. Present at these experiments were the vice-president of the British Deer Society, a member of the Council of the British Deer Society and the Deputy-Surveyor of the New Forest. As the result of these experiments, which were completed only on Thursday, long after the Bill was printed, it was discovered that when using LG, which the Bill lays down, with six pellets in the cartridge, only 47½ per cent. of all those pellets ever struck the target, or deer in a part where it was likely to kill them. Experiments were carried out with SG, special SG and SSG and the highest percentage of kills—that is the actual pellets that go into the stag to be certain of killing it—was with SSG, where 83 per cent. of all the pellets fired would in fact have killed the deer.
I would suggest to my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow, despite the agreement reached by the working party, the very strong feeling expressed by many of the working party and the arguments in favour of lethal balls and rifle slugs, that when we come to Committee we should consider having SSG perfectly ordinary buckshot used for all classes of deer to be shot. This would make the Bill simpler and would, I think, commend it to the House even more.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
Is there any reason for having a smooth bore gun to improve the chances of hitting in certain circumstances?
§ Mr. Kimball
Apart from the question of the issue of firearms certificates, and that a lot of people do not have firearms certificates and therefore do not 890 have rifles, the point about allowing the use of small-bore guns is that it is not practical or safe to use rifles. One can use a rifle in a densely populated area from a high seat shooting down, but on clear ground where there might be hounds or people standing around one has to use buckshot.
I want to deal with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow—I am sorry my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro) is not here—about archery. The working party went into the whole problem of archery in the greatest possible detail. I do not know whether hon. Members realise that the Royal Toxophilite Society's court is in the centre of London. When we began to investigate the problems of archery we asked the society whether we could use its court for a demonstration. Such is the division of opinion among archers, it was not possible to borrow the Royal Toxophilite Society's ground for this demonstration and we had to use the ground at the Duke of York's Headquarters. I give that only as an example to show the House how very divided the governing body of archery is.
The archery societies are divided into three—field archery, target archery and about 60 people, at the moment, who indulge in hunting camp archery, trying to shoot real deer. When we had the demonstration—unfortunately I was unable to go—at the Duke of York's Headquarters there was no doubt that with the proper broad-headed arrow one had the killing power and the penetration to kill a deer at 50 yards or even further. In fact, we were so impressed by the power of these weapons that I should have thought that it was for the House to say that if people are to be encouraged to use these weapons, which are every bit as dangerous as a rifle, they should be required to have a firearms certificate.
It is quite impossible for hon. Members, as they will find when they come to deal with archers, to get the governing body of the archers—in fact there are two governing bodies of archery and there is an argument about which is the governing body at the moment—to give a definite lead. The only thing that I could get from the chairman of the Grand National Archery Society was the very guarded comment that if the bow is to be included as a permitted weapon 891 in the Bill it would have to be clearly defined in regard to the draw weight and the arrow would have to be equally clearly defined as to the size and design of the head.
I should like to suggest to the House that when we come to Committee we should deal with the archers in this way: at the moment they cannot come as a body and say to us that this is the definition, this is the right kind of weapon, this is how we want to conduct our hunting archery, but it should be perfectly possible, at a later stage, if the archers could get together to produce a correct definition of the bows and the arrows that they want used with the blessing of the two governing bodies of archery, to include bows and arrows in the Bill subject to those definitions. I hope that the House will exclude them at the moment. I should add the very strong feelings expressed on this by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.
Having been on the working party, I am conscious of the tremendous part played by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare. I take the point that the Federation made, that until we can be quite certain that there will not, as has happened in America, be a sudden swamping of the country with bows and arrows, we should exclude arrows. There is a gentleman in Perth who is manufacturing a cheap bow which he is trying to sell for hunting archery.
I agree that we ought to keep the ban on the whole question of crossbows which are being sold in this country for stalking. The hon. Member put the case for the archers and I was going to remind him that as long ago as 1139, one of the Popes forbad the use of the crossbow except against the infidel. I do not think that anyone would wish to assign our deer to that category.
The Bill deals with the problem of night shooting. The hon. Member must face the fact that if shooting takes place at night, the use of hounds must be allowed in order to chase wounded animals. The real objection to night shooting is the fact that if a deer is wounded, there exist no facilities for pursuing it. I should like to state the contrary argument which I consider very important. If it is proposed to kill deer to prevent damage, it is necessary to kill 892 the animals which are actually doing the damage to young grass or to seeds. And the way to get them is to shoot them at night when they are doing the damage. Against that argument there is the humane argument. Someone from the New Forest has said, "I heard 50 shots and I know that the person got only three deer." That shows to some extent the inefficency of night shooting.
The hon. Member for Ludlow dealt with the whole problem of deer killing and indicated that he will meet the substantial objections which have been raised. I wish to conclude by urging the House to give a Second Reading to this Bill and allow it to be discussed in Committee. Many hon. Members were amazed at the figures given by the Forestry Commission when the Bill was first mentioned; that 60 per cent. of all the deer killed in the Forestry Commission's woodlands last year had gunshot wounds in them. This shows the extent of the cruelty caused by indiscriminate shooting that goes on at the present time.
I realise that to many people this Bill seems like a compromise and that it does not go so far as the really keen stalker would like. On the other hand, these provisions will assist in educating people in the proper management of deer. We know very little about the correct management of the deer which live in the woodlands of this country. If this Bill makes it illegal to loose off number six shot at any deer which is in the vicinity; if it prevents keepers from loosening off if they just hear a noise in the undergrowth in the hope of getting a deer—if that sort of thing is made illegal, people will have to study the problem. They will have to find out more about the life cycle and habits of our deer and try to discover proper ways to control them. I have heard as a criticism of the Bill that its provisions would be difficult to enforce. But nothing would be easier than to examine the carcase of a deer in order to see how it has been shot.
I have obtained from the Forestry Commission details of the weapons clause governing the control of deer in West Germany where the Germans have a much stricter weapons clause, and lay down what kind of weapon and shot is to be used. People who have hunted in Germany will appreciate the high 893 standard of woodland management and stalking practices which obtains there. The provisions of this Bill are much more simple and the weapons Clause more clearly defined and I hope that the Measure will be given a Second Reading.
§ 2.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
I give this Bill a qualified and tepid approval and I shall be brief because I hope that there will be time this afternoon to devote to the Bill to be introduced by the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger). I hope that I show a proper sense of proportion when I say that, in my view, to protect certain racial minorities in this country from persecution is at least as important as considering whether archers should possess a firearms certificate.
I say that my welcome to the Bill is tepid and qualified because I share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) on this subject. Neither of us will be happy until we can get rid of deer hunting with hounds for the purpose of sport. The addition of the words "for the purpose of sport" is important. No one questions that there are times when it is necessary to use hounds for this purpose. But I feel that it is more likely to be an economic and efficient way to control deer if the hounds are followed only by a small number of qualified foresters or pest officers, rather than by a large number of people for their personal enjoyment. That is a fundamental difference which I think will divide hon. Members and which the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) cannot just brush aside as having been established once and for all by reference to the Scott Henderson Report.
§ Mr. A. R. Wise (Rugby)
Will the hon. Member make plain to the House how he would punish those persons who join in the hunt with his qualified murderers and turn up to run after or ride after the hounds?
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am too experienced a Member of this House to fall for that intervention. If the hon. Gentleman would like to refer to a Bill which I sponsored in 1949 he will find certain detailed proposals designed to that end.
894 I have said that my approval is qualified. Nevertheless, I do not propose to oppose the Bill. I do not wish to block it in any way. I think that it goes, at any rate, some way towards protecting the deer from some of the sufferings to which they are subjected at present Most of the points which one would desire to make may be made during the Committee stage and should not be made at great length in the House.
There is only one detailed criticism which I wish to make. It is with reference to the close season to which the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) referred in some detail. I wish to bring to the notice of hon. Members the criticism made by the National Society for the Abolition of Cruel Sports, which suggests that the close season in the Bill starts too late and that it would be more suitable if it began on 1st February. The Society says that hinds are liable to be hunted at present during February when they are in calf. It quotes Colonel Murphy, the Master of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds—a body which may have done more to ensure the ultimate abolition of deer hunting than any other organisation in the country—as having said, when questioned about a hunted hind:Of course it was in calf … they always are at this time of the year … and of course it was exhausted … we do not catch them unless they are.That statement by the redoubtable Colonel Murphy appeared in the Western Morning News on 22nd February, 1960.
I hope that during the Committee stage the sponsors of this Bill will be flexible in their attitude and be prepared to consider arguments for advancing the date of the close season from 1st March to 1st February. I hope to have an opportunity to discuss the matter on Committee stage and I will therefore content myself today with saying that I do not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ 2.36 p.m.
§ Sir Gerald Wills (Bridgwater)
I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) on having seized the opportunity to bring in this Bill and I should like also to congratulate him on the manner in which he introduced it. I wish to add my support to the Measure. I think it a considerable achievement that 10 widely differing 895 bodies of people should have been able to get together and produce such a Bill. They have reached unanimity, and in doing so obviously they have had to compromise. But I think that they have done it very well. I do not think that we shall return to the stage at which we wish to prevent people with painted faces, to which my hon. Friend referred, from going out to hunt the deer. But I am quite sure that this Bill will help to control deer in the country and prevent many undesirable practices which have happened in my constituency when deer have been shot at night, and which have grown up in the past few years.
I hope that this Bill will go some way to prevent such practices. I have no doubt that deer must be controlled. We all realise that they eat a great deal and a lot of things which most people wish to conserve. That is why it is a good thing to have such a measure as this. To me this Bill seems sensible and uncrankish. I do not like things which go to extremes in either way and I think that the provisions in the Bill represent a good way of achieving what is desired. I welcome Clause 2 which virtually bans snaring, trapping, doping, and other unorthodox and rather esoteric weapons such as the bow and arrow. Mention has been made of the crossbow and it would seem that the quarrel in connection with the crossbow exists as well as with the ordinary long bow. One thing which the Bill does not mention is blowpipes. Nevertheless, I think it wise to use the proper means to destroy deer when there are too many of them and when they are doing damage.
Some of my constituents take exception to the requirements to use L.G. pellets of .360 size. I think the S.S.G. is a better type of pellet because I am told that the L.G. can do a lot of damage to the gun and not so much damage to the deer as it ought to. I am glad that night shooting has been made illegal. It may be difficult to prevent deer from damaging a crop, as envisaged in Clause 14 (3), if the deer spend the day in one place and, with the consummate judgment which deer have, go out to another place at night where they know that there is something to eat and eat it. That is bound to happen, and if one cannot shoot the 896 deer when they are eating at night it is difficult, but no doubt we can deal with that in Committee.
The Bill will do a lot of good. It has quite a few teeth in it. The powers of seizure and confiscation are good, for they mean that people will not take lightly the fact that they may have their vehicle, their weapons or other material confiscated if they infringe the provisions of the Bill. That is a good thing. I think that the Bill will prevent the irresponsible and dangerous shooting which certainly takes place in these days. I think also that it will prevent a large amount of cruelty which undoubtedly happens and which has been referred to by hon. Members. Because of all these things and because I think that in substance and essence this is an excellent Bill, I hope that it will receive a Second Reading and will go on to the Statute Book.
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I always listen to the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball), in particular on animal life, with interest, fascination and some measure of enlightenment—and occasionally with some slight disagreement. I was fascinated today to find for the first time that hunting deer is a method of keeping up the number of deer, while hunting foxes is a method of keeping down their numbers and that both these methods are the only possible means of humanely, kindly, totally and generously achieving those objects.
I agreed a little with the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Sir G. Wills). I was a little surprised, in the country of the crossbow and the land of "the white company", to hear doubts about the effectiveness of archery and of the Royal Toxopholite Society—if that is the correct pronunciation of that rather curious combination of Latin and Greek words—
§ Mr. Hale
No. We shall not have a philological argument, but we can settle that outside.
It is fairly well-known that the bow and arrow were the only means of exterminating game in Africa for a very long time and that the indigenous African Bushman still uses that means to great effect when he has the opportunity, 897 using a bentwood bow, or sometimes one made of the small Gemsbok horn and a small bow with stone-tipped arrows. It will be said that they are tipped with vegetable poison, but used on a lion at close range the wound must be disabling. He cannot wait for the poison to take effect.
I am always sorry to raise a note of dissent. We have heard a chorus of agreement with the Bill's objects. I shall say, first, good things about the Bill. It is extremely well drawn; it is an informative Measure with a cover note as a precis in the Explanatory Memorandum. I wish the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) would pass on to Government Departments the fact that if we could have more Bills drawn as well as this it would help very much. Roughly speaking, however, it represents the sort of Bill to which I take an immediate and intense objection. Point No. 1 is that it is limited in scope and limited so as to exclude that particular form of deer killing which, rightly or wrongly, expertly or inexpertly, many people feel very emotional about and many people feel should be the subject of legislation.
Point No. 2 is that it would create a whole new series of offences and, presumably, would add to the already diverse state of our criminal and magisterial law. On the other hand, there is this to be said for it, that, so far as I know, no one interested in the subject has criticised its provisions, except to say that they ought to go further. The hon. Member for Ludlow presented it with obvious sincerity, and obviously after considerable knowledge. The hon. Member for Gains-borough was quite frank about its origin and I do not think that that makes it any the worse. Whether or not one believes in hunting, I have no doubt that people engaged in hunting have any desire not to go outside the ambit of their sport to add cruelty. Indeed, they may do many things worth while outside that ambit.
I take the view, and always have done, that Private Members' Bills should be cherished a little by this House. I hope that I have always taken the view—but I am not sure whether I have always acted up to it—that, unless a Bill is obviously and grossly undesirable from my point of view, its passage should be 898 facilitated. If one feels uneasy about it, the time for expressing that uneasiness is much more appropriate on Third Reading, when the Bill has been examined in Committee and has had a chance of having its provisions considered. I have some humanitarian Bills on the Order Paper, but I fear that the entrance into the Chamber of the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) means that we may not make further progress with them.
§ Mr. Hale
I am glad to hear that, because disapproval by the hon. and learned Member is at least satisfying.
However, this spirit of reciprocity has to be expressed on both sides of the House. I object to this method of sending an hon. Member into the Chamber when he has not taken any part in consideration of a Bill—it usually happens just before four o'clock—and he calls "Object". Usually, he puts his hand in front of his mouth as if he were about to belch, apparently so that no one will know that he is going to call "Object". It seems to be a slight abuse of parliamentary procedure.
I hope that many people will see some of the pictures which have been produced about the effect on animals of the use of hydrogen bombs, for they are very moving and disturbing. It now appears, however, that if Mr. Khrushchev were to drop a bomb on Exmoor, even in the hours of daylight, he would be liable, under the Bill, to a fine, and even possibly something more severe.
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morrison (Salisbury)
I do not wish to detain the House for more than a few moments. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) has explained, I have a connection with the society which originally sponsored this suggestion. I feel that I have no need to declare my interest as I am sure that my hon. Friends agree that it is a common interest and that on particular society wishes to claim the credit for a working party over which my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough so ably presided. My hon. Friend there found out much important detail which was put forward by my hon. Friend the 899 Member for Ludlow (Mr. More), in moving the Second Reading. I congratulate them both sincerely on what they have done and on their knowledge—and on the knowledge which they have acquired since they took up this proposal.
The Bill arose because there was a general feeling, particularly following the Deer (Scotland) Bill, that something more should be done to protect the deer in England and Wales. The feeling was shared by nature lovers and sportsmen—and many nature lovers are sportsmen and many sportsmen are nature lovers, which is as it should be. That is the reason for the Bill.
The Second Reading was moved very clearly by my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow. I was very glad that in doing so he mentioned the name of a very old friend of the House, the late Lord Winterton, who had the cause of deer protection in mind for many years and who set the scene for action on these lines. Incidentally, had another late hon. Member whom the House mourns, Mr. Jack Jones, been alive today, I believe that although he might have differed from Lord Winterton in many things across the Floor of the House, he would have agreed with him on the subject of animals because they shared the difficulty of riding a camel in the same squadron in the First World War.
The important Clause is that which concerns weapons. My hon. Friend made one point about the use of shotguns rather than rifles, but I am sure that we must consider the question of safety. If one is shooting into a hill, many things are safe, but there is much flat land on which deer appear, and one cannot have a weapon with a trajectory which goes for 2 miles without possibly running risks. Many of the high-speed, small-bore rifles, such as the .22 can lead to cruelty.
In offering good wishes to the Bill, I should like to comment on what my hon. Friend said, in moving the Bill, about the number of deer in England and Wales. He gave some detailed figures, and I am sure that the figures which he gave are right. But in the West country—and I am thinking of Dorset and Somerset in particular—the number of deer have increased in my lifetime, and certainly in the last five years, particularly roe deer. In this 900 respect those of us who are country lovers and who love the deer feel that there must be some means of checking their advance should they be doing damage.
The Bill as it stands is a compromise on the issue between the views of the ardent stalker and the need to secure fair play to agriculture and forestry. I commend it heartily to the House.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put; but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.
§ 2.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Royle (Richmond, Surrey)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) on introducing the Bill. I have a rather unusual interest in it in that in my constituency we have a park which has a very fine herd of deer, and both my constituents and everyone else interested in the future of Britain's parks, naturally, take a great interest in the animals that live there.
As far as I know, in Richmond Park we do not suffer from poachers, but up to a few months ago we suffered from the depredations of car drivers who, when the park was opened at night to motor vehicles during an experiment introduced by the Minister of Works, accidentally killed a number of deer. In 1961, they killed 11 deer after dark and they killed four in 1962. This will not happen in the future, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works has arranged that it will be closed every day at dusk.
I am a little concerned about Clause 16, and I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would explain certain aspects of it to me. I welcome Clause 3, which lays down certain weapons for the killing of deer or species, but Clause 16 is worded as follows:This Act shall apply to land an interest in which belongs to Her Majesty in right of the Crown and land an interest in which belongs to a government department or is held in trust for Her Majesty for the purposes of a government department; but in its application to any land an interest in which belongs or is held as aforesaid this Act shall have effect subject to such modifications as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State under this Act.I want an assurance from my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend 901 the Minister of Works will in no way be excluded from the provisions of the Bill. At the moment, I understand that it is necessary for steps to be taken every year to keep an eye on the size of the herd in the park. Indeed, every year the Ministry takes steps to reduce humanely the size of the herd on a carefully balanced basis. I feel most strongly that my right hon. Friend should in no way be allowed to stray from the aim of my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow. I hope that in Committee upstairs Clause 16 will be considered very carefully.
I do not wish to speak for very long. I merely wanted to express my interest and that of my constituents in the Bill. Many of them have written to me giving it wholehearted support. I should also like to take this opportunity of congratulating the rangers in Richmond Park and the Ministry of Works on the way in which this fine herd is kept. It is greatly appreciated by the many citizens of London who visit the park. I wish the Bill well in its various stages through the House.
§ 2.57 p.m.
§ Mr. A. R. Wise (Rugby)
I will genuinely be brief, but I was driven to my feet by the attitude adopted by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood), who expressed the virtuous old puritan attitude which was against sport of all kind. He said that he recognised the necessity from time to time of hunting deer with a pack of hounds, but also said that he would confine it to professional huntsmen, without any possibility of anybody following the pack for the purposes of sport. That is precisely the old puritan attitude towards bear-baiting; they wanted to stop it, not because of cruelty to the bear but because it amused the people. I thought that we had genuinely grown out of that attitude.
With other hon. Members, I welcome the Bill. I think, that it requires a certain amount of examination in Committee, but not all that much. I am a little bothered about the endeavour to prevent night shooting. I agree that it is dangerous and might even be cruel to shoot at night, but I am always reluctant to introduce a Clause which it is difficult or perhaps impossible to enforce, and I am not at all sure whether we shall ever be able to stop sportsmen shooting deer at night. It is very difficult to do so. 902 The area has to be patrolled steadily, and there are only a few village constables—and if one hears a shot in the night, who is to say that that is the shot which hit the deer?
It may be that the mere existence of a sanction will do the trick. I sincerely hope that it will. There may be some justification at times for shooting at night. Mention has been made in the debate that, if it is desired to destroy deer which are genuinely damaging crops, one wants to make absolutely certain that they are damaging crops before one destroys them. If they happen to do it at night, the shooting must be done at night.
A deer is by no means an unintelligent animal. I have stalked deer in Germany. I have shot stags in Germany. I can remember very well one incident which surprised me very much. The forester with whom I was working and I had watched one very noble stag for three solid weeks come clown to water in one particular place. We were waiting peacefully until the season opened so as to be nice and legal about it. The very day the season opened the stag did not turn up.
§ Mr. Wise
He must have.
There are very few other major difficulties. There is one point on the use of the bow. There is no doubt whatever that the longbow is a powerful enough, and indeed an accurate enough, weapon, provided that somebody knows how to shoot it off. I am not at all sure that the standard of skill in archery, particularly when shooting at what may be a moving target, is anything like good enough to allow, or even to consider, the bow being brought into action for the destruction of deer.
I do not know whether it would be feasible to license the use of the bow, or whether a system could be devised to test whether the user is likely to be able to hit the target. I imagine that it would be very difficult. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) will not in future years consider too seriously the use of this instrument.
The crossbow is hopelessly out. One absolute bar against it is that it is impossible to reload it in less than three minutes. Therefore, if the first shot does 903 not produce the desired effect, but merely wounds the unfortunate animal, there is no chance of a fairly rapid second shot, which would be the merciful end.
I agree, also, that we must confine shooting to the smooth-bore gun. The rifle is too dangerous. I hope that the use of very heavy shot or, indeed, the single lethal ball, whether or not it damages the gun, will be a sufficient safeguard against any form of cruelty. Whether the ball damages the gun or not seems to be irrelevant. After all, if a man likes to damage his own gun, it is up to him. It can be used reasonably well. It is right to insist on its use in the Bill.
For all these reasons, I support the Bill, more particularly because it cuts directly across the high puritan protectionism of the hon. Member for Rossendale.
§ 3.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I welcome the Bill. I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) on his good fortune in winning a place in the Ballot and on his choice of subject. I also apologise to him for not having been able to hear the speech, which, I hear, was excellent, with which he introduced the Bill.
I have some small comments to make about it. I think that it puts the last nail in the coffin of Robin Hood. As far as I can make out, he commits an offence under Clause 3 (1, c, vi), the bows and arrows provision, and probably under Clause 2, which would have prevented him from hunting in the dark. It is also sad, in a way, that my hon. Friend should make the whole of the battle of Chevy Chase illegal. It was probably illegal before the Bill was drafted, but it is now beyond all doubt that many provisions contained in the Bill were breached on that occasion.
It is generally welcome that we should take action to preserve the fauna of England. It is one of the few respects in which Scotland has got ahead of England. Scotland already has legislation preserving deer. I am only sad that our legislation should be behind that of Scotland. I therefore wish the Bill a very speedy passage through the House.
904 There is something rather sad about the way in which deer are often shot. I have no objection whatsoever to animals and birds being shot when they are coming to take food, or to drink water, or to go to roost. However, there is something rather unpleasant about the way deer are often ensnared and shot at when they are making love. That is true of the stalking of red and roe deer during the rut, for there is something rather unpleasant that that should be the attraction used to shot them.
It seems somewhat cumbersome that the Bill should lay down several different sorts of shots for use on different sorts of deer. For instance, the "SSG" and the "LG" are difficult to distinguish, especially once the deer has been shot. It will be a question of having to look in the corpse for the shot. The Bill seems unnecessarily fussy in this respect and I would have preferred it to have concentrated on one shot for the various types of deer.
I welcome the provision which states that only soft-nosed or hollow-nosed bullets may be used. This is a sound provision, but I am not at all happy about the roebuck himself and that he is not given the protection of a close season. I realise that there are arguments both ways on this topic, but it seems that the buck, which is one of the most charming and delightful animals, should be protected along with the doe. I hope that it will be possible to include him, perhaps at a later stage, at least in a close season; and I have heard it suggested that 1st November to 1st April would be a suitable close season for him.
I am not altogether happy about there being an absolute ban on night shooting. The arguments for this ban are not as strong as they might be and it must be remembered that a farmer or forestry owner suffering damage may find the deer not available to be destroyed during daylight hours. Perhaps the deer are resting outside the farmer's grounds by day and cause the damage by night. It would, therefore, be wrong not to allow a certain amount of night shooting. Some of it is done now and, as far as I know, there is no real likelihood of a deer being merely wounded or hurt.
I am also concerned about Clause 14 (3), which appears to let many people 905 escape the provisions of the Bill. It says, in effect, that one can disregard the whole Bill and do almost anything one likes provided that one can prove that deer are damaging one's crops. I may be wrong in reading this into the Bill, but there seems no point our passing a Measure of this sort, containing such excellent provisions, if it can be got round entirely through a loophole in one Clause. Perhaps this can be remedied in Committee.
Despite these criticisms, I welcome this attempt to extend protection to another important section of our animal life. Although my constituency is too barren of cover to be a great haunt of deer, I can say that, in general, the Measure will be welcomed by many people living in my constituency because of the protection it will give to deer throughout the country. The Gloucestershire Trust for Conservation has given the Bill its warmest support. I hope that the Bill will have a happy and speedy passage.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. C. M. Woodhouse)
Although it seems that other hon. Members wish to speak, it might be helpful to the House if at this stage I commented on the Bill on behalf of the Government. I should like to begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) on his success in the Ballot, on his very able and eloquent presentation of his Bill and also on the interesting excursions into the history and the natural history of the subject which he gave to the House, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) also added a number of interesting points.
If I may make one small contribution to the historical discussion on the Bill, I notice that in the Scott Henderson Report, to which reference has been made, it is recorded that only three native species of deer are found in Great Britain. Today, when we come to the Bill we find four mentioned, the fourth being the Sika deer which has recently established itself as indigenous. I had the luck to see one a week ago only 20 miles from London. As constituency interest seems to be in order in the debate, I would add that like my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle), I also have a 906 deer park in my constituency. It is even more remarkable in my case since my constituency happens to be an industrial city.
It has been generally recognised on both sides of the House, tepidly by some but more warmly by others, that there are very strong humanitarian motives for the Bill and as the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has endorsed this opinion I think that I can safely endorse it also without departing from the customary neutrality of the Government on Private Member's Bills. But the Bill raises some complex difficulties, as hon. Members have recognised, and it is only fair before the House decides whether to give the Bill a Second Reading that some of the difficulties should be pointed out. The present position is, rather surprisingly, that deer enjoy comparatively little protection under the existing law. They certainly have found today a very worthy and well-informed champion in my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow, as everyone has recognised.
The prevention of cruelty to animals, including wild as well as domestic animals, is a matter on which all hon. Members rightly feel strongly. Therefore, it certainly would not be the Government's intention to raise any kind of objection in principle to a Measure of this kind, for which a genuine need can be shown, subject to our being persuaded that the provisions in the Bill are both reasonable and enforceable.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow referred to a remark made on this subject in another place a few years ago by a noble Lord—the then Under-Secretary of State—about the importance of such provisions being enforceable. He said that this was accepted as a challenge. I shall come to the question of enforceability in relation to the Bill in a moment, but I should like to touch first on the question whether it is reasonable that provisions of this kind should be written into the law.
I think that most hon. Members will have felt, from the account given by my hon. Friend and other speakers of the sufferings sometimes inflicted on deer, sometimes out of callousness and sometimes from mere carelessness, a general feeling of concern and sympathy on that head. But it does reveal a problem of 907 some magnitude, and it may well be thought by the House that it is one on a scale which can only be dealt with by legislative action. So we can all be grateful to my hon. Friend for lucidly drawing attention to this problem and for the clarity with which he has expounded his proposals for dealing with it.
The subject was studied in detail by the Scott Henderson Committee in 1951, and I think that many hon. Members who have contributed to the debate in a somewhat critical sense would do very well to read that Committee's Report, because it made a comprehensive study of all the questions relating to deer and the conclusions it reached were, I think in some respects, not only interesting but surprising.
The Committee concluded by making no recommendations for the introduction of legislation on a close season or a nightly close time for deer, or for statutory control over weapons, in the case of England and Wales. That contrasted with the recommendation that it arrived at for Scotland, where circumstances are different, as was recognised by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough. I think that it is important, although we have Scottish legislation as a precedent in this matter, that we should not be slavishly guided by it, since the circumstances are clearly not the same.
The Scott Henderson recommendations in the Scottish context were clearly bound up with proposals for the prevention of poaching of deer in Scotland, which was a serious problem at the time. It was not then a serious problem in England and Wales. There have on occasions been reports of outbreaks of deer poaching in England—for instance, a year or two ago in the Quantocks and three or four years ago in the Lake District. But the Government have no definite reason for thinking that there exists in England today, or that there is danger of existing, a problem in England of a magnitude similar to that which prevailed for some time in Scotland.
Some evidence was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow and other hon. Members which might indicate that there is a growing problem in England. Of course, the indiscriminate shooting which constitutes the main 908 evidence for the problem is not necessarily attributable only to poachers. Nevertheless, I think that everyone will agree that the observation of a close season in England is desirable on humane grounds. I will mention only one.
Reference was made in the Scott Henderson Report to the suffering caused when, in the absence of a close season, hinds are killed and calves left to starve. All hon. Members will regard that as a deplorable situation and will agree that provision for a close season is reasonable.
I understand that there is already a voluntary observation of a close season covering the main herds of deer in England and Wales, and it is certainly true in the forests under the control of the Forestry Commission. In parenthesis, perhaps I might be able to express general appreciation of the Forestry Commission's humane control methods and management schemes which, I am told, have shown very satisfactory results.
I must leave it to the House to decide, uninfluenced by any pressure from the Government, and in the light of the facts quoted by the sponsors of the Bill, whether a case exists for the imposition of a statutory close season on top of the existing voluntary practice.
I should now like to turn to the second question I raised in opening, the question of enforcement or enforceability. To do that I shall have to examine one or two of the Clauses of the Bill in a little detail. I will try to leave aside what may be regarded as purely Committee points to be dealt with at a later stage, but there are some points in some of the Clauses which, despite the encomium of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), do leave the Bill open to question and which, I think, should be at any rate put before the House before it decides whether to give the Bill a Second Reading.
The first one I want to touch on is in Clause 1 (2) which empowers the Minister by order to fix close seasons for species of deer not already named in the Schedule. There are four species named in the Schedule, and as my hon. Friend very fairly pointed out, the roe buck is not among them. I think it may be necessary to amend this provision if it is intended—as may not be the intention of the sponsors, but some Members 909 of the House have indicated that it should be done, my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), for instance—to enable Ministers to make an order in respect of roe buck which are omitted from the Schedule, or, alternatively, if it is desired to enable a close season to be named for the females of any species not named in the Schedule but not for the males of that species, which is certainly a possibility which one would want to hold open.
Clause 1 (6) defines the Ministers for the purpose of Clause 1 as the Secretary of State—a reference to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary—the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister for Science acting jointly. We have looked at this provision and we think it is perhaps unnecessarily elaborate, and I am authorised by my right hon. Friends to say that they would prefer that this duty should be laid on the Secretary of State alone, though he would, of course, consult his colleagues in any respect which might be necessary before making any order under Clause 1, and I hope that my hon. Friend would be willing to consider amending the Bill in that respect.
Clause 2 is, as has been pointed out, very important, perhaps the most important Clause in the Bill. This is the Clause which prohibits the taking or killing of deer at night, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow has fully explained his reasons for seeking this prohibition. I think there can be very little room for doubt that in general the shooting of deer at night is undesirable and that it should, as far as is practicable, be avoided, but there is a difficulty which has been referred to by hon. Members, that a good deal of the damage done by deer to farm crops does take place during the hours of darkness. There may be, therefore, a case for exempting the occupiers of agricultural land from the nightly close time and permitting them to shoot deer found on their land during the prohibited hours. There is such an exemption already in Section 33 of the Deer (Scotland) Act.
This leads me to turn briefly to Clause 14 (2) which does not, as the Bill is drafted, connect with Clause 2, but which I think should be made to connect with Clause 2, if I may suggest 910 that amendment for a later stage. Clause 14 (2) exempts from the nightly close timeanything done in pursuance of a requirement by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food under section 98 of the Agriculture Act, 1947.This, I think, is one point in the Bill where it is relevant to retain the Minister of Agriculture, although I have suggested that he could be conveniently deleted elsewhere, and would be willing, indeed, to be deleted elsewhere; but this Clause relates to pest control, which is a function of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.
However, as notices under that Section of the Agriculture Act are served only when an occupier has not himself taken the necessary steps to control pests, I think the House might reasonably regard it as logical to extend the same exemption to occupiers who are prepared to take action themselves in limiting pests. On the other hand, there is, we must recognise, the contrary argument that as wounded deer cannot be easily followed up at night considerable suffering might be caused by night shooting. This is an argument in which there is much force. I observed, if I understood the speeches rightly, that my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester took opposite views on this point. I mention these two sides of the argument only because it is a difficult question, and I think it is right that the House should be made fully aware of them and of the fact that this is a point which will need very careful consideration in Committee if the Bill is given a Second Reading.
Next, I turn to Clause 3, which is the other outstandingly important and crucial Clause in the Bill, and also, I am sorry to say, one of the most difficult. I think the House would agree that it is essential that any enactment should be enforceable, and I am bound to say that on the advice we have so far received it seems to me doubtful whether the rather complex provisions about weapons are enforceable. I will not go into the provisions in detail, and I will not pursue the argument about archers, but those weapons are not the only ones that cause difficulty and lead me to wonder whether the Clause as it stands could easily be enforced.
911 The same problem did not arise in the case of the legislation for Scotland in 1959 because the Deer (Scotland) Act simply made it an offence to kill deer except by shooting other than with an automatic repeating weapon, and there was no need there to spell out so much detail about the particular weapon. But Clause 3 of the Bill, on the other hand, sets out—my hon. Friends the Members for Ludlow and Gainsborough gave very persuasive reasons why it was necessary to set out—a great many details of bore, calibre and muzzle energy of shotguns or rifles and, of course, the minimum size of shot and the type of bullet that might be used.
I can quite see that ideally such detailed provisions are required, because there can be no doubt, after what my hon. Friend has said, supported by other hon. Members, that a considerable degree of suffering is at present caused to deer by the use of unsuitable and inadequate weapons and ammunition. So it would certainly seem reasonable that if the Bill is to achieve its intended objective of reducing this suffering—I am sure the House is unanimous in wishing that it should—it must impose some statutory control over the use of guns. Nevertheless, these rather complicated provisions of Clause 3 could very well be difficult to enforce and some simplification of them may be considered desirable on this account. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough suggest in one context that there was already good reason to believe that some simplification would be possible and easy, but I think even more may be necessary.
The doubts I have expressed on this point would, I think, be strengthened in the minds of hon. Members who read the relevant paragraphs of the Scott Henderson Report on this subject. That Committee, after the most comprehensive consideration of the shooting of wild animals, both as a method of control and as a sport, came to the conclusion, which they expressed in these words, thatit would be quite impossible … to regulate shooting by laying down minimum ranges and other details of that sort.For that reason, the Committee could make no recommendation for legislation.
My hon. Friend is seeking to do better than the Scott Henderson Report was 912 able to do, but I suggest that the House must consider carefully whether he has succeeded. It will, of course, be appreciated that the range as well as the size of the bore and shot is an important factor in considering the suffering which could be caused to deer which might be maimed but not killed.
Reference has been made to the effect of a 12-bore shotgun, for example. The Scott Henderson Committee concluded that except at very close range, a 12-bore shotgun was incapable of killing deer with certainty. The Committee put that range at not more than 15 to 20 yards in order that such a shotgun might be effective against deer. The Committee expressed the view that it is because of the difficulty of getting deer within this range that so much cruelty is involved in deer shooting and that the shooting of deer with shotguns is inevitably accompanied by a considerable degree of suffering.
The Committee also felt impelled by its own argument to accept that as a rifle has a range of us to 3,000 yards, and no matter what might be possible in Scotland, in England the shooting of deer with rifles would be too dangerous to be tolerated. The Committee accordingly came to the conclusion that there was in practice, however regrettable it might be, no alternative but to accept the continued use of shotguns.
In alluding to this difficulty, I should like to add that although I have referred to the importance of the question of the range at which shooting takes place, I am certainly not advocating that any maximum range should be written into Clause 3 of the Bill which would make it even more complicated than it is now and would, I think, certainly be unenforceable.
There are two other important points in Clause 3 to which I should refer briefly. The first is that it prohibits the use of snares as well as other methods of taking deer. There is no doubt that it is generally accepted that the snaring of deer is a cruel and a bad method of killing. The Scott Henderson Committee recommended that, because of the cruelty inevitably involved in snaring, all snaring of deer should be prohibited. That recommendation, however, has not yet been implemented in legislation for England and Wales.
I should like to say emphatically that the Government deprecate that practice 913 most strongly and that, although there is no evidence that it is being indulged in to any significant extent, the House may well feel inclined to regard the proposed statutory prohibition of snaring as an especially valuable part of the Bill.
The last point on Clause 3 which it is important to mention is subsection (3, a), which makes it an offence to discharge any firearm or project any missile from any mechanically propelled vehicle at any deer. I quite appreciate the reason for the inclusion of this provision. It is to prevent poachers taking advantage of the fact that wild animals are comparatively indifferent to motor vehicles and thus to take advantage of them to get within shooting distance in a vehicle. My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow recognised the difficulties in this and my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey drew attention to practices under the Ministry of Works in Richmond Park. These and other difficulties lead me to wonder whether it is altogether reasonable to compel a person who is assumed to be lawfully shooting deer, perhaps for conservation purposes, to descend from his vehicle before firing. I am told that in some cases of physical disability, it may be impossible for a bona fide user of a vehicle and weapon to do so.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I emphasise that I am not taking a firm line on this matter, but merely suggesting one of the points we should concern the Committee if the Bill receives a Second Reading.
I now turn to Clause 4 which, as is the way with Clause 4s, is slightly difficult. It provides for more severe penalties if two or more persons acting together engage in the night shooting of deer or use prohibited weapons. This follows Section 24 of the Deer (Scotland) Act. That Act, however, was aimed at a different kind of problem. It was designed to deal with the problem of gang poaching which in Scotland was then rife. The provision in the Scottish Act relates 914 not only to nightly close times and the use of prohibited weapons, but also makes the killing of deer by poachers a statutory offence.
Without taking sides in the matter, I remind the House that there was considerable opposition to this provision when the Scottish Measure was going through Parliament. It was eventually accepted, though with considerable reluctance, on the basis that it would be applied solely in cases of commercial poaching involving a gang element. In the absence of a similar situation in England and Wales, the House might think it doubtful whether it would be possible to justify the retention of Clause 4 as it stands and the related provisions, subsection 12) and subsection (4) of Clause 7 and the whole of Clause 9.
In any case, even if the provision in Clause 4 were to be retained, it would be for consideration whether only two persons—Clause 4 says two or more—acting in concert should be regarded as constituting a gang. It seems a rather small gang. For legal reasons, with which I will not weary the House in detail, it would also be necessary to consider carefully the proposed penalties in Clause 4, because the penalty of six months' imprisonment for a second or subsequent offence would create difficulties if the accused elected to go for trial.
Although Clause 5 is very complicated, I can be brief about it. Again it reproduces the Scottish Act, but in a markedly different context. I am not sure that Clause 5 in its present form would be an enforceable provision in English law, or so I am advised by the lawyers. Its provisions are complicated and this is not the time to go into them in detail, but they would have to receive careful consideration in Committee.
I can jump over several Clauses and come to Clause 12 which is important and which again is copied from the Scottish Act. This relates to offences by bodies corporate. In the Scottish Act there is no doubt that such a provision was required, but it was required in connection with Part I of that Act which is headedConservation and Control of Red Deer".and that part of the Scottish Act is not reproduced in this Bill. It seems unlikely that offences against the more limited 915 provisions of this Bill would be committed by a body corporate, and I therefore suggest that Clause 12 is unnecessary and perhaps irrelevant. I hope that my hon. Friend might agree to its deletion at a later stage.
Clause 14 (3), to which my hon. Friend also referred as important, is another one which would need careful consideration in Committee. This is the Clause to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury objected, though I do not think his reasons for objecting to it would be quite the same as the Government's, because, apart from the point that he made, it can also be suggested that it is an advantage to follow the precedent of the Scottish Act and permit an occupier of agricultural land to authorise an agent to kill on his behalf during the close season any marauding deer which are causing damage to his crops. The occupier may be disabled or inexpert in the use of firearms, or simply not want to do it himself, and in such circumstances there may be some advantage in allowing him to make use of the services of an expert to ensure that offending animals which have to be dispatched are dispatched humanely. For the same reason, if this exception were extended to apply also to the nightly close time, it might be considered desirable that the occupier should in the same way be enabled to authorise another person to do any essential shooting of deer on his behalf.
Before I leave Clause 14 (3), another point of some importance is that under the Scottish Act, which at this point is not followed by the Bill, a specific right is conferred on an occupier to kill deer found on enclosed land during the close season. The Bill, instead of having that provision, makes it an offence to kill deer during the close season, and thus leaves the onus on the occupier who shoots deer at such a time to prove that his action was necessary for the purpose of preventing serious damage to his crops, and also that the shooting was the only practicable way of preventing such damage.
I concede that in drafting this Clause my hon. Friend has preferred to turn not to the Scottish Act but to the precedent of Section 4 (2, a) of the Protection of Birds Act, 1954, which this Clause 916 closely follows, and I have no doubt that he has done so to give a greater degree of protection to deer. This emphasises again the humanitarian purposes behind the Bill, but I do not think it necessarily follows that a statutory provision which has been designed for the protection of birds is the most appropriate way of providing for the protection of deer in such a context as this. If an occupier, however reluctantly, shoots deer during the prohibited times, it may well be difficult for him to prove that it was essential for him to do so, but the Clause as drafted would leave that onus on him.
On Clause 15, my hon. Friend might like to consider whether the licence to be granted under this Clause might not be more appropriately granted to the occupier of the land rather than to the owner. I see that as drafted it would be possible for the owner to act as the intermediary so to speak in getting a licence and passing it on to the occupier, but this seems perhaps an unnecessarily inconvenient way of approaching the problem.
It would also be worth considering—again on humanitarian grounds—especially cases where deer are kept in parks and sometimes have to be moved against their will, giving permission, under licence, to the person in charge of the deer to use a stupefying drug or a muscle-relaxing agent, which would otherwise be forbidden to him, either to deal with an injured deer in his park or to move deer from one place to another.
Clause 16, which again derives from the corresponding Scottish Act, was briefly referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow, and more at length by my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle). I am inclined to think that this Clause has strayed from the Scottish Act by mistake. It is clear that since it relates to land, and does not refer to animals anywhere in its eight or nine lines, its function in the Scottish Act was related to that part of the Act which was concerned with the conservation and control of deer—in other words, Part I. As I have mentioned, Part I of that Act has no counterpart in the present Bill, because the Bill does not impose duties on owners or occupiers of land. In my view, therefore, the Clause is unnecessary. If my hon. Friend 917 will agree to delete it on those grounds at a later stage he will at the same time be able to take care of the competition, on other grounds, by my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks.
I have drawn attention to these points because it is desirable for the House to know, in the case of such a complex although thoroughly well-intentioned Bill, exactly what it is passing judgment upon. In reaching a decision whether or not to give the Bill a Second Reading the House ought to be aware of some of the difficulties—many of them considerable ones—which might arise at a later stage if the Bill makes further progress.
But from the debate so far, as I have listened to it, it seems likely that the Bill will not be unduly controversial on general grounds, and both for humanitarian reasons and from the standpoint of the conservation and good management of deer the House may well feel that the Bill has a good deal to commend it.
I do not wish to try to influence the decision of the House in either direction, but I want to assure hon. Members that if the Bill is given a Second Reading the Government will co-operate in examining its provisions more closely, perhaps with the valuable help of the hon. Member for Oldham, West who has already spoken favourably on its drafting—and we shall help to ensure that if the Bill reaches the Statute Book it will do so in a form which will be both effective and possible to enforce.
§ Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Willesden, East)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put, but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
I am sure that the House will be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) for having brought the Bill forward, and also to the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball), who, to my knowledge, has done a tremendous amount of work in preparing the Bill. The House will probably agree that, whatever my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary has said, he has made it clear that the Bill should receive a Second Reading—and I hope that it will be without a Division. He has also 918 made it clear that in this matter the Government are neutral. This is a position that the Government seldom adopt, and when they do, it encourages us tremendously.
I think that much of the best work of this House is done when there is very little division between either side of the House. It would have been extremely difficult for my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary to have opposed the Bill on behalf of the Government, as I believe that it would have been difficult for any hon. Member not to have given it his blessing.
What does the Bill do? It is, in fact, intended to stop cruelty. It does not attempt in any way to stop the necessary control of deer, but it states that certain safeguards must be carried out, and that in controlling deer we must ensure that there is as little cruelty as possible. It also ensures that there shall be close seasons. What humane person would deny that hind with calf have a right to some protection? Over the whole range of animal and bird life protection is given. Why should it have been denied to deer for so long?
The R.S.P.C.A. and other animal welfare societies have pressed for this for a considerable time. One thing which I find encouraging about the animal welfare lobby in the House—it is a comparatively strong one—is that it endeavours to be realistic. It derives much of its strength from the fact that it is realistic. It does not indulge in extremes, but tries to arrive at a sensible compromise in all matters affecting animal welfare.
My feelings about uncontrolled and irresponsible shooting of deer, frequently for profit, became most pronounced after a visit to Scotland in 1958, when I saw evidence of the terrible cruelty inflicted upon deer by the activities of poachers with shotguns. There, on a comparatively small estate, I was able to examine photographs of deer that had been terribly maimed and injured by poachers attracting them by lights at night and shooting them from vehicles with shotguns. I was able to talk to keepers who had been forced to go out over extremely difficult terrain to bring an end to animals which had been severely wounded as a result of the activities of poachers
§ Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)
I have a letter here on that very subject from a stalker who is well known in Scotland. He states that almost without exception all the stags and deer that he had stalked and shot had already been injured by small arms weapons. This confirms exactly what my hon. Friend has been saying.
§ Mr Burden
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point because it is something that the House should bear strongly in mind when deciding whether to give the Bill an unopposed Second Readying. I think that the stirring of conscience in Scotland because of these activities by poachers has been a help to us in introducing a Bill to control the shooting of deer.
Nevertheless, that should not in any way make us reluctant to accept the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow has done a service in introducing this Bill. I apologise for being absent. I am told that he made an excellent and persuasive speech. I am not surprised, because I know the tremendous amount of work he has put into the Measure.
I was concerned at one point when my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary referred to the difficulties which would arise if a ban were imposed on shooting deer at night. He said that this was frequently the time when deer did the most damage. In fact, poachers shoot deer at night because that is when the animals are most easily attracted. The poachers attract the deer by lights and then shoot them. We may arrive at a situation where deer may be shot from vehicles when the animals are doing no damage whatever and the excuse offered that they were shot because they were doing damage. I suggest, therefore, that this matter must be looked at very carefully before we accept the blandishments of my hon. Friend.
There are, of course, always difficulties about the introduction of a Bill. No Acts of Parliament would be passed if we accepted that difficulties were always insurmountable. I believe that the Bill will provide a yardstick by which we can judge that the least possible cruelty is inflicted while the necessary measures are carried out to control the deer. This is an admirable Measure which will satisfy the wishes of those who desire that proper control shall be exercised over the deer and, at the same time, every humane provision is abided 920 by. I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that the Bill should have a Second Reading.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
This Bill is not so admirable as has been suggested by the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden). It seeks to prohibit all forms of cruelty to the deer, with the exception of the least excusable of all, namely, hunting with hounds for sport. I should have welcomed some remarks from the hon. Member on that subject.
This is a difficult and complicated Bill which it took 35 minutes for the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) to explain to the House.
§ Mr. More rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).