My Lords, I rise to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture whether he has taken, or contemplates taking any steps in the direction of bringing in a Bill to deal with the question of clearing the hills and commons in Wales and the border counties of undesirable stallions and other undesirable commonable animals, in pursuance of pledges given by him to the deputation of the Welsh Cob and Pony Society last July.
The deputation referred to was a very influential one, composed of landowners, farmers, county councillors, members of Parliament, and members of various associations. The object they had in view was to induce the President of the Board of Agriculture to adopt the same course in regard to the hills and commons of Wales as was pursued in the Act of 1877 relating to the New Forest. That Act gave powers to the verderers to make by-laws on this subject. Although polo has made the pony a very valuable animal, unfortunately at present stallions of all kinds are allowed to roam at large, and it is quite impossible to keep the breed of Welsh ponies in purity. If we were allowed the powers which were granted in the Act of 1877 relating to the New Forest, enabling bye-laws to be made with respect to the conditions under which stallions and other animals are able to roam at large, something might be done. 1259 In reply to the deputation to which I have referred, the noble Earl expressed regret that there had not been a corresponding improvement in the breed of ponies in Wales and said that nothing had been done by the Government for ten years. He added—So far as I am personally concerned, no effort on my part will be wanting to meet the wishes of this influential deputation.I hope the inaction of the last ten years is not to be continued, and that the noble Earl will be able to fulfil the pledges given last July.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (EARL CARRINGTON)
My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that I recognise the importance of this subject, but I think he is a little mistaken in saying that I gave pledges to the influential deputation which waited upon me last July. What I said was that no effort would be spared on my part to carry out the wishes of the deputation, to which there was no objection in principle. The deputation assured me that this legislation would not be opposed. But after what happened in the other House of Parliament last night and this afternoon, I think the deputation were a little too sanguine upon that point. The work of the autumn session last year was so great that it was impossible for me to give this question the attention it deserved. I therefore cannot give a definite answer yet. I think the noble Lord will agree with me that the real difficulty lies with the commoners themselves. Many people do turn out animals without any legal right, and I am not certain that periodical inspection would not stir up considerable local opposition. At any rate, Parliament looks with suspicion upon any curtailment of the liberties of commoners. Still, there is no doubt, as the noble Lord has stated, and as was represented by Lord Tredegar and 1260 other members of the deputation, the breed of ponies in Wales has deteriorated. That is to be regretted. I can assure the noble Lord that the matter is not being lost sight of, and that the Board of Agriculture is in complete sympathy with the objects he has in view. I cannot give him any definite promise that anything can be done at the present moment, but we will do our best to meet his wishes.
§ EARL CAWDOR
My Lords, I do not think the deputation which waited upon the noble Earl last year will be very much reassured by the statement he has just made. It appears that the noble Earl has rather gone back on what he said last July, and seems to have discovered various objections to any proposal to deal with the subject. I do not know what has happened in the House of Commons in the course of the last twenty-four hours which should have affected the noble Earl's mind so far as this matter is concerned. I admit that commoners' rights ought to be safeguarded, and that there is difficulty in interfering with them, but this is a question of vital importance. The noble Earl ought at least to consider whether some method of dealing with it cannot be adopted, and might wait to see whether there are any objections on the ground of the commoners' interests. I hope the noble Earl will yet find himself able to take some definite action.