§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.656
§ LORD STRATHCONA AND MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal.)
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
My Lords, I am in entire agreement with this Bill and wish to see it passed, but I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to Clause 1 (2) and (3). Subsection (2) says:An order made under this section which renders lawful the killing of grey seals during their breeding season may contain such regulations, if any, as the Minister or the Secretary of State thinks fit for prohibiting, during such period as may be specified in the order, the killing of grey seals…Subsection (3) goes on to state that:Before any order is made under this section, the draft thereof shall be laid before each House of Parliament for a period of not less than forty-eight days during the Session of Parliament…I understand that when this Bill was before your Lordships' House and another place last year there was some considerable trouble as to what should be the period during which the order should lie upon the Table of each House. Originally the usual twenty-eight days was inserted in the Bill. In your Lordships' House, at the instance of Lord Danesfort, it was made forty-eight days and in another place that period was adhered to.
It seems to me that either it is right to give power to the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland to vary the close season or it is not. If it is right I submit that forty-eight days makes it practically impossible for the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland, working together, to modify the order in most cases, because forty-eight days during a Session of Parliament is so long that in practice it will take the power away from them. Therefore either you should put in a reasonable time—the usual time, namely, twenty-eight days—or you should cut out this provision altogether. Either they are to be trusted to make this modification and you should then put in a reasonable time, or, if they are not to be trusted and you are trying to stop them by putting in these forty-eight days 657 which is unduly long, then the time ought to be cut out altogether. But to try to clip the wings of these Departments to do something which in principle apparently Parliament desires them to do is neither logical nor sound.
§ LORD STRATHCONA AND MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords, I will of course represent to those responsible for this Bill the points raised by the noble Lord, but I must point out to him that this was really a compromise. There was an endeavour made in another place to get the period extended still further and I think those responsible for the passage of this Bill are desirous to adhere to the time now laid down. But I will of course investigate the matter and let the noble Lord know whether any further compromise can be arrived at.
My Lords, I should like, to raise the question of whether it would not be better in limitation Bills of this sort to entrust more authority to the county councils, who, after all, know very much more about these matters than the Secretary of State for Scotland. In the county to which I have the honour to belong we know a good deal about, the seal. We have county representatives who come from the very areas where the killing of seals goes on, aid I do feel that all these proposals, such as bird preservation and seal preservation, would get much more easily through your Lordships' House and through another place, if more authority was delegated to the county councils, who really know something about them, rather than to officials, however eminent, in a central position like Edinburgh, who very often know absolutely nothing at all. I do not mean to press this point, but I suggest that when your Lordships are considering any Amendment to meet the noble Lord's wishes you should consider the question as to whether a delegation in some shape might not be well worth considering.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly (the EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair).
§ Bill reported without amendment.