§ 2.5 p.m.
§ EARL WINTERTON
My Lords, I beg to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government if they are aware that considerable damage has been done to pastures in West Sussex by the excessive number of wild swans; that in one instance 160 were counted on one field; and whether, in these circumstances, they will introduce legislation conferring the power and obligation upon county pest officers in each administrative county to reduce the number of wild swans where in the opinion of such officers the number is excessive.]
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, I understand that farmers have complained from time to time about harm done to pastures by swans in the valley of the River Arun. Wild mute swans, like most other wild birds, are protected throughout the year by the Protection of Birds Act, 1954; but under that Act a person would not be found guilty of an offence by reason of killing a protected bird if he satisfied the court that his action was necessary for the purpose of preventing serious damage to crops, fruit or the like. The Act also contains provisions enabling specified 1050 birds to be excluded from statutory protection, either throughout the country or in specified areas, where there are good reasons for doing so. Allegations that swans cause damage to agriculture have been under review by the Nature Conservancy since 1956, but a case has not yet been established for measures to reduce their numbers. My right honourable friend will be glad to consider any detailed evidence that the noble Earl may care to send him.
§ EARL WINTERTON
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for his favourable reply and express my gratitude to him?