§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Commitee.—(The Duke of Atholl.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
VISCOUNT MOUNTGARRET moved, after Clause 1, to insert the following new clause:
. Subsection (2) of Section 23 of the said Act (unlawful taking or killing of deer) shall
be repealed and replaced by the following subsection:—
'(2) Subject to Section 33 of this Act, it shall be an offence to take or wilfully kill deer otherwise than by shooting, and shooting for the purposes of this section means discharging a firearm or using ammunition, as defined in the Firearms Act, 1937, other than as prohibited by Schedule (Prohibited Firearms and Ammunition) to this Act.'
§ The noble Viscount said: With your Lordships' permission, I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 5 and 6, together with Amendment No. 1, as they are consequential on this Amendment. In moving the Amendment, I wish to make it perfectly clear that I in no way seek to be controversial or to suggest anything which might hinder the passing of this excellent Bill. I merely wish to encourage your Lordships to be humane, and there is nothing controversial in humanity.
§ The object of the Amendment is to try to prevent the use of inadequate 1385 weapons for the killing of deer. As the Deer (Scotland) Act stands, almost any weapon may be used, presumably more in the hope than the expectation of success. So far as I can establish, the noble Marquess, Lord Willingdon, first raised this point some years ago, but regrettably little impression seems to have been made. However, in 1963 Parliament saw fit to prohibit most unsuitable weapons in the Deer Act of that year, which applies to England but not to Scotland. I cannot understand why, if it is thought that a .22, for example, is unsuitable for English deer, it is considered suitable for Scottish deer. They are the same deer and the same weapon, and it seems to me to be quite illogical.
§ The cruelty that has been perpetrated on deer by ignorant people who attempt to kill them with shot-guns and the like literally has to be seen to be believed. These noble beasts, which once inspired Landseer to paint a masterpiece, who grace the glens and corries where they make their home, in billowy seas of shifting mists, whose angry roar of challenge to their rivals breathing defiance to the world is an inspiration to all, are peppered like vile rats. They are seldom killed; the shots of smooth-bore guns merely penetrate the skin and inflame the flesh. The wounds may become gangrenous or, if by chance the shot is taken close enough, a leg or a shoulder may be broken. This makes the winter even harder for the poor beast—a winter during which it would probably perish in a slow, lingering death. If they survive this attempted butchery, they hobble round the hills maimed and handicapped.
§ Much the same argument applies to a .22 riffle. The weight of the bullet is far too small—even the latest type, which some people pretend is sufficient—to do its job properly. It has about the same effect on a stag as a No. 6 shot cartridge has on a goose. On more than one occasion I have killed a stag (or an apology for a stag) with several .22 bullets lodged firmly in and around the shoulder. On the last occasion I personally removed nine lumps of lead, each of which would have been sufficient to have killed the beast if a suitable weapon had been used. As it was, the beast was crippled and underweight, the meat was inedible, and the sight disgusting. As a nation which prides itself on its sportsmanship, we 1386 ought to be ashamed of ourselves for allowing, or continuing to allow, this sort of thing to go on. I should perhaps say a word about the restriction of solid bullets. If such a bullet is fired from a high velocity rifle, it has a tendency to go clean through the animal, which means in all probability that the quarry is wounded, and any other animal which happened to be in the line of fire might get killed instead.
§ I have heard several arguments why this Amendment should not be pressed. I am told that it could be inserted into the Criminal Justice Bill, which is now on its way to your Lordships' House. I am told also that the Government will not agree to the Amendment because the farmers and crofters would get upset, which might defeat the whole Bill. I do not agree with these arguments, although some of them may have a certain amount of validity. To take the first point, I think there would be a certain danger that the noble Lord who presumably will be conducting the Criminal Justice Bill in this House might well seek to defeat an Amendment on the lines I am now suggesting, on the grounds that it was more applicable to a Deer Bill and should be incorporated in that. Therefore, I should find myself back in square one.
§ I see no reason why this Amendment should unduly affect the farmers and crofters. The only argument is that it might cost them some money to obtain weapons which are legal. I believe a lot of them have only shot-guns and think they are adequate for the purpose, but for the small sum of about £65 it is perfectly possible to buy a B.S.A.. .276 rifle. I do not think it is asking too much for the sake of decency, on the one hand and, on the other hand, the knowledge that a farmer possesses a suitable weapon. I cannot agree that this Amendment would cause the whole Bill to be defeated in another place. If the clause was not approved there it could always be taken out, but at any rate your Lordships would not lay yourselves open to the charge of inhumanity.
§ I would add that I have the support of the Deer Society and the chairman of the Red Deer Commission, who himself states in a letter to me that he did not think anyone could possibly object to a clause restricting firearms. To sum up, I 1387 ask your Lordships to give this Amendment your approval on the grounds that it brings the Scottish Act more into line with the English Act, and that it will put an immediate end to the wanton cruelty that is annually inflicted on deer, who deserve a better fate. I beg to move.
After Clause 1, insert the said new clause.—(Viscount Mountgarret.)
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I should like briefly to support my noble friend on humane grounds. It is quite illogical that we should have this prohibition on unsuitable firearms for deer in the English Act but not in the Scottish Act. Like my noble friend I have shot stags which, when they were skinned, were found to be full of buckshot and .22 bullets, and it is really inhumanly cruel. I do not wish to delay your Lordships, so I will say no more on that aspect. I can quite understand that perhaps the present Bill is not the correct one in which to insert this Amendment, but I hope that in the not so distant future Her Majesty's Government will seriously consider this matter and bring in legislation to correct this absurd anomaly. I most heartily support my noble friend in this Amendment, which is moved entirely for humane reasons.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
I have listened with great sympathy to both my noble friends who have spoken, and I agree with almost every word they say. Personally I think the use of inadequate weapons on deer is extremely cruel and ought to be stopped as soon as possible, but I am afraid I cannot recommend your Lordships to let this Amendment go through in this Bill. Contrary to what my noble friend Lord Mountgarret says, I think it is almost certain that were this Amendment to be inserted in the Bill, the farming interests in another place would see that it got no further because, regardless of cruelty, most farmers at the moment find that the shotgun is the most effective weapon against marauding deer. This is, of course, a pity and is something we all deplore, but none the less it is a fact of life.
I should also like to point out to my noble friend that, under his Amendment, one could not use a shot-gun against roe deer. I think I should have the support 1388 of most people who have woodlands in Scotland when I say that there is seldom any practical way of keeping roe deer under control except by shooting them with heavy shot from a shot-gun. Since the roe deer is much smaller than red deer or fallow deer, if it is sufficiently close, and if the shot-gun is fired by someone who is a reasonable shot, there is no reason why the deer should not be killed stone dead. It is very difficult in thick cover and thick undergrowth to control roe deer in any other way. The brief I had from the Deer Society specifically excluded roe deer from their provisions that shot-guns should not be used against deer. Having said this, I hope that my noble friend will withdraw his Amendment, but if he does not I must ask your Lordships to vote against it.
§ Loan SOMERS
May I say a word or two in support of this Amendment? I am rather surprised at the attitude the noble Duke has taken. It is always surprising to me to hear people say that they entirely approve of everything that has been said, and that the Amendment is going to improve a most undesirable situation, and then to find that they suddenly end by saying, "But I hope he will not press this Amendment, and that it will not be carried", simply because we dare not press any Amendment which we think might not be agreed to in another place. The respect which I have for another place is very genuine, but I feel that it is time that we stopped being so afraid of expressing our own opinion that we never say anything which we feel would not receive wholesale approval in the other place.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
With due respect to my noble friend, he is really completely off the rails. If this Amendment did go to another place it would probably be agreed to by the Left Wing of Her Majesty's Government. There are other reasons. I feel quite sure that in the future Her Majesty's Government will bring in legislation to put this situation right.
§ LORD SOMERS
I entirely agree with the noble Viscount. I am merely commenting on what the noble Duke said.
§ LORD SWANSEA
May I intervene briefly? I have the greatest sympathy with my noble friend who moved this 1389 Amendment, but I think that it does not go far enough. I have never been able to understand why the restrictions on firearms defined in the 1963 Deer Act did not also apply to Scotland. I hope that if the noble Viscount sees fit to withdraw his Amendment at this stage, and reintroduces it at a later stage, defining the prohibited firearms and ammunition as laid down in the 1963 Act, it will gain much wider support.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
I had not intended to intervene in what is a very interesting private quarrel on the other side, but there is a misconception on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Somers. The suggestion by the noble Duke was not made from any fear of what another place might do, but was simply a recognition of the facts of life. This is a Private Member's Bill, and at this stage in the Parliamentary Session its chances of getting through the machinery in another place are very slim. Its chance is improved considerably if it concerns only items to which no one has objection. It is not for me to speculate whether this Bill would receive support from the Left Wing on the Government side, or meet with violent opposition of the Right Wing of the Opposition side: it needs only one objector, and it is lost.
What noble Lords have to decide is this. Do they wish to make a gesture, with which we can probably all agree, and the effect of which is that nothing will be done to deal with this problem, because the Bill will not get anywhere, or are they willing to accept the facts of life and pass a Bill which will get through in another place, and then say, "Let us press as hard as we can for any form of legislation in which this may be done, but accept the regrettable fact that putting it into this Bill will not bring it into operation one day sooner than if it goes into the appropriate measure"?
Some noble Lords may feel that a humane gesture is worth the loss of all the other items in the Bill. What the noble Duke has done is to introduce a Bill to implement one specific item on which the Red Deer Commission asked for legislation. It may well be that they wish legislation on this: it may be that they wish legislation on other matters. But the point upon which the noble Duke has based his Bill is what the Red Deer 1390 Commission have asked for. I would strongly support him in his plea that we should not, for the sake of a humane gesture, throw away the advantages which we may well secure from the passing of this Bill.
§ VISCOUNT MOUNTGARRET
I am glad to feel that I have some support on this side for the basis of my Amendment, but I cannot wholly ignore the desires of my noble friend the Duke of Atholl and the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. I agree entirely with what the noble Lord, Lord Somers, said: that if you feel strongly about something, you should push it through; and if it is accepted let another place deal with it in the best fashion they think fit. I am very inclined to ask your Lordships to come to a decision on this point, because I certainly agree with it.
The noble Lord, Lord Swansea, said that I ought to have restricted the firearms in line with the 1963 Act. I think I am right in saying that in fact they are already so restricted.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
The English Act prohibited the use of shot-guns of less than 12 bore. But it permitted the use of shot-guns of 12 bore, and greater, with suitable cartridges.
§ VISCOUNT MOUNTGARRET
Then the 1963 Act is equally wrong in this respect. Next year, no doubt, there will be a Report from the Red Deer Commission in regard to 1967, and no doubt it will contain certain matters on which they will require us to pass legislation. If they do not on that occasion ask for restriction of firearms, I shall look forward to bringing up this point again, and possibly following it through with a bit more force. For the present, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2:
§ Amendment of section 33 of the Act of 1959
(3) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 21 of this Act, or of any order made thereunder, it shall not be an offence—
(a) for an occupier of agricultural land or of enclosed woodlands, or for any person authorised by him in writing in that behalf, to take or kill during a close season any deer found on any arable land, garden grounds or land laid down in permanent grass (other than moorland and unenclosed land) forming part of that land, or on such woodlands, as the case may be, and
LORD BURTON moved to leave out, "Subsections (2) and (3) of section 33 of the said Act (exemption for certain acts)", and to insert:
(1) In subsection (1) of section 33 of the said Act (exemptions for certain acts) for the words from "prevention" to the end of the subsection there shall be substituted the words "purpose of preventing suffering by an injured or diseased deer, or by any deer calf deprived of its mother".
(2) Subsections (2) and (3) of the said section 33".
§ The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to ensure that one may legally kill a calf out of season which has for some reason or other lost its mother. Your Lordships may well have found the Amendment on the Marshalled List somewhat complicated. I certainly did, and this is all the more reason for my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and his officials at the Scottish Office who have drafted the Amendment as it now stands. I am sure this must be an entirely non-controversial Amendment. It has been introduced to legalise what has been a general practice for many years, and which only became illegal by the Deer Act 1959 by what was probably an oversight. If a hind dies or has to be killed for some reason or other, on humanitarian grounds alone, let alone good deer management, it is obvious that any calf it may have under one year old should be humanely destroyed. If it happens that the calf has to be killed during the hind shooting season, then as the law stands at the moment anyone shooting a calf stands a fifty-fifty chance of killing a stag out of season. I think my Amendment should rectify this position, and accordingly I beg to move.1392
Page 1, line 10, leave out from beginning to ("shall") in line 11 and insert the said words.—(Lord Burton.)
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, I am sure we all agree that where possible a humanitarian practice should be enshrined in the law and should not be made possibly the subject of a prosecution. It is undoubtedly an humanitarian practice to kill the calf of a deer when it is under one year old. I am sure that the fact that this was made illegal in 50 per cent. of the cases by the Deer Act 1959 was an oversight at the time. I think the sooner this is rectified the better, and therefore I would ask your Lordships to accept the Amendment so well put forward by my noble friend Lord Burton.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD moved, in the proposed new subsection 3(a), to leave out "enclosed woodlands" and to insert "woodlands enclosed by a deer fence". The noble Lord said: My object in putting down this Amendment is to try to have the phrase "enclosed woodlands" defined as regards deer. So far as I can ascertain there is no definition of enclosed land as regards deer. As the Amendment says, I should like to include the words "woodlands enclosed by a deer fence" to define enclosed land regarding deer. This is perhaps too strong for agricultural land at the moment, but with regard to woodlands you can have mature woodlands which are surrounded by tumbledown or old rickety pieces of fencing. The deer can have free access into those woodlands, and therefore they can be shot out of season.
§ In the Second Reading debate I also drew attention to the fact that some farmers I can think of have made a habit of ploughing up pieces of land in the hills and sowing some rye grass, rape, or white turnip and putting a few old fence posts and strands of wire around it so that it becomes enclosed land. Of course, in winter-time every deer comes on to that patch from miles around and farmers can shoot a great number with great profit to themselves and do great damage to the sporting interests of the estate. Of course, you then have a decreased rental on the sporting rights. We 1393 have seen in the official reports (probably most of your Lordships read the Field newspaper) that in the deer ground in large areas of the Highlands there has apparently been a great decrease in the numbers of deer. It is not, of course, solely due to the unsatisfactory position regarding enclosed land; there are also other reasons which I need not go into now. Certainly none of the reasons is owing to the proprietors of the deer forests of the sporting tenants.
§ I hope that at some future date, not too far distant, when we have more legislation on the subject of deer, Her Majesty's Government will have this phrase "enclosed woodlands" properly defined legally. As it now stands, it is most unsatisfactory. I do not intend to press this Amendment, but I beg leave to move the Amendment in the hope that I may have some reply from the noble Lord opposite as to his opinions on this matter.
Page 2, line 12, leave out ("enclosed woodlands") and insert ("woodlands enclosed by a deer fence").—(Viscount Massereene and Ferrard.)
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
I have listened with great interest to my noble friend, and I see exactly what he is trying to get at. Perhaps I should first declare an interest, in that I am convinced that if this Amendment were carried it would cost me an enormous sum of money to fence the woodlands in the way which my noble friend apparently considers necessary. It also has several other disadvantages, and perhaps I may briefly enumerate them. The term "enclosed woodlands" has been in common use since at least 1939 and, so far as is known to the Red Deer Commission and other bodies, has not given rise to any difficulties from the point of view of definition.
It has been suggested that some so-called "enclosed woodlands" are not really enclosed; and this, I think, is the problem at which my noble friend is aiming. I would also point out to him that as drafted his Amendment would apply only to killing deer during the close season. The occupier of the woodlands would therefore still have the right to kill deer on enclosed woodlands but not on deer-fenced woodlands during the other parts of the year. This would in- 1394 troduce into the Bill an anomaly which I think would be undesirable.
It would also have the disadvantage that presumably if woodlands were to be enclosed by deer-fencing they would have to be deer-fenced all the way round. It is my experience—and I think that of most people—that this is not common practice. It is unnecessary and would add a great deal of expense which forestry can ill afford at the moment. Normally, one deer-fences woodlands on the side where they are most likely to be accessible to the deer, the side which is open on to the moorland; woodlands are not normally fenced where they are accessible only from arable land, because one presumes—in many cases probably wrongly —that the deer do not have access to this arable land. In order to be within the terms of my noble friend's definition, I think it would be necessary to deer-fence the woods on all sides.
The Amendment would also introduce difficulties, because in many places woodland and arable land are muddled up, and it would mean that you might be able to shoot deer out of season once they got on to the arable land but not when they are actually in the woodlands. This would lead to difficulties, and I think such a provision would be almost impossible to enforce. I am pleased, and grateful, therefore, to hear that my noble friend does not intend to press this Amendment, which, as I say, seems to me to be slightly impracticable. However, I fully sympathise with the thought behind it.
§ LORD HUGHES
The noble Viscount asked for my comments. All I wish to say is that I will adopt everything the noble Duke has said, with the exception of his opening remarks. I have no personal interest in this matter, and I should not be involved in any expense if the Amendment were accepted.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I certainly have no intention of running my noble friend into tens of thousands of pounds' expenditure by reason of erecting deer fences. In Germany or Austria, mature woods are not fenced at all. They are not fenced because the deer do little damage to mature woodlands—they do, perhaps, 5 per cent. damage. I wanted this Amendment to apply to young plantations, but as the 1395 Bill now stands, in mature woodlands, which cannot be really harmed by deer, one can shoot the deer out of season. However, having made that point, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD moved, after Clause 2, to insert the following new clause:
§ Prohibition of sale of venison during close season
§ ".— (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Act of 1959 as amended by this Act, if any person sells the carcase or part of the carcase of:—
- (a) any stag, being a red deer, or any hind, being a red deer, during the respective close seasons for deer of such descriptions and species specified in section 21(1) of the Act of 1959; or
- (b) any deer of any species and description other than red deer named in an order made under section 21(2) of the Act of 1959 during the period fixed by such order in respect of deer of that species and description
§ The noble Viscount said: In putting down this Amendment I was also anxious to air the subject of the killing of deer out of season. This Amendment would cure two evils. It would stop the present abuse of the law in regard to poaching, which is extremely excessive out of season owing to the fact that the deer are far easier to approach in that period. The other reason is that poaching out of season and the indiscriminate shooting by poachers, as it almost always is, leads to great cruelty. The shooting of hinds heavy in calf, the shooting of hinds with calves at foot, with the calves dying, the wounding and shooting of deer of the wrong age, and so on, lead to great abuses. Here, again, I would hope that at some future date Her Majesty's Government would follow the custom on the 1396 Continent, where they are far ahead of us in many of these matters relating to game preservation.
§ As I mentioned on Second Reading, I should really like to see here the tagging of deer carcases. Here is a field where the Red Deer Commission could take over, as is done by the Forstmeister in the various regions of Germany. The deer forest owners would apply to the Deer Control or Commission before the season commenced for a certain number of tags relative to the number of hinds and stags which they required to shoot, and they would have to fix them to the carcases. These seals cannot be used again. We should therefore completely eradicate the profitable market in the sale of out-of-season venison. It works perfectly adequately on the Continent, and I cannot see why we cannot have it here.
§ I should also like to see the RedDeer Commission adopt the same system regarding marauding deer. Any proprietor, and the Forestry Commission, too, ought to be answerable to the Red Deer Commission for the shooting of their marauding deer. Here again, the carcases would have to be tagged. Dealers dealing in venison would have to be licensed to deal only in tagged venison. It is only by doing this that we can prevent the enormous illegal killing of deer which, as I have said, brings the law into great disrepute. I shall not press this Amendment because this Bill is not suitable for my Amendments, but I hope that in future something like this can be done, because it is the only way we can do away with this horrible practice of the indiscriminate poaching which leads to great cruelty and is doing such damage to the deer stocks in the Highlands. I beg to move.
After Clause 2, insert the said new clause.—(Viscount Massereene and Ferrard.)
§ VISCOUNT MOUNTGARRET
I wish to support this Amendment of my noble friend, and I hope that he does not seek to withdraw it, because I feel that it is even more important than the other Amendments which have been proposed. There is one additional aspect of this point which would lend more force to his already quite lucid argument. The annual amount of venison exported is currently running at about £425,000 a year. This is a highly competitive business, and if we allow ourselves to fall 1397 into the trap of thinking that our venison is superior to that of others it will not belong before we lose this most valuable contribution to our exports. The prohibition on the sale of venison out of season would greatly help to maintain the high quality.
It is, of course, quite understandable that many hill farmers and crofters sell the carcases of marauding deer which they shoot in order to help to recompense themselves for the damage they have suffered. Marauding deer are invariably in poor condition, and the meat is well below any form of acceptable standard. Of course, if they were in good condition they would not be marauding deer; they would have no need to trespass at all. By prohibiting the sale of venison out of season we should remove from the market these carcases which are being sold, and only prime venison would find its way abroad, and that would help to maintain the present high standard.
If poor venison continues to be sold, there could be a severe risk that we should lose this export market. If venison could not be sold, owners could not afford to maintain the staff to cull their deer. This in turn would lead to unemployment and further depopulation, rents could be affected, and rates and taxes might have to be found from elsewhere if these deer forests were no longer forthcoming. They could only be found from the remaining inhabitants; namely, hill farmers and crofters. For these reasons I feel that it would be right to accept the Amendment.
§ LORD BURTON
First of all, I should like to thank the Committee for accepting the Amendment which I moved a little earlier. Although I have a great deal of sympathy with the noble Viscount on this Amendment, I feel that, in view of the arguments which have already been put forward on previous Amendments, we cannot accept it. It is obvious, from Second Reading speeches and remarks which have been made to-day, that there are many matters which require legislation to alter the law relating to deer in Scotland. I hope that it will be possible to have that further legislation in the near future. I am confident that agreement can be reached between various bodies after sufficient discussion, and that a good many of the points can 1398 be resolved. Even if this Amendment is withdrawn, I hope that the Government will look very carefully and consult with the Commission to see whether we cannot get agreement to try to get some of these other Amendments through.
§ LORD HUGHES
If the Committee will permit me, I should like to say that I am led to believe that the Red Deer Commission favour an amendment of the game laws to make this possible, but they appreciate that the amendment which is necessary is to the game laws, not to the Deer Acts. I must emphasise that, although I believe this is a conclusion at which they have arrived, they have not yet submitted any recommendation to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. I can say, however, that if such a recommendation comes from the Commission, the Government will consider it carefully.
Your Lordships will understand that in a very crowded legislative programme it would be exceedingly rash for me to make any promise about legislation in this matter. However, one never knows what opportunities will occur, and perhaps by the sort of assiduous cultivation of interests which the noble Duke has pursued on the subject of this Bill, with, I hope, the successful co-operation of his noble friends in withdrawing Amendments, there may yet be a similar field of activity for somebody else in another Bill at a later stage. However, the first thing is to see what the Red Deer Commission actually ask the Government to do in this matter. What is quite certain is that legislation is difficult enough for people to follow without starting to amend the Game Acts while Parliament is in course of dealing with a Private Member's Bill on deer.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
I have listened with great interest to all that has been said by my noble friends and by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. I think that this is a problem and it undoubtedly needs some form of legislation to deal with it. I do not think that this particular Amendment is the answer, partly for the reasons which Lord Hughes outlined and partly for other reasons. As I understand it, the main object of this Amendment was to prevent bad quality venison from being exported abroad. I think my noble friend Lord Mountgarret 1399 regarded that as being a great point in favour of this Amendment. I think, too, that it is largely up to the dealers to stop bad quality venison from being exported abroad.
I gather that yesterday the Red Deer Commission and representatives of the dealers held a meeting in order to try to get some agreement on this matter and on suitable amendment to the Game Act 1831, as extended to Scotland by the 1860 Act, for the registration of dealers and for the power to look at dealers' books. If this was done, and if legislation was passed on these lines, I feel that it would go a long way towards getting over the second difficulty which my noble friends have enumerated, and that is the poaching of out-of-season venison. I feel that if the Red Deer Commission had a right to inspect game dealers' books they would be able to see which dealers were dealing in excessively large numbers of out-of-season venison and from whom they were obtaining it. This would enable them to keep track of where this venison was coming from and to see that the people concerned were really playing the game and acting within the spirit of the 1959 Act.
I am sure that, if this Amendment was passed, the National Farmers' Union of Scotland would feel that we had broken faith with them in relation to the 1959 Act. We must remember that the 1959 Act was a measure which was agreed between the various interested bodies, and one of the reasons why the farmers agreed was that the extra damage they were likely to suffer from marauding deer would to a certain extent be compensated by the price which they were able to obtain from the sale of these deer as venison. I also feel that in these days, when we need to maximise our assets, to put a complete ban on the sale of out-of-season venison would be very uneconomic as well as unrealistic. This venison is perfectly all right for making into dog and cat food, and I cannot believe that it would be a good thing to ban its sale for at any rate these purposes. I hope that my noble friend will, as he 1400 said—and I am grateful to him—withdraw his Amendment, because I believe that while the Red Deer Commission are in consultation with the dealers it would not be a good moment to press such an Amendment. I hope that other noble Lords will allow my noble friend to withdraw it.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
Before withdrawing this Amendment, I should like to point out that my main reason for putting it down was completely humane. If any noble Lords here had seen some of the sights I have seen of deer which have been maimed out of season by poachers, I am sure they would feel as I do. The other reason why I put the Amendment down was that while you can sell venison out of season, it is a great temptation to small farmers, and perhaps some large farmers, to lure deer on to their holdings during the close season to shoot them for sale. It can be extremely profitable, and I know instances where farmers have done this on purpose. With those few remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT MOUNTGARRET
Yes, I do. When moving Amendment No. 1 I asked your Lordships if I could move Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 at the same time.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
The noble Viscount cannot move more than one Amendment at a time. I understand that Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are consequential on the first Amendment, which I think the noble Viscount withdrew, so I wondered therefore whether he wished to move No. 5.
§ House resumed: Bill reported with an Amendment.