HC Deb 26 April 1892 vol 3 cc1386-7

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture whether his attention has been called to the increasing discontent among agriculturists in the South of Scotland as to the "mice plague," and to the alleged urgent danger of sheep stock owing to the serious deterioration of hill pasture; whether he has considered the resolutions passed at a meeting at Moffat, on Saturday, 16th April, regretting the refusal of the Board of Agriculture to take action in the matter, and calling for "a more exhaustive and systematic inquiry"; and whether he will either cause such an inquiry to be set on foot without delay, or will introduce or support a Bill temporarily prohibiting the further destruction of birds of prey and vermin which have usually been found to keep mice down?


My attention has been called again to the ravages of the mice plague in certain counties in Scotland, and during the holidays I have received further communications on the subject from my hon. Friends the Members for Lanarkshire and Kirkcudbright and from meetings of agriculturists in that part of Scotland. In deference to their representations I have directed a further inquiry to be made, although I am not sanguine as to our being able to add much to the information we possess already. With regard to the Bill suggested for the purpose of temporarily prohibiting the destruction of birds of prey and vermin, I apprehend that what is required is some remedy for the plague which should take immediate effect; whereas the operation of any such Bill could only be distant. I have no reason to believe, so far as I am at present informed, that the sudden appearance of the mice plague is due to the destruction of birds of prey and of vermin, which has been the practice for years. But if it is shown upon further inquiry that a remedy can be supplied either in that or any other direction by legislation, I should be prepared either to introduce or support any measures which promised to be effective for the purpose. I am perfectly sensible of the gravity of the situation in which sheep farmers in Scotland are placed by this plague, and the hon. Member may be assured that anything that can be done shall be done; but the difficulty at present is to devise any remedy which is likely to be adequate to the occasion.