§ (1) Where the Commissioners are satisfied that trees or tree plants are being or are likely to be damaged by rabbits, hares or vermin owing to the failure of an occupier of land to destroy sufficiently the rabbits, hares or vermin on the land in his occupation, or otherwise taking steps for the prevention of such damage, the Commissioners may, after giving to the occupier and owner such opportunity of destroying the rabbits, hares or vermin, or taking such steps as aforesaid, as in the opinion of the Commissioners is reasonable, authorise in writing any competent 836 person to enter on the land and kill and take the rabbits, hares or vermin thereon, and the Commissioners may recover from the occupier summarily, as a civil debt, the net cost incurred by them in connection with the action so taken.
§ (2)Any person acting under an authority given by the Commissioners under this Section shall, if so required, produce his authority, and if any person obstructs any person so authorised in the due exercise of his powers or duties under this Section, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a tine not exceeding twenty pounds.
§ (3) The person entitled to kill rabbits, hares or vermin on any common lands shall, for the purpose of this Section, be deemed to be the occupier of the land.
§ (4) For the purpose of this Section, the expression "vermin" includes squirrels.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "by" ["likely to be damaged by rabbits"], to insert the word "deer."
I may be permitted to say, in moving this Amendment, that I have some little knowledge of deer forests, and I know the difficulties of dealing with this very important question, but I think it is one which the Government should attempt to meet. I know that the hon. and gallant Gentleman may say that it will be impossible to deal with cases in which deer move, it may be, from a distance of twenty or thirty miles on to a particular forest area, and there may be difficulties in carrying out the object of my Amendment in a case like that; but I do think that something should be done. I think it may be possible to put upon the proprietor the obligation to fence, or something of that nature. At any rate, I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will accept the Amendment, or, failing- that, that he will be able to suggest some other means of dealing with what is unquestionably an important matter so far as afforestation is concerned.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
Although I sympathise with the object of my hon. and gallant Friend, I really cannot accept this Amendment. It would introduce an enormous change to give to one particular authority the right to authorise persons to go out and destroy deer round the whole countryside. The Clause itself makes a great advance in allowing a public authority to authorise the killing of rabbits, vermin, and so on, which may come across the boundary into a wood or forest. That, after all, only affects a limited area. But, as my hon. and gallant Friend says, deer may come for miles, and we should have the Commissioners practically authorising persons, say over the whole of Bossrshire, to destroy deer which may, under certain 837 circumstances, invade a particular wood or forest. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that a proper course to take would be to require fencing or something of that sort, if it is found that serious damage is done. But this is a very big question. It must be remembered that the damage done by deer not only affects young trees in woods and forests, but also affects agriculture in many ways, and affects it even more than it does woods and forests. If there is to be a large and comprehensive alteration of the game laws in that respect, I respectfully submit that it should be done directly by Amendment of the existing game laws, and that we should not do it by a side wind in respect of one tiling only, namely, afforestation. I therefore cannot possibly accept this Amendment, but I will say this. If it is found that serious damage is done, and that afforestation in Scotland is being impeded by devastation caused by deer, we shall have to consider whether it will not be necessary, in connection with afforestation, to bring in some measure to compel fencing.
§ Mr. GARDINER
I should like to support the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. and gallant Friend. We are dealing with the question of afforestation and cannot travel away from it, but we know the tremendous damage that has been done by deer, and I think we should seriously consider the position, and see if we cannot have, if not an Amendment in the exact words of my hon. and gallant Friend, at ay rate some reconsideration of the position, and avoid the damage done by deer to afforestation as much as possible.
I cannot say I am satisfied with the hon. and gallant Gentleman's answer. He has only said in the event of damage being done the Government would consider the matter. He knows perfectly well that damage will be done, and I hope the Government will consider what steps they can take and not wait for a year or so until damage is done. In view of what has been said, if the Government will do that I will not press the- Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "hares" ["rabbits, hares or vermin"], to insert the words "black game."
838 This enters into the same category as that of deer. It will be necessary to send out people on all sides to destroy black game within many miles of an afforested area. Anyone who has a plantation alongside a moor in Scotland knows the damage that can be done by a young blackcock in one night. I suggest that the Government should consider legislation which would allow the black game to be killed in planted areas during the close season.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
Of course, we will consider that, but this again is not a. matter of afforestation only. Black game does an enormous amount of damage in cornfields.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
But it is really a matter that has to be considered on a comprehensive basis and this is not a Bill to amend the game laws but for afforestation. There may be a strong ease, but if you wish to amend the game-laws a Bill must be brought in for that purpose. You cannot do it by a side wind in respect of one thing only. It must have general application.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.