§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Major Sir CLIVE MORRISON-BELL
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Last week I found myself moving a Motion which was somewhat controversial, but to-day I find myself moving the Second Reading of a Bill which I think will meet with general acceptance, and which I hope will obtain a Second Reading. The Wild Birds Protection Bill is a very similar Measure to that which was passed in the House of Lords last year, and it was also passed by the same House in 1923. Perhaps I may give a very short history of this movement to protect wild birds under the Acts already in force. The movement has quite a respectable antiquity, because I see that the first Bill was dated September, 1880, so that it is nearly 50 years old. It is rather significant that the second Bill was dated 1881, and was entitled "An Act to explain the Bill of 1880."This is a subject which requires a good deal of explanation, because everybody will realise that wild birds are not entirely amenable to the Regulations of this House, the county council or the police force.
The present Bill owes its origin to a Departmental Committee which was set up when Mr. McKenna was Home Secretary in 1913. The real difficulty about wild birds' protection and legislation in general on this subject is not that the birds suffer from too little legislation but from too much. So many Acts have been passed, and the question has become so involved from the number of local Order's that have been passed, there is such a mass of legislation that it has almost become a dead letter, and the Home Office, who are in charge of the carrying out of the legislation which is in force, decided that some form of codification and classification should be attempted, and the Committee, set up by Mr. McKenna in 1913, was the result. That Committee was presided over by Mr. Montagu, who was Secretary of State for India. It had practically com- 752 pleted its labours in 1914 when the War broke out, and consequently the Committee was adjourned. In the year 1919 that Committee resumed its work and reported in the same year, when Mr. Shortt was Home Secretary. One of its recommendations was the remodelling of the laws and the appointment of two Advisory Committees, one for England and one for Scotland, and this was carried out. The English Committee had the great advantage of the Chairmanship of Lord Grey of Fallodon, who has identified himself with this movement, and to whom hon. Members will be very grateful for having recently explained to them the proposals of this Bill. The Scottish Committee was presided over by Mr. Gladstone, a very distinguished ornithologist, and the Committee included several practical ornithologists.
The Bill which I am now presenting to the House is really the result of the protracted labours of Mr Montagu's Departmental Committee with the help and assistance of these; we Advisory Committees. Therefore, the House will see that it comes here backed up by very great authority, and on matters of detail, apart from matters of principles, we shall be able to rely to a great extent on the help and assistance of those important Committees. The chief recommendation was that provision should be made to divide these wild birds into three categories. Of course, this is not a new suggestion, but the Committees found that wild birds were almost over categorised, and there were so many lists and so many birds included in those lists that really the law on this question has almost become a dead letter. To read through the lists would, I feel sure, fill people with despair, and it was impossible for any authorities to carry in mind—and even the people who do not want to break the law—the number of birds included in those lists. Many of the birds included were quite common and in no danger of extinction, therefore this Departmental Committee decided that it would be better to place in the various categories a small number of rare British birds which have established themselves and are likely to breed in this country rather than include a whole host of visiting birds, which would only have the effect of overloading the categories and 753 make it impossible to work the Measure. That is the principle followed out by the Bill.
In the first category they have placed the rare wild British birds which are established in this country, or which there is some possibility of establishing and breeding in this country. The birds in category I will be protected throughout the year against being shot or taken and their nests and eggs are protected, and therefore they have complete protection. As hon. Members will see from the Schedules, category 2 sets out the birds which are also protected but only during the close season. I think the easiest way to explain this point would be to take the example given by Lord Grey in regard to geese. There is only one type of goose that breeds in this country and it is the Grey Lag. In the autumn and winter months there are lots of geese that come to this country from other countries, but, as I have already pointed out, the principle of this Bill is to make it workable, and it would be absurd for this House to say that nobody must shoot a goose, because it would be impossible to have that law respected. Shooting geese is quite a legitimate form of sport, if you can get at them. It would be one of those laws which it would be very difficult to carry out, as being contrary to public opinion; the desire of those who promote this Bill is to produce one which will be in harmony with public opinion.
The birds which are not in categories 1 or 2 are found in category 3. They have a general protection during the close season, but more or less take their chance at other times of the year. They are not rare birds, but birds which are quite common in this country, and there is no chance of their extinction, and, therefore, they are not protected, nor are their eggs. Again I may explain that the reason for this is our desire to get legislation which can be carried out. It would be absurd to pass laws making it a criminal offence for a school boy or school girl to take a bird's egg. Our police courts would be kept very busy if we tried to stop it, and, in fact, they would not stop it, because it would come to be a kind of game to outdo the policeman. Therefore, there is no attempt to protect the nests and eggs of these birds, except during the breeding season. Those are the general principles of the categories and I think the House will 754 agree that we have succeeded in producing a Bill which will have some chance of being enforced, will carry public opinion behind it and will really give much more protection to wild birds than does the whole mass of existing legislation which, on paper, appears to give them so much protection.
I will run briefly through the Clauses of the Bill, because in some cases they differ slightly from those of the Bill which last year passed the House of Lords. Clause 1 makes certain methods of taking birds illegal. It is not new, but is based on the Act of 1908. As a matter of fact, there is a new paragraph (d) which prohibits the taking of birds by mechanically-propelled boats or aircraft. That was put in, on a very strong recommendation from the Departmental Committee, on the ground that it is not very sportsmanlike to go chasing these wretched birds about in fast motor-boats. The old type of wild fowler did take some risks— of catching cold, at any rate—when chasing birds on a cold winter night; but the modern idea that you should motor down to the coast, get into a motor boat and go after these birds is, I think, repulsive to sportsmanlike ideas. The prohibition of the use of aircraft shows how very up-to-date the Home Office is. I did not know that birds were chased in aeroplanes, but evidently the authorities are looking forward, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary on his foresight.
Clause 2 is a new Clause. It requires a licence to be obtained by those who take birds for sale alive, and I believe it has behind it the support of those who engage in this traffic. It is not a Clause with which I have very great sympathy myself, but I believe those engaged in this traffic think that a licence system will discourage amateurs from trying to get birds for sale alive. Clause 3 is what I call the "Sunday Clause." It is slightly different from the provision in the Bill of 1926. The Home Secretary is given power to make regulations for the prevention of birds being killed or taken on Sunday. The Sub-section in the 1926 Bill prohibited any shooting of any sort on Sundays, and my own impression is that the House would be rather more favourable to a Clause drafted in that sense than to the one in the present Bill; because the 755 Departmental Committee recommended very strongly—it was one of their strong points—that it was really necessary to have one close day in the week for the bird population. Though it is only a Committee point, and does not affect the principle of the Bill, I should think an Amendment moved in Committee that the "Sunday Clause" should be reestablished would gain a certain amount of sympathy.
I understand the reason why it was altered is that representations were made by the Wild Fowlers' Association that if a total prohibition of the killing or taking of birds on Sunday were enforced it would interfere with Sunday shooting by working men. I was not aware that there was a very great amount of shooting done on Sundays by the working man or anybody else, but that was the reason given; though I am not at all certain that the gentlemen who go stalking birds in motor boats are not using the working men as a stalking horse. I do not know whether an hon. Member can move an Amendment against his own Bill—and I stand in loco parentis to this Bill—but if I were in order—I would move, or some other hon. Member would move, that the prohibition of Sunday shooting is made absolute.
Clause 4 is only to meet cases like that of the little owl. Under that Clause nobody must liberate a new species of bird without licence from the Home Secretary. The little owl has been a very destructive little bird, and if it is not protected in this Bill, and if anybody were so foolish as to introduce it into England it would be like introducing the rabbit into Australia. Anyhow, he may not do it—without the licence from the Home Secretary. Clauses 5 and 6 deal with the categories and I hope I have already made them clear to the House. I will pass to Clause 7, which deals with the lapwing. There is a Bill in another place dealing with the lapwing, but I am very glad the lapwing still appears in this Bill, because the lapwing is what I might almost call my show exhibit. It is through the lapwing that I can hope to get the whole-hearted support of the Agricultural Committee in this House. The lapwing is the farmers' friend, destroying wireworm, leather jackets and other pests, therefore, the 756 Agricultural Committee and the National Farmers' Union feel strongly that the lapwing ought to be protected.
The lapwing in this Bill is protected as far as regards being exhibited for sale in the close season. Hon. Members will see that that is laid down in Clause 7. But the egg of the lapwing—and this is where a slight controversy might arise— is protected altogether. It will not be lawful to sell the plover's egg in this country, and all authorities hold that that is the real protection to the lapwing in this country, because a great many of the flocks of plover really come from abroad. The consumption of the plover's egg in London and other centres is enormous in this country—apparently it is not very much appreciated on the Continent, for some reason or other—and the nests are raided in a very easy way, because they are on the ground and children can find them quite easily.
§ Sir C. MORRISON-BELL
I do not say that one child walking over a field would bump on to a lapwing's nest, but, because it is so marketable—in the early part of the season a plover's egg is worth about 1s. 6d. or 2s.—it is worth while sending out hundreds of school children to scour the fields, pick up the eggs, and ship them to England. Therefore, all authorities hold that the real protection would be to forbid entirely the sale of the plover's egg, and that is how it stands in the Bill at the present moment.
§ Sir C. MORRISON-BELL
Yes, because it will be illegal to offer them for sale. If anyone is philanthropic enough to import plovers' eggs and give them away to their friends, it would hardly be possible to trace that, but it would be illegal to offer them for sale, and that, I hope, would be a sufficient safeguard. Of course, you will get up against you, perhaps, the dealers in plovers' eggs, and it is possible that there will be an agitation by those people who are very fond of plovers' eggs; and it will be rather a dispute between those who like plovers' eggs and those who consider that the farming and agricultural interests should 757 come first. Personally, I range myself, though I do not mind a plover's egg, on the side of the farmers on this question. Therefore, it is proposed that plovers' eggs shall not be allowed to be sold. Clause 9 deals with the taxidermist. It is considered that it would be a real safeguard if taxidermists had to keep a list of the specimens they have of these wild birds.
Clause 10 deals with the question of sanctuaries. As hon. Members know, a great many bird sanctuaries have been formed in this country, and in this regard we owe a great deal to the activities of Lord Balcarres, who recently held the office of First Commissioner of Works. He, as is well known, formed a sanctuary in Hyde Park. I am glad, too, to see that they are springing up all over the country. There is one now being formed which many of us will be able to enjoy, as it is quite close to London, in Selsdon Wood, near Croydon, where it is hoped to make a large tract of wood a bird sanctuary for ever. That is in a district which is rapidly being literally plastered with houses, and hon. Members have only to look forward 50 or 60 years to see what a wonderful thing it will be to have, almost in the centre of Croydon, if the scheme goes through, as I hope it will, this tract of wood as a bird sanctuary. That movement is going on all over the country, and Clause 10 of the Bill deals with it in this way. We cannot regulate the inmates of the sanctuary, and very often harmful birds go into the sanctuary at the same time as birds which we wish to protect. Therefore, the Home Secretary will have the right to give a licence to exterminate any bird which is what we may call a cannibal, that may establish itself in the sanctuary and find its food very easily from the birds around it. Such birds would, naturally, upset the whole idea of a sanctuary; it would simply become a larder for them.
Clauses 11, 12 and 13 of the Bill deal with offences, penalties and legal proceedings, and require no comment fr om me. Clause 14 refers to the Advisory Committee, which has already been set up, and the Bill, which is at present before the House, owes a good deal to the assistance of—indeed, it has been practically made by—these gentlemen and the Departmental Committee. In Clause 19, the "close season" is defined. There 758 may be some discussion on that, but, again, I think it is a Committee point. The woodcock has a different close time from the ordinary bird, and some hon. Members think that the snipe should be included, but it is a Committee point which does not affect the principle of the Bill, and, therefore, I will not take up the time of the House any further upon it. I will simply conclude by saying that I hope that, whatever views hon. Members may have on certain details, they will all agree that bird protection is something that we ought to try to further. This country is known for a great many things. It is foremost in sport, it is foremost in commercial matters, and so on; but I think one thing that specially does it honour, and is probably admired by our foreign competitors, is the fact that this country is known all over the world as a country of lovers of animals, and of people who look after animals. We hope, therefore, that it will be equally well known for looking after wild birds. I believe, honestly, that this Bill, by codifying and classifying the law on this subject, will give more effective protection to wild birds than they have at the present moment.
Mr. HILTON YOUNG
I beg to second the Motion.
My hon. and gallant Friend has explained so clearly and fully the provisions of this useful and, we hope, popular Measure, that any further explanation is hardly necessary. Indeed, the House will now, I think, be more eager to hear what there may be by way of criticism upon the proposals of the Bill. There are one or two salient points which may perhaps be emphasised, showing, rather, what this Bill is not than what it is. In the first place, the Bill does not set out to effect any substantial change in the present law. I think it may be claimed that the Bill really is a declaratory Bill, the principal object of which is to compress, clarify and simplify the existing law; but that is an object which is very well worth attaining. The reason why the law has been so much a dead letter in the past has been largely because of the great complexity of its Schedules. We regard as one of the very best features in our present Bill the simplification of the Schedules, so that we are now putting 759 into the hands of the administrators of the law a weapon which is simple and effective to use, and we hope it will no longer be so much a dead letter as it has been in the past.
In the second place, this Bill does not set out to be a great Magna Charta, as it were, for the whole of bird life, under all possible forms of protection. We may hope, perhaps, that that will come some day, but the present Bill has a more limited purpose. It sets out to achieve the limited purpose of protecting the rare bird. It may be asked, is that so well worth doing as to protect the common bird? One would say very decidedly, "Yes." In the first place, in a measure, the interest in a bird is derived from its rarity, and, in the second place, of course, it is the rare bird that needs protection. In the case of the common bird, it is shown by its very commonness that it is not so much in need of protection. Let me give one or two instances of what we hope this Bill will help to do. Take the very first bird on its Schedule, the avocet, one of the rarest and most strangely beautiful of all forms of bird life. That bird has been banished from our shores within the last 150 years by the brutality of man, but it has not gone very far away. It is still hanging on just across the North Sea. The fortunate can still be privileged to see it breeding and living on the shores of Holland by the Neewe See Gracht. I might almost say it is waiting to come back as soon as we make circumstances possible for it. We hope this Bill, by simplifying and strengthening the protection afforded to such rare creatures, will assist it to return. Let me take another instance of a bird which has not yet been driven away but is being driven away by the pestilential activities of the collector, the Dartford warbler. It is the sort of bird one would most like to keep because it is so typically and characteristically English, the animated spirit of the furze brakes of the South of England. That bird is being rapidly exterminated simply by the collector. It is still here. It can still be seen. The British race can still be saved. We hope this Bill will help to save it.
Let us look for a moment at my other aspect of the Bill. I am sure practical and sensible men must be nervous lest 760 a Bill of this sort should go in for manufacturing crimes amongst comparatively innocent people. The Bill is not getting and will not do anything to help to get at what my hon. and gallant Friend describes as the schoolboy on his way to school. It is directed rather against the mischevious collector. If anyone cares particularly about the subject he should value the Bill particularly for the Clause which for the first time enables us effectively to prevent the exhibition for sale of the skins and eggs of rare birds. Those acquainted, as who in the House is not, with the practical business of administration, know that is the most effective way of putting down an illegitimate practice. It is not much good really saying "You shall not take the eggs." You cannot have a police staff of watchers to watch every nest of every rare bird in the country. But what you can do is to get at the exhibition of rare eggs and skins in the shops. That is quite a practicable and manageable measure for the police. My hon. and gallant Friend said there is one respect which he would like to improve his own Bill. There is another respect in which I should like to improve in on this particular Clause. I should very much like, if it were possible, in Committee, to get rid of these rather elaborate and nice distinctions as to when it is to be an offence to sell a rare skin or egg. I should have thought it would be very much simpler, for the purpose of administration, simply to put other rare eggs on the same basis as lapwings' eggs and say it was to be an offence to sell or exhibit those eggs for sale however or whenever obtained. I do not see why we should make elaborate provisions and complicate the law in order to make it possible to sell for instance foreign crossbills' eggs. Most of us would be willing to protect the foreign crossbill, in our shops, as well as our native bred birds. These are the two principal provisions for which the Bill is so valuable in addition to those others which have been so clearly explained by my hon. and gallant Friend. I understand apprehension has been expressed lest there should be opposition to the Bill from various other interests. As far as I have been able to ascertain I think ail the great societies which are interested in birds in any form, with one possible exception, are heartily supporting the Bill. It is an interesting circumstance that I represent a consti- 761 tueney which is the greatest producer of canaries in the world. [Interruption.] We do not admit that we are second to any in that respect.
I shall have the sympathy of the House when I remind it that the Norwich birds are the silent variety. This industry is, if not the largest or most lucrative in my city, is certainly the most popular. I have therefore been at pains to ascertain that the cage bird associations which represent the humble pleasures of so many find nothing but things to support in the Bill. Opposition comes from one source, I understand, on the ground that in certain quarters of the country the Bill might lead to an actual reduction of the list of protected birds. I believe that to be an objection to which there is an answer. Under the Bill there is ample power for the Secretary of State to make any local extensions that are required by the locality. If that is not so, it would seem to be a most reasonable Amendment to insert. It seems to be: a Committee point. The Bill in its wide principles is one on which all bird lovers can agree as a measure of protection.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months."
My reasons for moving the rejection of the Bill are not due to any antagonism to its spirit. I congratulate the Mover in using the day and the position he was so fortunate to get, and that so few get, to try to do something to extend the protection that is given to wild birds. My reason for moving the rejection is that the Bill does not seem in any degree to achieve the purpose the hon. Member has in bringing it forward. He indicated casually that this was really a Government Measure. It seems to be becoming quite the practice to use the private Members' day for introducing Bills that the particular Secretary of State does not seem able to persuade the Cabinet or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury to place on the Government list, so he persuades one of his more loyal supporters on the back benches to use his opportunity in the ballot. I am 762 reading between the lines, and I may be reading wrongly, but there is primd facie evidence in that direction at least. I should have thought, when it was desired to consolidate and simplify what I agree is a very tangled mass of legislation dealing with this problem, some attempt would have been made to produce a really simple water-tight Measure. Here, it seems to me, we have confusion worse confounded and less protection for the wild birds. In reply to one point made by the Introducer, it seems to me that in a matter of this sort where, as he admits, enforcement by law is extremely difficult, the really important thing is to be in harmony with public opinion. He said, "You cannot act in this matter contrary to public opinion. You must try to act in harmony with public opinion." It seems to me the most important thing of all the Home Office and the House can do is to create public opinion for the protection of wild birds, and here we are lagging behind what I am sure is the average public opinion of decent-minded men.
The right hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Hilton Young) says that he has had nothing but support for this Measure. He mentioned the Cage Birds Association, and the hon. and gallant Member for Honiton (Sir C Morrison-Bell) mentioned the Wild Fowlers Association. Mention has also been made of the collectors. I have heard nothing but condemnation of the Bill. I have not had one single letter in support of it, but I have had several in condemnation. The letters which I have received have not been from those who are commercially interested in wild birds but from those who are pure and simple bird lovers, without any ulterior motive. The bird lovers, in so far as they have made themselves vocal, are unanimous in condemning this Measure as not improving the position of wild birds at all. If this is a Government Measure, it follows properly the Tory political sphere in this respect that, as the Mover and Seconder stated, it goes out quite definitely to protect the select few. The big mass of the common people are in category 3, the proletariat, the outlaws with every man's hand against them, and only the very select few, those in category 1, have anything like adequate protection. That is a sound Tory theory: look after the aristocrats and the mob can look 763 after themselves, and it is applied to wild birds just as it is applied to human beings. Naturally, my hon. Friends who agree with me in opposing this Measure take the side of the common people. We make the first claim that this Bill should have been based on the entirely opposite principle, the principle that all wild birds should be protected. That should be the basic principle; the recognition of the right to live on the part of all wild birds.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I beg the hon. and learned Member's pardon. I thought he was indulging in a joke, and I regret that he should have withdrawn it, because it was going to enable me to make another one. However, the hon. and learned Member makes an interjection which, although it does not provide an opportunity for humour, provides me with the next point. I admit at once that in certain directions such a provision without exception would lead to certain birds becoming a pest. I do not know to what extent that may be true, because the ordinary wastage of bird life, the ordinary menaces that have been brought about by our civilisation, such as telegraph wires, overhead electric cables, aeroplanes rushing through the air, and all sorts of interferences with their nesting places, produce a very heavy mortality among birds, quite apart from persons who go out definitely to destroy them. Admitting that there is a possible danger in giving complete protection and that it would lead to certain birds increasing at so great a rate that they would become a definite pest, that is not a valid objection to the principle of laying down complete protection as a basic principle, and then coming along with exceptions and making out lists of birds that are a positive danger to agriculture or to other birds or in any way a menace to the welfare of the community, agricultural or otherwise.
764 Lay down the general protection of bird life as a basic principle and then deal with your criminal birds afterwards. Is it not the principle of general law to set up a system that is fair to the ordinary average individual and then deal with the evil-doer? This Bill goes upon the entirely opposite principle. All wild birds are liable to death at the hands of man or child. That is the basic principle of this Bill. All wild birds are liable to be killed, taken or destroyed, their nests or their eggs taken or the birds' taken or destroyed, with a few rare exceptions. There are only 30 birds in category No. 1 which receive the most complete protection, and of those 30 birds only a very few occur in any given county. I am informed by one authority that in the County of Lanarkshire only seven of these birds have been seen during the last 50 years. Some of them have only been seen once during that period. Would it not be far better to have real effective measures for the protection of wild birds and then get out a list of those that are dangerous and that people might destroy or proceed against?
The hon. and gallant Member for Honiton spoke as if this Bill were practically the same Bill that had gone through the House of Lords: but there are one or two very important changes in this Bill which reduce it to a lower level than the Bill which was introduced in the House of Lords. If I read rightly, the last Measure proposed that the close season should extend to 11th August. I believe that under existing legislation the close season generally is 1st August. But this Bill knocks off 12 days from the 11th August proposal and actually reduces by one day the close season which exists at the present time. It substitutes the 31st July instead of the 1st August even against the existing legislation, which is one day less of protection for the birds. I can only conclude that, since the Advisory Committee was set up to advise the Home Secretary, that Committee, containing representatives of organisations who are financially interested in the destruction of wild birds, has influenced the Home Secretary in a downward direction instead of an upward direction. I am asked to give to that Advisory Committee which, as far as I can read, judging the various Bills which have been introduced and the 765 deterioration evident in this one, has had a reactionary tendency instead of an elevating and uplifting tendency. I would object very strongly to giving statutory powers to a Committee which is more interested in the commercial interests of those who destroy wild birds than in the protection of wild birds.
There is a further very grave omission from the Bill. In the general protection given in Clause 1, which describes the methods that are illegal, we find that it is to be unlawful for any person
An important provision brought forward by the Departmental Committee and the Paris Convention of 1902 which was a definite provision against the taking of birds en masse is omitted from this Bill. People are allowed to net birds. Netting is the most wholesale way. The other methods are more in the way of individual bait, but netting may bring in hundreds of birds in one swoop. The provision against taking birds en masse is omitted completely from the Bill There are just one or two minor points to which I should like to call attention. I think it is a blot on the Measure that a term of imprisonment should be provided as a penalty. One must preserve a sense of proportion in a Measure of this sort. The sole reasons for it are humanitarian, and it seems to me to be poor humanitarianism to set a wild bird free and shut a wild boy up. The provision of a fine is quite an adequate penalty for the type of offence committed here without the possibility of imprisonment. That proposal is completely out of place in a Bill which has for its object a high humanitarian purpose. Then there is the point as to the posting of notices about protecting wild birds which are to be displayed at police stations and public elementary schools. I want to know why the public elementary schools? Schoolboys are bird nesters. No one who has been a schoolboy, or a 766 schoolmaster, will attempt to deny that boys are bird nesters, but they are not limited to the public elementary schools.
- "(a) to affix, place or set on any pole, tree or cairn of stones or earth, any spring, trap, gin or other similar instrument…
- (c) to take or attempt to take any bird by means of a hook or other similar instrument; or
- (d) to use for the purpose of killing or taking birds any mechanically propelled boat or any aircraft."
§ 12 n.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am sorry the hon. and gallant Member is not going to control the Bill, otherwise we might reach agreement on that point. But there are many other places where these notices could be set up with great advantage, and it would be a good thing if the promoters of the Measure would withdraw it and recognise that what is really wanted is a continuation of existing legislation and a great propaganda by the Home Office to stimulate public opinion to the value in our social life of this aesthetic and cultural element in our midst. There has been no attempt in the past to interest people in the wild birds of their own country. The notices displayed are uninteresting and do not stimulate the imagination at all. Look at the fine publicity work done to stimulate Empire trade, pictorial and striking in its literary matter. In connection with wild birds protection you get a miserably printed Bill which looks like last year's election results, stuck up in obscure places, and that is all the attempt that is made to interest people in the wild bird life of this country. The Home Secretary should, he has the power now, stimulate all the county authorities to use the public schools and elementary schools as educational centres and use the public hoardings in a more interesting and inspiring way than at present, and then come along with a properly devised scheme which will give general protection to all birds all the year round, making exceptions of those that are a nuisance to agriculture or dangerous in one way or another. The county authorities should have greater power, not less.
This Bill practically wipes the county councils out of existence as an interested body in the protection of wild birds. Everyone knows that bird life varies so much from county to county that a general order is not an effective way of dealing with it. You want local knowledge brought in, and local interests brought in. So far as my own city of Glasgow is concerned, we have now got complete protection for every bird all the year round, 767 bird, nest and eggs. The city of Dundee has exactly the same thing. It may be said, "It is all very well for the people of the city of Glasgow to protect the birds, there are no birds there to protect." I regret that until quite recently there were very few birds in Glasgow, but by a recent boundary extension, which this House passed a year ago, we have now a large rural area where bird life is absolutely protected by an Order passed by this House. If this can operate in that area without any harmful results and without any protests of any kind; if it can operate in a city like Glasgow and a city like Dundee, why should it not operate effectively all over the country, with the local authorities making whatever exceptions seems necessary to meet local circumstances.
§ Mr. BATEY
I beg to second the Amendment.
The right hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Young) who seconded the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill said that the Mover of the Motion had put forward all that was needed to be said in its favour. In rising to second the Amendment, I can repeat that, and say that the Mover of the Amendment has said all that need be said against the Bill. When my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) asked me to second the rejection, I promised to do so on one condition. I said, "I will second the rejection provided you supply me with a speech to deliver." My hon. Friend said, "Listen to me and during my speech I will give you material for six speeches." I disagreed with the very first sentence my hon. Friend uttered. He began by congratulating the hon. Member for utilising the fortune of the Ballot to deal with this question. I think we are not utilising the time of the House of Commons as we ought in discussing a question like this. The time of the House of Commons could be far better used in discussing questions that affect our people rather than questions which affect wild birds. I would far sooner this morning discuss a measure for the protection of children against poverty than a measure for the protection of wild birds. I consider that this Bill is not necessary. There may be some good things in it, I do not doubt that in 768 the least. There may be some very good Clauses in the Bill, but there is no need for the Bill to be introduced at this time. There are a few classes of birds that are not covered at the present time. We believe that those few rare birds could be easily provided for without this Bill. Lord Grey, in 1923, in speaking on the Wild Birds Protection Bill in another place said:I would sum up the Bill by saying that what we have endeavoured to do is to give protection to rare birds.We believe that without all the machinery of this Bill the Home Secretary could have asked the county councils to include these rare birds on the list, and one imagines that the county councils would readily have agreed. What we are told by those who understand the question is that this Bill is really destroying thirty years' work in bird protection, by cancelling all the existing County Board Protection Orders. We believe that before that is done we should have some representations from the county councils. So far I have heard nothing from any county council that the time has come when there is necessity for a change. Until the county councils make a move there is not much need for the House to be bothered with this Bill. There are three Clauses of the Bill for which I do not altogether care. One is Clause 6, which reads:Provided that as respects any bird classified under this Act as being in Category III, the foregoing provision shall not apply to the owner or occupier of any land upon which any such bird is for the time being, or to any person belonging to his household or in his service, or authorised in writing signed by him to act on his behalf.Personally I am opposed to anybody who owns land having privileges that do not apply to the ordinary common man. If an owner of land is given privileges under this Bill, the same privileges ought to be given to every other common man in the country. Because of this Clause, I suspect class legislation. Apart from that, there are many working men who can spend a very happy day when they get the privilege of a day's shooting. Such a working man is handicapped against the landowner. He will not only have to pay for his gun licence but also have to take out another licence, and he has not the same privileges as a 769 landowner. The next Clause I disagree with is Clause 3, which says:The Secretary of State may make Regulations for preventing the killing or taking of birds or eggs or of any class of birds or eggs on Sundays.I do not see why the Home Secretary should make Regulations to prohibit the catching of birds or the taking of eggs on Sundays, while it remains possible to take the Birds or the eggs during the rest of the week. I agree with what has been said, that it is impossible to prevent a boy on his way to school from robbing a bird's nest. It is equally impossible to stop a boy from doing it on a Sunday. I do not want the Home Secretary to have the power to make Regulations that will make it legal for a boy to rob a bird's nest on his way to school and make it illegal for him to do so on a Sunday. I am also not happy about Clause 4, which deals with imported birds, and says:It shall not be lawful for any person without the leave of the Secretary of State knowingly to liberate imported birds of any species.In that connection I am concerned about two of my hon. Friends. There was a recent deputation to Australia, and we heard a good deal the other night about that visit. Two of my hon. Friends brought back cockatoos with them. They would come under this Clause. I know that one of my hon. Frends is sadly disappointed with his cockatoo, and I can imagine my hon. Friend wanting to liberate that cockatoo. I think he would be glad to "get shut of it." If this Clause is passed my hon. Friend will not be allowed to do so without the Home Secretary's consent. That is a real hardship upon an hon. Member of this House, and I do not like to see him put in that position. Therefore we ought not to agree to this Clause as it is in the Bill. I think the Home Secretary would say to my hon. Friend, "You have made your bed and you have to lie on it." To sum up our objections to the Bill; we do not think it is necessary, we think that the present law does all that is required, and for those reasons I have pleasure in seconding the Amendment.
§ Sir H. BRITTAIN
I cannot agree with the method by which the Bill was op- 770 posed by the last speaker, in the suggestion that the time of the House was being wasted in discussing such a Bill.
§ Sir H. BRITTAIN
The hon. Member thinks the time might be better utilised by discussing questions dealing with man instead of dumb creation. We quite properly devote at least nineteen-twentieths of our time to dealing with subjects affecting man. I am certain that the people of this country, which has led the whole world in kindness to animals, would be only too willing for us to devote one-twentieth of our time to doing anything possible to alleviate the lot of the- animal creation. With regard to the particular trouble that the hon. Member mentioned, if he would put it up to his friend who visited Australia I shall be only too willing to accept and look after the cockatoo. I had the great privilege of being the father of the first Act which was put through in this Parliament, which was an Act for the protection of birds. Let me here state what a deep debt of gratitude I owe to my friends and colleagues on all sides for the way they helped me to get that Bill through. I am glad to say that I have learned that it has done a great deal of good, both in regard to cruelty in catching birds and in regard to keeping birds in cages that are too small for them.
I readily realise that we are all bird lovers in this House, and though we may differ as to the methods in this particular Bill, it is not because we do not wish, each in our own way, to do all we can to protect one of the most beautiful of all the animal creation. I feel some diffidence in saying a few words in opposition to men who, I know, have made a life study of this question and who are recognised as bird lovers, particularly my good friend the Home Secretary, whom I look upon as the most humane Home Secretary of all time. It seems to me, in going carefully through this Bill, that although the idea of simplification is excellent, it gives less protection to the British birds than they have received up to now. It is, of course, extremely difficult to make out. lists of uniformity. Birds differ enormously throughout these islands, and 1 do not suppose there is any other 771 section of the earth's surface as small as Great Britain in which there is such a diversity of bird life and in which a bird which may be quite common in one district is not only rare, but absolutely never seen in certain other districts. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) stated that very few birds are seen in Glasgow. Well, I do not blame them. I would like to suggest that these lists that we have before us will simply muddle the ordinary man, who has not the faintest notion of what the bird is which he sees and which category it comes under.
One very delightful bird has been referred to, namely, the avocet. Those who know it will agree with every word that has been said about that beautiful bird, which is now waiting across the North Sea ready to come across with the Dutch bulbs which we shall shortly see in the-parks. There is another bird which I should like to mention, and that is one which I do not believe the average man in the street would be able to describe. It is one of the most beautiful of all small birds, the bluethroat, the home of which is on the North-East coast of Africa, and he lands here usually in a very tired state, after his long flight, on the East coast and sometimes in the North. He is very often shot on arrival, when absolutely tired out. He is a most beautiful songster, and a very attractive bird, and, in my humble opinion, if we are going to keep these categories, he should certainly come in Category 1. There is another bird, which is known all over the country to every man, woman and child in it, that is, the lark, perhaps the most beautiful songster we have in these islands. It seems to me pathetic that this wonderful bird should be worse off under this Bill than it is to-day. It was protected in the Act of 1880 or 1881 throughout the breeding season, but under this Bill it will not be protected at all.
To me it is absolutely pathetic to see a lark in a cage anywhere. I do not know anything more moving than to see this bird, the very idea of which connotes the blue sky and the great open spaces, banging itself to pieces in a small, iron barred cage. Instead of putting a bird of this kind in a cage, let us rather develop what has been referred to 772 already, and that is bird sanctuaries, giving the people in our great towns and cities an opportunity to go out into the nearest available country spaces and see and hear these birds, as they should be seen and heard, in God's own open air, instead of battering themselves to pieces in small cages.
§ Sir H. BRITTAIN
Cockatoos look much better flying loose in Australia than they do here, but when you bring it down to that angle, if there are any birds who seem to be happy in cages, it is those of the parrot tribe, and that, I think, will be generally agreed to by those who know anything about the keeping of birds. I seldom agree with the hon. Member for Bridgeton, but I must say, again with the greatest possible deference to those who are responsible for this Bill, which was most delightfully proposed by the hon and gallant Member for Honiton (Sir C. Morrison-Bell), that I cannot help thinking that, if it were turned completely round, and if there was protection afforded to all birds, except game birds and quasi-game birds, and a black list made of those which are injurious to legitimate human interests, it would be better. From the point of view of agriculture, certain birds may be increasing too fast. They could be left in the hands of the' Home Secretary or some other authority to have them put on the black list until they were again reduced to a proportionate number. I cannot help thinking that, as was stated, we have given a lead to Europe and the world in every humane movement, and, in my humble opinion, this Bill, as put before us now, will not carry us any further in that respect. I cannot help thinking that, if this Bill passes, we shall be taking a retrograde step.
§ Sir ALFRED HOPKINSON
I listened with a great deal of sympathy and concurrence to the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who moved the rejection of the Bill, and there were three points that especially struck me and with which I felt general agreement. The first was perhaps not strictly relevant to the Bill, but naturally arising out of it, namely, that one of the main methods we ought to adopt and the most 773 effective for the protection of bird life, is to instil right views on the subject into the minds of young people, to teach them the beauty and value of bird life. But I do not think it has been entirely neglected. Speaking for my own city of Manchester, we gratefully remember the efforts of Mr. Horsfall for spreading a knowledge of nature and art among those who had few opportunities of seeing what was beautiful. He arranged a series of excellent pictures of birds to be placed in a hall in a poor part of the town. Such pictures too were placed on the walls of elementary schools where the children could see them. Kindly people who knew something of bird life gave interesting talks about these pictures to children and others. Great good has already been done in this way, and such effects ought to be extended. I can speak from a long experience of three generations, that there is nothing that a child loves more than to see the pictures of birds, and to have their habits explained, and possibly afterwards make acquaintance with wild birds themselves. Such efforts will find a fruitful soil in which to fructify, and I am out and out in sympathy with the hon. Member opposite on that point.
The second point with which I am largely in sympathy, is as regards the penalty of imprisonment. I think the ordinary schoolboy is a bird-nester by nature, and I have perhaps myself certain sins of my youth to answer for in that regard. I think it would be a very grave thing to impose a penalty of imprisonment in such cases, but it is worth observation that the Clause objected to does not allow imprisonment for a first offence. After all if an offence has been repeated after serious warning given there is no excuse for a deliberate breach of the law again and again. This Bill repeals nine Statutes. I am delighted to see, and I am sure any lawyer in the House must welcome, a Bill which repeals so many Statutes as that and consolidates the law.
The most important point, however, that has been raised—and I recognise the force of the contention—is that it would have been better to have given a general protection and then to have put in a black list, showing what birds might be reasonably exempted. Still, I should like to make an appeal to the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill 774 on this point. Will it not be far better to allow it to have a Second Reading and then to raise certain points in Committee, which I think might be raised there without really interfering with the general scope of the Bill, the reasons for which have been so admirably stated by the Mover and Seconder? Could not the point raised by the hon. Member opposite be very largely met by extending the lists of protected birds, not to be so meticulous in limiting the classes of birds in the categories in the Schedules? It would be very awkward in working the Act to distinguish between various birds of the same genus. For example, why not schedule the whole class of warblers? The marsh warbler is protected,: why not include the reed warbler and sedge warbler and all other similar species? What harm could it do to protect all strictly? It is not so easy a thing to distinguish them, and I would put all the warblers on the list at once. It would be far better to avoid these minute distinctions, and would to some extent meet the views expressed by the hon. Member. Think of the birds we love to see on the streams in our hilly districts. Why should not the dipper be included, and why not the most beautiful of all English birds, the grey and yellow wagtails? Why not also the ordinary wagtail as well? Then we have amongst these highly-protected birds, the pied flycatcher. It is rare, perhaps, but there could be no harm in adding the spotted flycatcher, though common.
I suggest to those who are in charge of the Bill that they should partially meet the views expressed from the other side and extend these lists, and not be so minute in making distinctions, but put in. whole classes of harmless and beautiful birds. May I say, in conclusion, how glad I was to hear the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill say he hoped the Clause as regards Sunday -would be made general and protect the great enjoyment of those who stroll in the country on that day, and who may have no other opportunity. I hope that the Bill may be read a Second time with general concurrence, and that the views expressed by the hon. Member who moved the rejection may be, at least, partially met when it is considered in Committee.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I propose to keep the House for a few minutes only in discussing this important Bill. I think everybody would have agreed with the general exposition of humanitarianism given to the House by my hon. Friend above the Gangway the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), and if I thought it possible to get a Bill of that kind passed at the moment, I should have supported him, but I think his difficulties would have arisen the moment he came to create any exceptions. I think that was quite clear from the speech that has been delivered by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir A. Hopkinson), who, I think, gave a sound piece of advice to the promoters of the Bill. I think that in Committee a great many additions might appropriately be made to the various categories. He mentioned one or two birds familiar to myself, and I could mention another. For example, there is the lapwing. Why should the lapwing be in Category 2, when it might very well be in Category 1 under this Bill? The lapwing, as my hon. Friend, in his admirable speech in moving the introduction of the Bill pointed out, is a great benefactor to the farmer.
I should like also in this Bill to give more power to the local authorities. I know very well that the county councils in Scotland particularly have done most admirable work in connection with bird protection, and if it were at all possible in this Bill, in Committee, I should, for one, support any Amendment which would give increased powers to county councils in that direction. There are one or two points which I, for one, will do my best to sec altered in Committee, and I think they were mentioned by my hon. Friend above the Gangway. The first was the reduction of the ordinary close season by eleven days. I do not know what justification the promoters of the Bill had for introducing that proposal. It was not inserted in the Bill of last year, I believe, and I am perfectly sure that a great many of us will offer very strenuous opposition to its insertion at this juncture.
Then I will take another insertion which was not in the Bill of last year. I refer to Sunday shooting. I understand that the justification for this proposal is that the working man is desirous of having his shooting on Sundays. I strongly 776 object to that argument. I do not believe there is a single working man in Scotland who wants to shoot birds on a Sunday. I do not know what the opinion in England is—my hon. Friends above the Gangway will no doubt give expression to them—but I am convinced of this, that it would be against the general wish of the House of Commons, as representing the people of this country, to enact that any extension of what is called in Scotland Sabbath breaking should take place in this way, and I, for one, will strenuously oppose the inclusion of this part of that Clause in the Bill. If anyone goes to the South of France, they will know that you very rarely hear the note of a bird there. No little bird seems to exist on any part of that beautiful coast. You find that if, on a Saturday night, a note has been heard of any small, delightful bird, the whole village is out on Sunday, with their dogs, and their guns, and their children, and the male members of the community caparisoned as if for a crusade, all in order to destroy a little warbler. I do not want that sort of thing to exist in our country, and I do not believe it ever will, because everybody in this country, in his heart of hearts, has a real love for birds.
What this Bill is really out to destroy is the recklessness, the thoughtlessness, and the mercenary nature of some people in the community. I believe that this country has a greater love for animals and birds than any other country in the world, and I quite agree with what my hon. Friend who has just sat down said. I believe there is a kindlier spirit arising in this generation through education and through training. I notice that my own children, looking through encyclopaedias with beautiful bird pictures, are fascinated by them, and I am convinced that there is in the rising generation a real desire to be kind to birds, and I am sure that this Bill is a step in this direction. My own view is that this Bill does not go far enough. It deals drastically enough with the rare birds which are very occasionally seen in this country, but it might have gone further in its provision for the protection of the ordinary birds which are familiar to us as we wander about the countryside. I am delighted to find that there is some suggestion of more sanctuaries. I do not know what the Home Secretary can 777 do in that direction, but one of the greatest blessings to the bird community is the institution of the sanctuary. We in the Highlands of Scotland are familiar with the sanctuary in another way—I do not mean in the religious sense, but in the deer forests there is the sanctuary which has really come in the course of time to acquire a saciosanct position in the minds of men, and the wily old stag knows perfectly well when it is possible to get rid of the stalker and the sportsman. I should be delighted if the birds of this country could, in the course of time, come to realise that, whatever marauder might be in search of them, there would always be near at hand a sanctuary where they knew they could go, and remain singing and enjoying their bird life in perfect safety. With the reservations which I have enumerated, 1 support the Bill. I think it ought to get a Second Reading. I do not think there is any real difference among Members in the House with regard to it. The only difference is one of method, but I am convinced it is a Bill which will meet with general approval, and, as such, I welcome it, and will give it my support.
§ Major HILLS
As far as the discussion has gone three chief objections to the Bill have been put forward. The first is that you should not deal with the bird population of these islands generally but should proceed by county areas; secondly, you should protect all birds, excluding those which do not deserve protection; and, thirdly, in your protective list you should add birds that are not there at present. On the first objection, I want to say that the birds which are absolutely protected in this Bill are very rare birds, and in many cases the county area is too small to protect them. Take the peregrine falcon. It may traverse the length of this land in a day, and it is no good to say you protect it in one county if the neighbouring county fails to protect it. May I remind the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), that although particular counties in Scotland do protect birds very closely, some counties have made no Order at all, and so you would get very great varieties. The second objection is that small birds can cross the border quite easily. If a bird be protected in one county, and not another, and that bird is killed and found in the unlawful 778 possession of the killer, it is very hard to prove in which county that bird was killed—almost impossible. A case arises in regard to kites, which, for many years, have been harried by egg collectors financed by wealthy collectors in London and other places. The thing went so far that the owner of the trees in which these kites nested, put people to watch night and day, but in nearly every case the eggs were taken. The birds were protected in the Welsh county in which the trees were, but they were not protected in the neighbouring counties where no kites were nesting, and it proved almost impossible to convict these egg stealers. Lastly, the hon. Member, if he accepts the county system, wants to stand pat on things as they are. To that extent he will stand pat on things as they are, and I do not think anyone will agree to that.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The point I tried to make—I am afraid not very clearly—was that the general national legislation should be for the protection of all birds, the exceptions being made by the county.
§ Major HILLS
That is really my second point. The hon. Member's second point was that you should protect all birds, and the county should exclude the mischievous birds. On that I do not think the hon. Member always realises that our bird population in many cases is now as plentiful as ever. Birds fly in the air; you cannot enclose the air. You cannot put up wire fences in the air, and so birds can move freely all through the air, which has no oceans and no continents. Small birds can migrate, and even in this civilised age small birds like the chiff-chaff winter in Natal, or birds which flutter from bough to bough like the willow-wren spend the winter in Persia. Further, in the large number of game preserves which we have in this country—I do not argue whether game preserves are right or wrong—you have, again, bird sanctuaries of a very effective kind. Means are taken to kill weasels, stoats and other animals and birds that prey on small birds, and so you have a very large bird population now, and many of our birds do not require protection.
The hon. Member made a rather dangerous analogy. He said we were protecting the aristocracy of bird life, and leaving the democracy unprotected. 779 I will give him another analogy which, I think, will appeal to him, that this Bill tries to protect not the majority, but the persecuted minority. The third objection is that we should add to this list certain birds that are not there now. Mere, again, 1 think there is some confusion. The birds that are in Categories 1 and 2 are the birds that do breed here sometimes. I know now where the golden oriole has now bred for two years, although I certainly would not breathe it to anybody. All the birds in Categories 1 and 2 breed in this country, or can breed here, and a bird like the arctic blue-throat, which is an arctic or sub-arctic bird, passes here occasionally on migration, but has never been known to breed here.
§ Major HILLS
It is so rare and occasional, that I cannot see any need for protecting it, as the object of the Category is to protect birds that form part of our domestic bird population. These occasional stragglers, of which there are many—birds from Asia and America which are blown here by storms—cannot establish themselves here, and so it is not so important that you should protect them.
§ Major HILLS
I have here a manual on birds, and I can find very few mentioned. The hon. Member for Bridgeton objected to the capture of wild birds in the mass. The whole question of captive birds is one of extraordinary difficulty. Upon one side of the question you have bird lovers who would like to see all birds free always. On the other side you have the enormous imaginative and emotional pleasure that caged birds do give. Go down any of our small streets, and you will find birds in cages that are the delight and happiness of those who live under less fortunate conditions of life. I see both sides of the question, and, on the whole, I submit that it is best to let things alone. If we do reach a stage when we think it wrong to keep birds in cages, then they will not be kept in cages; but, until that time arrives, I do not think that we have any right to deprive 780 people of the enormous pleasure that captive birds do give, especially to those who cannot visit the open country as often as some of us can.
I welcome the idea of sanctuaries. It is a most admirable way of protecting birds. Sanctuaries, however, cannot do everything. The wandering birds, the free flying birds, all the birds of the hawk tribe, the falcons, and birds of the eagle tribe, all move too fast upon their daily journeys seeking their meat to be safe in a sanctuary. When you go to the wild countries the air is full of large birds, splendid creatures that every bird lover delights to see. But we have increased the smaller birds at the expense of our predatory birds, because the hawks, the eagles and the owls have been killed to protect the life of our game birds. We have incidentally protected our smaller birds but put down the bigger birds. Therefore, you cannot do all that you want by sanctuaries and you come back to the absolute protection of certain birds all the year round and all over the land. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Bridgeton intends to divide the House. I believe that he is as anxious as any of us to protect birds, but he has a different method. If he will let the Bill go through, could not this point be discussed in Committee? We differ, and we differ to a substantial extent as to the means to be adopted, but we all agree on the main point as to the protection of birds, and the Bill is drawn in such a form that an Amendment even of the wide character which the hon. Member desires could be moved within the rules of order. I should like to think that we in this House had passed unanimously a Bill to protect birds.
§ Major HILLS
The persecuted birds, the unpopular bird, the bird that is a rare visitor and is usually shot on sight. It protects the under-dog, it leaves the prosperous majority alone to protect themselves.
§ Major HILLS
I believe that I shall get the assent of the hon. Member after all. I believe if he looks at it he will see that it is in line with his own thought. I support the Bill thoroughly. I am not one of those who combines support with criticism. I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading, then any Amendment which may be desired can be made in Committee.
§ Dr. DRUMMOND SHIELS
I am very reluctant to oppose a Bill which purports to be for the greater protection of birds, but I must do so on the general ground that this Measure gives less protection to wild birds than they have at the present time. That, broadly, is the reason I oppose the Bill. I agree very heartily with the hon. Member for Bridge-ton (Mr. Maxton) when he speaks of the general principle which a Bill of this kind should follow, namely, to give protection to all wild birds and to exclude any birds which have been proved to be harmful to agriculturists. I sympathise at the same time with the intention of the Bill to simplify and co-ordinate the earlier Acts. The Schedule of the 1880 Act is certainly clumsy, but I think it is reasonable to suppose that those who were interested in killing or in protecting birds have had no difficulty with it. Under the present Bill, also, those who are protectors or killers and collectors would have no difficulty with much longer category lists than those given. It is quite obvious from what we have heard from hon. Members that categories 1 and 2 exclude many birds which should be included. I think the hon. and gallant Member for Honiton (Sir A. Morrison-Bell), whose speech in introducing the Bill we enjoyed very much, was not himself satisfied with a number of its provisions and showed that he could stand as I am sure public opinion in the country could stand something very much more drastic. If this classification were to be kept, additions to category 1 might well include the Glossy Ibis the Roller, the Blacktailed Godwit, and the Ruff and Reeve.
The hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) objects to protecting certain birds because they do not breed here and, being migratory, are only seen in passing through. Surely that is not a good reason for not protecting them. It is very desirable that 782 when they are here for such a short time, we should have all the more opportunity of seeing them and enjoying their presence. There is special reason indeed for protecting them. The hon. Member for Acton (Sir H. Brittain) rightly spoke about the Blue-throat, and many figures could be given showing the number of these birds which have been shot in various parts of the country. This is a charming song bird and a bird we might well see much more often. We wish to protect not only the breeding birds but also the birds of passage, who only use this country as a resting-place. The hon. Member for Acton also spoke about the lark. I do think it is extraordinary that this bird has been overlooked and omitted from the Bill. It is a bird which has always been the symbol of what is brightest and most beautiful in bird life, and it has been a favourite theme of poets and artists. Yet we are going to exclude it from protection though it had a special Act of Parliament to give it protection in 1881.
In regard to the matter of county jurisdiction, supposing the structure of this Bill is preserved, I would support the keeping of the broad principles of the Bill as the national minimum, but giving power to counties to apply special prohibitive provisions if public opinion among their people could stand something' more stringent. For instance, the goldfinch is completely protected in various areas at the present time, and, under this Bill, it would only be partially protected. This is another point in which the Bill is reactionary.
Something was said about schoolboys; I would like very much if the Home Secretary would consult with the Minister of Education to see if some campaign for creating interest in bird life could be carried on in our schools throughout the country, not only elementary schools but all schools. This is nothing new. It is done in the United States at the present time and is also done in Germany. In Hungary they have actually an annual bird day in the schools. While it is quite true that we have led the world in humane legislation in regard to animals —and I am very proud of that—I think we are falling a little behind in regard to this matter of the protection of bird life. I do think that all school children 783 should get an opportunity of this education and not have to depend on chance voluntary agencies which, at the same time, are very admirable, and which have been referred to by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir A. Hopkin-son). It should be an integral part of their humane education. After all, we teach them a good many doubtfully useful things as it is and I think something of this kind would be justifiable and helpful. The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) spoke about the fact that our time might be more usefully devoted to discussing men rather than birds. But I feel that if we have the right spirit in regard to birds and animals, we could be sure of a right spirit in regard to men. And education of this kind would help.
With regard to sanctuaries, I am very pleased to see that this movement is increasing in this country. There is one thing which we must remember in this connection. When we are laying down our standards in this country in regard to bird life as to everything else, we are laying down standards for the Dominions as well. In Canada and Australia there has been an increasing tendency to do protective work of this kind, but much more is needed than has been done. I never realised until I was in the Dominions how much they look to us for a standard in many directions and they do look to us for a standard in this connection also. There was a great gathering of ornithologists in Sydney a few months ago and they deplored the extinction of a number of species of native birds in Australia. The process is continuing and is likely to result in the extermination of some of the most interesting birds in the world. One of the things which struck me in Australia was the silence of the great backwood areas and the absence of birds. Very occasionally you would see a few parrots in hundreds of miles of bush which one would have supposed to be teeming with bird life. You heard and saw no birds in hours of travelling. Some are anxious' about that there, but they have difficulties as we have in regard to important matters, in creating active public opinion. The people are interested in other things and there are only a few enthusiasts who deplore this state of things. If we have a high standard in 784 this country in regard to this matter it will not only help the provision of sanctuaries here but it will help bird life in the Dominions. Its effects may be even more far reaching and we have therefore a great responsibility.
I rather join issue with the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) in regard to the question of imprisonment. This difficulty has come up before in regard to humane legislation. Hon. Members have said, "Here is a Bill for protecting animals or birds and it seems illogical when you are trying to be kindly to animals that you should imprison and impose certain penalties of a severe kind even on erring individuals." My answer to that is that the public estimation of an offence and the status of that offence is measured to a great extent by the penalty. If you have for any offence a mere fine with no possibility of imprisonment, an impression is created in the public mind that it is not a serious offence. We know that in the public mind the punishment is supposed to fit the crime. Therefore, I would certainly keep the penalty of imprisonment in this Bill, especially as it is there for offences subsequent to the first conviction.
In regard to the close season I would like to add my protests to those which have been made. I think there is no doubt that the Government have been influenced in this matter by one section of the community. In the 1925 draft of the Bill the close season for all species other than the woodcock was from the 1st March to the 11th August, both days inclusive. In 1926, the Government agreed, I do not know why, to an Amendment made in the interests of certain classes of sportsmen to finish the close season for wild duck on the 31st July. In this Clause we have gone one step further backward, and we finish the close season for practically all other species as well as the unfortunate wild duck on 31st July. I would point out that the need for the conservation of the European wild fowl is very great. I should like to quote a passage by Dr. Percy Lowe of the Natural History Museum who has issued a report on the status on this class of bird. He says:So excessive, indeed, has been the slaughter by means both fair and foul, to which these birds have been subjected on migration in the autumn and spring, that 785 the Swedish Government has become seriously alarmed for the future status of the breeding stock in their own country in particular and in the northern territories of Europe in general.At an International Conference which met last May, Dr. Lowe, representing Great Britain proposed the following resolution, which was passed by the General Congress:That this International Congress of Ornithologists assembled at Copenhagen, convinced that the future status of the wild fowl of Europe, more especially the Anatidae and Lunicolae, is very seriously jeopardised by commercialisation and lack of any organised international control of the methods by which vast numbers of these birds are annually killed and marketed, recommends that a conference should take place of nations more immediately concerned to consider this urgent question.I regret very much that the Government accepted first a weakening Amendment and then included an Amendment for dealing with all species in the same way, and I hope that if this Bill goes forward this will be altered. It is a distinctly retrograde step. I am not very keen either, upon the provision about licensing individuals to catch birds for caging, at 5s. a year, because it gives some appearance of sanction to a rather undesirable practice.
The Mover of this Bill said that he thought, personally, that it was desirable to prohibit the shooting of birds on Sunday. The Bill permits otherwise. I do not think we ought to use the working man as a stalking horse for this sort of thing. The working man was used in this way for Sunday golf because he had no chance of playing golf during the week. It was said to be a desirable thing for his health and for the practise of other virtues that he should be allowed to play on Sundays. But it is now the other people who really play on Sundays. After all the important point in this connection is that the Bill goes against the recommendation of the Departmental Committee in regard to Sunday shooting because they recommend general protection for all birds on that day. That humane and important recommendation is now reduced to a provision that the Home Secretary "May issue Regulations." The reason for the prohibition is protective and not religious.
This Bill has so many blemishes that, as I have said, it really reduces the protection which wild birds have at present. 786 I regret that I cannot, therefore, see my way to support it. I say this with regret. It achieves simplification of the present arrangements by diminishing the amount of protection to wild birds which now exists. The Bill is far too narrow and restricted in its scope, and it is founded on the principle of only giving full protection to rare birds in danger of extermination. It fails to give effect to the important recommendations of the Departmental Committee on which it is said to be founded such as the acceptance of the decisions of the Paris Convention of 1902 to give full protection to insectivorous birds, protection to birds at lighthouses, propaganda in favour of bird protection, the Sunday protection of nests and eggs, etc. This Bill places the wild birds of this country in a less favourable position than the wild birds of other countries, particularly the United States. In the past we have led other countries in our legislation affecting animals. We made a good start also in regard to wild birds, and I do not think at this time we ought to go further back. For these reasons I hope this Bill will be withdrawn and some effort made to get a more comprehensive Measure which will ensure a full measure of protection to birds and which will be more in keeping with the general sentiments of all classes and parties in this House and in the country.
§ Mr. LAMB
I desire to support the Second Reading of this Bill. On this question we have to guard ourselves against the two great forces of sentiment and commercialism, but on this occasion it is almost unique to find ourselves discussing a Bill in which those two great forces are in collaboration with each other in support of the Measure. I only want to say in this connection that no matter how good sentiment may be an excess of it can become a great evil. I agree that a world without sentiment would be a very poor place to live in With reference to commercialism, there are very few people who realise how much bird life has to do with the production or protection of the production of food in this country. Take the lapwing for example. I consider that there is no bird which does so much good for the farmer and the community as the lapwing because it destroys insects and worms which are inimical to the production of the world's food. Consequently 787 the lapwing deserves all the protection we can give him. Reference has been made to the opposition which may come in regard to the question of the sale of eggs. I do not think we shall inflict any hardship on the dealer if we exclude the right to sell these eggs so long as it is general and well carried out, because the proposal imposes equality on all dealers, and if equality be established in regard to this question no hardship will ensue. With regard to bird sanctuaries, I think this House and the community will be ready to do their best to further the creation of bird sanctuaries.
In my own neighbourhood, through the generosity of private individuals, funds have been collected, and an estate has been bought to establish a bird sanctuary. I should like to suggest that we should give favourable consideration to a proposal for the exemption from taxation of bird sanctuary areas, because undoubtedly they are not food-producing areas nor areas which are going to produce profit. I think this point is one which is well worthy of consideration by the House. The necessity for this Bill can best be emphasised by asking people to read down the list of birds included in Schedules 1 and 2. 1s is quite true that many hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate have shown a great knowledge of bird life and their habits, but if we go to the general public, not only in the towns, but in the country, and place before them the list of birds contained in those two Schedules, I feel sure we should find very few people who know that those birds exist at all. To my mind, that is absolute proof of the necessity for this Bill.
I would like to say a word for cage birds. Nothing grieves me more than to see birds confined in cages. Mention has been made of the lark, and I say with the last hon. Member who spoke that I hope it is only through a mistake, and not with any intent, that the lark is not included in the Schedule. It has been said the collier likes to hear the lark sing. I would prefer to protect the lark in order that the collier should hear it sing when he goes to and returns from work, instead of his hearing the bird when it is in confinement. I know of no place where you hear the lark better than in the areas where our coal pits 788 are situated. I do not know why this is so, but that is my experience; and I think the argument that colliers like to hear the lark in confinement is a very unfair one to colliers as well as to the larks. Only those birds which cannot exist in this country as wild birds should be allowed to be retained here in confinement.
Sentiment, if carried too far, can be an evil, and some birds, it is true, do become a pest through being too numerous. There is the sparrow, for instance. If there were to be a black list I should put him at the head of it, whether he lived in the salubrious area of Glasgow or elsewhere, and try to exterminate him.
§ Mr. LAMB
And I would be glad to miss him. The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) referred to some birds which had been imported by an hon. Friend of mine on his return from Australia, where I had the honour of being associated with him as a fellow member of a delegation. He said he was bitterly disappointed with the birds he had imported. He did not say why he was disappointed, and I was rather sorry, because they were birds of the parrot tribe. One of the attributes of the parrot tribe is that they can talk. I know of my own knowledge that those birds came over in the company of the ship's butcher. I am not saying one word against that admirable person; it may be that contamination has been taking place since my hon. Friend has had them at home. If that be so, then I think the very generous offer made by another hon. Member might be taken advantage of and that the political opinions and conversation of the birds might be given a different hue.
Although the hon. Member for Bridge-ton (Mr. Maxton) is opposing the Bill, all of us must have been struck by the admirable and kindly spirit which underlay his speech. He opposes the Bill. doing harm, in my view, in order that he may ultimately do good in the future by the introduction perhaps of a Bill in a different form. May I remind him that it is not always that we as private Members have the opportunity of dealing with Bills, and I appeal to him to do good while he may by supporting this Measure?
§ Mr. SNELL
The centre of the argument to-day is the separation of birds into those that are more fully protected and those which are less fully protected. Appeals on that point from this side of the House have not been fairly met by the promoters of the Bill. We feel very strongly that the protection given should be general. The argument that the birds which are to be afforded full protection are the scarce birds does not really meet the case. How is the boy who cannot resist taking eggs or trapping birds to discriminate between a rare bird and a second-class bird? That is the real difficulty. If he has these instincts, a boy does not pause to consider whether it is a rare bird; if it be rare he desires it all the more. It would be in the interests of the Bill if no discrimination were made and all birds were included in the first category. The boy does not know; and, as a rule, the adult does not care. An adult desires a bird precisely because it is rare; and if he carries a gun he wants to shoot. He goes out for the purpose of shooting something and the first unhappy creature which happens to come within range will suffer if the man's aim be effective, whether it be a rare bird or not.
I wish to protest against the appeal which is always made that we should sacrifice everything here in order that a Bill may go to Committee. The Committee is but a reflection of this House, and if a thing be lost here it will be lost in Committee. If we cannot persuade hon. Members on a main argument on the Floor of the House, we shall not prevail upon them when we get upstairs in Committee. In regard to the Sunday question, I do not accept the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Boss and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) that people should not be allowed to shoot on Sundays because it would be a desecration of the Sabbath. Surely, that is not the way in which to meet that argument. It is no more right to shoot birds on Sunday than on any other day. I would like to reverse the process of this Bill, if hon. Members asked me to make a compromise, and to give the birds six days' protection instead of only one. Let us say that birds shall not be shot for six days in the week, and then we might perhaps agree to let them go for one day. To say that on six days birds 790 may be shot, but on the seventh day they shall not be shot, is just playing with the problem of humanitarianism. What is required is a little less of the town spirit and a little more of the country spirit.
The first money I ever earned in my life was when, as a boy of nine or 10, the son of agricultural parents, I was paid half-a-crown a week for protecting crops from marauding birds. On that work we got to know bird life very closely; we knew their pretty little ways, they were always a great fascination. Unfortunately, the town boy has not the privilege of watching birds, but through education I think we could endow him with some idea of the sanctity and the beauty of these little specks of brother life. I notice that even in this Bill the wren is not protected. A more delightful little creature than the wren does not exist in the world. The robin was not mentioned either — partly, I suppose, because there is no necessity for including it where British boys are concerned. This audacious little chap follows you everywhere in the country and puts you on your honour. He will not allow you to be cruel to him. In my country work as a boy I have known robins to follow me on the farm until they became friends; one suspected that they knew us and knew our habits.
If we could do something to deal with the cruel, iniquitous cat in regard to bird life, we should perhaps be doing more than preventing people from using a gun on Sunday. Something also might be done in regard to town birds, at any rate by insisting on corks being put on the millions of wires that there are now in our great cities. With regard to larks, I speak with some hesitation, but I am not sure that I have not seen larks on the menus of this House, and I think we might arrange to spread some general knowledge on that matter also. If we might take a positive view, it is that, instead of encouraging working men to use guns on Sunday, if we could encourage everyone to establish nesting-boxes and little guest-tables for birds in their gardens, we should be richly rewarded, not only by the beauty they supply, but by their general help in ridding the world of pests, and by their song, which makes life a beautiful and wonderful thing. If we can, I think we 791 should come to some real compromise on this matter. I should hate to vote against this Bill, but it does seem to me to be a very serious objection that in some respects this Bill reduces the protection for bird life instead of strengthening it.
§ Sir FREDRIC WISE
The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Snell) wishes for full protection for all birds, but 1 feel that he has not taken a quite broad enough view of bird life, not only in this country, but also in other countries from which birds migrate. He discussed the robin and the wren, but those are only two of our domestic birds, although some of these species migrate to this country. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who moved the Amendment, started his speech by saying that he considered that the spirit of the Bill was right, but he ended by saying that he wished the Mover would withdraw it. I sincerely hope, like my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Lamb), that he will withdraw his Amendment, and allow these various points to be thrashed out in Committee. I think all ornithologists must thank Lord Grey of Fallodon for what he has done in regard to bird life in this country, and, as the hon. Member for East Woolwich said, its bird life is one of the charms of this country. It is always said that another place knows more about ornithology than the House of Commons. Perhaps they do, but I hope we have added to our credit in regard to natural history to-day by the number of speakers who have been discussing this Bill.
I approve of the Bill, and congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir C. Morrison-Bell), not only on being lucky in the ballot, but on having put down this Bill for discussion. The present state of the various Acts is chaotic, and I feel that, the sooner they are put on a firm and proper basis, although one may not agree with all the points, the better for the bird life in this country. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) referred to migration, and I think he is the only one of the various speakers who did refer to the great migration of birds. There are two migrations, and these affect, may I tell the hon. Member for East Woolwich, the protection of 792 birds in this country. There are two large migrations, in the spring and in the autumn. There is one, probably, going on at the present time; you have the summer birds arriving now. All that affects any protection of birds in this country. No doubt hon. Members will recollect that about a year ago one of the Imperial air pilots, Captain Hornsey, had to alter his course while crossing the Alps at 6,000 feet owing to the hundreds—in fact, he described it as millions—of birds on migration that he met. The birds would not get out of his way, so his giant aeroplane had to alter its course accordingly. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone referred specially to the lapwing. That is dealt with in Clause 7. It is a very important bird. I quite agree with all that my hon. Friend said, but there are a great many reasons, as far as the eggs are concerned, why I consider that it would not make any difference to the lapwing if the eggs were taken up to, say, the 10th April. The eggs are exposed to various birds that eat eggs, such as jays, magpies, rooks, and various birds of that sort; and, besides that, it is also subject to the farm roller.
§ Sir F. WISE
That does not matter a bit; the ornithologist puts a date, and, if you take the first eggs of the lapwing, the bird will lay again, and there is more chance of the second clutch not only being successfully hatched, but being successfully reared, than the first. I hope my hon. Friend will consider that point. With regard to the lapwing itself, I do not know whether hon. Members really think it is vanishing. It was supposed to be vanishing 50 years ago. I read in the "Times" of the 20th February last year, a very ineresting article by Miss E. L. Turner. She was, I think, somewhere on the Norfolk coast studying birds, and she stated in this article that the number of lapwings moving from east to west, when there were big rushes, seemed absolutely incredible. For days together this immense migration continued without a break, though always the largest flocks passed in the early morning. This is interesting. The lapwing in certain re- 793 spects may be diminishing, but that is chiefly owing to the drainage, or, perhaps, the artificial manures that are put on the land by farmers. I have also a letter from a very well-known ornithologist, Mr. Abel Chapman in regard to the lapwing. He lives in Northumberland, and I suppose he knows as much about ornithology as most people. He writes to me as follows in regard to the lapwing:Here are the facts. Twenty years ago (or less) it swarmed. There is a sort of rot set in, increasing so rapidly that half-a-dozen years ago the bird was near vanishing point. Note that meanwhile it had received in Northumberland absolute protection, birds and eggs, all the year round. Moreover, I never knew anyone shoot peewits unless it was a schoolboy, and certainly there is no systematic taking of their eggs. The rot remains inexplicable. To-day there is a slight increase. Where 50 pairs bred, say, in 1912, and two in 1923, there may now be five or six. Protection has no effect one way or another.That was in regard to the county he knew. He is a great ornithologist, and he travels about also in various countries, and no doubt he has studied the lapwing in various other countries. But the main thing to remember is that, whatever we pass in this House in regard to bird protection, whether we have Categories 1, 2, or 3, it all comes down to Nature, and Nature will assert herself. That is why I mentioned, at the beginning of my speech, the necessity of remembering the big migration of birds that takes place both in the spring and in the autumn.
Now I come to Clause 19 of the Bill, with regard to the woodcock. The suggestion is that the woodcock should be protected from the 1st February to the 31st August. My suggestion—it is only a Committee point—is that it should be protected from the 1st February to the 11th August. I think one should be able to shoot it at the same time that one shoots grouse. There may be certain objections to altering the date to the 11th August, but, at the same time, one must remember that this Bill does not deal with the Game Laws, and the four birds that are mentioned in the Game Act all have different dates. Therefore, I see no reason why, in the case of the woodcock, the date should not be put earlier, to the 11th August. The woodcock is one of the earliest breeders, I think. The heron and the raven come first, but 794 the woodcock comes about third; there are generally two broods in the year. Unless we shoot that particular bird on the 12th August, he will probably have gone from this country; he will have migrated. If you make the date the 1st September, that bird will not be here. The person who will get the benefit of it will be the foreigner. [Interruption.] I am not in favour of supporting the foreigner even in regard to the woodcock. The alteration of the date will not affect the big autumn migration. I should like also to suggest to the Mover of the Bill that the snipe be added to the same category, and given the same close time as the woodcock. I notice also that in Category No. 1 the kestrel is left out, as to which, no doubt, there will be a certain amount of discussion in Committee; and the sand grouse is mentioned in the category. A Bill was passed with regard to the sand grouse in 1888, and 1 really think we might now leave it out, even of Category No. 1. There is not much chance of the birds coming here again. They come from Egypt or countries of that sort. When they are swarming in those countries they have to migrate somewhere, and in 1888 they migrated here, but they are not likely ever to remain or breed here permanently. I feel, therefore, that to leave the sand grouse in Category No. 1 is rather an absurdity. You might just as well protect the ostrich in breeding on the Terrace of the House of Commons.
Category No. 2 has already been referred to in regard to the wild goose. I sincerely hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will agree to taking out of this category the Brent goose, and altering the date of the close time, at any rate up to the 15th March. Great hordes of these goose come into this country at some time in March, and I have another letter from Mr. Abel Chapman, in which he states with regard to the Brent geese:The Brent geese in severe winters come here in tens of thousands, seldom before Christmas, sometimes not till March, each individual worth a solitary half-crown to the coast fowler. These geese breed no nearer than Spitzbergen, 2,000 miles away and their breeding season up there is in July. To forbid our coast fowlers, mostly sea fishermen, to help themselves to whatever minute proportion of these vast hordes they are able to kill so long as they remain on these coasts, is a cruel hardship.
§ Sir F. WISE
I should like to support that, and the hon. Lady the Member for Berwick (Mrs. Philipson) knows how these Brent geese come to Holy Island in their tens of thousands in severe weather between about the 1st and the 15th March. I think some alteration should be made in Committee in regard to these particular birds. In conclusion, let me say that I welcome this Bill, but one must remember that a bird like the golden plover may nest here in April, and another golden plover may nest in Siberia in July, and we must realise the difficulty of the situation and of getting full protection for all the birds we would desire to protect. Let me again impress upon the House the necessity for remembering that, whatever we may do in this House, Nature will always assert herself.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
I find myself in the unhappy position of being in considerable disagreement in detail with both the previous speakers, but at the same time there is a common ground of agreement in principle in every speech to which we have listened this morning from all quarters of the House. I should like to reply to something which was said by the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Snell). He said that those who were supporting the Bill were not facing up to the arguments. I want to make, in my humble way, an effort to face up to what I understand is the principal argument that has been urged against the principle of the Bill. The suggestion is that all birds should be protected, that they should all be put into the Schedule, with the exception of certain marauders like the sparrow; and even when someone mentioned the sparrow, there were shouts of dissent from other quarters. There will always, whatever bird you may choose, be a feeling that it is very unfair and wrong to single out that particular bird. The idea is that certain birds like that should not be afforded protection, but should be allowed to be killed. I feel that that would be a mistake, because there would be such a mass of birds that would not be allowed to be killed, and others that would be killed, that there would be inevitable confusion.
The hon. Member for East Woolwich asked, how is a boy or a man to discriminate in taking eggs or in shooting? The only way in which you can get a 796 satisfactory discrimination is by scheduling certain definite classes of birds, making those classes as small as is reasonable provided effective protection be given to the birds which it is absolutely necessary to protect. Then you will be able to enforce the law. On the other hand, the law may be in advance of public opinion. As the hon. Member for East Woolwich obviously felt, boys all over the country will not be affected, in their attitude as to whether it is right or wrong to take eggs, by the decision of this House. They will go on taking those eggs. If you have limited protection for a certain number of birds, it will be possible to enforce the law against boys—and men too, because boys are not the only offenders—who take the eggs of those birds. If, on the other hand, you go in advance of public opinion, and schedule practically all birds, which I understand would be the hon. Member's proposal, you will not be supported by public opinion. People in this country are not prepared to support that, and you would be committing, in the realm of the protection of birds, the same fault that our friends in the United States committed in trying to go in advance of public opinion and prohibit the consumption of alcoholic liquor. Those who are trying to enforce the law will not be supported by public opinion. The whole law will fall into disrepute. Those who break it will be supported by public opinion, and not only those who break it in regard to birds which you are not particularly anxious to protect, but those who break it also in regard to birds which we are most anxious to protect, and which, in the opinion of people who have given a lifelong study to this question, it is of exceptional urgency to protect. Hon. Members who have spoken from above the Gangway, including the hon. Member for East Woolwich, have spent their lives in studying birds and have the greatest possible knowledge and appreciation of the problem, but there are people who have devoted their whole life to the study of the question in the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Those people have spent more time in studying this subject than any Members of this House could spare. There are men like Lord Grey who, to 797 my own personal knowledge, supports this Bill, as also does the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I am absolutely certain that Lord Grey supports it, and so does the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. 1 am very much swayed in my opinion of the Measure by the approval which is given by these distinguished and learned people. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Shiels) complained that this Bill did not deal with the protection of birds at lighthouses or with propaganda, and that that was suggested by the Report of the Departmental Committee. I do not think we ought to put provisions for con ducting-propaganda into a Bill of this kind. I understand that those matters are dealt with by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. They are very effectively dealing with the propaganda on behalf of bird life and with the protection of bird life at lighthouses.
I do not wish to refer to Committee points, because other hon. Members wish to speak, but I should like to refer to Sunday shooting, which was dealt with by the hon. Member for East Woolwich, who said that the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) in approaching this question was really talking humbug when he talked about protecting birds on Sunday and refusing them protection on six other days of the week. That was not the point which my right hon. Friend was trying to make. In the Highlands of Scotland, certainly in my constituency, we have very strong views against carrying on sport of any-kind, whether shooting or fishing, on the Sabbath. That may be right or it maybe wrong, but it is a very strong view. I am sure that it is the view of 99 per cent. of my constituents and the constituents of the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty. From that point of view, we shall certainly strongly oppose any suggestion that there should be any Sunday shooting.
With regard to the green plover, the peewit, we in Scotland think that it is essential to give it the fullest protection in this Bill, and that it should be transferred from Category No. 2 to Category-No. 1. The provisions, which I am sorry 798 the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir F Wise) attacked, which make it illegal to place this bird's eggs upon the market, will certainly receive our hearty support. The hon. Member for Ilford criticised the hon. Member for East Woolwich for not taking a broad enough view, and for having forgotten migration, and said that he did not understand how it was that the number of plovers had fallen in Northumberland, where they had complete protection.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
My point as, that the hon. Member quoted it with approval and that it was not unfair on my part to attribute that view to him. His argument about migration answers the other. A great authority like Lord Grey says t hat the real difficulty about the plover is that its eggs are being taken everyday of the week in Holland, Belgium and other parts of Europe in order to be put upon the London market. If we can stop plover eggs from being sold here we shall do far more than any other step that this House could take to protect the plover not only in this country but in Europe. If we can stop the plover's egg from being taken in Europe, we shall do a great deal to increase his numbers in Great Britain.
The hon. Member for East Woolwich said that if you are fighting for a principle and you lose the fight on the Floor of the House you are beaten and that it is no use trying to effect a compromise in Committee. That is true of many Bills, but this is not a party Measure. It can be discussed in Committee with absolute freedom and independence. Already, very different views have been expressed from all quarters of the House. The general cleavage of opinion is in regard to the methods for protecting the birds, but on either side of this line of cleavage various opinions on important points have been expressed. I should certainly find myself in complete agreement in Committee with the hon. Member for East Woolwich and in disagreement with the hon. Member for 799 Ilford, judging from his remarks, in regard to the green plover, the larks and the wrens; and I should be in complete agreement with the hon. Member in regard to a provision, if it could be introduced, which I doubt, for dealing with marauding cats. I am convinced that we could find a consensus of opinion which would enable us very greatly to improve the Bill once we could get it into Committee upstairs. I hope very much that the Bill will be passed to-day and that we shall strengthen its provisions in Committee.
§ Rear-Admiral BEAMISH
The discussion on the Bill has made it clear that this subject of ornithology is extraordinarily popular. It would be difficult to have a better Bill from one particular aspect, and that is, that it does what I would like other Bills to do, namely, that it combines all the previous enactments, and thereby enables us to see how the matter stands. That makes it comparatively simple. In the main, unquestionably, the Bill is an excellent one. It has a really delightful elasticity about it which will enable the Home Secretary, the Minister concerned, to have the advice of the Advisory Committee. There can be no doubt that that would enable him, and the Clauses in the Bill show that clearly, to deal with a great many of the difficulties brought forward by the opposition, and to make the Bill more in consonance with the ideas expressed by the mover of its rejection.
The question of aeroplanes has been mentioned, and it is interesting to note that at the present time they are being used for the destruction of birds. In Southern Spain the bustard, which is one of the birds we shall never see again in this country, although it used to be a native, is now being run down by aeroplanes until it can fly no more. The aeroplane lands and the bustard is then picked up alive and taken home. That shows how art can defeat nature, and to me it is a desperate thought that wild life can be destroyed in that way. In other countries motor cars are being used to run down gazelles and, therefore, I am glad to see the prohibition in this Bill against the use of mechanically-propelled, appliances. Let me also say a word on the subject of Brent geese. I know something about the ornithology— 800 I suppose it is, I have some ornithie knowledge—of these Brent geese, which swarm in many thousands to our North-East coast. They never breed in this country. Their breeding grounds are over 1,000 miles away from the North-East coast, rather more than 2,000 miles away in Novaya Zemlya. I see no reason why, on behalf of the wild-fowlers on the North-East coast, the time should not be extended during which these birds may be shot, and I think the Bill will allow of this being done, as by Clause 19 it is provided that the Secretary of State may extend the close season or he may curtail it. Perhaps with the aid of a far-seeing Minister and the Advisory Committee, something can be done in this respect.
Let me say one word about the Schedule. I agree with the remarks which have been already made with reference to putting the names of birds in the Schedule. I cannot see why it should be necessary, merely because a bird is rare or unusual, to shoot it. We hear of the blue-throat being shot in this country. They never breed here, and I see no reason why people should be allowed to get off because they have shot a rare and unusual bird. I noticed some days ago that a flamingo was to be seen in Langstone Harbour, not far from Portsmouth, and hundreds of people lay in wait for it in order to shoot it if they got an opportunity. The bird, no doubt, was a straggler or had escaped from somewhere or other, but I cannot see any reason why it should be shot or why the individual who shoots it should not be prosecuted. Therefore, I should like to see Part I of the First Schedule extended considerably. It does not matter whether you put any number of birds in that Schedule or not, because people, when they see a rare or unusual bird which they do not recognise, will say, "I am not going to risk shooting it because I shall be prosecuted," and that will have some effect in saving these rare birds. There is one more point, the school boy, and those people who are what I would call marauders. We have heard of marauding cats, but then? is another kind of marauder who is a much greater danger to bird life, and that is the utterly conscienceless collector. There are any number of collectors in this country who stop at 801 nothing in order to get hold of a rare nest or rare egg, and I think, myself, the penalties are insufficient in the Bill. I hope they will be tightened in Committee.
In regard to the schoolboy, I was one myself once, and I must confess, like other hon. Members, that I thought bird nesting was one of the most fascinating pastimes. I think still that birds and bird life is one of the most fascinating pastimes, but there are other ways of doing it, and the best way is with the aid of a pair of binoculars and not by extracting the eggs from a nest or frightening the birds. A good deal more can be done by way of education. It is suggested that lists should be put up in the vicinity of elementary schools. I hope it may be extended, if it is reasonable and possible, so that these lists may appear in many other places and that the schoolmasters of the country may make it their business to see that nature study and the study of bird life is explained to the boys so that they will realise the tremendous beauty of bird life and the absolute necessity for preserving it in every possible way. By the means of films and pictures and countless other ways, much good might be done. The cleverest marauder amongst schoolboys is not the elementary schoolboy, but I hope that in time he will have as much knowledge of the wonderful and beautiful study of ornithology as other schoolboys, as much as the bigger boys in the more expensive schools, who know in some respects rather more than they ought to about ornithology and do a great deal of injury to the birds. It will give me nothing but pleasure in doing everything I can to support the passage of this Bill.
§ Mr. CHARLETON
Although I have a few words of criticism to make with regard to this Bill, I yield to no one in my love of the beautiful in nature. As a boy I did not have a chance of getting into such a close contact with it as many hon. Members present, because I was brought up in London, but I shall never forget the first time a sparrow fed out of my hand. The feeling of its claws on my fingers will go down with me as long as I have power to think. It was a thrill of joy, and no one will welcome more than I the setting up of sanctuaries for birds all over the country. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Second 802 Reading of this Bill spoke of the love of all English people for animal life. If we did we shoud not hunt those beautiful creatures I see in Windsor Park. I notice the scared look on the faces of some hon. Members opposite when I say that. But it is a curious thing how we can work up sympathy for one part of the animal creation and deny it to the other. We shoot hares and stags, and then talk about birds in the way we are doing this afternoon.
I share with my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) his criticism of the Bill, but I think that we might have prohibited the destruction of all birds except the criminals which we should have outlawed. I was rather surprised to hear the Mover of the Second Reading describe the English people as being so lawless. He said the law could not cope all the year round with the people who would make attacks on bird life. He thought it might do so in a short close season. But in Clause 16 we see the hand of the Home Secretary. To cope with the Bolshevist tendencies of the British people he is taking a leaf out of the book of Moscow. He gives a police constable the power on suspicion to go into the Englishman's castle. I suggest that the constable's suspicions will be tempered by the size of the House and by the size of the estate. Knowing the people who are on Watch Committees and other Committees, the humble country constable will seldom suspect the great House on the great estate, but his suspicions will more likely be aroused by the cottage of the humble labourer. The hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) spoke of the love of the people for caged birds and the joy that people have in hearing them. He did not say anything about the birds. I have been told that the bird's singing so beautifully in a small cage in the London street is a despairing cry for fellowship. In many cases it is the unsatisfied sex call. If that is true, how any one can take delight in torturing a bird in that way I cannot understand. It would appear that the love of sport that we so prize in England is a sort of blood lust.A southerly wind and a cloudy skyProclaim a hunting morning:—So let us go out and kill something! I think that if we were only to permit the shooting of birds by a single bullet, or 803 with a bow and arrow, people would get what sport they wanted. There is the risk that it might be more dangerous than the War of the Roses. We should have people killing each other to a greater extent than they do now, and I think they would get as much sport out of it. With regard to Sunday, I share the criticism of my hon. Friends. I do regard this as an attack upon working-class sportsmen who can shoot only on a Sunday. I have friends living in London who were brought up in the country. Like hon. Members opposite and on this side, they like to go and kill something sometimes, when it is a nice day. The only day when they can kill anything is Sunday, for it is the only day when they can get into the country. I suggest that we reverse the proposal of the Bill and have six days "closed," and then everybody can go and kill on a Sunday. After all, whatever we may think of Sabbatarians, life is as sacred on a Sunday as on a Saturday, and vice versa. In order that the working classes might also be able to have a "go," we might at least leave Sunday open and close the other six days.
The hon. Member for Ilford (Sir F. Wise) spoke about the lapwing. I have no experience as one living in the country, but, as the House knows, I ran through the country pretty regularly for 40 years. I do not think that lapwings were seen in the fields in greater numbers, when I was a young fireman nearly 40 years ago, than they are to-day. I used to run regularly from London to Nottingham all through the hunting district, via Oakham. The lapwings used to be very plentiful, but I have not seen so many in the last few years. I imagine, therefore, that they are dying out. I do not know whether the workers in the sheltered industries are those who consume plovers' eggs, but it is obvious that the people who own stocks and shares do not, because those stocks and shares have not been yielding anything lately. Whoever may be consuming plovers' eggs, I have no sympathy with them, even though I am in a sheltered industry myself. I welcome the protection given by this Bill to plovers' eggs. I am rather doubtful whether the Bill can be altered in Committee as was suggested by one hon. Member. If the Bill had 804 been promoted entirely by the hon. and gallant Member for Honiton (Sir C. Morrison-Bell), I think we could do very-well with him, but, knowing the Home Secretary as we do on this side, I am afraid that we shall find the hon. and gallant Member stonewalled when we get into Committee, and that although we might have the hand of Esau we shall hear the voice of Jacob. For that reason I would like to have some assurance that we shall be able to amend the Bill on the lines that we desire, when we go into Committee.
§ Lieut.-Colonel JAMES
I will endeavour not to traverse points already dealt with exhaustively by others. In these days of modern civilisation there seems to be an increasing tendency towards the destruction of things that are beautiful. You will see the country side wrecked and stripped of its flowers; you will see rare and beautiful birds shot at sight because they happen to be rare and because they happen to be beautiful, and, perhaps, because they happen to be large. You can hardly take up the newspapers in the autumn or winter months without seeing that So-and-so, shooting at such-and-such a place, has destroyed such-and-such a bird. As a rule, the name is not given, but it is stated that So-and-so in the local town is setting up the skin. That is very tragic. You see the same thing in regard to the flowers of the country. Only last year I saw in a local paper in one of the Home Counties an advertisement from a collector, who offered £5 to any schoolboy or other person who would send him a specimen of a certain rare orchid. The result was that by every post school children and others sent him orchids which they had dug up and which they thought were what the collector wanted. An infinity of harm was done. It is the same in regard to birds. I think everyone will sympathise with the appeal of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), though I am equally convinced that the arguments I have heard show conclusively that there is nothing that he suggested that could not be met in Committee.
There are one or two points of detail with which I should like to deal. To begin with, one or two speakers have alluded to Clause 4, which concerns the 805 releasing of imported birds. They have treated it as though it was rather a trifling matter, but in fact I can assure Members of the House that if there had been a wise provision of this kind we should not have suffered the depredations of that very beautiful and extremely destructive little animal, the little owl. You might bring in the depredations which have been permitted of another imported animal, the grey squirrel, the tree rat, whose presence in a bird sanctuary, together with a cat, will effectively destroy any nests of young birds and any nests of eggs. I join with other Members who have pleaded that the marauding cat should be severely dealt with, and also the grey squirrel, who 6hould be given very short shrift. The grey squirrel is very pretty in Regent's Park, where he is kept within bounds, but outside it he is doing a great deal of harm and is killing the red squirrel and numbers of birds year in and year out. I wish to draw attention to Clause 7 with which I entrely agree in principle. It provides that it shall not be lawful for any persons to sell for human consumption or to have in his possession for the purpose of such sale any egg of the lapwing. I wonder if those who consume so-called plovers eggs in London know how many out of ten plovers eggs are actually the eggs of rooks, of black-headed gulls, and other birds. I can assure hon. Members that very often people eat the eggs of the black-headed gull and the eggs of the rook fondly imagining that they are plovers' eggs. The golden plover's egg is absolutely indistinguishable from that of the lapwing.
I am considering the possibility that when an offence under this Clause is suggested, the person concerned may say that the eggs are not those of the lapwing but those of the black-headed gull, and if the onus of proof is on the police authorities it will be exceedingly difficult to secure a conviction. That particular Clause, will, I think, require careful consideration and possibly redrafting. Equally, you will want to know where these eggs come from. One of the most successful egg-collectors of my acquaintance was a Scottish gillie. Nobody could understand how he collected plovers' eggs so rapidly and so easily. Every evening he would come in with an enormous basket full of plovers' eggs. 806 His method was to sit on a hill with a spy glass and the moment he saw any collectors in the fields below him, who appeared to have a good bag, he would call them and say: What are you doing with those eggs; give them to me." In such circumstances, to find the original offender might be exceedingly difficult.
My final point is with regard to the disappearance of the plover. I can endorse the general opinion that the plover is disappearing. They are nothing like so numerous as they were. I do not profess to be a great ornithologist, but I do walk about the country and I like seeing the birds and watching their flight and I am certain that plovers have been steadily diminishing in number. I have no doubt that there are certain points in the Schedule where certain birds might conveniently and well be included, such as wagtails, dippers, warblers and insectiverous birds who do no harm. Nobody wishes to collect them and they add to the beauty and amenity of the countryside. One would like to see them in Part I of the Schedule. There are other birds as well which do a great deal of good and very little harm and they might be added to the Schedule provided that the world at large understood that the Schedule was there for use and not for ornament. The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) said there were many people who liked to go out to the country for sporting purposes. I am among them, but at the same time I do not like shooting birds or seeing birds shot, if they are beautiful and useful and are doing no harm. I do not like to see birds shot merely because they happen to be rare. I like to see rare birds helping to enrich the countryside.
§ Lieut.-Colonel JAMES
One sees, for instance, gulls shot on the seashore. They are doing no harm on the seashore —perhaps on rivers it may be necessary to shoot them but, on the seashore I am all for giving them a chance and there is no sport in shooting them in such circumstances. I support the Bill.
§ Mr. THURTLE
It was interesting to hear the last speaker deplore the fact that things beautiful were being de- 807 stroyed to such an extent in this country. Without wishing to impart any partisan spirit into this Debate, I must confess it strikes me as a novel doctrine coming from a Conservative Member who stands for an economic system which is ruthlessly utilitarian and which is destroying some of the most beautiful parts of our country in its exploitation of economic plans. The beautiful countryside of Kent with which the hon. and gallant Member is connected is going to be harmed and disfigured and blackened by the development of a new coal industry.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
The hon. Member is departing from the subject of wild birds protection.
§ Mr. THURTLE
In that case I will not pursue the point. I would only like to say that it has been pleasing to me to see the general interest aroused in the House by the discussion of this Measure. If that famous old vicar of Selborne could come back from the shades he would be delighted to see the interest which is being displayed by the House in those wild birds which he observed so carefully and described with so much art. I have risen really because of the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). I have a great respect for him and I know he is very determined and resolute. It is just possible he will push his objection to this Bill to a Division and in case he does so, I wish to explain why I shall be under the regrettable necessity of refraining from supporting him. I have a great admiration for the sureness of his humanitarian instincts and usually I have a respect for his judgment but I think in this case he is making a mistake. He wants to see protection extended to wild birds and so do I, but I think it is far better, with that desire in my mind, to support the present Bill than to assist in its destruction. There was great force in his argument that the real way of 808 dealing with the problem is to make it a general principle that all wild birds should be protected. I entirely agree.
§ Mr. THURTLE
Having laid down that general principle necessary exceptions could be made. Sparrows might be excluded and many other birds, but you should lay down, first of all, the general principle and that would be the most effective and simplest way of dealing with the problem. As a lover of wild birds I think there is more good than evil in this Bill. I support it, if only for one Clause, and that is the Clause dealing with lapwings. It is a great thing to have got a proposal to prohibit entirely the sale of lapwings' eggs in this country. A communication which many Members may-have received from Scotland suggests that one result of the Bill will be to decrease the amount of protection which is accorded to lapwings. It is true in a certain sense that, in a large number of counties in Scotland, and in some in England, as the law stands you may not destroy lapwings in any circumstances, close season or no close season and that under this Bill it will be possible for the lapwings to be destroyed. But the great advantage which the Bill is going to confer is this. The greatest enemy of the lapwing at the present time is the purveyor and advertiser of lapwings' eggs. If we can get the sale and purchase of the eggs abolished we shall be rendering a great measure of protection to the birds.
There is the question also of the prohibition of the killing of birds on Sunday. I cannot see why there should be any distinction between Sunday and other days of the week in this respect. The Sabbatarian views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) are out of date in these days. In the more en-lighted Southern part of this United Kingdom there is not the same tendency to distinguish between Sunday and any other day of the week. If it is wrong to kill a bird on Sunday it is equally wrong on Monday, and a dog-in-the-manger attitude is adopted by those people who indulge in the practice of shooting. For six days of the week they want to shoot and they want to have the law made so as to permit them to shoot on those days. But on the seventh day, be- 809 cause they observe a convention, they do not want to shoot and, because they do not want to shoot, they say that no other person is to shoot. That is unfair and unreasonable. As the Mover said, if it is desired that there should be one close day in the week for the birds, why not make it Monday or Tuesday or Friday? We are supposed not to eat flesh meat on Friday according to some religious conventions. Why not let us agree not to shoot birds on Friday. If birds are to have immunity on Sundays why not give them the additional immunity of setting apart one week day on which usually there is a general habit of shooting. I hope the list of birds will be considerably extended. Certain birds have been mentioned as worthy of inclusion in the classified list, and there are others which we all admire and which ought to be included. Clause 6 gives a certain exemption to landowners. It says that birds may not be destroyed in the close season, but it goes on to give a specific exemption to landowners. I think that is entirely unfair and improper.
§ Mr. THURTLE
When a man buys land he does not buy the birds that are flying about in the air. If it is wrong to kill these birds in the close season, I do not see why either the landowner or the occupier should be allowed to kill them. I would like the House to notice also that it is proposed to punish those who offer birds for sale or who sell them, but it is not proposed to punish the purchasers. There again there is a most unfair distinction. It is the poor man frequently who procures the bird for the rich collector. The gamekeeper, the shepherd, or any man in the countryside usually procures the eggs or the birds and sells them to the wealthy collector. If you are going to punish the person who procures the eggs or the birds, you should be prepared also to punish the person who is going to purchase them; and I hope that point will be dealt with in Committee. Having mentioned these details I wish to give my general blessing to the Measure and to say that I shall go into the Lobby to support it. I come from the country, and I will not say that I feel I owe a certain measure of expiation to the country, but that I feel I ought to do something to redress some of 810 the sins of my youth. As a boy I was addicted to the practice of birds-nesting, and I have a good deal on my conscience in that respect.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I was the possessor once, of a very fine collection of birds' eggs, but hon. Members may be glad to know, as a sign of progress, that after I grew to adult age I handed this treasured possession to a younger brother. It may be that ideas of humanitarianism were already growing, because he had practically no use for the collection at all. This Bill is not perfect. It needs to be amended considerably in Committee, but it will be an advance on the present position.
§ Sir HENRY CAUTLEY
I rise to beg the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and his friends to withdraw their opposition and allow this Bill to go to the Committee with the assent of the whole House as to its main principle, which is the protection of bird life. The present Acts and Orders for bird life protection have not worked very satisfactorily. They are different in different parts of the country. They are uncertain in their action. Nobody knows what is legal and what is illegal, and no one is really anxious to put them into operation. Although I recognise the force of what was said by the hon. Member for Bridgeton regarding his own district, and although this Bill does not give the protection to which he referred as being available in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, it does provide a universal system for the whole country whereby the law will become commonly known and easily enforced, and there will be a general desire to enforce it. In addition to that, it provides elasticity by the power given to the Home Secretary to remove different kinds of birds from one category to another and to make different Orders. I urge on the hon. Member and his friends the fact that, for some years now, the admirable Committee set up by the Home Office has heard every society and public body interested in this question and every real expert on the matter. This Bill, which is most skilfully drawn, is the result of innumerable interviews, examinations and discussions—
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
—with all the people. interested in this question, from whatever angle they approach it.
Therefore, I would urge on the hon Gentleman, who is generally reasonable, that it really cannot be right that individual Members, because they take one special view, should carry their opposition against the considered view of the Committee. Thirdly, may I say that the principle of a general protection of all birds in the country is really impracticable and unnecessary. The scheme of the Bill is to protect rare birds. There is also protection in the second category to birds which do not need quite so much protection; and, lastly, we come to the vast majority which are given the limited protection provided by this Bill. Everybody knows that the majority of the birds in this category have steadily increased during the last few years. If any of them should become scarce if it be found that some are diminishing, the Home Secretary will at once interfere, and put them into one of the other categories. I am not saying that the two categories are absolutely watertight, and are not capable of amendment in Committee. I see that the swallow and martin have not been mentioned. It may be they were left out because it was found by all the experts who have inquired into this matter that their numbers are increasing, and that they are quite numerous.
I am rather surprised, having sat here through the whole of the Debate, that I have not yet heard the expression "balance of nature" referred to. It is a dangerous thing to attempt to upset the balance of nature. We have seen what happened when the rabbit was introduced into Australia, and what happened in America when there was introduced the sparrow, or some such bird. We are seeing before our eyes what has followed the letting loose upon us of the little owl. Then somebody let free the grey squirrel, which is driving out our own native varieties. If you gave the protection which the hon. Member for Bridgeton wishes, in my opinion a large number of birds would increase enormously, and the damage and depredations which would be done by them would become very severe. From the agricultural and gardening point of view, there is 812 some doubt whether this Bill is not going too far in giving protection to certain kinds of birds. No one disputes that the common house sparrow is a pest. There may be a little difference of opinion about the rook; but there can be no two opinions that the wood-pigeon is a terrible pest and a very costly one. As far as I read the provisions of this, it is very doubtful whether the keeping down of wood-pigeons, which are very difficult to shoot, is not made more difficult by this Bill.
The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) and the last speaker referred to Clause 6. That is not put in for the benefit of landlords and landowners as such. It is solely for the protection of crops. Anyone who is used to gardening, or has a garden, will know that the small birds are a very serious menace to crops. No one would dispute that the bullfinch is one of the handsomest birds we have, but in those districts where the bullfinch is prevalent, he is an infernal nuisance. If he invades your garden just at the time when your currant bushes are coming into bud, you will not have a currant. It is for that reason that power is given to the landowner, where he has his own garden, or to the occupier where he has his own garden, to keep down what has become a pest on his own land, while preventing other people from doing so. Among the greatest enemies and destroyers of bird life are the jays, the magpies, the jackdaws and the sparrow hawks. Under this Bill the landowner's keeper will keep down the jays and magpies, and birds of that kind, and reduce them to proper proportions.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Do the landowner and his assistants know exactly the proportion they can kill to keep right the balance of nature?
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
That is one of the provisions that works itself out in nature. If too many magpies, jays, and birds of that kind are killed, the small birds would become too numerous. I would ask the hon. Member for Bridgeton whether the protection that is given by this Bill is not amply sufficient for what I may call the common bird. Would not the hon. Member s object be best obtained if this Bill receives the full support of Members of this House, and for him to raise in Committee any 813 Amendment which he thinks necessary to strengthen the Bill, although I think, on consideration, he will not want to strengthen it to the extent he indicated in his speech.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I came to the House this morning with an open mind on this subject, and I have listened very attentively to what has been said in favour of the Bill and against it. I have no title whatsoever to speak upon this issue, except as an ordinary individual in love with birds. I appreciate, however, that in dealing with bird life anything that has to be done must be done in such a way that administration can be carried out properly. So far as I have been able to gather from the Debate, the points that have emerged and upon which there is a strong difference of opinion are as follows; and personally I shall decide whether to vote for or against the Bill according to the reply of the Secretary of State. First of all, there is a difference of opinion on the question of the Schedules. I think arguments have been adduced to-day which are sufficiently strong to induce the Home Secretary to say that the Schedules will be left open for discussion in Committee upstairs to include some birds which are not at present included in them. The lark has been mentioned. I was astonished that that bird was not already in the Schedules. I would almost go so far as to say that I would prohibit the sale of larks for human consumption too. Indeed, I fail to understand the attitude of mind of persons who from time to time sit at banquets and relish eating larks.
Then there is shooting on Sundays. It is assumed in some quarters that if you stand up for one day's rest in seven you are old-fashioned and that to be up-to-date you ought to stand for the abolition of Sunday. As a Labour man and a Trade Union official, I want to say that one of the greatest advantages that the working people of this country have ever secured is that of one day's rest in seven, namely, the Sunday, and I am convinced that, if this question be closely analysed, no Trade Union official can ever support any extension at all of either games or sports or the shooting of birds on Sunday. I live in a city which is a very enlightened community; and this problem of Sunday games and sports was decided 814 by a ballot concluded yesterday by a local newspaper. When I heard hon. Gentlemen say that public opinion was in favour of this or that work on Sunday I thought it would be worth while referring to the result of that ballot. These figures were issued yesterday on Sunday games and Sunday cinemas. There were for Sunday games, 37,609; against, 198,063. There were for Sunday cinemas 30,078, and against 205,643. I feel sure that if the proposal for Sunday shooting were put to a ballot of the people of this country, there would be a still more overwhelming majority of the population against it.
§ Mr. THURTLE
Is my hon. Friend aware that in London the verdict on the issue of Sunday games was entirely in favour of them?
§ Mr. DAVIES
I have mentioned two points, the Schedules and Sunday shooting. There is another very important one. I appreciate the failure of the law as it stands to deal with this subject; and I am convinced that in passing an other law' it would be well if the Home Secretary could see his way to get into touch with the Board of Education to see it more educational work can be done in this connection. I am satisfied that, if children are trained to respect birds, it will be very much more effective than passing laws to protect them. Another point that has emerged and upon which there is a difference of opinion was raised by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) in a very forceful speech. It is the question of giving general protection and then providing exceptions. Again, I appreciate how difficult that may be; but it is really the kernel of the whole problem so far as I understand it. It would seem to me to be a fairly easy way out of our difficulties, because, if we are going, as I understand, to consider in Committee upstairs a large number of birds not now included in the Schedule, that argument if admitted, is 815 a very powerful one in favour of the proposal made by my hon. Friend. A further point on which I understand there is a difference of opinion is that this is a Bill to contract the period of what is called the close season.
§ Mr. DAVIES
Yes, I appreciate that it is only one day; but I thought that when we were passing Measures in this House we were not going to contract in these things but that we were really going to make progress; and, if I were convinced that this Bill is not making progress, then I should not vote for it at all. It does seem to me a step backwards to contract the close season even by one day.
I am very pleased that the Home Secretary is in charge of this Bill. It seems to me that if he put all the alien laws into operation the whole question so far as foreign birds are concerned would be settled. He is very well conversant with the subject of foreign birds; and, if they happen to come from as far afield as Russia, I feel sure that he will be very severe upon them. That, however, is by the way. I am told by those who know more about the subject than I do that there are alien birds which come to this country that ought to be protected; and the mere fact that they come from foreign lands should not in my view be any reason for treating them different from our own birds.
I want to say a last word with regard to the sanctuaries. I know of no movement that appeals to all classes of the community, irrespective of creed or politics more than the proposal with regard to sanctuaries. I would like to see them promoted and established all over the land; and, if this Bill can do anything in that direction, I shall regard it as a good step forward. Someone has very aptly said that birds are "Dame nature's minstrels"; and I was very pleased to hear from all sides of the House, although we may differ on methods, that Members were wont to pay tribute to nature in this connection.
I shall wait to hear what the Secretary of State has to say on these four or five points of difference before deciding whether I shall oppose the Bill or not.
816 I trust, however, whatever happens today—probably the Bill will be carried by a majority—that, when it is sent to Committee upstairs, we shall be able to amend it in the directions that I have suggested. Although it might appear a very small thing to some people, I am satisfied that in some connections there ought to be an international arrangement to deal with the subject. As I said, you can deal with the domestic birds under this Bill as amended, I hope, but I am positive of one thing that the Governments of Europe ought to come together and discuss the question and treat native and alien birds in a way they have never been treated before.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
I am very glad to have had the opportunity this afternoon of discussing what is not a party matter at all, namely, the protection of the visitors to our gardens and countryside. One would like, if one possibly could, to protect wild life, and the object of the Bill, as I look at it from the point of view of the Government, is really a codification. One of my hon. Friends says there are eight or nine Acts dealing with the question of international birds, and it is difficult to find out—particularly for the small boy referred to this afternoon—what is the law. In addition there are numerous Orders made by the Secretary of State for the different counties of England and Scotland, and these Orders are different in individual counties. People who live on one side of a boundary can only imperfectly realise what birds may be protected on their side, and the same bird is not protected on both sides of the boundary. As an hon. Member said earlier in the Debate, the larger birds—peregrines and others, birds which travel longer distances may go in and out of a protected area, not knowing whether they are protected or not. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) always vibrates with sympathy with the proletariat, but he rather objected to the Bill because it affected the aristocratic birds and not the proletarian birds. If I wanted to describe the effect of the Bill, I could not do it better than by adopting the hon. Member's classification. There are among birds, as among human beings, proletarians. There are ordinary birds, 817 who, contrary to the case of humanity, do not need so much protection. They are very prolific; they breed very largely. I am entirely confining myself to birds this afternoon. Under the provisions of this Bill the proletarian birds—the great mass of the birds—are protected. My hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Sir H. Brittain) seemed to think that larks are not protected. They are during the breeding season. The lark is one of the commonest birds. Under the law as it stands to-day, the commonest birds do not need very much more protection.
Then there is the middle-class in bird life. It is one that wants a little more protection than the proletariat and not quite so much as the aristocracy. In this Bill the middle-class bird—that is, the birds in Category 2—are protected during the close time, but, unlike the proletarian classes, their nests and eggs are also protected during the breeding season. Then there is the case of the aristocrat. The hon. Member for Bridge-ton referred to this class. The aristocratic bird is under the protection of this Bill all his life, and also his eggs and nests, not merely because he is an aristocrat, but because he is a rare bird, and we want to increase the number of these rare birds in this country. That is why we have put him in a special category No. 1, and he is protected altogether. Nobody will be allowed to shoot him, take his eggs, and so on. The Secretary of State has special powers, if any aristocratic bird is misbehaving himself or doing what aristocrats should not do, to deal with him. I think that in Scotland the raven is sometimes looked up as a dangerous bird with regard to the lambs, and the raven is specially exempted because of his bad character north of the Tweed. I believe it was a courageous Scot who first introduced the thistle in Australia. Take the question of the rabbit which has been mentioned this afternoon. The rabbit, I am informed—I should put him in a proletarian category—has become so clever that he has grown long claws to enable himself to climb up and get over wire fences. In Australia thousands of miles of wire are necessary to keep the rabbits out, and the little animals, as by a process of natural selection, grow-long claws. In order to check him, the 818 Australian authorities introduced some thousands of stoats. The result was that in a very short time the stoats got tired of toujours lapins and they started to eat small birds, which did a lot of harm. Something has been said about a compromise in regard to this Bill, and I believe that a compromise which could be agreed upon by myself and the hon. Member for Bridgeton would be welcomed by the whole nation. If I could get the hon. Member for Bridgeton to agree to this Bill, I am sure the nation would think there was something in it.
§ Sir W. J0YNS0N-HICKS
I believe this Bill is a good one, that it will simplify the law with regard to wild birds, and protect those birds which most need protection. It will not allow the sparrow and the wood-pigeon to become a nuisance to the farmer or to the agriculturist. I have been asked one or two further questions in regard to some of these birds as to whether the schedules are not open to amendment. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) has put a grave responsibility upon my shoulders, because he told the House that the support of many members of his party depended upon how far I satisfied him in regard to certain questions which he has put to me.
The hon. Member wants the Schedule to be left open in regard to larks. I am quite willing to meet him in that respect. I know larks are common birds, but there is a sentimental feeling in all our hearts in regard to them. This is not a party or a Government Bill, and I think the Mover of the Second Reading would be quite willing to allow the Schedule to be amended with regard to certain birds according to what the general sense of the. Committee upstairs might desire. We have already one type of warbler included, and hon. Members may wish to see others inserted. Those are points which might be left to the decision of the Committee. I can imagine no better tribunal than the House of Commons to deal with this question, and this House is quite competent to decide whether a few additional birds should be put in among either the aristocratic or the proletariat section. The hon. Member for Westhoughton made an appeal in regard to 819 Sunday shooting, and the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) knows that on this question my views are more in accordance with those which have been expressed by the hon. Member for Westhoughton.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I expressed very great sympathy last year with what was proposed in regard to Sunday shooting. But here, again, I should be prepared to leave the matter to the Committee, and I am sure the hon. Member for Shoreditch would be willing to leave all these questions which have been put to me by the hon. Member for Westhoughton to the free and unfettered judgment of the Committee upstairs With regard to the educational side of this question, I am willing to do anything I can to encourage amongst boys and girls a knowledge of the sanctity and beauty of bird life in order to cultivate in them a real love of country life and bird life. I shall be very glad to communicate with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education in regard to that. The hon. Member for Bridgeton raised another point concerning education. He raised it perhaps because he wanted to say something against some other schools. He told the House he did not understand why notices regarding birds should be put up only in public elementary schools and not in other schools. I agree with him. I think boys from the public schools when they are home on holiday are just as likely to be active in this matter as are boys from the elementary schools; and if it can possibly be done I shall be quite willing to assist towards getting notices put up in all schools, and having the attention of all head masters called to this new Act of Parliament— that is, if the House passes the Bill—for the protection of the bird life of our country.
Another question raised cuts at the whole root of the Bill. That is the question raised by the hon. Member for Bridgeton of giving absolute protection to every bird in the land, and making a black list of the bad birds. It is comparatively easy to make a black list of bad politicians, but I tremble at the thought of making a black list of bad 820 birds. It would be very difficult indeed. We know there are certain birds which are admittedly troublesome. It has been said that the bullfinch is a terrible nuisance where there are cherry orchards, but where there are no fruit orchards he is not such a nuisance. In fact, there are numbers of birds which are, like many of us, neither altogether good nor altogether bad—or, shall we say, which are bad under temptation. I think it would be very unkind to the birds to put an occasional sinner on the black list as though he were a real, genuine sinner, who ought to be put out of action altogether. I think the fairest way to the birds themselves is the way we have followed in the Bill, the method of qualified protection for the general number who have not got to light the hard battle of life, more protection for the next class, and full and absolute protection for very rare birds.
Then there is the question of sanctuaries. I shall be very glad indeed to do anything I can to increase the number of sanctuaries throughout the country; and in that connection I should indeed be glad if a Clause could be incorporated creating a sanctuary for Ministers, where they could not be shot at. Think of the life of the Home Secretary if he could live in a sanctuary, where the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), for example, could not get at him, whence he could issue his decrees unfettered and untroubled by shots from outside. Seriously, I think the idea of sanctuaries for birdlife is an admirable one. I have had the privilege on some occasions of seeing sanctuaries for birds, and other sanctuaries in deer forests. The longer they can be retained as sanctuaries the more they will become breeding homes for the wild life of this country.
Having explained this Bill, and having been, as I think I may say to the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) as conciliatory as usual on a Friday afternoon, may I suggest to him that all that he wants can be got in Committee upstairs, and that it would be a very great pleasure to my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Second Reading and those who have joined with him in this effort on behalf of the bird life of the country, if the Bill could be carried without a Division. Then the world would know that the House of 821 Commons is not only willing but anxious to do all that is possible to put this matter on a sound basis, so that our bird life may grow and increase. Though some of us may think action should be taken in one direction and some in mother, I think the object is one with which the majority of the House will agree, and I would like to see the whole House join in assisting that object.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if in his view it will be permissible in Committee to raise the general principle of protection for all birds with the exception of the criminals. I do not want to carry this to a Division though I do not always agree that the public are impressed with unanimity in the House. I am inclined to think they regard it as apathy and not enthusiasm.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
It is true the Title of the Bill is "a Bill to repeal the enactments providing for the protection of wild birds and to substitute other provisions therefor." It will be for the Chairman of Committees and not for myself to decide but, so far as my reading of the Title goes, it will be open to the hon. Member to move an Amendment altering the whole scope of the Bill.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
It is as a lover of nature that I intervene in the Debate and as a keen lover of the country of wild birds and wild flowers. I disagree with the Bill in this respect. With Section 1 of the first Schedule I am in entire agreement, but why cannot the birds in Schedule 2 be put in Schedule 1? Can anyone tell us that any area is over-run by any of the birds that appear in Schedule 2? I think the answer is no. In my own area we see very few if any of them. If the Home Secretary and the Mover agreed that Schedule 2 should be added to the provisions of Schedule 1 and all other birds should come under Schedule 2, I feel sure there would be no difference of opinion. The common sparrows are the most numerous type of birds. It is wonderful how they come into our large towns in hard weather and take no harm. It is true they injure the crops, but so does the pheasant, and the pheasant has greater protection than the sparrow is ever likely to have. I have watched the sparrow in my own garden many times. He is after grubs rather 822 than anything else. I feel sure the extinction of the sparrow would make it far more difficult for people in our big cities to keep the place clear of disease. but for him there would be a vastly different tale to be told so far as health is concerned. Therefore, I plead for the common sparrow. I want to see the birds. People who have the right to go everywhere may take from me the sight of any other bird but him.
Surely it is a selfish idea that we are not to be permitted to see the beauties of nature as well as other people who have the right to roam everywhere. I ask that the same treatment with regard to the bird life of the country should be meted out to all alike. I am opposing the Bill on that ground. The children in, our schools are taught that bird life is sacred and they ought not under any circumstances to denude the county of bird life. They make no distinction what ever between different kinds of birds. They do not say, "Protect this bird and kill that." Children who would not know the difference between one bird and another are taught to protect all birds. The nightingale is broadcasted to enable people to hear that beautiful songster, yet he is not to be protected with the birds in the First Schedule. Why, I do not know. People go for miles to hear the ousel sing, and get up in the morning to hear the lark and the thrush, and yet these birds are relegated to Category 3, where scarcely any protection is given them at all. I plead with the House, as a keen lover of nature, that we ought to give protection to all birds. I cannot accept the Bill. My county has given far more protection to birds than this Bill does, and under the Bill we shall have less protection than we have had in the past. In a densely-populated county like my own men and women are anxious to see nature. To deprive us of the sight of birds and the beauty of their plumage would be the greatest sin the House could commit. We ought to oppose the Bill and ask the Government to give us one which would give real protection to all birds.
§ Question, "That the word 'now stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.