HC Deb 24 May 1927 vol 206 cc1854-6

I beg to move, That leave he given to introduce a Bill to enable occupiers of agricultural holdings in Scotland to defend them against depredations by deer. It is common knowledge and has been for many years that the destruction of crops is a widespread evil, and the attention of the Government has been frequently directed to that evil by official bodies. The Judges of the Land Court, in 1916, said: With regard to injury and damage to crops and produce by the depredations of deer the existing provisions are not effec tive.Even when the conditions laid down in Section 9 of the Agricultural Holdings Act are satisfied, though the tenant may get some compensation for actual loss, the destruction of food contrary to public interest is neither prevented nor remedied. The simpler and more effective remedy in the interest both of the public and of the tenant is to give the tenant the right to protect his crops and produce against injury of this kind as a permanent right on lines similar to the Ground Game Acts. During the War there was a Defence of the Realm Regulation number which gave occupiers the right to kill marauding deer, but after the War that right was allowed to lapse. Then came the Game and Heather Burning Commission in 1921, presided over by the Duke of Buccleuch, and that Commission reported, both in the Majority and the Minority Reports, very strongly in favour of power being given to agricultural tenants in Scotland to destroy marauding animals. The majority reported that the deer forests were overstocked, that the damage is widespread and serious, as clearly established by the statements of numerous witnesses, that it is a very serious loss to the nation and that compensation even when paid cannot make up for the damage.

They recommended that the occupiers should be given the right to kill deer on their holdings. Sheep farmers to-day must fence in their sheep from going on to the deer forests, but the deer forest proprietor is under no such obligation to fence his deer in from the sheep grazing. Section 9 of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1908, entitles the tenant to compensation if the damage is over 1s. per acre, but such damage can only be given after resort to costly and lengthy arbitration. All the official bodies who have considered the matter have decided that such arbitration proceedings are useless.

This Bill declares that there shall be a stipulation in the contract with an agricultural tenant that the tenant shall have the right to destroy marauding deer coming on to his land. The Bill has the support of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland as well as the support of all the small holding organisations in Scotland. It is designed in the interests of agriculture and in the interests of the retention of our peasantry on the soil. A century ago Sir Walter Scott warned us that by misusing our soil and by continuing to allow our soil to be refused for sport there would come a time when the pibroch would sound in the glens and there would be none to answer. That day has come for large areas in Scotland, and this Bill is designed, as a small, temporary expedient, to secure a better use of our national resources.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Johnston, Mr. William Adamson, Mr. Thomas Kennedy, Mr. Maxton, Mr. Westwood, Mr. Kirkwood, Mr. McLean Watson, and Mr. MacNeill-Weir.