§ 11.12 a.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore
I beg to move, in page 1, line 16, to leave out "fifteenth" and to insert "first."
At the end of a week of grim preparations for war it is very pleasant, with the week-end before us, to discuss the prospects in one Bill of young people getting away to the country-side and of their watching the wild birds which we are seeking to protect under this Measure. The Amendment which I am moving needs some little explanation. At present the close season for wild duck and wild geese is from 2nd March to 31st July, and under this Bill and the Amendments which we seek to introduce we wish to extend it from 1st February— in some cases from 15th February and if a county council so desire, from 21st February— to 11th August.
§ Mr. Lawson
On a point of Order. May we be told who is in charge for the Government at this moment, and whether the Secretary for Mines is looking after the ducks and geese?
§ The Secretary for Mines (Captain Crookshank)
This is a private Members' Bill and not a Government Measure. I think my colleague at the Home Office expected that the Debate upon the previous Bill would continue for a little longer, and I have no doubt that he will be here within a very few minutes. Until he does arrive I shall be glad to take notes and to acquaint him with what has been done.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think the Secretary for Mines is quite competent to look after the interests of the wild ducks and geese.
§ Sir T. Moore
I am very glad, Mr. Speaker, that you have protected me against any suggestion of inability to look 676 after these birds which are being gradually extinguished. In reply to the hon. Member on the Opposition Front Bench, I may say that the Home Secretary, who I hope will be here in a few minutes, intended to be here from the beginning to support this Bill and my Amendments, and I have to pay a tribute to the very competent staff of the Home Office and to my right hon. Friend, who have taken such a prominent and helpful part in the negotiations which my Amendments represent. The Bill passed through all its stages in the other House without amendment, but in this House there are Members representing constituents, and certain opposition or criticism was put forward on their part. Further negotiations had, therefore, to take place, and the Amendments on the Order Paper in my name represent the result of those negotiations.
I hope the House will be good enough to agree to the first Amendment with which is associated the further Amendments in my name. Hon. Members will be content, possibly, if I tell them that the Amendments represent a compromise arranged among organisations who sponsor the Bill, and if I mention a few names they may give confidence to the House. Those names are the Royal Society, the National Trust, the Royal Zoological Society and the International Committee for Bird Preservation. With those great and distinguished bodies behind the Bill, hon. Members may be sure that the Measure is sanely and wisely designed, and that it gives the widest possible freedom. Representatives of the poultry trade to whom the Amendments have been submitted are in favour of the additional restriction on shooting.
We are seeking to prevent the old ducks and geese being killed off while they are mating and nesting, and at the other end to prevent the young birds being shot before they are able to fly. That is the whole purpose of the Bill and of my Amendments. It is rather difficult to take this Amendment alone, because the other Amendments which follow depend upon it. By this series of Amendments we are seeking democratically to give to the local authorities the right to submit an application to the Home Secretary for alteration of the close season as affecting their area, and if the Home Secretary is satisfied that the application is fair and just, he can alter the date from 1st February to 15th or thereafter, and to the 21st if need be 677 for estuary districts and parts adjacent to the shore. It is somewhat difficult for me to answer the point in the Amendments on the Paper in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Major Mills), because they do not convey very much sense to me. I have no doubt that he will be able to put sense into them. I submit my Amendment to the House as drafted, and in the absence of the Home Secretary I shall be glad to answer any criticisms that may be made to my proposals.
§ Sir T. Moore
It is unnecessary to do so, because, as is well known, swans are more or less under Royal protection and cannot, under the existing law, be shot, whereas wild duck and geese are gradually being exterminated, and will be exterminated altogether unless we adopt the present proposals.
§ 11.18 a.m.
My hon. and gallant Friend has said that he could not see any sense in the Amendments which stand in my name, but I hope he will see some sense before I sit down. He has mentioned things as being contained in the Bill and in his Amendment, but I cannot find them there. He twice said that the Bill empowers local authorities to extend the open season to the 15th, and to the 21st along the shore, but I can find in the Bill no power of that sort, nor in the Amendment. That is the whole point of the Amendment which I am seeking to move later on. No doubt my hon. and gallant Friend will be able to clarify that point a little later.
I am rather sorry that 1st February was chosen as the date for the start of the close season and not 2nd February. I did not put down an Amendment to express this point of view because I did not want to appear to haggle over an individual day, but I hope it will be possible to put this right in another place. As we know, 2nd February is the day on which the close season for other game birds begins. You may shoot partridge and pheasant on 1st February, and it would be very confusing to the public and police if duck shooting were to end 678 on 31st January while pheasant and partridge might be shot on the river banks on 1st February. It would be more convenient if the same dates were fixed for the close season right through. I do not propose to divide the House on this Amendment, but I should like to give a little account of what led up to it, because I think it will vary a little from the account which has been given by my hon. and gallant Friend and will lead to a clearer understanding of the position which I have taken up.
When the Bill came before us some time ago it seemed so wholly admirable that I would have held up every hand I have in favour of it. It provided one close season for the whole of the country, from 15th February to nth August, and provided also that county councils should recommend to the Home Secretary that: some other date should be chosen for the beginning of the close season earlier than 15th February. I was prepared to agree to that, because, while it was to apply right through the country, power was to be given to county councils to vary it, as they have very great local knowledge and know what is advisable in their areas. In Hampshire we have already fixed 15th February as the beginning date for our close season. We are a very intelligent county. Some years ago a small committee was appointed under the excellent chairmanship of the late Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who knew all about wild birds, and it was to recommend to the county councils at what date the close season was to begin and end. I had the honour to be a member of that very small committee, and we fixed the dates, 15th February and nth August, for the beginning and ending of the close season.
My interpretation of the negotiations which had led to the introduction of the Amendment is that it is the result of representations made by my hon. Friend the Member for North "Norfolk (Sir T. Cook) on behalf of the shore shooters of Norfolk and, I understand, the lodging-house keepers, who make money out of providing accommodation for people who come down when the shooting is on. As my hon. Friend was perfectly entitled to do, he raised objections during the Committee stage. Negotiations were begun, and he has been bought off, if I may use-that expression without any invidious implication, by the later provision in the 679 Amendment which will give shore shooters the right to go on till 21st February if the Home Secretary approves and the county council makes an application to that effect. Although I am not going to oppose this, I would point out that it is at the expense of the rest of the country. In order to make up for this extra week which is to be given to the shore shooters, the whole of the rest of the country will have to start its close season a fortnight earlier. My hon. Friend gets a week, and everyone else loses a fortnight.
I should have preferred the Bill as it originally stood, but I am not going to oppose the starting of the close season on 1st February, because it has the advantage that it will be possible, under a later Clause: of the Bill, to prohibit the importation of dead duck and geese from the Continent and elsewhere, where a great deal of harm is done by the killing of these birds just as they are about to start on their flight to their nesting grounds, and Leadenhall Market is, I believe, the only market for them. If we prevent their importation, we shall save the lives of a great many of these wildfowl. I feel very strongly that the county councils should be given the right to apply to the Home Secretary for an extension of the open season to some date not later than 15th February, which was the date mentioned in the original Bill, and I hope it will be possible to meet me in that way. That is the whole purpose of my later Amendment. If my hon. and gallant Friend is able to satisfy me that that power is. in the Bill as it will be amended by his Amendment, I shall be prepared to agree to it. I do not desire to upset the arrangement which has been made with my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk, provided that I can secure equal protection for my own county of Hampshire, and I hope that a similarly reasonable attitude will be adopted by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr in my case also.
§ Sir T. Moore
The only answer to that question is that, as I explained in my remarks on the Amendment, this date and the other dates mentioned in the Bill have been arrived at as the result of 680 long negotiation and compromise between the various bodies interested in promoting the Bill, and I would ask the House not to fuss over one day, since it would mean disorganising all the arrangements which have already been made.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 11.29 a.m.
§ Sir T Moore
I beg to move, in page 2, line 1, to leave out Sub-section (3), and to insert:(3) After the commencement of this Act—
and any order made under the said Sections before the commencement of this Act shall cease to have effect if and in so far as it makes any such provision or exemption as aforesaid.
- (a) no order shall be made under the power conferred by Section eight of the principal Act making any provision whereby the time during which the killing and taking of wild duck or wild geese or any kind thereof is prohibited is to begin with any date later than the first day of February or end with any date earlier than the eleventh day of August, and
- (b) no order shall be made under the power conferred by Section nine of the principal Act exempting any county or any part or parts thereof from the operation of that Act as respects wild duck or wild geese or any kind thereof,Provided that nothing in this Sub-section shall prohibit the making after the commencement of this Act of any such order as is mentioned in the next following Sub-section.(4) The power of the Secretary of State under Section eight of the principal Act shall include power to make an order, in pursuance of an application made under the said Section after the commencement of this Act, providing that the time during which the killing and taking of wild duck and wild geese is prohibited shall begin with such date not later than the twenty-first day of February as may be specified in the order in such parts of the county or county borough to which the application relates, being parts contiguous to the low water mark of ordinary tides, as may be so specified.My remarks regarding the previous Amendment practically cover the explanation of this Amendment also. As I have said, all the arrangements suggested in the series of Amendments are the result of compromise and negotiation. If my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the New Forest and Christchurch (Major Mills) will look at Sub-section (4) of this Amendment, he will see that it provides that the power of the Secretary of State under Section 8 of the principal Act shall include power to make an order in pursuance of an application made by the local authority. That is the whole point 681 that I have previously stressed— that the local authority, who, as my hon. and gallant Friend has said, probably know the conditions in their own area better than anyone; else, can make their application to the Home Secretary for an order, and the Home Secretary will have power from his knowledge to approve the order or not. It seems to me that that is both democratic and reasonable. I should be the last to interfere with the rights of the local authorities, who have special knowledge of their own areas. Although the Amendment may appear rather formidable, it really is not so; it merely takes the place of the original Sub-section, and, as I have said, gives effect to the agreements which have been made for the purpose of saving these birds from, practically speaking, extermination.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before putting the Question, I should like to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman for the New Forest and Christchurch (Major Mills) whether he proposes to move his Amendment in line 17— at the end, to insert:and provided that nothing in this Subsection shall prohibit the making after the commencement of this Act of any such order as is mentioned in the next following Subsection.(4) The power of the Secretary of State under Section tight of the principal Act shall include power to make an order, in pursuance of an implication made under the said Section after the commencement of this Act, providing that the time during which the killing and taking of wild duck and wild geese is prohibited shall begin with such date not later than the twenty-first day of February as may be specified in the order in such parts of the county or county borough to which the application relates, being parts contiguous to the low-water mark of ordinary tides, as may be so specified.If. so, I shall have to save it in putting the Question.
I think the effect will be the same if I move my Amendment in line 5, to leave out "first" and to insert "fifteenth." I put down my Amendment in line 17 merely to show my bona fides to my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Sir T. Cook). It would merely re-insert in the Bill the provision which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) is now moving.
I am in this difficulty, that, if my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment is defeated, it will be necessary for me to move my Amendment to leave out "earlier" and insert "not later." The date of the commencement of the close season for the whole country having been changed from 15th February to 1st February it will be necessary to use the words "not later" instead of the word "earlier."
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word "earlier" in page 2, line 15, stand part of the Bill."
§ 11.34 a.m.
§ Lieut-Colonel Heneage
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) has said that this alteration has been agreed upon with the various associations concerned. I rather deprecate that, and I think we ought to have much more information. We do not even know what associations they were.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Heneage
We do not know all of them. We are told that, just because something has been agreed upon with various associations, we are to have a different date, and that we must not interfere by moving what I think my hon. and gallant Friend called a "fussy" Amendment. I think the hon. and gallant Member is taking up a very bad attitude. Many of us know that these different dates which affect game are a great nuisance and I would like to protest against this.
§ 11.36 a.m.
§ Sir T. Moore
In answer to that criticism I would like to point out that the people and bodies concerned were represented and gave their opinions at a committee presided over by Dr. Low, of the Zoological Society. Among those present were sportsmen, representatives of the Advisory Committee of the Home Office and the Scottish Office, and others, and they all agreed on the dates and arrangements suggested in my Amendment.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'earlier,' in line 15, stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.683
§ Remaining words left out of the Bill. Question proposed, "That the proposed words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ 11.38 a.m.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 5, to leave out "first," and to insert "fifteenth."
The hon. and gallant Member said that it was going to be possible for the county councils to extend the shooting season to 21st February. I have read the Amendment most carefully, and I see that the power which is preserved to the Home Secretary for granting applications by county councils to extend the open season to 21st February applies only to such parts of the county which areparts contiguous to the low water mark of ordinary tides.The whole of that Sub-section must be governed, surely, by the words:being parts contiguous to low water mark of ordinary tides.
I was dealing with both and particularly with what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), if I may say so with the greatest respect. By the Amendment which we have just dealt with, if the Bill goes through as amended, the close season for the whole country will start on 1st February and not on 2nd March, as heretofore. This Act and the Amendment refer to Section 8 of the Wild Birds Protection Act, 1880, which says:One of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State as to Great Britain, and the Lord Lieutenant as to Ireland, may, upon application of the justices in quarter sessions assembled of any county, by order extend or vary the time during which the killing and taking of wild birds or any of them is prohibited by this Act.If we bring that up to date, it means that the Home Secretary, on the application of the county council, may fix dates earlier than 2nd March or later than 31st July. In Hampshire we start our close season on 15th February and end on nth August. I agree with what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member about 684 democratic powers. The county councils consist of elected representatives of the people in the counties. They represent every locality in those counties, and have the greatest possible amount of local knowledge. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) that our laws, even on comparatively unimportant points, ought to be made by this House, and not decided through negotiations outside Parliament by associations, however eminent they may be. Personally, I think the county councils are wholly admirable for giving advice and making representations to the Home Secretary on matters such as this.
I consider I have been somewhat let down by the bringing forward of this important Amendment in this form and at this stage. In January I saw an inspired letter in the Press foreshadowing the sort of Amendment that was going to be moved, and I expressed my objections. I could, while the Bill was in the Committee stage, like my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Sir T. Cook), have held up the Bill when it came before the House after 11 o'clock, but I did not do so because I had received what I believed to be satisfactory assurances from the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs that my objections would be met. I did not let that stage go by default. When it came I was sitting immediately behind the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs, and I was given to understand that it would be all right, so I let the Bill go through. No doubt it was unwise of me not to see the Amendment in print, but I have a very confiding nature.
In the whole of the administrative county of Hampshire our close season starts on 15th February, and I sincerely hope the county council will preserve that date, as I am sure they will, even for the shore shooters, and will extend it. But I do ask that their rights regarding the rest of the country should be preserved. I have studied the habits of wild fowl on the River Avon, where I have lived for nearly 40 years. Commencing in December and right through to the end of February, we see on our river large flocks of widgeon and teal. It is particularly so if there are floods about. I have seen the water absolutely black with these birds. Under our system of shooting, we have to keep the river very quiet and undisturbed, and we can 685 shoot the birds only once in three weeks. They arrive early in December, and you have to let them settle down. You can shoot them for the first time in the latter part of December. You get another shoot in the middle of January, and a third shoot either at the end of January or in the early days of February, if you have been held up by floods or bad weather, as so often happens. I am well aware that at the end of January mallard and teal begin to pair, and, if they do so, they mostly leave the main river and go off to the ditches and the smaller ponds and streams, and, therefore, do not come in the way of the big shoot. No one would be so foolish as to want to kill these birds when they are obviously going to breed. But the big flocks of teal and widgeon do not stay and breed. They migrate, and we might as well have a few of them before they go. The widgeon always- live and move in big flocks. They can look after themselves. But it is very interesting to see the teal as the season goes on, collecting the tens and twenties into fifties and even hundreds. I have seen 200 or 300, and sometimes as many as 600 or 700, in a flock, and a very imposing sight it is.
I would point out that in Hampshire we shoot by day, and therefore we can sec what we are shooting and can discriminate between the sex and variety of the birds we shoot. If you shoot at night or morning, that is, after dusk or before dawn, it is extremely difficult to discriminate between sexes and varieties. If you use punt guns and fire into the middle of flocks of wild fowl, it must do a great deal of damage, and it might even become dangerous if rival guns happened to stalk the same flock at the same time. I, therefore, urge very strongly on my hon. and gallan: Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs and on this House that if there is any thought of leaving to the shore shooter, who, I believe, usually shoots at flight time, the right of shooting as late as 21st February, then there can be no justification for refusing to give county councils, with their great amount of local knowledge, the opportunity to say to the Home Secretary that 15th February is a fit and proper date on which the close season should start for all or any part of their county. If my Amendment to the proposed Amendment were carried, I should not move the Amendment which follows to lay down a mileage limit.
686 Finally, I would like to say I am not moving this selfishly. It is true that I own such a shoot as that I have been describing to the House, but in these hard times when taxation is high I have to let my fishing, and as salmon fishing opens on 1st February, my tenants want to begin to fish on that date. A man with a rod will disturb the wild fowl on the river just as effectively as a man with a gun. I move this Amendment on behalf of other people on the River Avon in Hampshire and at Beaulieu or elsewhere in that county, and indeed in the country as a whole. Many people feel that 15th February, which was the date mentioned in the Bill as it was introduced, should be the date upon which the close season should commence and desire that representations should be made to the Home Secretary to that effect by their local councils, who have local knowledge and are so democratically constituted.
§ 11.51 a.m.
§ Mr. Denman
I beg to second the Amendment to the proposed Amendment.
I do so merely as a layman with none of that high technical knowledge that the hon. and gallant Gentleman possesses. I do not pretend to know whether the 1stor the 15th February is the better date in all parts of the country, but I believe that the case that has been made is really overwhelming. The standard date suggested in the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) is 1st February, which is a variation from the Bill as it has been sent to us with the authority, first, of another place, and, secondly, of our own Committee, that the date should be 15th February. It is now asked that there should be local variations so as to permit the date of 15th February once more to be the end of the shooting season. The Mover of the Amendment, no doubt unintentionally, rather misled the House when he said that the Bill, with his Amendment, would still preserve the rights of the existing law. It is clear that the date, 21st February, is limited to shooting in the estuaries but does not include shooting such as has been referred to by the Mover of the Amendment to the proposed Amendment.
There seems to be a very strong case for allowing this right of local variation. Probably many hon. Members opposite 687 doubt the wisdom of county councils in administering some of the functions that belong to those bodies, but, when we ask the county councils to consider and declare the appropriate date for the preservation of bird life within their own area, we ask people who are eminently able to set up an appropriate committee to discover the best local answer. An overwhelming case has been made out that we ought to continue to allow local representation to be made to the Home Secretary, so that in appropriate cases the date of shooting should be extended to 15th February and not be a universal 1st February. I regret that the House has accepted the date of 1st February, because all the arguments in favour of 2nd February seem to be conclusive. It is ridiculous to have these consecutive dates. That will mean that the identical shooting party will be allowed to shoot the partridge, but not the duck because they happen to go out on 1st February. It is much better to have a single date, which will deal with so large a proportion of the shooting of these sporting birds.
§ 11.54 a.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)
The Home Secretary is the Minister who is responsible for administering the law, part of which we are considering to-day, in this particular instance. I have been an ornithologist all my life, and there is no part of ornithology which has interested me more than the study of ducks and geese. On that account, when I first went to the Home Office I gathered together a very representative body of the ornithologists of the country, on which body the local authorities were represented, with a view to dealing with what seemed to be a very urgent problem, namely, the possible extinction and the certain diminution of the ducks and geese of this country and of the seas surrounding it. If I had the time and this were the occasion I could convince hon. Members that there is a great danger that some of these very attractive species of ducks and geese are becoming extinct.
For some time past the ornithologists of the various countries of Europe have been considering how best to meet this danger. One of the most obvious ways of meeting it is, in the first place, to restrict the sale of ducks after a certain date. That 688 is being done under the Bill. One of the most prolific causes of the slaughter of ducks has been the fact that the London market was open at a period of the year when the breeding season of ducks had already begun. If the London market were closed, this sale would cease and the slaughter of ducks in Holland and other countries would cease with it. The other way to deal with the problem is to restrict the close season for killing ducks. In the past there has been a great variety in the dates that have been in operation in this country. That is really the answer to the speech of the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman). You can have local option and variations in administration in many ways in public life, but I do not think that they are suitable in a problem of this kind, seeing that ducks breed and move about the country and the waters at very much the same date whether the shooting season is on 13th February or 1st March.
One of the difficulties that we have had to face in past years has been this variety of dates. That being so, my strong advice to the House is that we should go as far as we can to get uniformity. Assuming that we have uniformity, the question arises whether it is better to have it on the 1st or the 15th February. I am afraid that whatever date we select there will be anomalies and grievances. I very much sympathise with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the New Forest and Christchurch (Major Mills). He has one of those properties— there can be very few of them in this country— where there are a large number of widgeon inland. As a rule, as ornithologists know, the widgeon is a duck which mainly keeps to the coast, but my hon. and gallant Friend has a property in which there are widgeon some distance from the sea, and he would like to be able to go on shooting them later into February, at a time when there arc a great many widgeon about. He certainly has a grievance, but I would ask him to put his grievance against the general desire for restricting the killing of these birds. His is an exceptional case, but, whilst I sympathise with him, I should be sorry to go back to the local option which has failed in the past, in order to meet an exceptional case.
My advice to the House, therefore, would be to adopt a uniform date for the 689 whole country, and to have no variation from that date, except in the case of the shore shooters, who are in a different category altogether from the owners of property. They depend to some extent upon their shore shooting for their livelihood. I am sorry that we should have to make any exception, but if there is to be an exception it should be for the shore shooters, up to 21st February. I have done a lot of shore shooting myself. A good deal of shore shooting is done in Norfolk, but actually they kill very few ducks. I have been out day after day and often have killed no ducks, or perhaps I have killed one duck on a very cold day in February. It is not simply a question of the killing of the ducks, but having the season open a little bit longer when the widgeon are about on the coast. A number of people go down to the villages in Norfolk not to shoot the birds, but to look at them. I would make some exception for the shore shooters, but I would strongly advise the House not to go further with any other exceptions. Sympathising as I do with my hon. and gallant Friend, I think that the close time ought to begin on 1st February. I would advise the House to reject, no doubt with regret, the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend, on the ground that if we once make an exception of that kind we should get back to local variations and not be able to deal in an effective way with this problem of avoiding the diminution or extinction of certain species of ducks and geese.
§ 12.3 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
I agree with the advice which the right hon. Gentleman has given to the House, with the single exception that I am not at all sure that I would make an exception for Norfolk, such as he suggests. On the general question of county council options and variations of dates all over the country for the shooting of wild duck, the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) said that it was ridiculous to tie every county area down to one date. I put it to the hon. Member that it would be ridiculous if county councils were left with the option of fixing a date, and the North, East and West Ridings of Yorkshire, three-parts of one county, had each separate dates. How would those who are charged with responsibility for the administration of the law find themselves? It would be 690 ridiculous if the North Riding fixed the 14th, the East Riding the 13th and the West Riding the 12th. Those who would have to administer the Act would not know where they stood.
§ Mr. Denman
The answer is simple. The Orders have to be confirmed by the Secretary of State, who is the coordinating authority, and he, obviously, would not allow ridiculous variations. Another answer to the hon. Member is that conditions in Yorkshire are fairly similar throughout the county, but it is a mistake to say that the conditions in Yorkshire are identical in kind with those of Hampshire.
§ Mr. Williams
There may be a difference, but it is wholly in the mind of the hon. Member. The breeding season, the mating season, is pretty similar in all districts, and I do not see how you can have these variations. Although the Home Office is the co-ordinating authority, are you going to give county councils this power and then tell the Home Secretary that he must not allow them to use it? The hon. Member has no case at all. The hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Major Mills) has a special case of his own. He reminds me of the action of some hon. Members while the 1930 Land Drainage Bill was going through the House. Because there were some swampy areas where they grew reeds these hon. Members were opposed to land drainage at all; they did not want it; they wanted the swamps because they wanted the reeds. Despite the fact that there may be a case for a special concession here and there, the Bill, after all, as the Home Secretary has said, is designed to protect these kinds of birds, and if you are going to allow economics or personal sport to intervene where the protection of bird life is concerned you are not going to fulfil the desire of those who have promoted the Measure. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will stand by 1st February, a date which those who understand this particular problem have determined is the best date for the preservation of wild duck and wild geese. I hope the hon. Member will accept the advice of the Home Secretary.
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to do me an injustice, but he seems to suggest that I have 691 moved my Amendment from purely selfish motives. I pointed out in my speech that my shoot would not be affected by the Amendment, and that I was moving it in the interests of other people.
§ Mr. Williams
I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that I have no intention of reflecting adversely on him. Frequently hon. Members raise points which affect their own constituencies, and we regard it as a personal matter to that Member, although it is not in the individual interest of the hon. Member.
§ Question, "That the word 'first' stand part of the proposed Amendment," put, and agreed to.
§ 12.10 p.m.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 23, to insert "or within twenty miles of."
The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) told me when I complained that I had allowed the Bill to go through Committee without a word of objection, that I should be safeguarded by the new Sub-section, and that he had been advised that the words "contiguous to" would fully cover my point. The point I had in mind was a distance of 15 miles up the river, and he said that would be covered by the words. I told him that I was sure the words "contiguous to" would not cover the case I had in mind, because within two miles of the sea there is a weir and two other sets of weirs, making three in all, before the Somerley shoot, some 15 miles up the river, is reached. I hope he will be able to repeat an assurance that the words "contiguous to" will cover my case and that his view will be endorsed by the Law Officers of the Crown and the Home Secretary. Even then I do not know whether it would have any binding effect in law. They may show the intention of the promoters of the Bill, but, quite frankly, I do not think the words can possibly cover the case I have in mind. I believe that if I went to the clerk of my county council or the Law Officers on the point they would say, "You must be mad. What does English mean "I am moving the Amendment in order that the rest of the county may have a little of the privilege given to shore shooters. I do not think any 692 county council would give the right to inland shooters to go up to 21st February. This is the only way I have of trying to ensure what I believe to be fair and right to the country as a whole.
§ Sir T. Moore
I imagine, as the Home Secretary has said, that we shall have considerable amount of sympathy with the purely local conditions of the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest, but at the same time this, in the opinion of the promoters, is going much too far. The words "contiguous to" are far more suitable, so we are advised by the Parliamentary draftsman, because they give power to the Home Secretary to decide whether in the application which is submitted the words are applicable to a particular area or not. "Within 20 miles" is much too dogmatic and definite and would be inapplicable to vast parts of the country as a whole. They would undo a great deal of what we are trying to do by the Bill. I hope the hon. and gallant Member will not press the Amendment, but if he does I hope that the House will reject it.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment negatived.
§ Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.