HC Deb 28 April 1948 vol 450 cc482-4
Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

I beg to move, in page 42, line 41, at the end, to insert: (2) A right conferred by or in pursuance of the foregoing subsection shall not be exercised between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise. This Clause gives power to the occupier of agricultural land, and persons authorised by him, to kill deer found on his land at any hour of the day or night and at any season of the year. In Clause 43, the Secretary of State is empowered to authorise the occupier, or someone else, to enter the land and shoot the deer, but exception is made in the close season which is from 10th April to 6th October and between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise. In Committee I moved that these two exceptions should be applied also to Clause 42, namely, that the occupier of an agricultural holding should not be able to go on land and shoot deer which were doing damage after dark or in the close season. We had a lengthy Debate and although great sympathy with the Amendment was expressed on both sides of the Committee, it was rejected. However, I detected a possibilty that if the first point were dropped, about the shooting of the deer in the close season, there was some possibility that the second point, namely, the prohibition about shooting the deer one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise, would be accepted. That is why we have put down this Amendment tonight.

I must confess that I hate the thought of night shooting. It is dangerous to human life and it might inflict horrible cruelty on the animals concerned. There is only one certain way of shooting deer at night, and that is to drive one's car close to them with the headlights full on, mesmerise them, and shoot them with a rifle. However, to use a shotgun is quite uncertain, for it has a very limited range. It is difficult to kill a deer by shotgun by day, let alone by night. Deer are shy and beautiful creatures and, if one wants to scare them off one's land, it is not necessary to shoot them at all. They run for miles if one swings a rattle. Moreover, if shooting at night is allowed there will be the greatest difficulty in enforcing the law. Supposing one hears a shot fired at night, if one were able to catch the person who fired it, he would say that he was not shooting pheasants or partridges but deer, and he would have a most perfect alibi.

8.15 p.m.

My main ground for taking exception to the Clause as it stands is the quite unnecessary cruelty to animals. It is not a party question, but one about which we can all feel concern, whatever our party affiliations may be. It is horrible to contemplate the suffering which may be caused by an action which will be permitted under this Clause. One's whole being revolts against the possibility of sorely stricken deer, with wounds gangrenous and putrid, dying miserably in a ditch because the Secretary of State lacks the humanity to accept an Amendment which prohibits shooting after dark. I beg of him to accept this plea.

Lord William Scott

I beg to second the Amendment.

In doing so, let me admit that it is from no humane motives, except possibly for human beings. I have always regarded all manner of fire-arms as excessively dangerous and at present, even in daylight, there are far too many inexperienced persons able to handle them. However, even experienced persons would not wish to handle shotguns after dark, and to allow the most inexperienced to shoot between the hours of sunset and dawn would be asking for trouble. If I heard a shot in the neighbourhood after dark, I would not feel inclined to go and see who was firing, knowing reasonably well that he would probably mistake me for a deer. From experience I can say that there is nothing more painful than gunshot wounds, and I do not see why we should encourage these unnecessary dangers. One has only to read the papers to know what happens in North America during the month of October. There are enormous fatalities amongst those who go deer hunting in the States and in Canada. To give permission for shotguns to be carried and used in the dark in the twentieth century is sheer madness.

Mr. T. Fraser

We discussed these matters at very great length in Committee. On those occasions I resisted Amendments on these lines. I thought that the powers exercised under the Defence Regulations, without any criticism being made of them, might very well have been given effect to in a permanent Statute. However, my right hon. Friend undertook to give these matters further consideration and we regretted that after that the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) proceeded to force a Division, which did not seem very generous on that occasion. We have given further consideration to this matter, and, notwithstanding that he carried it to a Division, I am glad to say that we accept the Amendment.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the decision, which I am quite sure will give great satisfaction to all lovers of animals throughout the length and breadth of Scotland.

Amendment agreed to.