HC Deb 28 April 1948 vol 450 cc491-3
Lord William Scott

I beg to move, in page 47, line 44, to leave out from "deer," to the end, and to insert "means Red Deer."

Mr. Gallacher

This is purely Tory propaganda.

Lord William Scott

I am not moving this Amendment through humane or sporting motives. In Scotland we have two native varieties of deer, the red deer—which lives somewhere up in the North and which has vacated the Lowlands and the Border country for some centuries—and we have in the woods the roe deer. During the Committee stage of this Bill we spent many weary hours discussing the red deer and its habits. During the whole of that period no Amendment was made in regard to the roe deer, or in regard to the various imported foreigners described as park deer, fallow deer and such like.

The Clause dealing with red deer may or may not be suitable. Whether or not it is suitable for red deer, it does not take into consideration the complete difference in habit and habitat between the red deer and the roe deer, and nothing in the Bill as it is before the House at the present moment has any bearing whatever either on the roe deer which live in the woods, or on fallow deer which live in parks. It seems a pity that we should not confine our efforts in regard to the destruction of deer to red deer.

8.45 p.m.

It might be argued that on occasions park deer escape from the park. But they have done so since time immemorial and there has never been any difficulty in pushing them back to whence they came. No additional Measures are required either by this or any other Act to deal with these rare specimens, park deer which escape from their captivity. Nothing in the Bill is of any positive assistance in the destruction of roe deer. I agree that roe deer can do an immense amount of damage. They may be considered by some to be extremely beautiful, but they are so seldom seen that their beauty hardly compensates for the immense amount of damage which they can do. However, nothing in this Bill will be of assistance in reducing their numbers and I hope, therefore, that this Clause will be confined entirely to red deer.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

I beg to second the Amendment.

So far as I can ascertain, I think very generally this Amendment represents feeling in Scotland. In fact, what is meant by the Government is red deer. I know that interested organisations have taken that line and it has not been contradicted so far. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland, or whoever is to reply, will make quite clear what is meant. I think all the arguments which were adduced during the Committee stage were arguments directed towards protection in certain circumstances of red deer, and not of roe deer, which live in the woodlands and very seldom emerge from them.

The Lord Advocate

I really cannot appreciate the purpose of this Amendment, because one of the functions of this Bill is to try to control the actions and movements of deer in so far as they might have a detrimental effect on agriculture and the crops of the country. I find it difficult to understand why one should restrict the control to red deer and not to other species of deer. We have various species of deer in Scotland. The red deer is only one species; the red deer are indigenous to the Highlands and to the larger Islands. We have other species—roe deer, which I think are more widely distributed throughout the country and are not so numerous as red deer; fallow deer, which are smaller than roe deer but are also to be found in most counties in Scotland; and the ornamental deer. The position is even worse than that, because a typical ornamental deer is the Japanese deer, and I can quite understand the indignation of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) if he thought that red deer could be shot and Japanese deer could not. It is not true to say that red deer are the only deer with which we need to believe that trouble might arise, because on the best information available to me I am informed that the roe deer is an enemy of silviculture. It attacks young shrubs and bushes, nibbles away at them and destroys the growth. I cannot see why, in those circumstances, roe deer should be excluded.

Lord William Scott

Can the Lord Advocate point to a single line in this Bill which could possibly affect the roe deer which attacks silviculture?

The Lord Advocate

I do not intend to go through the Bill again.

Lord William Scott

Just one line.

The Lord Advocate

Quite obviously, if they have these predatory habits they will not confine them to land of no special value. Even the so-called ornamental deer, normally enclosed in parks, on occasions break out. The Japanese deer we had in Peebleshire broke out and became fifth columnists and did much damage. Accordingly, I cannot see any justification for confining the definition to red deer, and I trust that we shall continue to have the definition of "deer of any species."

Mr. N. Macpherson

The argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to me rather peculiar. We are here dealing with agriculture, and not particularly with forestry. If the roe deer do damage in a forest they would normally do damage to the forest which belongs to the man who also owns the roe deer. Therefore, it is his own business to see to it, and he can do exactly as he pleases. Admittedly, roe deer do a great deal of damage, but it does not seem to me that the same arguments apply as apply to red deer. I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley). When I read the Bill I assumed that the Clause referred to red deer. One does not normally refer to roe deer as deer. I hope that, on second consideration, the Government will ensure that, in fact, it does mean that.

Amendment negatived.