HC Deb 09 April 1954 vol 526 cc700-3

Amendment made: In page 6, line 36, leave out from "that," to end of line 42, and insert: a person shall not be guilty of an offence by virtue of paragraph (b) of this subsection if the egg is shown to have been sold, offered for sale or in his possession for sale—

  1. (i) in the case of an egg of a black-headed gull, greater black-backed gull, lesser black-backed gull, herring gull or common gull, for the purpose of human consumption or for use as food for poultry, ornamental ducks, ornamental geese or swans;
  2. (ii) in the case of an egg of a wild duck, wild goose or swan, for the purpose of causing the egg to be hatched."—[Lady Tweedsmuir.]

Mr. Hayman

I beg to move, in page 7, line 5, to leave out from "constable," to "to," in line 7.

I moved a similar Amendment during the Committee stage, and my arguments so impressed hon. Members that I was able to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment on receiving an assurance from the noble Lady that this question would be examined again before the Report stage.

The position is that, as the Bill now stands, a justice of the peace may grant a warrant to any constable or, in England or Wales, to any duly authorised officer of the council of the county or county borough in which those premises are situated to enter upon and search "— and I would emphasise those words— those premises for the purpose of obtaining that evidence. My experience as a local government officer of a county council leads me to think that there is really no suitable officer of a county council who would have had experience of this type of case. It may be thought that the shops inspector would be a suitable official, but I suggest that a shops inspector merely enters a shop to see whether certain regulations are being fulfilled. He does not do so to search, in the sense that we mean here, for an object which the owner of the premises ought not to possess.

We are very jealous, in this House, of the powers which we must, necessarily, give from time to time to officers of local authorities and public corporations. I suggest that police constables and the police generally are trained and skilled in this matter of searching, and that it would, therefore, be sufficient to confer the powers given under the Bill on the police. If it be said that police constables would not have the necessary knowledge to be able to identify the kind of thing for which they were searching, at any rate, there would be an expert adviser to whom they could bring the object for his opinion.

We ought to be extremely careful in granting any rights to enter upon and search premises, and, in those circumstances, I hope it will be possible for the noble Lady to accept the Amendment.

12.45 p.m.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Test)

I beg to second the Amendment.

We are all anxious that the Bill shall contain powers to ensure that whatever good purposes it seeks to achieve shall be carried out, but we expressed the view in Committee that one of the most distasteful powers which this House can give at any time is the right of searching an Englishman's home, which is his castle, beyond the rights which we give to the police authorities. We were assured by the noble Lady in Committee that she would look into this point again, and I sincerely hope that she will now be able to accept the Amendment.

Lady Tweedsmuir

As the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) has said, I did undertake to look into this matter very fully, and I have consulted the various people who might be asked to undertake this power of search. I am very glad to be able to accept this Amendment, but I should like to tell the House the reasons which caused me to come to this decision.

It is quite true that arguments were put from the other side in Committee suggesting that county councils and county borough councils should have these powers if they are to carry out the provisions of this Bill, and it is reasonable that their officers should be able to apply for search warrants in appropriate cases. It is also desirable to encourage local authorities to take an interest in the law affecting the protection of birds.

The two hon. Members who have spoken have put the other side of the case very fairly, but I wish to say that I have been in touch with the County Councils' Association and the Association of Municipal Corporations, and I have discovered that the views of these two bodies differ. The County Councils' Association does not consider it necessary to give officers of county councils the power to apply for search warrants, because, in practice, the police would be asked to do so, but the Association of Municipal Corporations, on the contrary, think that this power would be useful, because they say that their shops inspectors, in undertaking the duties under the Pet Animals Act, 1951, might become aware of breaches of this Act, in which case they would want to apply for search warrants. The Association also said they thought that sanitary inspectors might also come upon cases.

I felt that there was not enough evidence and that, on balance, it certainly is preferable that power of search should not be given to people other than the police unless there are exceptional circumstances. Moreover, it is most unlikely that we shall need to call in anybody but the police to take action under Clause 6. I am very glad to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Hayman

In view of the concession which the noble Lady has made— and I am very grateful to her for accepting the Amendment—I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Speaker

The Amendment has been accepted. There is no need for the hon. Member to ask leave to withdraw it.

Amendment agreed to.