HC Deb 07 April 1955 vol 539 cc1316-8
21. Mr. Gooch

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has now considered the protests against the draft Order made under the Protection of Birds Act, 1954, forwarded by the hon. Member for Norfolk, North and if he will make a statement.

22. Mr. Renton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the number of representations made to him, he will reconsider his decision to include the eggs of the blackbird, chaffinch, greenfinch, wren, linnet, skylark, missel thrush and song thrush, which may be removed from their nests by anyone with impunity.

30. Mr. Beswick

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what grounds he drew up the list of prescribed birds given in the Order made under the Protection of Birds Act, 1954; which of the interested animal welfare societies he consulted; and if, in view of the apprehension about the effect of this Order, he will reconsider the matter.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)

I have carefully considered the objections made to me against the proposed Order, but in my view it is quite clear that Parliament intended that I should make effective use of the power to draw up a list of common birds whose eggs should not be protected, so as to avoid making it a crime for a child to take an egg of the one of our common birds. I am bound by this decision of Parliament, which the Government supported, and I have therefore made the Order.

I also carefully considered the representations made by some county councils about the contents of the list, but in my opinion the list is well designed to give effect to Parliament's intention, and I could find no sufficient ground for reconsidering it.

In answer to the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick), before making the Order, as required by the Act, I consulted the advisory committee and gave a full opportunity for objections and representations to be made to me.

Mr. Gooch

Is the Minister aware of the very intense feeling in Norfolk against the draft Order? While I appreciate that he has given consideration to the protests which have been sent in, may I remind him that I sent him some very impressive protests? Is it too late to ask him to look at them again?

Major Lloyd-George

As I have said, I have looked at the representations which have been made, but I would remind the House, as I said in my answer, that Parliament has laid this duty upon me. I have to carry it out, and I have no right to do anything else. The list was drawn up on the advice of leading ornithologists. I would point out that before this Act was passed every county council could make its own list, and the result was that in one county birds were protected which in a neighbouring county were not protected. Of the list of birds which have been suggested by the advisory committee, the Norfolk County Council put on their list, among others, the blackbird, the linnet and the greenfinch. This matter has been looked into with very great care.

Mr. Renton

While appreciating that my right hon. and gallant Friend has a duty to make an order, is it not a fact that he is not obliged by statute to include in the Order all the birds which he has included? Would he say why he has included all the extremely beautiful and quite harmless birds which are mentioned in Question No. 22?

Major Lloyd-George

I suppose that most of the birds, if not all, in the list are harmless, and I should say also that most of them are beautiful. Obviously, all the committee had in mind when they put forward this list was that the birds are so generally distributed throughout the country that it would be unlikely that the numbers in any part would be affected if the eggs were not protected.

Dr. King

Why did the Minister not make a negative Order on eggs which should not be taken? Does he not realise that a positive Order of this kind is propaganda on behalf of bird-nesting?

Major Lloyd-George

I believe that inside and outside the House far too much is being made of what is going to happen. Bird-nesting has been a practice long-established in this country. I doubt whether any hon. Member has not taken part in it. In my young days there was an unwritten law that if anyone took more than one egg he was really outside the ranks of decent society. I have no doubt that that law still persists. We will always get ruffians in every stratum of society, and no Act will stop them. I am glad to say that under this Act that practice can be punished, as it can, I suppose, under the Cruelty to Animals Act as well. We must not lose our sense of proportion in this matter. If we were to make bird-nesting an offence, I think it would be a very bad day for this country.