§ 37 and 38. Mr. N. McLean
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) whether, in view of the fact that there is increasing damage done by red deer to hill farming interests in certain districts in the Highlands and also that the numbers of cases reported of poaching red deer or the wounding of red deer by gangs of poachers gives cause for disquiet, he will now, as a result of his further consideration of the matter, say what he intends to do; and if he will make a statement;
(2) whether, in view of the fact that a basis for agreement had been reached on legislative measures for the protection and control of red deer as long ago as the autumn of 1956 by farming, sporting and landowning interests in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy, he will now, as a result of his further consideration, introduce legislation in order to put a stop to the serious damage caused by red deer to 183 hill farming interests in certain districts in the Highlands and in order to stop the continued suffering to deer wounded by gangs of poachers.
§ 39. Sir D. Robertson
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, having read the Ross-shire Police report on deer poaching, a copy of which has been sent to him, he will, as a result of his further consideration, immediately bring in a Bill to protect deer from the brutality and suffering inflicted on them by gangs whose inhuman methods maim and wound many more deer than they kill.
§ 43. Mr. John MacLeod
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he now proposes to take to deal with the control of deer in the Highlands of Scotland, as a result of his further consideration of this matter.
§ Mr. Maclay
The Government are progressing with their examination of the proposals put forward by the interests concerned for legislative Measures to strengthen the law on the poaching of deer and to ensure effective conservation and control of deer. The subject has difficult aspects, but I hope to be able, to make a statement within the next month or two.
§ Mr. McLean
I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer, which shows that he is aware of the seriousness of the problem, but is he aware of its urgency, in view of the fact that the amount of damage done to hill farming interests has been increasing and is likely to increase, especially as the Forestry Commission encloses more land for planting and thus denies winter grazing to the red deer, which are forced down on to marginal farms? In view of the further fact that the incidence of poaching by night with shotguns, which causes great suffering to red deer in the Highlands, has been giving great concern to very many people, will he advance as far as possible the plan for drawing up legislation to deal with the problem?
§ Sir D. Robertson
Will my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance, in view of the brutality which has been revealed by the Ross-shire police report, that he will bring in a Bill to put a stop 184 to these things before the House rises at the beginning of August for a further three months?
§ Mr. Maclay
No, Sir, I could give no such assurance; but the Bill will be brought in as soon as all the considerations have been looked at and it is decided that it is practical to produce an adequate Measure.
§ Sir D. Robertson
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As legislation to deal with the subject has been in the form of a Bill, a withdrawn Bill or a Bill in embryo, for six years, is it not thoroughly unsatisfactory for the House to be told that we cannot have an assurance that a Bill will be brought in before the House rises?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is not a point of order at all. Anyhow, the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod) has a Question on the Order Paper which was answered together with that of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson).
§ Mr. John MacLeod
As there has been such long discussion on this matter, what is holding things up? What are the points of difference?
§ Mr. Maclay
The whole matter raises very complicated issues involving not only poaching and a close season but very complicated matters of entry on to land and other points which require the most careful examination if we are not to produce a very doubtful proposition.