§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Over many years, problems related to the deer population of Scotland have been recognised and attempts have been made to solve them. None, as yet, has been successful or effective. I admit that the Bill has been long awaited, but the waiting period has not been wasted. As a result of the consultation and consideration which have taken place, we now have a Measure which—and I say this with full confidence—is fair and helpful to all those who are affected by or concerned with deer in Scotland.
I would like very briefly to mention the events which have led up to the introduction of the Bill. Hon. Members may recall that following the Report in 1951 of the Scott Henderson Committee on Cruelty to Wild Animals, a Poaching of Deer (Scotland) Bill was considered in another place. That Bill dealt with the illegal taking and killing of deer by inhumane methods, and has provided the basis for Parts III and IV of the Bill now before us.
However, the 1952 Bill did not contain provision for close seasons. It met with criticism on that score and was withdrawn, the question of close seasons being referred to a committee under the chairmanship of Sheriff Maconochie. Although that committee's consideration of the problem was most valuable, it was unable to reach agreement, and in 1954, it submitted majority and minority reports. The 1952 Bill dealt with the control of deer, which at that time was left to rest on the powers contained in the Agriculture (Scotland) Act, 1948.
In the event, those powers have proved too cumbersome to be of any use. The Nature Conservancy then took the initiative in bringing together the interested organisations. This time, agreement was reached and a joint report was submitted to my predecessor in September, 1956. This agreement provided a basis for the detailed provisions that we are now considering. Apart from that, however, its 209 very existence makes it reasonable to expect that the good will of all parties concerned can be relied upon in making this a valuable and workable Measure. This, I would suggest, is, above all, one of those problems the solution of which, no matter what laws are made, must depend on the co-operation of all concerned.
That does not mean, of course, that the House should accept in uncritical fashion the terms of any agreement reached outside it. What I say is that the common ground that the interested organisations have found must be a very relevant consideration in our discussions, and I think that we owe a very great debt of gratitude to the Nature Conservancy, and to the four organisations concerned—the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, the Scottish Landowners' Federation, the Blackface Sheep Breeders' Association and the British Field Sports Society.
I regret that hon. Members opposite should have seen fit to table a Motion for the rejection of the Bill. I will refer in more detail to that as I proceed with my speech, but some of their reasons for it are, on the face of it—and I will await with interest to hear them develop their arguments—so curious that I hesitate to comment on them until I have heard more about them. In opening the debate, however, I feel that I can hardly pass over in silence the extraordinary assertion that the Bill seeks to… protect and improve at public expense the interests of private landowners and sporting tenants….If one looks at the whole range of the Bill, that is a most astonishing statement. Hon. Members opposite really must know very little about the course of events leading to the preparation of the Bill over the years and, indeed, of the provisions of the Bill itself if they think that this is so. Right in the forefront of the Bill we have the provision for the setting up of the Red Deer Commission, whose main function will quite clearly be the control of red deer in the interests of agriculture and forestry.
If hon. Members opposite will study this part of the Bill, they will see that it contains important and far-reaching provisions for the reduction in the number of deer in particular areas, or even for their complete extermination in such areas. There are also provisions of a more emergency character for the destruction of marauding deer. The National 210 Farmers' Union of Scotland and the Black-face Sheep Breeders' Association have played an important part in the discussions leading to the framing of these provisions, and they are very anxious that this legislation should go ahead—
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Have the Government had no prevision—this is the third Bill to which objection has been taken in the last week—of the fact that anybody might be so audacious as to claim a Division on Second Reading?
§ Mr. Maclay
The right hon. Gentleman has read the terms of the Opposition's Amendment. The Amendment is most extraordinary. Its terms seem quite remarkable to me; they do not add up. It looks very much as though hon. Members opposite have not read the Bill. I am sure that as the debate continues hon. Members opposite will develop their arguments but, at this stage, I must say that I regret that this has happened, because this is a Measure in which, although there is room for discussion and argument, I do not think that anyone can be against the principles in this Measure, and I think that the details are very reasonably worked out—
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that even the Highlands of Scotland are divided on this, and that we have had representations from authorities and associations in the Highlands condemning the Bill.
§ Mr. Maclay
It is only fair here to give an opinion reported in the Scotsman of 14th January, 1959. The opinion is that of the convener of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, who is reported to have said thatOne of the major sections … was designed to bring about more effective control of the deer population as a whole, to reduce their numbers to reasonable proportions, and to restrict their activities, especially outwith the deer forests. Not only was this a sensible approach to a problem that had been with them for a long time, it would, in the long run, be recognised as the best means of protection that had been devised for all concerned.I quote that only because it is the view of the Chairman of the Legal Committee of the Scottish N.F.U., who should have access to a fair amount of knowledge of what farmers feel about it.
211 I should now like to deal in some detail with the separate parts of the Bill. The subject matter falls conveniently into clearly defined parts: conservation and control of red deer, close seasons, prevention of illegal taking and killing of deer of all kinds, enforcement and procedure. Nevertheless, these parts are interdependent, and each makes an essential contribution to the whole comprehensive Measure.
Part I deals with the conservation and control of red deer. They have increased in number, and have spread from the deer forests proper to land that has never before carried them. The Opposition's Amendment refers to…a massive increase in the deer population…but I would remind the House that the natural increase went on largely unchecked owing to two world wars, and that is one of the reasons why we have this problem now. Another is that the conditions of ownership of property have also changed very much indeed.
In so increasing, red deer have not only created a need for conservation in their own long-term interests, but problems for agriculture and forestry. These matters cannot be acceptably and successfully dealt with by a directive that a fixed proportion of red deer must be killed forthwith. Each area has its own special difficulties, and must have its own special solution. Before each solution can be reached, account must be taken of all the aspects of the problem.
We therefore propose that a Red Deer Commission should be set up, containing representatives of the interests affected, and in that way bringing to bear on the subject all the available knowledge and experience. This proposal, which is detailed in Clause 1 of the Bill, will, the Government believe, create an authoritative body whose decisions should meet with general acceptance. The powers conferred on the Commission have been drawn up expressly to give it the fullest reasonable latitude to examine each local problem, and to decide on, and take the proper action in each case.
Clause 1 also confers on the Secretary of State powers of general direction. In view of the responsibility that the Secretary of State has to Parliament, that is 212 necessary, but I will give an assurance now that, so far as I am concerned—and, I think, the same would apply to any Secretary of State—I have no intention of directing the Commission in its day to day work. It is to be the executive body and, as Clause 3 directs, I shall look to it for advice.
For the Commission to be successful and acceptable, it must be closely in touch with local opinion. It will, however, be responsible for a very large and scattered area—all the land in Scotland where red deer are established. Clause 2, therefore, enables the Commission to set up local panels to advise it. In the interests of acting as speedily as possible against marauding deer, the Commission is empowered to delegate to these panels its functions under Clause 6—with which I shall deal shortly.
I have already mentioned that the Commission will be the authoritative body on questions relating to red deer in Scotland. Its advice will, therefore, be available not only to me, but to any owner of land who requires it in the interests of the conservation of his stocks. Clause 4 provides for this, and also for collaboration by the Commission with anyone investigating matters concerning red deer. In this way—and advised, as it will be, by the Nature Conservancy—the Commission will be enabled to keep in touch with what I might describe as the more scientific side of the subject.
Clause 5 is designed to assist the Corn-mission in obtaining in any particular locality the background information which is needed for the discharge of its functions. The Commission is enabled to call for returns of numbers of red deer killed up to five years previously, and this information will allow it to assess to what extent existing deer stocks are being culled.
With Clause 6 we come to the first of the two main executive powers that the Government propose to confer on the Red Deer Commission. Both of these powers aim to prevent damage by red deer to agriculture and forestry. In the case of Clause 6, however, I should like to emphasise that we are dealing with the special problem of damage done by marauding deer; that is, as the Clause describes it, animals that are… habitually coming on to any agricultural land or woodland and are causing substantial damage…213 The Bill proposes that the Commission, unless it is satisfied that the marauding deer will be dealt with by the owner of the land from which the deer are coming, may authorise a competent person to kill them. The authorised person can follow the marauding deer over any land mentioned in the authorisation. The powers contained in this Clause are, therefore, limited in their use, but, when required, they must be available quickly. That, of course, is one of the reasons why it is proposed to enable the Commission to delegate these powers to local panels. It is also the reason why there is no provision in the Clause for formal advance consultation with those likely to be affected.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us exactly how he proposes to distinguish marauding deer from any other type of deer—the way he is doing with the foxes?
§ Mr. Maclay
If the hon. Member made as careful a study of the habits of deer as he obviously has of the habits of foxes, he would understand how this can be done. I do not think that there is any real problem, but local panels will have to study that, and if there is any doubt it is for them to decide what are marauding deer and what are colonised deer.
Since an authorised person is to be engaged in shooting deer, occupiers of land over which he may pass must have some warning of the Commission's intentions. The notice to be given to occupiers, however, is a minimum of 24 hours only, and in the case of owners only such notice as may be practicable is required. This is an emergency provision, because it is designed specifically to deal with marauding deer. I should like to emphasise, however, that I am confident that full reliance can be placed on the Red Deer Commission and on the local panels appointed by the Commission to use this provision in a reasonable and acceptable way.
It is Clause 7 which contains the long-term solution for the general problem of agricultural damage done by red deer. As I have already said, this problem is a result of the increase in deer herds and their colonising, as the phrase now is, of land not inhabited by them before the stocks increased in the way they have in recent years.
§ Mr. Douglas Johnston (Paisley)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he envisages the Commission going back to fix what are and what are not colonising deer?
§ Mr. Maclay
I do not visualise the Commission going back in time to fix that. It will have to study the situation on the spot, to see what type of land they are on in relation to all the circumstances of that piece of country. No hard and fast rules can be laid down about it. That is why much flexibility must be left to the Commission and local panels, and why we have experienced such difficulty over the problem in the past.
The details to be contained in control schemes are set out in Clause 8. The schemes are to be carried out by individual owners and occupiers on whom requirements are imposed by the Commission. If even one of these individuals failed to carry out a requirement, a whole scheme could be endangered. The penalty provided for this is contained in Clause 9, and under Clauses 10 and 11 the Commission is given default powers to carry out the work itself. By Clause 12, however, the Commission is enabled, when it considers it appropriate, to assist owners or occupiers in killing red deer, whether in pursuance of control schemes or otherwise. A control area could be large or comparatively small—that is for the Commission to decide. I think that that was the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston).
Each scheme will inevitably affect the interests of a number of people, but the Second Schedule to the Bill ensures that all those affected are given the opportunity to object to a scheme, and, if need he, to state their objections at a public inquiry. I do not think that I need elaborate on the remaining provisions of Part I, which are supplementary to those which I have described.
Part II provides for the introduction of close seasons, and, as the Bill stands, is to come into effect in October, 1961. Various views have been expressed about this date, and I shall be interested to know the views of the House, since red deer, as I have said, have been the subject of careful study over a number of years.
215 Less attention has been given to the distribution and habits of other species, and it would not be possible at the moment to lay down close season dates for them with any confidence that these dates will be generally acceptable. For that reason, the Bill proposes to confer upon the Secretary of State a power to introduce close seasons for other species by Order after consultation with such organisations as appear to him to represent those affected. Hon. Members will notice that Clause 33 provides for certain exemptions from the operation of close season provisions. Close seasons could seriously retard the activities of the Red Deer Commission, and, accordingly, anyone acting under the authority or at the request or requirement of the Commission may kill red deer during the close season.
Exemption not only from the red deer close season but from any other close season which may be fixed by Order is conferred on anyone acting to prevent suffering by an injured or diseased deer, and on occupiers of agricultural holdings exercising their right to shoot deer on their enclosed land under Section 43 of the Agriculture (Scotland) Act, 1948.
The primary object of Part III, which applies to all species of deer, is to prevent wanton cruelty. This part of the Bill is based on the recommendation of the Scott Henderson Committee. It is intended to give the police and courts in Scotland adequate power to deal with the indiscriminate slaughter of deer, particularly by small gangs from the towns and occasionally from the villages.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us what provision there is in the Bill for preventing wanton cruelty by so-called sportsmen?
§ Mr. Maclay
The hon. Member must know that a great number of the people who shoot deer are expert shots. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I think that the hon. Member will find that there are few cases of cruelty. In many cases there are stalkers with them, of whom the great majority are experts. The chances of cruelty occurring are very small indeed.
Deer stalking has traditionally been carried out by skilled marksmen with 216 suitable weapons—a very important point indeed—so that the selected beast is killed quickly and humanely. If it is wounded, it is invariably followed up. This does not happen with the poaching type of operation. The depredations of marauding gangs are a very different matter. Reports from the Highland police forces and accounts given by the Nature Conservancy show that their activities follow a general pattern. The gangs go out in car, van or lorry, generally at night, sometimes during hard weather. They find herds of deer on low ground near the roads, dazzle them with searchlights and then shoot into the herds without any attempt at precision. To make a quick get-away, they seize only the deer which are killed or seriously wounded, put them in their vehicles and drive off. They wound a good many deer which they do not take and then leave the unfortunate animals disabled, often to die a slow and painful death. The massacre of hinds accompanied by calves is particularly deplorable.
There is universal agreement that this cruel and wasteful slaughter ought to be stopped, particularly as the whole motive is quick profits for the gangs. At present, the forces of law and order have no real power to curb these bad practices. During the past two years the police have intercepted vehicles carrying deer carcases on more than 100 occasions, but have been unable to take effectual action because of the lack of adequate legal sanctions. Part III of the Bill provides these sanctions against poaching.
Clause 22 makes it an offence to take or wilfully kill deer without legal right or without permission, written or oral, from a person having such right. Here, I emphasise the word "wilfully". It will be necessary for the prosecution to prove not only that a person killed deer, but that he did so deliberately. There is no question, for instance, of anyone suffering penalties for accidentally running into deer with his car, or even having to prove that it was an accident. It will rest upon a person claiming a right or permission to kill deer to prove that he has such a right. There is nothing basically new about this provision. Anyone with a genuine right will not be in danger of conviction.
217 The Clause provides a maximum penalty of a £20 fine together with forfeiture of the deer, instead of the existing maximum £5, which was fixed over 100 years ago. Clause 23 makes it an offence to kill leer at night, when most illegal killing and no bona fide stalking takes place, or to kill them otherwise than by shooting with a non-repeating rifle or shot gun. The sole exception to these provisions, under Clause 33, is the killing of an injured or diseased deer for humanitarian reasons.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
If the damage that is done to farmers' crops is done normally during the hours of darkness, is it not normally during the hours of darkness that farmers can deal with marauding deer? Do not these deer usually leave the farmer's enclosed land before sunrise, before the permitted hour for the killing of deer? Therefore, are not farmers and crofters now being disabled from protecting their own crops?
§ Mr. Maclay
No. The powers under the 1948 Act relating to enclosed land remain. I do not think that there is any change in that respect.
Clause 24 strengthens the Bill as an anti-cruelty measure. It provides special penalties for offences committed against the provisions of either of the two preceding Clauses by gangs of two or more people. Thus, for example, two men found killing deer at night would each be liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to £50 or imprisonment for up to three months.
Clause 25 provides that possession of deer, firearms or ammunition in circumstances suggesting that an offence under the previous Clauses has been committed, or is about to be committed, may itself he punished as an offence. This is necessary for effective enforcement. Indeed, the absence of such powers is at present one of the major obstacles to effective action. In the remote areas of the Highlands, it must often be extremely difficult to detect and apprehend offenders in the act of killing deer, but if they are to sell the carcases profitably they must try to get them away in a vehicle of some kind down a road. Under Clause 25, if they are intercepted by the police in suspicious circumstances, they can be arrested and 218 charged. This provision should be of very great value.
The Clause provides for conviction on the evidence of one witness. There are precedents concerning an offence which is likely to be observed by only one person. As hon. Members opposite will realise, the nearest parallel is Section 7 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Protection) (Scotland) Act, 1951, for which they were responsible and which contains exactly the same provision for conviction on the evidence of one witness for unlawful possession of salmon or trout or of illegal fishing gear. In the case of deer, there may be many instances in the remote areas of the Highlands where the offence may be observed by only a single policeman, stalker or gamekeeper. It will be for the courts to assess the credibility of such witnesses and I am sure that they will do this with their usual fairness.
The next part of the Bill—Part IV—deals with enforcement procedures. The most important Clause is, perhaps, Clause 27, which gives the police powers to seize deer, firearms, ammunition, vehicles or boats, which are liable to forfeiture under the Bill; and also, but only where gang offences are suspected, power to search premises, vehicles or boats and persons found in or about them. Other significant Clauses in this part deal with powers of arrest and with the forfeiture of deer, firearms and ammunition and, in certain cases, of vehicles or boats.
Concerning penalties in general, I have noticed with astonishment what the Opposion have included in their Amendment. As I have said, we have followed the example set by the Opposition in the 1951 Act. Some of the penalties, for instance, for a first killing by illegal methods are actually lighter than the corresponding penalties in the Salmon (Protection) Act. Only one penalty in the present Bill—the fine of £20 for an offence under Clause 22—is heavier than the corresponding penalty of £10 under the 1951 Act. This is obviously reasonable, since in certain conditions and at certain times of the year a deer carcase would bring in more money than a salmon.
The penalties of forfeiture are exactly similar to those in the Salmon (Protection) Act. The offender who acts by himself will forfeit only the deer. Gangs of two or more may forfeit, in addition, firearms, ammunition, vehicles or boats. The 219 activities of these gangs have been a highly profitable commercial proposition and the slaughter of even 10 deer may well run into £100 or more, depending upon time of year and many other conditions. The penalties must be heavy enough to constitute an effective defence against these actions by poachers and I do not think that they can be described as in any way harsh or excessive.
I have gone through the Bill in a certain amount of detail and I hope that I have made clear what its various provisions cover. I expressed at the beginning, and I have repeated once or twice during my speech, my astonishment and regret about the Amendment which has been tabled by the Opposition. I will explain more fully why I regret the Amendment on this occasion. Obviously, I look forward to comment and criticism concerning all the details of the Bill as it goes through its various stages in the House. This, however, is an instance when we want the maximum number of people to have confidence that this is a workable Bill and that its objectives are held in common It is only fair that I should read the Amendment to the House. It starts by saying:That this House, while recognising the need for legislation for the protection and control of deer and the prevention of cruelty …Those objectives we have in common. It is on reading the detail of the reasons that one sees that the Amendment, as far as people pay attention to it, can only spread doubts about the intentions of the Bill That is what I object to about the Amendment. It can do real damage to the ultimate objective, which we all share, of getting better preservation of deer for their own sake, better protection of forestry and agriculture and the stopping of the horrible cruelty which has shocked the conscience of people throughout the country. We need co-operation in the Bill.
The Amendment goes on to say that the Billmakes no provision for the prevention of cruelty to deer by starvation in winter.I wait with great interest to see what argument is deployed. One of the purposes, and, we trust, one of the results of the Bill over the years, will be that stocks will be got more in balance and that the marauding and colonised deer will disappear.
§ Mr. D. Johnston
Up to the beginning of the First World War, and in certain cases to the beginning of the Second World War, it was certainly customary for the owners of the better deer forests to feed their deer in winter and to keep them at the arable ground. That has not occurred, except with the very best forests, since the end of the war.
§ Mr. Maclay
The feeding of deer can be done only to a limited extent and in certain conditions. One certainly cannot do it on higher, remote ground with ease. It depends entirely on weather conditions. I do not consider that there is sufficient substance in the hon. and learned Member's intervention to justify those words in the Amendment.
The Amendment states that the Billfails to provide adequate protection to crofters and farmers from damage caused by deer".I have explained fully in my speech, and anyone who reads the Bill will see, that something has been done which has never been done before. The 1948 Act powers attempted it, but they simply have not been workable. The reason is that they are far too cumbersome.
§ Mr. Maclay
If the hon. Member reads them, as I have done, carefully—and I have examined them in recent days as well as while the Bill was first drafted—he will see that they are far too cumbersome a procedure. By the time that anything could be done, it was impossible to do the job.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
Would my right hon. Friend not agree that when the Bill was debated in another place, the same concern was expressed by noble Lords of the Opposition, but that after the debate the matter resolved itself and there was wholehearted support for the Bill?
§ Mr. Maclay
I will be interested to see how the Opposition develops their argument. I repeat, however, that nothing has been done in the past which remotely approaches the present Bill, even in its present unamended state, in achieving the very objects set down in the Amendment. I hope that hon. Members opposite will not continue to elaborate these suggestions so that lack of confidence develops among the people who are likely 221 to benefit most from the operation of the Bill.
Next, according to the Amendment, the Billmakes no provision for the reduction of the three million acres devoted to deer forests".Deer forests comprise, generally speaking, the high-lying, most remote and bleaker areas of the Highlands, land which, in modern times, offers virtually no scope for the economic development of agriculture or, indeed, forestry. Nothing in the Bill could prevent owners or occupiers of deer forests from developing them for agriculture if they see economic advantage in doing so. There is no control of the acreage devoted to deer forests other than the economic realities of the present day.
It may help to a better understanding of this aspect if I tell the House that our best estimate of the present area of deer forests is 2,800,000 acres, of which 1,100,000 acres is thought to be suitable for limited grazing by hardy sheep and cattle. Most of this area is at present used in that way, although the stocking is often, and often has to be, very sparse indeed. The remaining 1,700,000 acres is land which I am advised by the experts, is simply not grazeable economically by stock.
§ Mr. Maclay
If the hon. Member will only be a little slower in his reactions I can tell him that I am advised that there has been a reduction in relatively recent years, but a very small one. I cannot give precise figures because they are very difficult to obtain.
I will not deal further with the Opposition's Amendment. I just wanted to get certain points in it clear. I believe that the Bill, in principle, carries with it the good wishes of everybody. That is why I regret the form of the Amendment. I welcome criticism and I hope that we shall have constructive criticism, but I have made clear the reasons why I think it a pity that the Opposition have gone as far as they have gone in the Amendment.
222 In my view, and that of the farming industry, the Bill provides a remedy for some of the very difficult problems that have arisen in connection with forestry and agriculture. Hon. Members, obviously, will wish to examine and improve the details of the Bill, but I repeat that I am sure than no one disputes its aims.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:this House, while recognising the need for legislation for the protection and control of deer and the prevention of cruelty, declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which makes no provision for the prevention of cruelty to deer by starvation in winter, fails to provide adequate protection to crofters and farmers from damage caused by deer, makes no provision for the reduction of the three million acres devoted to deer forests, provides for the establishment of a Commission to protect and improve at public expense the interests of private landowners and sporting tenants whose past neglect has resulted in a massive increase in the deer population, and which increases the danger of the conviction of innocent persons and the imposition of harsh penalties upon them.I do not know whether the Secretary of State for Scotland was being facetious when he opened his speech, but from the almost frivolous manner in which he "deplored" the Amendment he appeared to be. Perhaps we can look at it a little more seriously than some of the remarks and criticisms of it which the right hon. Gentleman made suggested that it deserves. We wonder whether the House should have been discussing such a Bill at this time at all. It is a doubt that merits considerable consideration. In recent months the House and the country have been shocked by far more serious issues than anything raised in the Bill. Scotland has been shocked by the widespread and heavy unemployment, particularly in the Highlands and Islands, to the problems of which I shall relate the Bill very directly.
We look to the Government for urgent, effective and wise legislation to deal with that. We look to them to take measures to rescue from unemployment and poverty large numbers of people in various parts of the Highlands and Islands and in other parts of Scotland, too. Unemployment has reached its postwar high record level in Aberdeen, Dundee, Stornoway and Wick. But when we look to the Government for 223 legislative time and legislative Measures to deal with it, what do we get? Instead of measures to help the Highlanders to enjoy more fully "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" we have a Bill to protect landlords, privilege and the pursuit of deer. It is a bad come-down for the people of Scotland and for the House of Commons that we should have to be discussing deer at a time when the people of the Highlands are less concerned about deer than ever in their history—because they have to be seriously concerned about their own livelihoods, the welfare of their families and the getting of jobs.
Since, however, we cannot expect those bolder measures from the Government; since they cannot satisfy that wider Highland need with urgently demanded, serious and constructive legislation, we are reduced to discussing red deer today. I suggest that the Bill should be put in its proper place and not be called, as it so pompously is, the Deer (Scotland) Bill…to further the conservation and control of red deer in Scotland; to prevent the illegal taking and killing.…We should simply call it the "Ermine and Vermin Bill." Indeed, all the discussions up-to-date and all the arguments have been among people who are themselves directly interested as owners of deer and deer forests and estates throughout Scotland, seeking to get a body set up at the expense of the State to do the jobs which they have themselves failed to do for generations, if not for centuries.
These landowners are trying to find easier and cheaper ways to get somebody else to do the things which they have long irresponsibly dodged, with the result that they have created this problem for us. If the Secretary of State wants to level criticism at anybody he ought to level it at those who have created the problem by dodging it in the past and now want it to be solved at the public expense. Nothing that has been said so far by him should make us on this side of the House ashamed to pursue this matter to the limit.
To Highlanders, whether in Sutherland, the Western Isles, the cities of Canada or America or New Zealand, or wherever they may be, deer forests have associa- 224 tions which cannot be divorced altogether from strong emotional content and feelings—and the expression of those feelings at times. Understandably, Highlanders, whether at home or abroad, feel the emotional associations of this problem. One cannot get away from it.
It largely arises from the fact that the spread of deer forests to quite an extent—and of large sheep farms—coincided with the driving of the people away from their homeland, the reduction of their few privileges and of their natural rights in their own native country, and with the extension of the privilege and wealth of landlords, both the indigenous type and the nouveaux riches, the industrial landlords from the South in the nineteenth century.
One of the most familiar Highland songs is the Canadian Boating Song. I am sure that it is familiar to you, Mr. Speaker, probably in our two languages. Part of it runs:From the lone shieling of the misty island Mountains divide us, and the waste of seas—Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.From thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean, and 2,000 miles across Canada, that song is supposed to have been first brought to the notice of the Western world. It was written a long time after the exiles had gone westward; and it is still sung and remembered there. It was inspired by a deep anger and nostalgia.
Another of the verses, which has come back over the sea-track of scores of thousands of Highlanders who went to Canada and America, reads:When the bold fathers in the days long vanish'dConquered the soil and fortified the keep No seer foretold the children would be banishedThat a degenerate lord might boast his sheep.When it was profitable to put men out in favour of sheep, the landlords evicted the men; and when the price of wool fell and the sheep as capital became more expensive, they did not hesitate to abandon the sheep and turn the sheep farms into deer forests.
Committee after committee and commission after commission studied this 225 problem, among them the Napier Commission of 1883. They went thoroughly into the problem, but still the depopulation of the Highlands went on, still the deer forests spread over millions of acres of the countryside, and still the numbers of the deer increased. And to this day no really effective action has been taken to undo the damage done by the Highland landlords and, even more, by the alien incomers who came to flaunt their wealth in the Highlands in the nineteenth century after their exploitation of the industrial areas of the South.
The Secretary of State for Scotland was not able to give exact figures of forest for sixty years ago. I will not attempt to do so either, but the Napier Commission was alarmed that the acreage of deer forests was well over 1,900,000. It did not want to see an extension beyond that limit. It hoped that, within that limit, use might still he made of part at least of the forests; though it did not indicate how much except as to sheep stock. It thought that 395,000 sheep might be accommodated in the forests at that time with under 2 million acres, and that figure itself was taken from the Select Committee of 1873, when the deer forests were much smaller than they were when the Napier Commission sat.
By 1912 the deer forests had expanded still more and the number of deer had increased. Along with that there was colonising and increased marauding because, as the numbers grew, so the demand for graze grew, and the deer spread more and more widely and lower down and began to be a menace to crofters and small farmers and to enclosed arable as well as to unenclosed land. By 1912 there were over 3½ million acres of deer forests in Scotland. We cannot get accurate figures for today from the Secretary of State, who refused those figures to me when I asked for them a few weeks ago; but we believe that between the scheduled deer forests, the colonised areas, as they are called, and the area over which the deer freely wander, there is still an area of at least 3 million acres of Scottish land affected by deer.
Along with this forest spread has gone depopulation at an alarming rate. I will not attempt to harrow the House with all the figures of depopulation and will take 226 only the figures of the last few years between 1951 and 1957. In that period we have had the biggest spurt of any comparable period in the last fifty years, with a loss of population of 8,000 from the Highlands alone. That is the fastest rate of depopulation, excluding wars, we have known in the Highlands for many a long day; and that occurred while the population of Scotland as a whole was increasing. The north-west area was surveyed by Dr. Fraser Darling, who found that although Scotland's population was increasing generally, in that area it had decreased by 8 per cent. overall between 1911 and 1947.
If we look at individual parishes and villages we find that in places like Kintail, which is right in the heart of the deer country, the population dwindled between 1911 and 1947–48—which we can take as the present day—from 414 to 312. Again, in the Island of Jura, owned by one of the members of another place—who spoke the other day on this Bill, asking for greater powers for bailiffs, for search without warrants and goodness knows what else—the population decreased from 1,442 in 1841 to 252 in 1947–48, and it is still going down. I have had it suggested that the figure in 1841 may have been too high, that the island may have been then overpopulated; but even the 1911 figure of 570 has been reduced to 250 today. There must be some explanation; and I believe it is not altogether unassociated with the failure to develop the land, the failure to curb the deer forests, the failure to protect and assist agriculture and the failure to encourage people to stay in their own country and enjoy a better standard of life.
In the areas of Gigha and Cara, the population has gone down from 324 to 161. I could give dozens of examples of this kind where there is a halving of the population in some cases and of other areas where it has decreased by one-third or more. Some of the worst examples are in the areas of Durness and Assynt. The latter is probably one of the most famous of the deer forests and one of the worst depopulated areas.
These problems have come together. I think the Minister who replies to the debate will say that they do not necessarily tie up. I think he will say that the expansion of the deer forests with the 227 increased number of deer, and the depopulation of the Highlands are not necessarily tied together and that there is no ratio between them. That is possibly partly true; but the deer problem is unquestionably a factor which has to to be taken into account, and it has been taken into account by every committee and every commission that has considered this problem.
Now I turn to the aspects of cruelty about which the right hon. Gentleman spoke. One of our objections to his case is that he defines cruelty far too narrowly. The right hon. Gentleman is content to think of cruelty as a misfired shot by a member of a spiv gang coming along from the towns in a lorry. I think the right hon. Gentleman limits his thinking of cruelty to that committed by somebody who has made a bad shot and left his victim to go off into the forest wounded. Of course, we regard this as cruelty of the worst possible type. It is irresponsible cruelty and it is wilful, and it should be punished. Therefore, as regards the commercial gang there is nothing between us. As regards the commercial spiv gangs, we agree that leniency should not be shown; therefore, let us dismiss that as a subject of argument across the House.
We are equally concerned with the cruelty that has been perpetrated for long, and knowingly and wilfully and irresponsibly continued, by the landlords who claim to own the rights of shooting and taking deer in those forests. That is the real mass cruelty. There is far more effect from this kind of cruelty than from the spiv gangs with vans and lorries, of which such lurid pictures have been painted for us recently. This mass cruelty arises partly from the overstocking of the forests and from the failure to provide, as was once provided by the best management of deer forests, the winter feed which would do two things. First, it would feed the deer and keep them in condition, and secondly, it would prevent them from wandering to neighbouring farms and crofts and doing damage to crofts in those areas.
When the spiv gangs come to the Highlands from the neighbouring towns and cities, most of the damage is done near the roads. They find the deer near the roads largely because the deer are 228 driven down to the roads from the forests through lack of food and because there is no attempt in most cases to provide it for them in their native forests.
The other point about that type of cruelty is that this kind of mass hunger does not kill off selectively. It does not kill off a percentage of the deer every year. It has no regard for a balance of sex and age in the animals. It does not aim to kill off so many males and so many females at given ages, as the Red Deer Commission would be obliged to do. It starves indiscriminately and reduces the whole average quality of the stock throughout the forests. That is the biggest and gravest cruelty of all; and it is doing a further continuing, perpetual damage because it is reducing the size and quality and stamina and edibility of the deer stocks throughout the country. That is an important aspect of the cruelty argument in this Bill.
Do not let us imagine that cruelty is confined simply to a few gangsters coming along with lorries, whom we all condemn. It is also being continued by the people who claim to have the sole right to take and kill the deer and who resent the other type of people coming with their particular form of cruelty. Here I quote from Professor Fraser Darling's report of what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston) a few minutes ago about the feeding of deer by their owners, or their ostensible owners. He stated:Many former private forests which were most carefully managed are now being divided into small properties, being let to syndicate shoots or serving as hotel shooting for all who care to pay the price.The price is the criterion, and I strongly suspect today that this was the criterion of the Secretary of State for Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman defended against any charge of cruelty the big shot who was a bad shot. I know some of them. I am not talking so much of the native landlords as of some of the fancy, imported types. Believe me, if they go out shooting deer as crookedly as some of them made their money, the red deer will have no fear of death; but they certainly may have a fear of wounding and mutilation.
Cruelty operates in a much wider area than the right hon. Gentleman liked to say. What are the Government going to 229 do now about the prevention of this type of cruelty? As an Opposition we are very concerned about that, and therefore it comes into our reasoned Amendment. I hope he will deal with all these points very thoroughly and not spare reprimands to all those guilty of that type of cruelty, which affects hundreds of thousands of animals over the years, compared with, perhaps, the hundreds that the spiv gangs have been guilty of hurting and wounding.
There is another aspect of cruelty which has been neglected, and that is the importance of keeping the deer herds—as I have mentioned in a general way already—down to some reasonable and nationally acceptable optimum figure. I think the Nature Conservancy people would agree on a figure round about 60,000 as being reasonable. I know that Dr. Fraser Darling and most people feel that systematic weeding out, having regard to the balance of sex, age and all the other things, is highly desirable to achieve about that number. Is the Red Deer Commission to be given additional powers to undertake that? Surely, it is not. Surely, it is not the intention of the Secretary of State at all to give the Red Deer Commission any such effective power.
In reply to a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray) the other day. I think the Secretary of State said that it was not the purpose of the Commission and the Bill to achieve the overall control of numbers of deer. I think that was roughly the sense of his reply. Since that is not the purpose of the Bill. I cannot imagine that it is within the power or the purpose of the Commission. Therefore, that duty, if it is to be dealt with at all, will be left to be dealt with on a local basis, a hit here and a hit there, without any regard whatsoever to any form of census, or attempting to take a census, of deer. or to try to bring together all the various experts who can advise about what the optimum might be at which we should aim, and who could give advice on the best means of pruning or thinning out the herds to the right age structure and all the rest. There is no such intention in the mind of the Secretary of State. He is not delegating any such powers on a national basis to the Commission, and that was the point of his reply to the Question put by his hon. and gallant Friend.
§ Mr. Maclay
There is room for misunderstanding both in the hon. Member's remarks and, possibly, in the answer I am going to give. I think I said in my speech, and I confirm now, that I do not think this is to be answered by giving an arbitrary figure of reduction or of the optimum population of deer. I know and greatly respect Dr. Fraser Darling's work, and the work of many others as well, but there is room for a great deal of argument about optimum, as well as everything else. The powers of the Bill I have described quite accurately, and the Commission will be able to get expert advice, to publicise its views where necessary, and have power to act where damage has been caused.
§ Mr. MacMillan
The right hon. Gentleman does confirm that the Commission has no power, as he said the other day. He is not delegating any power to the Red Deer Commission to try to reduce overall and control overall the numbers of deer, and to arrive at any sort of optimum which is nationally desirable. That is really the point of that reply.
We are agreed upon a need for some legislation, and I myself signed a Motion which had the signatures of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) and others, to put pressure upon the Government to introduce legislation which would have as its first purpose the control of the numbers of deer and the prevention of cruelty in its widest form. I told the hon. Gentleman when he came to me with his Motion that I did not necessarily subscribe to all that he said in it but that, nevertheless, I thought something should be done. I do not think that this Bill is doing it.
We believe that it is important that we should conserve what are the biggest and most picturesque wild creatures in this country. We are all agreed on that. The red deer is indigenous and has its place in the high altitude grazings. It enhances the beauty and picturesqueness of the scenery, and it is an attraction to the tourist industry,—which is also a practical consideration in these days. On all these things we are agreed but, on the other hand, these things can become difficult and there is no overall plan envisaged in the Bill to control at all the figure of the deer population, and I do 231 not see that, even with this Bill and the measures involved in it, that it would achieve that purpose.
The right hon. Gentleman dealt rather lightly with the agricultural aspects of the Bill. Yet I find that most of the objections come from people who are interested in agriculture. They come from crofters like the Lochaber and Ross-shire crofters. I have some correspondence here, and there are other letters and telegrams in my brief case. They are concerned because they will not get the protection which they hoped they would be given in the Bill. They agree about the close season and about many of the other provisions in the Bill; but, like those who signed the Minority Report, they do not think that a close season should be brought into operation until there has been a very substantial reduction in the numbers of deer.
I think the Joint Under-Secretary is rather in doubt about the feeling on that point; but it is one on which I have already had a lot of correspondence. They are not against the close season as such; and I do not think anybody is. But these are points which will have to be argued in Committee, as they were in another place. The farmers and crofters are concerned with that aspect of this legislation, and if something can be done for them I think it will go a long way towards getting more agreements among the farming and crofting interests concerned. I hope that the Secretary of State will consider it.
There is another interesting point from the case which was deployed in the defence of this Bill. It was a defensive case. The right hon. Gentleman used the precedent of the Salmon Bill quite a lot. He had an accusing look in his eye, as if he expected us to look guilty when he was saying, "I am doing something wrong, but you did it first."
§ Mr. Maclay
I think the look which the hon. Gentleman says he saw in my eye was because I was wondering whether the hon. Member remembered about the Salmon Bill when he was proposing to put his reasoned Amendment on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I am no defender of the Salmon Bill. I did not like the Bill. I still do not like it, or the way in which it is interpreted in the courts. Nor do I 232 like the very harsh things which have been done under it. I do not want to see it extended any further. To use what may be a bad past example as the basis of his future conduct does not augur well for the future of the Secretary of State. If he could take some of our nobler Acts and some of our wisest legislation and model his works upon them, there might be some hope that we should get action of a wisdom to which we have not been accustomed in the past and to which we are not being treated at the moment.
There is one point in connection with forfeiture of deer equipment and vehicles which I should like to mention for future reference by the right hon. Gentleman. It is concerned with the forfeiture of boats. Let him be extremely careful about the advice received from another place on this point, because a boat is not a car. It is not a thing which is easily replaced like an old van or lorry. It can be the complete livelihood of a man for the whole of his life, and one single action may result in that man losing his livelihood, may be through the acts of other people and possibly through the unreliable testimony of other people. Possibly, it may be a witness who is interested himself, and possibly actuated by spite or bias, or by any other reason; but it is a very serious thing indeed. The right hon. Gentleman does not speak the same tough language when it comes to the trawlers and the big syndicates sweeping the bays of the Hebrides and destroying the livelihood of scores of small fishermen for years to come. He does not forfeit their big craft. Why is there such discrimination in this matter? I advise the right hon. Gentleman to think about it more carefully, because people in the islands have a much higher regard for the boats than they have for legislation which is so patently unjust and harsh.
When it comes to the question of designating groups of people—two or more—as a gang, this really is an example of a rather serious legal departure. It is so serious a matter in fact, that the Tory majority on the Ross and Cromarty County Council was moved to the defence of the poacher, the ordinary fishermen and crofter against the Tory Government in 1952, when the County Council wrote to me and said:At the last meeting of the County Council, reference was made to the provisions of the Deer Poaching Bill, under which, two persons 233 would constitute a 'gang', it was felt that this provision was contrary to Highland tradition and sentiment.Of course, it is. That was the Ross and Cromarty County Council.
§ Mr. MacMillan
It was 1952; but the penalty still remains. The gang is still "two or more". It is still the crofter and his son or the crofter and his brother or the crofter and his neighbour or any two local people. The worse the right hon. Gentleman paints the characters of the commercial, spiv gangs which come into the Highlands with their lorries and vans, the worse is his libel of the ordinary people when, before the courts, he equates two crofters in their own area with a group of spivs coming out from the city in their commercial lorries and conducting these depredations. The right hon. Gentleman rather unnecessarily went out of his way to paint lurid pictures of these spivs from the city. We agree with him, and we are not arguing about that. But let us stop there. Let the commercial gang be regarded as a gang and be treated accordingly, but do not equate them before British justice with two local people taking a deer from their native hills. That has never been done before and we do not want to do it now.
I want to refer again to the Salmon Act, in case that defensive inspiration returns to the right hon. Gentleman. That Act had a different purpose from this Bill; though I still dislike it. There was a threat that the salmon stocks of our Scottish waters were in danger of such depletion that they might dry up altogether, which would destroy a valuable national asset which sustains an industry and gives a lot of employment. This Bill, on the other hand, deals with a vast forest area of wild creatures, roaming at will and unenclosed, by the too-often irresponsible owners, raiding and marauding the arable and unenclosed land of farmers and crofters throughout the area. It is a very different problem. Too many deer, too few salmon; it is as simple as that.
Secondly, one man can take a salmon but it takes more than one man to take a deer. The minimum in the case of a deer is two. In fact, it is desirable that there should be two people where they 234 are stalking a deer. One man stalking a deer may miss, and in that case the other man can help him to finish off the creature and spare it the cruelty and suffering of wandering wounded and lost in the forest. There is a case for two people or more, rather than one. That is a point which is worth considering.
The poacher, contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman said—and I take him up on this point briefly—cannot afford to be a bad shot. I am referring here to the local poacher, not the man who comes in his lorry "carrying a Sten gun" The poacher cannot afford to be a bad shot, because his first shot is not only his best chance at the deer but is often a signal to both the deer and the gamekeeper. The poacher must be off his mark faster than anyone else. He must be a good shot—and, what is more, he generally is. There are not very many bad shots among them. Indeed, that is the real complaint of the landlord. The complaint is not that the poacher misses. It is that he hits. It is therefore important for the genuine poacher to be a good shot. During discussion of the Salmon Bill hon. Members on all sides of the House were at pains to speak of the "decent poacher" taking a salmon home for the pot. It is equally important for the decent poacher taking a deer home from his native hills that he should be good at his job, speedy and have a reliable friend or friends.
While it is wrong, as I have tried show already, to equate two crofters with two people in a commercial, city gang, it is equally wrong in many ways to equate two men, the minimum, going for a deer with one man, also the minimum, going for a salmon, because physically two are required for the stalking of deer. Two equals one in this case. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look again into this question of a gang. The gang story has gone on for too long.
§ Sir Alexander Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
Does not the hon. Member think it very much easier for one man to get near a deer than for two to get near it? The nearer he gets, the more certain he is to have a kill.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I hesitate to argue publicly with the hon. Member on that point, but I will see him later, behind Mr. Speaker's chair, and give him some tips. In the meantime, as a minimum for a poacher we can say that he must be a 235 good shot, he must be fast and he must have someone near who is a reliable friend and for some means of carrying away something bulky and heavy.
This is not a defence particularly for the native Highlander taking a deer from the hills. He is beyond the need of a defence, because it is his immemorial and traditional right, and I do not think it should be interfered with too much by legislation. We make such solemn asses of ourselves in legislation in trying to stop all sorts of natural behaviour by natural people in their own natural habitat that we are in danger of becoming a laughing stock with an overstocked Statute Book to which nobody pays the least attention most of the time and which, when we do apply it, operates so harshly that it cannot be justified in terms of British justice.
I come next to the question of the single witness, but my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley is much more competent to deal with it than I am. Let me simply say that this question of the gang had better be considered a little more carefully before we reach Committee, because otherwise harsh things will be said at that time, and we do not want too much argument on these matters to get in the way of the general agreement which we have reached about some of the wider purposes of the Bill. While we accept the better Clauses of the Bill, the more constructive and creative parts of it, we should not like to be hampered in getting the Bill through by the retention in it of the objectional features which run contrary to Scottish tradition and the best practice of British justice.
The Bill, however, gives power to smear and prosecute a crofter and his son as a gang if they take a deer in the hills. It gives ferocious powers to fine and gaol decent people engaged in this traditionally accepted practice, which neither the Church nor the laity in the Highlands seriously condemn. It gives powers to search and arrest on the merest suspicion, without even a sheriff's or a justice of the peace's warrant, people believed by one individual to be connected with, or who are likely to be connected in the foreseeable future somehow with, people in a hotel, a café, a restaurant or other public place, or a private house, used in 236 the poaching of deer. On mere suspicion, without warrant or other authorisation, a policeman can arrest a person, and all the processes of the law can come cumbrously into effect and proceed right up to the infliction of the heaviest penalties, upon the testimony of a single witness.
I remember a case in my constituency before the war of a miscarriage of justice which was notorious. It is a well-known case. A young fellow, on his first offence, was sentenced to fourteen days' imprisonment without option for taking a salmon. It was said that he had poached on waters let to the local sheriff, who therefore could not try the case. Another sheriff tried the case in his place, a man who was himself frequently a guest on that river. There was only one witness and he was himself a local gamekeeper, or bailiff. He tried to prove that it was a red-haired man whom he had seen in the dark. That takes a bit of doing. I doubt whether even two witnesses could have proved that very easily.
A play burlesques the identification parade before the trial, when nine or ten red-haired people came along, seven of whom had a limp—like the accused—and the greatest confusion was created. Nevertheless, that man was in fact convicted on that single witness's testimony. That kind of thing could happen over and over again in cases of this kind. Only too often the man who is likely to be the only witness in such a case is the estate's gamekeeper on the spot. Such people are themselves servants of the estates or interested parties or they are people who might well have a grudge against someone in the area.
I was amazed by the defence of that provision made by the Minister of State. He referred to the question of "remoteness" and the difficulty of finding witnesses in remote areas, and gave that as a defence for this travesty of British justice. But is not the accused in the same difficulty? In the remoteness of the deer forest he also has difficulty in getting defence witnesses. Should not the benefit of any doubt still go to him, instead of an anomalous situation of this kind being created, which breaks with all our decent legal traditions and flies in the face of what we have learned to respect as British justice?
237 This provision widens the area of possible conviction of the innocent. As I have said, the witness himself in a remote private area is almost certain to be connected with, or have an interest in, the estate, and therefore in a prosecution. The justification of remoteness cuts both ways, and is as damaging to the accused, and as difficult for him, as it is for the prosecution. There does not seem to be any special reason why the provision should be applied in this area any more than anywhere else, and indeed, even if the offence is committed in an area which is not remote, the provision still obtains. Therefore, for reasons of meeting extreme cases in out of the way areas, we are lo apply a new principle universally. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary will have to answer that point before the matter can be dismissed, and we shall return to it seriously in Committee.
The Ross and Cromarty County Council, which is one of the authorities most involved in the deer forest problem, has condemned this one-witness provision and has said that to provide the evidence of one witness shall be adequate to secure a conviction is "contrary to the British conception of justice." Most people will agree with the county council on that point.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
I would point out to the hon. Member that poaching and other forms of stealing are not unknown in England, also, and that one witness frequently secures a conviction there. There is nothing new in the principle, and there is no reason to suggest that more than one witness is required either in England or Scotland.
§ Mr. MacMillan
The fact remains that at the moment we are dealing with a Scottish Bill, which will have no application outside Scotland if it goes through. I still say that it is contrary to Scottish tradition and practice, and that we, as Scots, object to it and hope that in time the law of England will be brought up to what was the status quo in Scotland before it was damaged by the introduction of the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) should look at the English provisions and see whether they can be improved, instead of trying to bring down Scottish law to the level of English practice.
§ Mr. John Hobson (Warwick and Leamington)
The hon. Member referred to British justice, but throughout his speech he is constantly referring to Scottish justice. English justice has always recognised the validity of testing a single witness.
§ Mr. MacMillan
At the moment I am not concerned with English law or justice, which is based on different foundations and traditions from Scottish law and justice. As the hon. and learned Member knows, we are concerned with Scottish law and a wider British justice as we would like to see them—based upon the best principles of present Scottish law. I hope that that satisfies the hon. and learned Member. A very interesting editorial in my local newspaper refers to the one-witness provision and reminds me that seventy years ago, in 1888, a thousand Lewis crofters descended upon the deer forests of the Island to call national attention to their injustice. They lit great fires by night and roasted scores of venison in the open.
To them, this was not a breach of the law but an attempt to call national attention to the justice of their cause. They were arrested and tried in Edinburgh and, glory be, under Scottish law and justice an Edinburgh jury acquitted them and they were hoisted shoulder high in procession through the streets of Edinburgh, amid shouts from the crowd of, "Down with the tyrants!" That would be a sight to gladden the hearts of the people of Edinburgh today. I can imagine the first victims of a prosecution under this Measure, when it becomes an Act—which I hope it will not as it stands—being hoisted shoulder high in the streets of Inverness and Edinburgh, and the Secretary of State being the target of the crowd's shouts of, "Down with the tyrant." That would be a very heartening thing, and it would probably be very salutary to people with such wicked thoughts as those of the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Maclay
It might interest the hon. Member to know that I met the daughter of one of the individuals to whom he has referred.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I hope that she was charitable enough to shake hands with the right hon. Gentleman and make friends, because all the sinning was on the side of 239 his political predecessors and not the raiders at that time. The editorial to which I have referred says:It is a sobering thought that under the terms of the new Bill a thousand crofters could have been convicted of an offence on the evidence of a single witness, as to identification, and the cumulative fines could have totalled more than 500,000, with 2,000 years' imprisonment thrown in for good measure.That is not an exaggeration; it is an arithmetical interpretation, in terms of money and time, of the courts' reading of the Bill. It shows how absurd the Bill is, and how harsh are the penalties provided under it. It also shows how unwise it is for the right hon. Gentleman to go ahead with that part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Maclay
I have listened without interrupting the hon. Member except on one occasion. I do not accept the extreme form in which he is putting this argument. To some extent the matters which he has raised are Committee points, but I do not accept for one second the interpretation that he is putting on them, and the romantic and exaggerated way in which he is expressing his arguments. He is permitted to do it, of course, but I do not accept it.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's very charitable and patronising licence, and I am glad to have it. I am afraid that I have already presumed a good deal on his toleration by taking his reassurance as read in advance. But all that which he calls my interpretation is provided for in words and figures in the Clauses. Does he tell me that the term of two years and the sum of £500 are not mentioned? Does he deny it? I am sure that he is ashamed of it, and is trying to wriggle out of it; but it is provided in the Bill. If it is not going to be used why should it be put in, when there are many more important matters upon which we should be legislating?
The right hon. Gentleman quoted the Scotsman as disapproving of the attitude of some hon. Members on this side of the House towards the Bill. I want to speak upon the agricultural aspect of the matter, because it is most important. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the Scotsman article, which appeared on 14th November, written by its agricultural correspondent, Mr. Urquhart—a very competent and 240 respected correspondent on his subject—he will see that Mr. Urquhart says:…there are more deer in Scotland now than ever before, and the menace to the hill sheep and cattle stocks and to the crops is growing every season.Just a few days ago Captain J. B. Coutts of Gaskbeg, Laggan, went out on the lower slopes of his hill farm on Speyside. The snow is lying white along the top, and on the lower ground he found about 80 deer grazing …'and there goes the wintering for 100 ewes.'That is bad enough, but it is what they are doing in the arable land at the bottom of the valley which is even worse. He had ten acres of lovely grass—grown at some cost in management and fertiliser—until over the river one night came a big herd of deer and then there was no grass, and he lost many tons of silage which would have been a valuable aid in taking his stock through the winter.A farmer not very far away in the same valley had a field of oats from which he never harvested a stalk of straw or an ear of the corn. The deer got there first in August. They are so numerous now that it is not just in the winter that they come to wreak damage on the hill and lower farms in the Highlands…The biggest menace is that so many more deer are every year getting a taste for the arable crops, so that they return more and more frequently on their raiding sorties.That is only one example, but it is relevant, and it may be multiplied from correspondence and from the experience of people all over the Highlands.
§ Mr. Neil McLean (Inverness)
The hon. Member has referred to Captain Coutts and what he said about deer on his land. It may interest the hon. Member to know that in public Captain Coutts has strongly supported the Bill and has put a good deal of pressure on me and on the Government to get on with the introduction of the Bill as soon as possible.
§ Mr. MacMillan
Of course that could well be. I myself seconded a Motion asking for legislation along certain lines.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I doubt very much whether he supports every part of the Bill as being completely sufficient to protect him against marauding herds of red deer. I should like to see a statement from Captain Coutts saying that he is satisfied that all the provisions in this Bill will protect his enclosed arable and pasture land against the marauding deer. I can support parts of the Bill as we all can, but on those particular points on 241 agricultural damage I doubt whether many farmers in Scotland would say that they are satisfied with the provisions the Bill contains.
One point was hardly mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman but it is extremely important and is mentioned by the signatories to the Minority Report. It is the fact that the red deer are carriers of disease and they are highly mobile carriers. They are prone to foot-and-mouth disease and red water and various other diseases. Being wild creatures, they cannot be inoculated like domestic animals and they are so mobile that it is almost impossible to keep track of them. They are disease carriers and as their numbers increase, and their depradations, that is a fact which must be most carefully taken into account.
Small farmers and crofters are not satisfied with the provisions contained in this Bill. Hon. Members on this side of the House have received telegrams and other communications on the subject. I have received representations from many quarters in the Highlands as well as from my own constituency. All those who have communicated with me are critical of the failure to permit crofters and farmers to take effective action against the marauding deer whose activities take place more during the night than during the time when one is permitted to shoot them and to take other action against them. More protection for growing crops and enclosed land and pastures is necessary if the farmers and crofters are to be satisfied. To say that the deer forests are almost entirely high ground and not used for other purposes is not true.
As long ago as 1883 the Napier Commission was in doubt about this in connection with some deer forests. In 1922 the Committee on Deer Lands said that the greater area of the deer forests had grownout of better class land and the older forests embraced large tracts of first-class summer grazing from which the sheep stock had been removed.That is also the view of many authoritative people in agriculture.
Another point regarding the agricultural side of the problem has not been mentioned by the Secretary of State. Both the minority and majority reports emphasise the importance of an ad hoc committee to frame a code of rules for 242 the good management of deer stocks. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman said nothing about that. We should like to hear whether it is rejected or accepted. I regret that, while we agree with parts of this Bill, we cannot give it the support which the right hon. Gentleman in his speech today has failed to deserve of us. I am sorry that this Bill represents a piece of characteristic class legislation. While the Secretary of State has found time for this Measure today and will be seeking time to discuss it in its Committee stage in the future, he has not found time to introduce something more fundamentally useful which would assist the real, living working Highlander, rather than what is in effect the most useless social caste in our community. The owners of the deer forests themselves have shown, by the magnitude of the problem which they have left for us to solve today, that there must be better ways of dealing with the deer forests and the deer than leaving them in the hands of the present owners.
If the right hon. Gentleman had introduced legislation to stop the depopulation of the Highlands and to reduce the dire waste of fine human material and to support the repopulation of the Highlands and Islands, instead of permitting their neglect and further depopulation, we would have supported almost any Measure which he might have brought in. But instead he has pursued the old Tory course which the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) once described as support of the "landlord against the tenant and the master against the man." Now we might add "the deer forest owner against the agriculturist and crofter and the ordinary Highlander taking a deer from the hill."
I hope that during the Committee stage discussions the right hon. Gentleman will take note of these genuine apprehensions and doubts which are held by hon. Members on this side of the House. They are not just clever debating points. The right hon. Gentleman commenced his speech as if he thought that was all he would hear from us. But these are serious things which are exercising the minds of people in Scotland, particularly in the Highlands. I am talking from the Highlands or consumer point of view—if hon. Members wish to put it that way. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider that point of view more seriously.
243 May I, finally, repeat what was said many years ago by the Rev. Roderick Morison, then a Minister in the Ross-shire Parish of Kintail, which is right in the heart of the deer forests. He said:If a remedy is ever found for this deer forest problem, it will probably be a very heroic one such as is needed for an evil so deep seated.For the rest of the quotation I commend the right hon. Gentleman to page 438 of the Report of the Napier Commission where there is a letter in the Appendix from the Rev. Roderick Morison. He ends his letter by saying:It may, I think, be boldly said that all rights, customs, monopolies and privileges that tend to the manifest injury of a country and its inhabitants must and ought to—and eventually shall—fall before the increasing intelligence and advancing power of the people.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Sir James Henderson-Stewart (Fife, East)
We should all like to congratulate the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) on having reached the Opposition Front Bench, if only temporarily. The hon. Member looks very comfortable there—he is almost made to measure for the seat. I hope that he will appear in that position more frequently in the future. We should also thank the hon. Member for the good humour with which he presented his case. He might very well have presented it in an altogether different way. My main difficulty about his speech is that it seemed to me only indirectly concerned with the Bill and had little to do with the Amendment. The matters to which the hon. Member drew attention were, in my opinion, all Committee points. Time and again he told us that, by and large and in the main, there was no disagreement at all.
I noted some of the matters to which he paid particular attention, and there was not one which could not properly be examined during the Committee stage discussions. The hon. Member does not, apparently, object to the local laird or landlord. He objects to the "imported types." That is what he said. When he talked about the "imported types", he meant not only imported sportsmen but imported gangs; that was how his 244 mind was running. He did not object at all to the local laird and the local poacher. He wanted a different dispensation for those people. There is something to be said for that, and I have a warm feeling for the views of the hon. Member in that respect. But if that is all that is between us, it does not justify the Amendment or anything like it.
In building up a case for conservation, he wants an overall plan for the deer population. Of course, we shall ultimately get an overall plan for the deer population. That is as certain as anything can be. Once the Deer Commission gets going and operating over a number of years, stage by stage, area by area, gradually control will be exercised. There will be a proper register of numbers of deer and I can see reasonable, humane, sensible plans being made. I do not think there is disagreement there either. But the hon. Member cannot reasonably be asking for all this to be done at once.
In this Bill an opportunity is given to start this big operation, an operation which the hon. Member himself is asking to be carried through. Even when he came to the penalties that troubled him so much, do we differ on that? I doubt very much whether the hon. Gentleman would disagree that the Scottish sheriff, having an ordinary case before him, would not consider all the evidence, the credibility of the witnesses and all the other surrounding circumstances, and it is very unlikely in this present day that injustice will be done in cases of this kind. I think that the hon. Gentleman was making far too much of a relatively small point.
I feel that all the time he is concerned only with his own narrow, parochial problems and not with the broad view which he himself ought to take. I find it very difficult to understand the motives of the Opposition. There seems to be very little harmony or arrangement between the Opposition in the two Houses in this Parliament.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
The hon. Gentleman makes very fair points and puts them in a moderate and good humoured way. Would he apply the same principle of the single witness to cases other than poachers? Would he apply it to the whole of Scottish law and justice?
§ Sir J. Henderson-Stewart
I would say that the particular circumstances surrounding this problem are not unlike those surrounding the legislation relating to salmon. It appears to me that exceptional measures are required, and I should have thought that if those exceptional measures were applied we would be able to rely upon the good sense of the Scottish sheriff in examining matters of this kind.
I was about to refer, in the few minutes that I shall occupy the House, to the interesting fact that the Labour Party does not seem at all united about this matter. In the other place, when two noble Lords spoke officially for the Opposition, they did not take this view at all. Lord Greenhill said:Speaking, if I dare, for my noble friend Lord Mathers, as well as for myself, I should like to say that we do not regard this Bill as raising a controversial issue, and we hope, therefore, that, with the necessary modifications to detail which may be necessary when the Bill goes through its Committee stage, we shall have it on the Statute Book without any undue delay."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 18th July, 1958; Vol. 212, c. 592.]That was a reasonable view to take. What has happened to change the views of the Labour Party in that regard?
§ Mr. Rankin
The statement which the hon. Member has read out says that Lord Greenhill spoke for himself and Lord Mathers—two people. Does he regard that as speaking for the whole Labour Party?
§ Sir J. Henderson-Stewart
When the two members of the Labour Party spoke, no other members of the Labour Party intervened and presumably, therefore, they spoke with the authority of the Labour Party.
§ Sir J. Henderson-Stewart
Of course they were divided. I am only suggesting that in this fundamental matter members of the other place thought that this was a Bill which could be properly passed after amendment in Committee. Now the Labour Party are condemning the whole provision. Here is a proposal from the Labour PartyThat this House … declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill …I wonder if the party opposite really know what they are doing in declining 246 to give a Second Reading to this Bill. What is it that we are aiming at? I would ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider this Bill from a single point of view—that of the public interest. That is what really matters. What is the public interest in this matter. I would mention three items which, I think, are of public interest in particular.
First, there is the interest of agriculture and forestry and of the people who make a living from them. Does anyone deny that this Bill, however it should be amended in Committee, does not make a profound step forward in regard to preserving the crops and forestry of the Highlands? Of course it does. Everyone recognises that. The hon. Member said so, and if he thinks that something more should be done, I am prepared to listen. Here is a Measure which proposes drastic steps to prevent the marauding dealer, and yet the party opposite oppose it.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
The hon. Gentleman cannot make statements as unrealistic as that and attribute them to me. I did not say the Bill would go a long way towards protecting crops and farmers. I said no such thing. The Bill does nothing of the kind. It sets up a Commission which will be burdened with the expense of doing what the landlords have failed to do, that is, to fence off their deer from the arable land.
§ Sir J. Henderson-Stewart
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest putting deer fences around the 3 million acres of deer land? He is talking absolute nonsense.
The truth is that when hon. Members sit down in Committee to examine this Bill, I am quite sure we shall be very close to each other and that we shall together produce no doubt a better Bill which has the primary public interest of preserving agriculture and forestry and of doing something which we all support.
What is the second public interest? Surely it is that we should take vigorous steps, without further delay, to stop the abominable cruelty that is going on. We have all had letters, some appalling letters, about it. I started a campaign on this matter five or six years ago. As some of my hon. Friends in the House may well remember, there was quite a 247 campaign. There were letters, articles and pictures. That was a long time ago, and I have been interested in this matter ever since. The truth is that public opinion is roused in this matter and we must take steps. No one will say that the steps proposed in this Bill are not substantial. If the hon. Gentleman wants to do something different—all right. Let him give us his advice; but to propose, as he does, to vote against this Bill with these measures in it seems to me beyond reason.
The third public interest which I wish to mention is the preservation of the deer themselves. It is not unimportant that we should do something to preserve the noblest wild animal in our Scottish Highlands. Unless we do something sensible, and reasonably soon, they may be exterminated. The community will not be able to tolerate these vast herds of deer, and something will have to be done. That is terribly important.
I must make one appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite. There was a Small Farmers Bill the other day, on which the Government, after criticism by the Opposition and from this side of the House also, gave way and made concessions. I think that was quite right. I compliment my right hon. Friends for having bowed to the criticism and made changes in the Bill. Why cannot the Opposition do the same now, and bow to the criticism that will be brought upon them for opposing this Measure? Hon. Gentlemen opposite have an opportunity to do today what they said the other day the Government should do, and which the Government properly did.
This is not a very important Measure, but a small Bill which touches the hearts of a great many Scottish people. I was moved by the references of the hon. Member for the Western Isles in the opening part of his speech to the historical and emotional sides of this matter. I share those views. The Bill is small, but it is something to which we all ought to agree, and I am glad to support it.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I am sure the House is glad to see the hon. Baronet the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart) back in his place after what must have been a long 248 and painful illness. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I quite understand the spirit in which he approaches this problem, but the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) showed that there is a very different point of view from that which was expressed in another place. His speech had about it the tang of the heather and the breath of the sea. It was made from the point of view of a man who has to live in the glens and not merely happens to be a millionaire or a landed proprietor who owns them. I can also understand that there was a great deal of surprise among Government supporters that this opinion exists. There is a very strong and instinctive feeling among the people of the Islands and Highlands against the regimé of the landlord.
I cordially welcome not only the matter which my hon. Friend brought into his speech, and what I believe were unanswerable arguments, but the spirit expressed. When Government supporters go back to their constituencies they will find that the crofter and the ordinary man in the Highlands is not so enthusiastic about the Bill as the lairds and agents of the landed proprietors are. I join in regret, as one who sat patiently through the last two Bills dealing with agriculture in Scotland, that time should have been taken for this Bill, which is completely irrelevant to what Scottish farmers want, which is a long-term, constructive programme for Scottish agriculture. This is a long-term programme for the perpetuation of deer and of alien landlordism.
I confess to an interest in this subject; I am part-owner of a deer forest. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you will understand my remark better than most Government supporters. I am thinking of the Isle of Arran which you have represented for so long in this honourable House. I notice that the National Trust has now acquired part of the Isle of Arran, including the deer, and as I am a member of the public who support the National Trust I am part-owner of those deer. My interest is also that of the hiker. If sporting interests are to be represented on the Commission, I do not see why the hiker is not allowed to be represented also. For the past thirty years I have climbed the hills on the Isle of Arran and 249 have seen the deer on the hillside, and great pleasure it has given me indeed.
I join with everybody who has spoken about the brutal cruelty of poachers, as The Times talked today. If we are to face this problem of cruelty we have to deal with the cruel sportsman. On the Isle of Arran, in quite a remote spot where the deer are usually found along the roadside, near Machrie, on the west coast of the island, are a monument and a cairn erected to commemorate the fact that it was there that King Edward VII shot his deer. There are still inhabitants in the Western part of the island who remember what a tremendous interest that event aroused in the island. They talk about it yet, as do the people around Pirnmill, Machrie and Blackwaterfoot.
I am informed that a very large section of people from this sparsely populated district was brought together to co-operate in bringing down the stag for King Edward VII. The cairn is there and I have thrown a stone on it myself, not at it. Although King Edward VII had his virtues, the story is that he was not a very good deer shot. The people thought it was absolutely essential that, on this occasion of King Edward's visit to Arran, he should shoot a deer. After a great deal of trouble they carefully surrounded one stag and drove it down to the road, where it was shot in the legs by a deerstalker. It was brought right up to King Edward's rifle where he could not possibly miss. Then he shot the deer. When the Secretary of State for Scotland tells us that everybody who goes out deershooting and stagshooting is an expert killer and shooter, he is asking us to believe too much.
How are the people who shoot deer chosen? Suppose one of these estates were advertised in the columns on the back pages of The Times. Suppose the estate belonged to the Earl of X. Along come two letters to the Earl of X, or to his legal representative. The first letter says, "I am a poor, impoverished deer shooter. I won the marksmanship prize at Bisley in 1946. I am prepared to pay £50 a year for the shooting rights on this estate." Suppose by the same post a letter arrives from a person who writes, "I wish to have the shooting rights for this deer forest and I will pay £500 a year," or "My client will pay £500 a year because he happens 250 to be a prosperous millionaire and has made a fortune out of patent medicines."
Who do hon. Members think would get the shooting, the marksman or the millionaire? I suggest that it is absolute hypocrisy to talk about the people who hunt deer being chosen because of their capacity as shots. They are chosen purely because they happen to have the money and can pay the rent for the estate.
As one who objects to wanton cruelty of any kind, I want certain Amendments made to the Bill. I hope the noble Lord the Joint Under-Secretary will show some approval of them. I suggest that before anyone is allowed to shoot deer he should have to obtain a special licence, something like a licence to drive a motor car. No one but a good marksman, who can show that he can shoot a deer at 100 yards or so, should be allowed to have a gun licence. Would the Government accept that? Of course they would not.
I submit that the argument about wanton cruelty can be tested on the assumption that what the Government are doing under the pretext of saying that they want less cruelty to deer and to preserve deer is to strengthen vested interests of landlords in the North of Scotland. They know quite well that, if the Bill goes through, the position of the landlords will be strengthened and the rents and prices of deer forests will go up. Just as the Government have strengthened the position of vested interests in slum property, urban and agricultural property, they are giving opportunities to great Highland lairds and the interests they represent.
I sympathise very greatly with the point of view, which shocked the Secretary of State for Scotland, of the traditional right in the Highlands of the crofter to get a deer from the hillside. After all, has he not just as much a right to it as Viscount Astor? I read in the reports of debates in another place of a noble Lord who shot 100 stags in one year, and boasted about it. A lot of what was said in the debates in the House of Lords consisted of reminiscences of amateur butchers. I see no reason to object to the ethics and morality of the crofter, whose ancestors have lived in these areas for hundreds of years and who has as much right there as the wealthy stockbroker, who goes to 251 those areas, not because he wants to thin down the deer population, but because it happens to be a fashionable sport in that area.
§ Mr. Burden
If that applies in this case, did not it apply equally in the Bill dealing with salmon poaching?
§ Mr. Hughes
I was not an enthusiastic supporter of the Salmon (Protection) Bill. I was strongly critical of it. If the hon. Member cares to refresh his memory, he will find that I used very much the same arguments when that Bill was before the House. It has not been an unqualified success, although it certainly has been a success for Lord Lovat.
§ Mr. John Hobson
Surely the first prosecution under that Act was in respect of rivers belonging to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)?
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. John Hobson) may be arguing that I am my brother's keeper and that that embraces everything done by an hon. Member in this House. I remember the case quoted by the hon. and learned Member. I remember the Carradale poisoning case, in which the prosecution was not taken up by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)—who was here at the time—but by the police. I can assure the hon. Member that my hon. and learned Friend did everything possible to get clemency in that case. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes. I wish everyone in the Highlands had the outlook of my hon. and learned Friend and of his wife, who plays such a useful part in the Argyllshire countryside.
If one can get £150,000 compensation for the acquiring of salmon rights when the North of Scotland Electricity Board makes a proposal for harnessing another river or loch, will Lord Lovat come along, not only with salmon, but with deer rights? I do not know whether it is the Marxian theory of value or not, but if the argument is that deer are more valuable than salmon it looks as if there will be very big bills for compensation once this Measure is on the Statute Book.
252 I do not believe that individuals should be in the position of owning highlands or islands or enormous tracts of countryside in the North of Scotland. I see no reason at all why the new type of millionaire should have the right to exploit the countryside any more than the old-fashioned feudal aristocracy had the right. One of the arguments has been that they are too poor even to be able to erect fences, and they imposed on the Government an Amendment saying that if the Commission tells a landlord that in order to protect a crofter or farmer he must put up fencing, the Commission cannot compulsorily order the landlord to do so. They said they could not afford to pay for fencing at 17s. 6d. or even £1 a yard, as was suggested in Committee. The landlords' vested interest in the House of Lords imposed the Amendment on the Government.
If hon. Members are so keen about comparison with salmon, why did the Government reject the idea that if to a certain extent the proprietor should be charged rates on his salmon fishing, the Highland laird should be charged rates on his deer forests? Although we want to abolish cruelty to every living wild thing, that does not extend to safeguarding and buttressing the privilege of the feudal landlord or the newly rich landlord who has acquired a taste for this kind of organised murder.
We have heard talk about gangs. When does a gang became a gang? If people are dressed in respectable clothes and have their photographs in the newspaper on 12th August and other dates which are famous in the sporting calendar, they may be known as "society", but if they do so under less respectable auspices—sort of naturally—they become a gang. I see absolutely no difference in the cruelty of a gang and the cruelty of the organised vested interest which takes up shooting just because it happens to be the fashionable idea at the moment.
I hope that in Committee we shall be able to alter the Bill so that it will represent the social opinion of the Highlands and not the opinion of a coterie of wealthy vested interests. I have heard a good deal about the close season and I read the long and elaborate arguments in another place about the close season. I wish there had been a close season in the other place, and I should like it to be a very long close season.
253 Hon. Members opposite think that they can push the Bill on to the Statute Book on the devious excuses which have been given and can once more do something to help their rich friends, under the guise of humanity. This is not a human Bill at all, if it were meant as a human Bill it would put all the deer forests under the control of a public authority which could afford to do the job properly. Until we do that we have no right to put on the Statute Book a Bill which will not solve the problem either for the farmer or for the deer, but will have considerable advantages for the landed proprietors.
Is this part of the long-term programme for agriculture which we have been promised for so long? Of course it is not. It is another sop to placate vested interests. For those reasons I shall support the Amendment.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray (Berwick and East Lothian)
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and his hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) went a long way in their speeches to justify the feeling on this side of the House that the reasoned Amendment which the Labour Party have put down has drawn many red herrings across the debate. I should therefore like to state the principal purposes of the Bill, as I see them.
It has surely two main aims—first, the conservation of red deer in Scotland and, secondly, the control of red deer in the interests of agriculture. Bearing in mind these two main purposes, I am bound to say that it seemed to me that nearly all the arguments which we heard adduced in the two speeches from the other side of the House were arguments for the Committee stage of the Bill and not for Second Reading. I do not think they were sufficient to justify anybody in voting against the conservation of deer or to justify anybody in voting against protecting the agricultural interests from the depredations of deer. That is a point of view which will be held not only in Scotland but in England, too, and not only by English hon. Members but, if the leading article in The Times this morning is any indication, by a great majority of those who have thought about this subject.
254 If I may come to the question of conservation first, I welcome the introduction of a close season. I also welcome the dates which have been chosen for the close season. If deer had been in short supply I personally should have thought that 1st August was a better date than 1st July to start killing stags, but as there are plenty of deer and it is quite possible to get a good fat beast for the pot before 1st August, although it may be in velvet, I make no complaints about the choice of 1st July. After all, tourists come to the Highlands then, and a piece of venison can be very helpful in providing attractive food for them.
Nor do I complain about the Amendment which was carried in another place to introduce this close season in 1961 instead of 1962 I very much hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will not seek to reintroduce the date 1962. When the Bill was first considered last year it came to me as a shock that we were talking in 1958 of the introduction of a close season not next year, which would have been 1959, and not the year after next, which would have been 1960, and not even the year after that, which would have been 1961. We were talking about 1962—the year after the year after the year after 1958. That is much too dilatory, and I hope that the Government will leave the date as it is in the Bill.
The next point about conservation concerns poaching. I feel that in this case there are many more than the usual arguments against poaching. I regard the usual arguments against poaching as quite sound, but I appreciate that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire and the hon. Member for the Western Isles have peculiar views on the rights and wrongs of poaching. Nevertheless, we must all be opposed to the poaching of deer and to the horrible cruelty perpetrated by people shooting them at night with sten guns and tommy guns in the light of car headlights—shooting indiscriminately into a herd of stags, hinds and calves, wounding a great many of them, not stopping to follow up the wounded but just collecting what they can, bundling them into a lorry and taking them to sell as best they can.
§ Mr. D. Johnston
The hon. and gallant Member has referred to shooting by sten guns and tommy guns. What 255 evidence has he to which he himself could speak, of the use of sten guns or tommy guns?
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
I am not here to be cross-examined, as if in the courts, by the hon. and learned Member. I have no personal evidence of this. I myself have not seen a poacher using a sten gun or a tommy gun, nor have I myself seen a poacher using a rifle at night, but it is common knowledge that a great deal of poaching goes on.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
It has been published in all the papers. Many people will testify to the cruelty of these gangs. Hon. Members can read in the newspapers of cases in which deer, maimed and wounded as a result of one of these gang raids, have been picked up on the following day. It is common knowledge. The hon. and learned Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston), who is a member of the Bar, should surely have respect for law and order. It is common knowledge that this type of lawlessness is a disgrace to parts of the Highlands and that it is dangerous for proprietors and their gamekeepers to seek to interfere with same of these gangs for fear of being personally molested.
§ Mr. D. Johnston
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has attacked me for something I did not say or suggest. I entirely agree that it is deplorable that the slaughter of which he has spoken should take place. I merely asked whether he had any evidence that sten guns and tommy guns were used. I asked because I have been trying, by various inquiries I have made in the Highlands, to substantiate the stories which have been put out by the less reputable Press that this is occurring. I have been unable to discover evidence, and I am sure that the Lord Advocate has been unable to discover any such evidence, otherwise he would have instigated the necessary prosecutions.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
If the hon. and learned Gentleman would read the Scott Henderson Report he would find mention made of it there. I adhere to what I said. I am sorry that my hon. Friend 256 the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart), who is my own representative in the House, is not still in his place, because when he was working up the campaign, six or seven years ago, he produced many instances which justify what I have said.
Let me turn not to details or to Committee points which could be dealt with in Committee but to the main principles of the Bill. The main principles are, first, the conservation of deer and, secondly, control of deer in the interests of agriculture. Here we require to be very conscious of the fact that different people may have different ideas of what is desirable, and I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend will take note of that. Of course, everyone wants to prevent a herd of deer from raiding a farmers' crop, but it is not everyone who wants ground that hitherto has always carried both sheep and deer, and which is let at its present rent to a sheep farmer on the assumption that that will continue, to become part of some wide area clearance scheme and all the deer exterminated. Some may be in favour of that, but some certainly are not.
This extermination of deer would often be of surprisingly little benefit, if of any benefit at all, to the sheep stock concerned, but it might be very considerably to the detriment of a landlord who may be compelled, for financial considerations, to let his ground as a rough shoot—the term "rough shoot" was used earlier in the debate. When letting ground as a rough shoot, a dozen, or even half-a-dozen stags—or even the chance of an odd stag or two—may be a very relevant factor in whether or not the ground is let; and whether or not the land is let may decide whether that estate can afford to employ a full-time gamekeeper. There is, therefore, also an element of employment in this.
Not everybody has the same idea as to what the overall number of deer should be; that is to say, what the overall surplus requiring to be killed should be. The Secretary of State has not committed himself to this. The hon. Member for the Western Isles mentioned it. I will not mention any names—no names, no packdrill—but it is the fact that a figure of 30,000 deer to be killed has been mentioned more than once in St. Andrew's House—
§ Mr. Rankin rose—
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
No, it is trivial.
I believe that that figure is based on the assumption that the total deer population is about 100,000. We have not yet been given the exact figure. Although the Nature Conservancy has been counting the deer for three years, it still has not given the answer. It should be realised that if 30,000 deer are to fall as victims of this legislation it may be rather more than we should contemplate with equanimity.
I am fairly content that the Deer Commission will put this matter on a proper basis, but it would be less than honest of me to say that I do not see a risk of the Commission becoming too strongly anti-deer in bias. I say that, not really as a criticism of the Commission but in order to confound the argument of hon. Members opposite, who have suggested that the Commission is to be the lackey of the landlords and the sportsmen.
The facts are quite different. On the Commission there will be three representatives of farmers and crofters. Broadly speaking, they will be anti-deer. There are to be two representatives of the hill sheep farmers. They, also, broadly speaking, will be anti-deer. That makes five anti-deer members. Against this, we have, at once, two representatives of sporting interests. They, undoubtedly, will be completely pro-deer. There are also to be three representatives of those described as… owners of land used for agriculture or forestry.The House would be making a great mistake if it assumed that the representatives of those owning land used for forestry will necessarily be on the side of the deer, because, in many cases, forestry owners are extremely hostile to deer. There is, therefore, no certainty that those three representatives of land and forestry interests will, in fact, be on the side of the deer. Otherwise, there would be five representatives against five.
258 Here, however, we come to the important position held in this balance by the two representatives from the Nature Conservancy. You and I, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and people in general, might think that the representatives of the Nature Conservancy would invariably take the side of the deer, but I am not at all sure that they will do so. I think that we have evidence to show that they believe in very drastic reductions in the numbers of deer.
My own belief is that they carry their theory too far. They seem to believe that a few enormous deer are better than a lot of normal-sized ones, but, from the point of view of the forest owner who has to pay a stalker's wages, I can assure the House that it is much more helpful to have forty carcases to sell than thirty. The fact that there is a few pounds difference in weight is hardly relevant.
Perhaps I may be permitted to quote evidence for saying that I do not think that the Nature Conservancy representatives can be counted on to be on the side of the deer. I think that the experience we have had of the Nature Conservancy's administration of the Island of Rhum gives one ground for saying that the Conservancy's idea of an optimum stock may be much too low, and, in support, I should like to quote from page 18 of the Nature Conservancy's Report of 30th September, 1958—the up-to-date Report.
Speaking of the Island of Rhum which, as the House will know, the Conservancy bought in 1957, the Report says:… that deer numbers are excessive is entirely in accord with the Conservancy's own assessment of the position, for it has been their intention ever since they acquired the island to reduce the deer population very considerably … During the 1957–58 season the Conservancy had perforce, because of limitations of staff … to fix its take-off from the herd at approximately the same number of animals as had been removed annually in recent seasons by the previous owner, the figures being 39 stags and 40 hinds … the target for 1958–59 has been set at 100 stags and 140 hinds …and the Report goes on to say:This enhanced cull may need to be further increased in later years …I happen to have known Rhum in days gone by. Before the war, the forest was kept on very careful and up-to-date lines, and then it was found that about 60 stags were plenty to kill every year, as opposed 259 to the Conservancy's contemplated 100 this year, with a foreshadowed figure of more than that next year. It is hard to convince oneself that the Nature Conservancy is on the right lines in seeking so greatly to reduce the deer stock either in Rhum or, if it follows that policy consistently, in the whole of Scotland.
In Rhum, it is not to make room for sheep that the Conservancy has reduced the number of deer. On the contrary, it has banished all the sheep from the island. Nor is it to make room for cattle—it has banished cattle, too. It is, partly at least, because it is their policy enormously to reduce the stock of deer on ground eminently suitable for the keeping of deer.
For that reason, I am nervous of the preponderating influence of the two members of the Nature Conservancy on the Commission, which I feel may tend to be weighted unduly against a deer population of what I believe to be an optimum number. If that is true of the Commission itself, how much truer may it be of the small area panels that are envisaged? An area panel must consist of at least three members. One of the three is to represent the landed interest and another is to represent the farming interest. Who is the third to be? The third, who may well become the chairman of the panel, is to be drawn from the Nature Conservancy, and there may again be the grave risk of deer being over killed in places which without detriment could carry a much higher stock.
Having entered that one caveat, of which I am sure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will take note—he has been good enough to listen to my speech up to now—I should like to close by welcoming the Bill wholeheartedly. At least we are to get a close season for deer. It has been a scandal—
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
The hon. and gallant Member made an attack upon the police of Scotland when he said that marauders are going about the Highlands with sten guns and other guns. Did he make any inquiries from the police before he made those grave allegations in the House? If not, what inquiries did he make?
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
I gather that there was a meeting of the chief con- 260 stables of the Highland counties of Scotland, where it was accepted that firearms were being used in many cases, and it was largely based upon that that the present Bill has been drawn up to deal with the poacher problem in the manner—
§ Mr. Hughes rose—
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
I will give way no more. Many other hon. Members wish to speak. including, no doubt, the hon. and learned Member.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
Order. I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman is rather overstepping the mark.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
I think that I shall meet the wishes of the House if I bring my speech to a conclusion without further delay. The hon. and learned Gentleman made his interruption. I gave way to him and gave him a reply. He has every opportunity to speak if he is fortunate enough to catch the eye of Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
I propose to conclude my speech with these words. I was saying that I welcome the Bill for two main reasons. First, it takes steps to bring about a close season. It was a scandal not to have a close season for this most precious of mammals. Secondly, it takes a real step to protect farming interests against the depredations of deer, which in the past have so often given cause for local friction. I compliment my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State unreservedly for having the courage to introduce this Measure.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I thank you very much, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for calling me so promptly while this matter is fresh in the minds of hon. Members. I merely want to make one point.
The speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray) was based 261 upon the allegation that people are going about the Highlands armed with Sten guns. The hon. Member has not seen fit to give one instance or one name. He was asked to give an instance by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston), but he did not do so. Time elapsed and the hon. and gallant Member had time to think of a name. I then put a question to him and it is within the recollection of the House that his answer was, "It is well known; it is in the papers."
I submit that it is improper for any hon. Member to come to this House and make an allegation against the Scottish police—because that is what it amounts to—without substantiating it by giving a single name. I hope that the House will not accept an argument which was built upon that anonymous allegation—I will not call it a fact—and that it will repudiate the whole line of thought inherent in the hon. and gallant Member's speech.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morrison (Salisbury)
I welcome the opportunity of saying a few words. I have not taken up a great deal of the time of the House during this Parliament. I must also say that it is the first time that I have ventured to say anything on a Bill which concerns Scotland only.
It would be right that I should declare that I have interests as a farmer and proprietor in Scotland, and I am also, with the possible exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. M. Noble), the only hon. Member who is a member of all the various bodies referred to by the Secretary of State and mentioned in the Bill, including a member of a Scottish J.P. court.
Following the remark of the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), may I say that I have always found the police more than efficient and helpful in the execution of their duties.
I welcome the Bill in general and I find myself in considerable agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray). I do not want to take up a great deal of time on Parts IV and V, which, no doubt, concern matters of detail of enforcement and procedure and supplementary points which 262 can be dealt with at later stages of the Bill.
As one who knows the Islands, I should have liked to follow the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) in his rollicking speech. At one time I felt that I was on one of Messrs. MacBrayne's boats, plying between the Islands. About thirty or forty years ago my late father, who sat in this House, had an interchange of words on the same subject with the father of the present Secretary of State. That is just a matter of family history. No doubt some of the points which were then raised could be repated, but they would be out of order on this Bill.
Part III of the Bill deals with the prevention of illegal taking and killing of deer, and I should like to heartily congratulate the Secretary of State and the Government in getting to grips with this unpleasant problem. No one who has read the newspapers in Scotland during recent times has any doubt that a great deal of cruelty has taken place in the slaughter of deer from motor cars and the like, particularly so in the north and north-east and possibly the north-west parts of Scotland. I think it would be fair to say that those remarks do not apply to the Islands of the West, which I know, and I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll will bear me out. I can remember very few cases of poaching of deer, and it would be wrong to make out that the population were doing things which they should not do in that part of the country.
I am glad that at long last the red deer, the biggest animal in Scotland and, indeed, in Britain, which has so much appeal, has been given a close season, under Part II of the Bill, together with powers to incorporate other species of deer where necessary at different times, no doubt after consultation, as different places and different circumstances may be found to be necessary.
The economy of Scotland, particularly in the rural areas of the Highlands, depends primarily on agriculture, fisheries and forestry and to a great extent, also, not only on the growing tourist trade, but on the sporting attractions, in which the red deer, and other deer, play their part.
I should like to refer in a little more detail to Part I of the Bill. The hon. Member for the Western Isles gave me the 263 impression from his speech that he did not regard the Bill as comparable with the Act which deals with salmon poaching. I see little difference when it is a matter of protecting the fauna, whether of fish or of animal. With the hon. and learned Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston), I have had the experience, which not all hon. Members have had, of serving for two years on the Franks Committee, during which time we never had any disagreement fundamentally on the matters contained in the Franks Report. That Report was adopted by the Government to the extent of 97 or 98 per cent. and we were gratified at that. It brings to light, however, one or two points concerning the composition of the Red Deer Commission.
The Commission will have total powers over the ancient rights of the individual proprietor and others and careful watching will be necessary. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian referred to the appointment of panels. These can comprise three persons, two with possibly differing points of view and one with an unknown viewpoint. I would like to feel that there was more right of appeal against the decision of these panels than appears to be the case. It appears that they will have very strong powers.
Neither is there provision in the Bill for a formal procedure concerning these small panels. Some hon. Members may regard this as unnecessary, but the hon. and learned Member for Paisley will, I think, agree that the Franks Committee found that with practically any form of body which possessed total rights to judge people it was necessary to have some form of procedure to ensure that the rights of the individuals had a fair chance of being discussed.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is to have a form of general power to give directions when he chooses to intervene. In his opening remarks today, however, my right hon. Friend gave the impression that except in exceptional circumstances, he would not be prepared to use these powers. I rather hope that he will reconsider this and that at a later stage of the Bill it might be possible to incorporate an individual right of direction, rather than 264 merely a general right, to be used if necessary.
I hope that Clause 7, which relates to control schemes, will not mean the wholesale slaughter of deer throughout Scotland. No doubt, some places have too many deer and they should be dealt with, but those who know the work of the wartime agricultural committees will remember that in the countryside of both Scotland and England, during the war and immediately afterwards, nothing caused greater ill-feeling than heavy-handedness in the use of the powers of those committees.
Although there may be too many deer in certain places, it is equally true that to clear the deer completely from the hills does not necessarily mean that these areas can be stocked with more sheep. In one case a deer forest was entirely cleared of deer in order to increase the sheep stock, but after a comparatively short time the proprietor had to reintroduce deer because the result was the reverse of his intention and he was not getting the good grazing. He got the deer back and was able to increase the stock of sheep. It is worth while noting that in Scotland as a whole sheep and cattle stocks are higher.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian referred to the Nature Conservancy, on which I serve, and to the Island of Rhum. He was quite right in saying that the Nature Conservancy had adopted a policy of considerably reducing the deer stock. It has also entirely reduced the agricultural stock and there is no farming left in Rhum, which I consider to be a pity. The object of reducing the deer to lesser numbers was to experiment in herbage, pastures and the like. Although I serve on the Nature Conservancy, however, I feel that the matter needs more consideration. If agriculture is not to be used at all on the island, there does not seem to be any great case, unless a scientific point can be proved by it, for reducing the deer stock too much.
To reduce the deer stock in Rhum, it was necessary to have a policy for shooting the deer at various ages, including the young as well as the old. That is not easy to do in all weathers, however, and in reducing the stocks it has all too often been a case of first come, first served, with the result that the stock of deer has 265 not been reduced on as scientific a basis as it might have been.
I am sorry that the Opposition have moved an Amendment, because I believe this to be a Bill which will do general good, even though certain points in Part I need further consideration. The hon. and learned Member for Paisley, however, has a reasoned approach to these matters and I hope that, as well as considering matters from the legal viewpoint, he will advise his followers not to go into the Lobby tonight against the Bill. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Government on bringing forward a Bill which meets a long-felt want, even though some of its provisions in Part I need further consideration.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
It is rather astonishing to discover the perturbation created on the Government side of the House by the fact that we have put forward a reasonable, and reasoned, Amendment to the Bill, because the Amendment actually approves of all the things that the Government say they want to see in operation. In our estimation, however, the Bill would not provide for the materialisation of those desires. It is when we go into Committee and deal with the various points in detail that we shall expose the weaknesses of the Bill in seeking to secure the aims which the Government profess.
The hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray) described our Amendment as drawing a red herring across the issue. The hon. and gallant Member should be an expert on red herrings, because the Secretary of State for Scotland this afternoon, on the hon. and gallant Member's own confession, drew a red herring across the hon. and gallant Member's interpretation of the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act, 1955, when Question No. 24 was put to the right hon. Gentleman at Question Time today.
That was a Measure for which the hon. and gallant Member voted, under the impression that it meant something which the Secretary of State told him today it did not mean at all. Now the hon. and gallant Member tells us that he approves of the Bill because he says he knows what it means. But he cannot guarantee for one moment that the Bill does not 266 mean something different from what he imagines. Therefore, the hon. and gallant Member's words cannot carry very much weight.
I was interested in what the hon. and gallant Member had to say about the Bill. He painted a very graphic portrait of what goes on in deer poaching—sten guns and all the latest forms of artillery apparently being imported into the Highlands by the poachers to destroy the deer. I want to quote to the hon. and gallant Member the considered findings of the Minority Report of the Committee on Close Seasons for Deer in Scotland on this question. I think that the majority Report says very little about it. The quotation reads:We have received no evidence, however, to convince us that organised gang poaching on a large scale was or is taking place or that venison was or is being sold to greyhound racing stadiums as dog food. In our view these allegations are more fictional than factual and accounts of the prevalence and extent of poaching have frequently been much exaggerated.No more so than by the hon. and gallant Member today.
The Minority Report adds:For example, during the winter of 1952–53, in Inverness-shire (which contains about one-third of the deer forests in Scotland), the police investigated a total of fifteen alleged poaching incidents. There were seven prosecutions.… In 1953–54, the Inverness-shire police investigated ten cases. In six of these cases … charges were made. Even assuming arbitrarily that for every offence discovered there were ten undetected it is clear that the number of animals taken illegally is small in relation to the annual legitimate kill in Inverness-shire of more than 3,000 deerIt is on that basis that the hon. and gallant Member introduced his sten guns and all the modern artillery of warfare.
The hon. and gallant Member deplored, as of course we all do, that herds of deer do considerable damage when they raid farmers' crops, but that is one of the reasons why we think that the Bill is unsatisfactory. Because while the farmer has to fence his ground—he must if he wants it to be protected to some extent, and he does—there is no compulsion whatsoever on the person who owns the deer forest to fence it in, and in my view there is no reason why the deer forests ought not to be fenced.
In the Isle of Arran, where there is a large deer forest, the whole forest is fenced to keep the deer in. If we are to control and conserve the deer and 267 ensure that the stocks will be near the number that we want them to be, obviously there must be fencing of some sort. Redrafting of that provision is one way in which we can make the Bill a better Bill than it is now.
The hon. and gallant Member also referred to the fact that he, by some method, had knowledge from St. Andrew's House that the number of deer had to be reduced by 30,000.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray rose—
§ Mr. Rankin
Just a moment. I shall be more generous to the hon. and gallant Member than he was to me. I will show him a good example and give way.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
I am very much obliged to the hon. Member. I should like to make clear that I said that the figure of 30,000 deer to be killed had been mentioned more than once in St. Andrew's House.
§ Mr. Rankin
That was all that I was saying. It was hardly worth interrupting me to emphasise it.
The Secretary of State, this afternoon, on being challenged on that very point, could not give the figures. How is it that the Secretary of State, who has the official entrée into St. Andrew's House, does not know what is known by the hon. and gallant Member who has no official entrée to that sacred spot? How does the hon. and gallant Member obtain that information? Will the Minister take note of these leaks and investigate them? How does information come from St. Andrew's House to the hon. and gallant Member which is denied to the Secretary of State for Scotland?
§ Mr. Michael Noble (Argyll)
It would help the debate if the hon. Member could clarify his expression that the farmer should fence his ground against the deer. One of the difficulties of this problem arises from the question of who owns the deer.
§ Mr. Rankin
The hon. Member must not anticipate my speech. I did not say that there was an obligation placed upon the farmer, but the farmer does it of his own accord. He is doing it to try to protect his crops against the raids which the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and East Lothian deplores and which we 268 all deplore. One way of dealing with that problem is by reducing the numbers, and why should we not place an obligation on the people who own the deer forests?
§ Mr. Rankin
I do not wish to develop an argument between the hon. Member and myself. I am talking about the deer forests. The deer go into the deer forests and now the hon. Member raises another issue as to who owns the deer. I agree that nobody owns the deer. Therefore, why are these people fussing so much about them?
§ Mr. Rankin
I should say that the answer is to fence the deer forests in the North of Scotland, as is done on the Isle of Arran.
In his speech the Secretary of State seemed to show that our Amendment had no substantial support. I have had a good deal of correspondence on the matter and I have here a letter from a responsible person. He is a member of Inverness-shire County Council, he is chairman of Strathnairn Labour Party and he is a farmer. In each of those respects he is obviously a person of responsibility, who does not write to Members of Parliament just for the fun of creating a scare. He is only one among those who have written in much the same strain, all asking me, as men who make their livings from agriculture, to oppose the Bill; not from any merely political point of view, but from the point of view of the interests of agriculture and in the interests of Scotland generally and the Highlands in particular. He opens with this statement:The real object of the Deer (Scotland) Bill is to strengthen the powers of deer forest proprietors.We believe that, and he who is living in the midst of it believes it, too.
The writer goes on to give examples of what is happening to him now:In Strathnairn, where I am farming 90 per cent. of the holdings adjacent to deer forests annually lose £50 to £100 because red deer have raided them. In 1953, for example, deer did damage to the tune of £200 on one farm alone. In this ten mile stretch of Strathnairn about sixteen holdings are involved. Deer cause an annual loss of over £1,000.It may be a splendid picture to see the stag at eve when he has drunk his fill, 269 but it is certainly not a sound economic proposition for the crafter and the farmer to see that same stag when he is eating his fill. These people do not believe that the Bill will help them. Therefore, why should we, who are the voice of the people, not of the landed proprietors, not oppose the Bill?
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord John Hope)
Could the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether his farmer correspondent gives in detail his reasons why the Bill will not help in just the way he wants help to be given?
§ Mr. Rankin
The correspondent gives at the end of a three-page letter five reasons why it will not and also suggestions as to what should be done. I did not want to quote them, because I have my own to put before the House before I have finished.
§ Mr. N. McLean
I know the gentleman and I talked to him at a farmers' meeting in my constituency. I think that some of the reasons why he objects to the Bill were given by the sub-committee of the Inverness Branch of the National Farmers' Union, of which his brother was a member, and by and large that sub-committee approves of the Bill with certain modifications. The gentleman the hon. Gentleman is talking about is a man of great integrity, but I do not think that his opinions really represent the opinions of a great many farmers in that area, who look forward to the Bill doing a great deal of good there.
§ Mr. Rankin
I would not arrogate to myself the right to dispute with the Member for the constituency. I grant that the hon. Gentleman's knowledge must be closer to the facts than my own can possibly be, but this gentleman has invited me to go to Strathnairn, before the Committee stage of the Bill, so that I may see for myself the things he tells me about.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
May I point out that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Inverness (Mr. N. McLean) was quite mistaken about the reaction of public opinion to the last two Bills?
§ Mr. Rankin
I was hoping, Mr. Speaker, that I would have a quiet and uninterrupted speech. I do not mind interruptions in the least, I welcome 270 them, but I hope that the time will not be counted against me.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State interrupted me to ask if my correspondent had made any suggestions. Dealing with Clause 23 (1), he states:The Bill now proposes to make it a criminal offence to shoot deer between the expiration of the first hour after sunset and the commencement of the last hour before sunrise.His comment on that is, "This is a deadly suggestion". That is because under the common law, he says, the farmer has the right to shoot deer now when they raid his crops, and he points out that they raid at night. Therefore, if such shooting is made a criminal offence, the farmer will be unable to deal with the deer as he deals with them now. The deer will raid during the night and by morning they will be miles away. All that the farmer will be able to do will be to write a postcard to the Red Deer Commission reporting the incident.
That is the reform which is now introduced—taking away a summary right to deal with the deer on the spot, the one way in which these men have learned to deal with them effectively. Instead, when they get out of bed in the morning they will write a postcard to the Red Deer Commission reporting what has happened and asking the Commission to look into the matter. This correspondent goes on to tell me that… an acre of turnips left growing in a field will feed 100 sheep for a month. In a single night a herd of 40 to 50 deer can destroy that acre of turnips.He is being rendered helpless in dealing with that problem by this Bill.
It may be true, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Inverness (Mr. N. McLean) has said, that many farmers support the Bill. I do not know, but what I do know is that this gentleman speaks not only for himself but for the other farmers in Strathnairn who are suffering as he is suffering. He says that oats and grass are also destroyed and despoiled and he makes various suggestions which, perhaps, we shall have the opportunity of inquiring into more closely when we reach the Committee stage. If the Secretary of State wants to have the letter, I shall let him have it. I did not give the gentleman's name, because that, perhaps, is not a fair thing to do without his permission, but I do not 271 think that there is any objection to giving his name to the Secretary of State and, therefore the right hon. Gentleman can have the letter if he wishes.
§ Lord John Hope
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He did respond to my request to go into this in a little more detail, and it is important. This is exactly the point, and this is the moment for me to put a question to the hon. Gentleman.
May I ask him whether or not he thinks this particular correspondent is right in picking out a weakness? I am not saying that he is right, because I believe that there is a factual mistake there, but assuming, for the sake of the argument, that he is right, why does that persuade either his correspondent or the hon. Gentleman himself to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill?
This is essentially a point for the Committee stage, and I would have thought that anyone anxious about a specific point would have written and said, "Please try to get this put right, because it is a weakness in the Bill". That is very different from saying, "Please vote against the Bill on Second Reading".
§ Mr. Rankin
I quite agree, and I shall hope to show why I oppose this Bill in principle, because my view is that it is a Bill to preserve the interests of the landlords and the sportsmen in Scotland. [An HON. MEMBER: "Sporting interests."] Yes, the sporting interests, if the hon. Gentleman likes.
It is an old problem, to which my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) referred in his own inimitable style this afternoon. Of course, no topic is more flaked with memories of battles long ago than is the one before us today—clearances, evictions, burnings, depopulation, slums, a vast space from which Highlanders have been decanted forcibly in days gone by; of congested areas where they have found a dwelling, and of the cruelty which has been done by man to man and to animals in the process of these happenings.
I agree that an awakened public consciousness is trying to undo some of these wrongs, and we pay tribute from this side of the House to the work of the Hydroelectric board, the Forestry Commission, 272 the Nature Conservancy and the Department of Agriculture. Electric power has been taken to the Highlands, more land has been brought back to useful production. Moorlands have been planted, and there has been a regeneration of the Scottish pine forests.
The organised study of the flora and fauna of certain parts of the Highlands, and the reduction in the deer stock from 130,000 in 1939 to 84,000 in 1952 are something that we applaud, although the minority Report does not take this view. It disputes the assertion in the majority Report, and says that the number has not decreased, but has gone up to 140,000. We must, of course, agree that many of these figures are speculative, but, nevertheless, there is a wide divergence between these two groups of well-informed people who have studied this problem at first hand.
The fact is that, despite all these things, the deer forest acreage is still over 3 million, and it was strange to me that this afternoon the Secretary of State, who could give no information on 18th December about the number of deer forests, the names of the present proprietors and the area in statute acres, could suddenly tell us that the number of deer had fallen to 200,000.
§ Mr. Rankin
I thought that the right hon. Gentleman said deer. That is even stranger, because on 18th December he could not give that information at all. As I once said in a debate on the Local Government and Miscellaneous Provisions (Scotland) Bill, when referring to salmon, it shows how quickly a Government can move when they are under some sort of spur.
The deer forest acreage is still over 3 million. In 1883, it was 1,975,000 acres; in 1892, 2,472,000 acres; in 1912, 3,586,000 acres; and in 1920, 3,432,000 acres. Since then, there has been a further decrease of 200,000 acres. Every figure which I give and everything that I shall quote is taken from a series of Government reports contained in this envelope and from these I am prepared to quote if there are any challenges at all from the other side of the House.
Due to the altitude which some of the forests reach, they are said to have no 273 more than a sporting use, and on that aspect, I would quote the late Sir John Stirling-Maxwell, of Pollok, Chairman of the Departmental Committee appointed in November, 1919, to inquire into those lands in Scotland used as deer forests, which Committee reported in 1921. Sir John said:It may be true that a deer forest employs more people than the same area under sheep. It certainly brings in a larger rent. From a purely parochial point of view, it may therefore claim to be economically sound, but from no other. It provides a healthy existence for a small group of people, but it produces nothing except a small quantity of venison, for which there is no demand. It causes money to change hands. A pack of cards can do that. I doubt if it could be said of a single deer forest, however barren and remote, that it could serve no better purpose.Sir John spoke with triple authority. He spoke as Chairman of a Committee which studied the problem for two years he spoke as the owner of 56,251 acres of deer forest in Corrour, Fersit and Benevrich, in Inverness County, and as a Scottish laird of liberal outlook who tried always to make two trees grow where none had grown before.
In its Report, the Committee estimated the production, assuming that the 3 million acres in 1920 had been under sheep, and stated that these acres would have carried 604,000 ewes, ewe hogs, rams, and so on, with 205,000 lambs. They would have marketed annually £419,000 worth of mutton, wool to the value of £188,000 and skins worth £83,000. a total yearly increase in our wealth of £691,000. On the other side of the balance sheet, taking the forests as they were in 1920, we get 630 tons of venison worth £59,000, skins worth £2;000, mutton priced at £58,000, and beef at £20,000, wool fetching £26,000 and skins £14,000, making a total market value of £180,000, and representing a dead loss to the community of £510,000 annually on balance, because of the fact that so much land is devoted to deer forests.
It is true that the production estimated represents a small fraction of the United Kingdom consumption of beef, veal, mutton, lamb and wool. Nevertheless, it is a sensible percentage of Scottish needs. In the computation which was made I took no account of those parts of the forest which would be used to yield even 274 greater revenues. In February, 1921, Mr. John Sutherland, the Assistant Commissioner for Scotland of the Forestry Commission, calculated that the value of the timber product per acre per annum should not be less than £2 17s. for two forests of 7,300 plantable acres taken over by the Commission. In addition, the land which lay immediately above the planting limit would, as a result of the shelter provided by the lower plantations and of the control of streams and other sources of erosion, become of service for a further expansion of planting. In the end, the utility of the upper ground, which was said this afternoon to be of no use, would increase by 20 per cent.
There is the further point that the two forests concerned—Port Clair and Inchnacardoch, in Inverness-shire—employed two deer stalkers regularly and three ghillies for four months during the shooting season. In the Forestry Commission's plan of planting 7,300 of those acres, 20 additional men would find work, so that if there is no gold in "them thar hills" and moors there is still a good deal more wealth than we have so far discovered. The point is that the land would be put to better and continually improving use, which would result in rising yields, and more people back in the Highlands.
The 3 million acres of deer forest now employ 800 people, but it is reckoned that they could absorb over 20,000 families, and as a foretaste of that, and as proof, prior to the passing of the Crofters' Act in 1886 no fewer than 15,000 peasants were cleared from the Sutherland estates at one fell swoop and dumped on the shorelands to become fishers or paupers.It is noteworthy",says Thomas Carlyle,that the nobles of the country have maintained a quite despicable behaviour from the times of Wallace downwards. A selfish, ferocious, famishing and unprincipled set of hyaenas, from whom at no time and in no way has the country derived any benefit. The day is coming when these our modern hyaenas—tho' toothless, still mischievous and greedy beyond limit—will, quickly I hope—be paid off. Ye do-nothing dogs, what are ye doing here?said Carlyle,Down with your double barrels. Take spades if we can do no better, and work of die.275 Those are what one might call harsh words, but they are not mine; they are the words of the Sage of Chelsea, and there is a great deal of truth in them.
Too much of Scotland is still devoted to the maintenance of too many deer. The Crofters' Commission of 1884 reported in these words:No one could contemplate the conversion of the whole extent of good pasture land and if possible arable land at a moderate elevation in the Highlands into forest without alarm and reprobation.…Among the signatories were Lochiel, Napier and Ettrick, Sheriff Nicholson and Professor Mackinnon, of the Chair of Celtic in Edinburgh University. The law, the laird and learning combined in a powerful trinity to warn against this debilitating trend in the Scottish economy. Yet, despite the warning, in the thirty years that followed the writing of those words, land devoted to the deer increased by 1,391,000 acres, so that now one-sixth of the whole of Scotland offers preferential right of habitation to an animal which, however picturesque, is little better than a pest and might well, in the interests of the Scottish economy, be treated like the rabbit.
There are powerful forces in opposition to that sort of policy, and they are represented in this House. When the gross rent of a deer forest worked out at between £25 and £40 per stag in pre-war days, as against 1s. to 2s. 6d. per head for sheep—one deer consuming as much as three sheep—clearly, the scales were tilted in favour of the deer, and so were the influences. The total surface area of the County of Inverness is 2,095,000 acres. It carries 1,044,389 acres of deer forest, which is half its total size. Of this area, Cameron of Lochiel owns 61,000 acres; Lord Lovat owns 91,000 acres; the Seafield family, 65,000 acres; and the Mackintosh of Mackintosh, 26,000 acres. If we total this up we find that four powerful chieftains own a quarter of the land devoted to the maintenance of deer in Inverness County.
Taking into account their urban and agricultural interests, we begin to realise what territorial influence means. If we think of ourselves as workers on the broad acres of that county we will understand Browning better when he said:So free we seem, so fettered fast we are.276 But perhaps Sutherlandshire presents the most arresting example of this potential power of the laird. The total area of the county, excluding inland water, is 1,297,914 acres, of which roughly onethird—419,933 acres—is reserved for deer forests, and the Duke owns 361,087 acres of them. No wonder we bred the Dougal Cratur in Scotland! The truth is that the Highlands are one great deer forest, because there are no fences to prevent the herds from ranging across Scotland from one side to the other. We have created a vast wilderness in our land and abandoned it to the grouse, the deer and the land trust. It is astonishing to me to hear people talk about trusts as being rooted in America—where they are now banned—because they are far more powerful in Britain. One of them has just seen the Deer Bill safely through another place, which is the Parliamentary guise of the land trust. Now the Bill is handed over to its submissive political vassal, commonly known as the Tory Party, in the House of Commons, to see it home the rest of the way.
There is another powerful group in alliance with them, namely, the drink trust, which produces beer barons who tell us what is good for us and what is best, and, having won our confidence, invests the profits in the deer forests and so gets into the land trust.
Then there are the great investment trusts, security, and all the rest of it. They, having cast their sybilline spell over the people, and won their profits, put them into the land trust in the same way as the others. The whole lot put their heads together and we get the great newspaper trust which "blah-blahs" from its earliest editions to its latest, "Trust the people and set them free".
Next, they all get busy and skin, like deer, the trusting people who, in appreciation, give the beer barons, the land lords, the printing peers, and the deer dukes a House of their own in Parliament. All to themselves. So that Great Britain is the only country in the world today where men can buy seats in Parliament not only for the duration of their own lives, but also for their descendants unto the third and fourth generation of them that love democracy.
§ Mr. Burden
May I ask whether the hon. Gentleman is quoting, or whether he is making his own speech?
§ Mr. Rankin
That intervention is not worth answering.
That is what we are up against and there is no use minimising it. We shall see it proved as this Bill goes through Parliament. The Government are defending what, in my view, is a cancer in Scotland. It is the business of hon. Members on this side of the House to try to cure the disease. We do not believe that the Bill will do so in its present form. We believe that stronger measures are required.
In my view, the Red Deer Commission, if it into achieve some of the things which the Government supporters pretend that they want—some of the things which we say must be achieved—should have jurisdiction over all deer—red, roe, fallow and reindeer. It must have power to issue licences to estates and to individuals showing the number of deer to be shot each year. If we mean anything by control and conservation, that is the sort of thing which must be done. The Commission must have the right to pay compensation to farmers and to crofters and to provide fodder in winter. If we are against cruelty, someone must do that. Game wardens must be employed to manage the deer forests. A plan on those lines would bring down the herds to sustainable numbers, safeguard them from the cruelties of winter and protect them from the poaching gangs by making them a public interest.
In this way, we should, in my view, contribute to the growth of more food in the Highlands and bring people in increasing numbers to a part of Scotland that very badly needs them.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)
I have listened to the Opposition speeches which have been made in an attempt to defend—unsuccessfully—the introduction of the Amendment. I enjoyed those speeches—more or less. My only trouble is to trace the tenuous connection between the speeches and the Amendment. I do not think that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) mentioned the Amendment once during the whole of his somewhat long but interesting speech.
§ Mr. Rankin rose—
§ Mr. Rankin
May I say that what the hon. Member said is not true? Does not the hon. Gentleman object when I say that he is telling a lie?
§ Sir T. Moore
I object to anyone telling lies, but I was complimenting the hon. Gentleman on making such a long and interesting speech without referring to the Amendment.
I do not think that the House appreciates—at least some hon. Members opposite do not appreciate—that there are no party or political issues involved over this Bill. Yet each of the hon. Members opposite who has spoken has tried to put a party slant on the matter. In my opinion we shall do no good for the deer, or for agriculture, or to those trying to maintain law and order in Scotland through this new Commission, by adopting that attitude. We should regard the matter only from the point of view of attempting to preserve the deer in sufficient number adequate to the country and to Scotland; and at the same time and in due course attempting to reduce the number of deer to a figure which would enable the farmers to live with a certain amount of ease subject to the controls now to be imposed.
I feel that I am speaking not only for myself but for a great many people in Scotland, and also for those humane societies which helped to promote this Bill, when I say that whatever hon. Members opposite may feel about this Measure, we welcome it. We also feel that it is a somewhat belated effort to bring Scotland into line with every other civilised community in the treatment of wild deer. It is odd to reflect that while Scotland led the way by years in the matter of imposing humane slaughtering methods for domestic animals, we seem strangely reluctant to take similar action regarding our own wild animal which is almost indigenous to Scotland. However, I do not wish to voice further recriminations and so I will continue by extending our congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on having at last merged together all the divergent interests, and, 279 with the help of the Nature Conservancy, created a common purpose expressed in the Bill.
I well remember the first article which I read explaining what was needed. It was an article which appeared in The Times on 10th July of last year. Then there was a letter from the Secretary of the Humane Society in Scotland, lucidly and concisely written, about the requirements in Scotland to deal with this problem. The headings were—one, to provide control of the number of red deer by humane methods; two, to establish a close season—that is very important; three, to declare poaching illegal and to provide heavy penalties, with the forfeiture of gear, including vehicles if necessary.
That is precisely what the Bill sets out to do. As many hon. Members will know, it follows the lead given by our late friend and colleague, John Mackie, who introduced a Private Member's Bill in 1955 to give effect to provisions almost exactly the same as those included in this Bill. I think that he would have been pleased to know that we are proposing to put his intentions and hopes into effect.
Several hon. Members have referred to the number of organisations which have now merged in a general support of the Bill. I thought that they could never be brought together, and when we consider all the varied interests which have combined, including the British Field Sports Society and the National Farmers' Unions, I think my tribute is due to my right hon. Friend for having achieved such success.
There are two points about which I have doubts. The first is regarding the permission to use shotguns as a means of destruction. I am convinced that if shotguns are used many deer will be left to die a lingering death or will be maimed for life. I am aware of the arguments against the rifle advanced by Government supporters in another place. I hope that they will not be repeated here. It was argued that, as the red deer come down late in the evening or early in the morning, it is difficult to shoot them with accuracy with a rifle. It was asserted that as the roe deer feed in wooded areas, it would be dangerous to workers and passers-by if bullet-firing weapons were used. My answer to both those argu- 280 ments is quite simple. If any humans are about, there will be no deer about. Everyone with experience knows that a deer's sense of smell is better than its sight.
As for the other more reasonable statement about the accuracy of a rifle, I hold that the accuracy of a shotgun at the distances likely to be encountered would be even less effective than a rifle in the effort to kill outright. Therefore, I cannot hold that there is any justification for making a shotgun the only weapon to be used. I believe that it would lead to unending suffering by the deer and that it would be contrary to the very intentions of the Bill.
One further argument put forward by the Government spokesman is that farmers have shotguns only and do not have rifles. There may be truth in that, but I would say that if a landowner or farmer does not want deer, he had better get a rifle, and if he will not get a rifle he must have the deer. It is as simple as that.
The same argument was used, and is still used, about the substitution of the humane rabbit trap for the gin trap, that barbarous steel-toothed trap. It is said that the humane trap is more expensive. It is and it will continue to be more expensive until its use is made compulsory and then, of course, with more traps being required, the price will come down. Corn-petition between manufacturers will ensure that that happens. I feel certain about that.
One further point that I want to make is about the date of implementing the Bill which, owing to the persistence and effort of Lord Brocket in another place, was advanced by one year from 1962 to 1961. The Government took the view and perhaps may take it again, but I hope not, that it might take two or three years before the control schemes under the Bill could be set up in some areas. The other place felt differently and I think that they were right. It is a strange commentary on this attitude of the Government that when they wanted last week to drive prostitution off the streets and push it out of sight, we were hustled and bustled about to term certain women "common prostitutes" and then push them into prison for behaving like prostitutes. We did that almost in a day, whereas in this matter, which means crushing out a similar evil which has been in existence 281 almost as long as prostitution, we are reluctant, dallying and procrastinating long beyond any reasonable requirements of administration or organisation.
I should like to warn my right hon. and hon. Friends that if the Government make any attempt to reverse the Amendment of Lord Brocket, they have to rely on one vote, at any rate, against them, and that will be mine.
With these two qualifications, I would say that the Bill is an admirable one in every way, and that when it eventually comes into operation we shall no longer have that dreadful discovery, made by a fisherman the other day, who reported finding 167 legs of deer on the bank of a salmon pool near the house of a well-known poacher. These poachers have no humanity; they have only greed. The Bill will, I hope, at least wipe out this filthy trade. I. therefore, wish it godseed in this House and in Scotland.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
The hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) accused this side of the House of introducing party politics into this matter. He must have heard the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland, who even went so far as to suggest that the professional deer stalker was an accurate shot and the ordinary working man a poor one. He even dragged party politics into the accuracy of the fellow shooting the deer. This morning I was taking a group of visitors around the House. They were not particularly politically-minded people, and when I told them what the business would be today their immediate reaction was, why?
I shall not speak to the reasoned Amendment, because I do not think that a reasoned Amendment ought to have been put down. I think that the Motion should have been that the Bill be read this day six months, because it is completely irrelevant to the present-day problems of Scotland. I approach this debate with some trepidation, because, as a Member for an industrial area, I have no close knowledge of the problem entailed—I freely admit that—nor, I think, have some of the landlords who have been in this Chamber this afternoon.
It is rather interesting that we have had a better attendance at this debate than we have had when discussing very much more important problems in the past few weeks.
282 I protest at the order of priorities of the Government in introducing this Bill at this time, and my constituents in West Fife will not understand why at this juncture when we have 95,000 people unemployed in Scotland we should be discussing red deer in the Highlands. I think that in another place the figure was quoted of 100,000 red deer, which is just about the same number as the number of unemployed in Scotland. The only Measure which the Government seem likely to be able to bring in to solve the unemployment problem is one of shooting, in the same way as they propose to deal with the deer. The complete irrelevance of the legislation that is brought before us is the kind of thing which brings this House into increasing disrepute.
No wonder the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) resigned the Tory Whip. He regards the unemployment problem of the Highlands as infinitely more important. He is not even here. He has gone out of the Chamber in disgust. When we think of the problem facing us internally in Scotland and the United Kingdom—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I understand that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) has the Adjournment tonight and did not want to take up too much of the time of the House.
§ Mr. Hamilton
He certainly could have waited to hear the end of the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and he could have made a valuable contribution to the debate. We admire his courage and good sense in resigning the Tory Whip and we should have liked to have heard him on this Bill.
When we think of all the problems which we have been discussing in the last week, with the Tory Party toeing the party line on prostitution, and that we are now discussing red deer when the world is dithering on the brink of what might be a third world war, it is no wonder that at the moment we are in the contempt of the country as a whole. It is ludicrous almost to the point of criminal insanity that we should be discussing these things at all today. It is not even priority No. 1 in the Highlands themselves. The Highland people would not regard this as their No. 1 priority.
283 I had occasion to look at what was said in the debate in the other place to find out who was seeking to protect the interests of the people in the Highlands. The Second Reading was moved by the Minister of State, Scottish Office, Lord Home, premier Baronet of Scotland. I looked him up in Who's Who. Goodness knows what the other baronets must be like. He is clearly in touch with the masses. I can go worse than that.
Other speakers, on behalf of the Government protecting the masses in the Highlands, included the Marquess of Willingdon. His chief claim to fame is that he is President of the Feathers Clubs Association, of the Fauna Preservation Society and of the Brighton Pavilion Conservative Association. I next take Viscount Massereene and Ferrard. He was Joint Master of the Ashford Valley Foxhounds from 1953 to 1956, was Gold Staff Officer at the Coronation in 1953, and his recreation is described as "all blood sports." These are the people who go to the other place and pretend that they are out to minimise cruelty to animals.
They come to this institution and pretend to be safeguarding the interests of the rank and file people of Scotland. The people who want to safeguard blood sports are the most sadistic people in the country and ought not to come here or to the other place pretending that one of the reasons for the Bill is to prevent cruelty to the poor red deer. Nothing of the kind. It is absolute bunk.
We on this side of the House are concerned to minimise cruelty to animals, but the most important animal is the human animal. That is our concern in Scotland at the moment. The cruelty that is being inflicted on them is infinitely greater, because it is by deliberate Government action, than upon the red deer. The Secretary of State for Scotland pretended in his speech this afternoon that there was virtual unanimity in Scotland for the provisions of the Bill. That is not true. We have all had representations. I am sure hon. Members who are more interested in and have more knowledge of this matter than I have will have received more representations than I.
I have had representations from responsible people in the Highlands who do 284 not like the provisions of the Bill, and particularly Clause 25, which provides that a suspect—one who is suspected of being a poacher—must explain his possession of part of a deer. It enables the police to charge anyone who is in possession of a firearm or ammunition, or even anyone suspected of attempted poaching.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) made the most powerful speech, obviously backed by personal experience, that we have heard. He referred to the classification of two persons as a gang, liable to a fine of £500, plus two years' imprisonment. When we were considering the Street Offences Bill last week, the fine for a prostitute was not exceeding £10 for the first offence and for the second offence not exceeding £25, with three months' imprisonmnt. We are therefore to regard the problem of prostitution as about one-twentieth as serious as the problem of poaching in the Highlands. The offence of killing a deer in the Highlands is twenty times as serious as the offence of a prostitute in creating a nuisance in the streets of London. If that is the measure of the priorities of the Government it does not bear examination.
Clause 25 goes on to say that the court can convict an alleged poacher on the uncorroborated evidence of one witness. That suggests an awful lot of danger being introduced by a Government who claim to be concerned about protecting the individual. It depends upon who the individual is that they want to protect. Clause 27 gives the police power of entry on mere suspicion that the crofter has committed a poaching offence.
The Bill is a disgrace to the House. It is irrelevant and heavily weighted in favour of a sectional interest. I shall have no hesitation in going into the Lobby against it. I only wish that my hon. Friends had not attempted to put down a reasoned Amendment, but had put down a "six months" Amendment.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil McLean (Inverness)
When the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) was speaking about cruelty to animals I must admit that I respected his views, but it was an exaggeration when he went on to say that the people 285 who enjoyed fishing, shooting, coursing and hunting were sadistic monsters. I am sure that he would not wish to leave that impression with the House.
He said that the Bill was unimportant; can assure him that in the Highlands at least the Bill is regarded as very important. I am sure that his right hon. Friends on the Front Bench would not consider a Bill dealing with deer as not important, even if they did not agree with it.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on bringing in the Bill. My only real Second Reading criticism is that I wish it had been brought in much earlier, in view of the agreement reached between the interested parties as long ago as 1956 The recommendations for legislation made in that agreement are incorporated in the Bill. Obviously there are small faults and weaknesses that one often gets in a compromise. I would like to draw attention to one or two of the points in which the Bill could be strengthened and eliminate some of those weaknesses.
It was right to bring in the Bill at this time, and I am sorry that the Opposition are opposing it. It is, of course, difficult to calculate accurately the number of deer. Their number has been either static or perhaps it has increased since the war. The number of keepers is, on the whole, fewer than before the war. Many estates are now not keeping down their deer by shooting or using other methods of control or other methods which should be employed.
At the same time there is less land for deer. The Forestry Commission is planting land and enclosing some of the grazing lands of the deer. Private owners are doing so, too. Some of the hydro-electricity schemes are taking up land previously used for grazing of deer and so are the increased number of sheep and cattle. The cost of fencing has also increased. It costs possibly nearly £1 per yard, and may rise from about £1,000 to even £2,000 per mile. The problem of deer breaking out and marauding, and going as so-called colonised deer into areas where they should never be allowed to penetrate, is very serious. It is a real problem which causes a large amount of damage to marginal farms.
286 On the other side of the picture, there is undoubtedly a great deal of unnecessary cruelty to deer by gangs of poachers. The hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) tried in a way to justify the old-fashioned Highland poacher. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) went even further and tried to justify the gang poachers. I think that what was said by the hon. Member for Western Isles about the old-fashioned poacher would meet with a great deal more sympathy in the Highlands, where on the whole they have little sympathy for gang poachers.
§ Mr. Rankin
I am sorry if I gave the impression that I justified gang poaching. I must assure the hon. Member that that was not in my mind.
§ Mr. McLean
I am sorry; I thought the hon. Member was justifying gang poachers.
In view of the seriousness of the damage done to farms by deer, something drastic had to be done. Although we have not had it today so far, we may have it argued in the winding up speech for the Opposition that the Government have power, through the agricultural executive committees, to deal with this problem. They may ask, why do not the Government use those powers? That would not solve the problem of damage done by poaching.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
It would in fact have given great protection to the crofter and the farmer if the Secretary of State had used the powers he has under the 1948 Act.
§ Mr. McLean
That is a true point, but the A.E.C.s have neither the means nor the organisation required. The Bill has been introduced because it is felt that A.E.C.s have not the means to do this work. That is one of the reasons for setting up the Commission. I wish to congratulate the Nature Conservancy for taking the initiative and also those representatives of other bodies who were consulted during the course of negotiations when the Bill was being prepared for consideration by the Government. Those who took part in the negotiations and represented those organisations are serious responsible people with a great deal of knowledge of questions affecting deer and the Highlands.
287 If one looks back over the last fifty years, one sees how many attempts there have been to study this problem and to produce legislation to deal with it. Many fine Committees have sat, but no action has been taken. This is the first serious attempt we have had to try to control red deer, to conserve them and protect them from unnecessary cruelty, and at the same time to deal with gangs of poachers and lawlessness. For that reason I think the Bill deserves the support of the House.
Today I have not heard many detailed or serious criticisms, but there are one or two points of criticism. I hope that during the Committee stage the Secretary of State will examine very carefully suggestions from all sides of the Committee, because I am sure they will be based on considerations a great deal more practical than some of the contributions made today. The hon. Member for Govan mentioned my constituency in some detail, apart from wide-ranging remarks and attacks on landlords in general, rather on the same lines as the speech of the hon. Member for Western Isles. I thought he was on happier ground when quoting from the report he had had from someone in my constituency. The point the hon. Member made was a very serious one, because all who live in the area know that in Strathnairn there has been a great deal of damage to crops by deer.
The point about the farmer having the right to shoot on his own arable land at night is a very serious one, which I should like to raise in Committee. At present and under this new Bill the farmer has the right to shoot deer on his own arable during the hours of daylight; that is until one hour after dusk and for one hour before dawn. On a frosty night it does not need fifty deer to do damage, a few deer can come into a field and take one or two nips from turnips and the frost completes the damage. There is no doubt that great damage is done at night by deer. I hope my right hon. Friend will see if it is possible to get over legal difficulties so that the farmer may have the right to protect his crops at night. I do not think one can best shoot deer a night. It is best done when they come in at dusk or go out in the morning. I think it would be a good thing, however, if the farmer were given the right to protect his crops at night.
288 Another point at which the Bill could be improved concerns the panel which the Commission can set up to deal with marauding deer in certain areas. A fortnight is too short a time; I should rather say a month, especially in bad weather. I think we are the only country in the world which has not a closed season for deer.
§ Mr. McLean
As my hon. Friend reminds me, with the exception of New Zealand. There was talk that in order to make a closed season effective the Commission should be given power to look into the sale of venison during the closed season, but I think that in these days of refrigerators and deep freeze that is not a practical proposition. I am sure the Government were right not to try to incorporate anything like that in the Bill.
Under Clause 27 the power to search a vehicle can be exercised only if gang poaching is suspected. I have talked to chief constables and heard it suggested that that means that if there is only one driver in a car or lorry which is full of carcases the police have not power to search. The gang could put all the carcases in one car and all but one of them could drive away in other cars. I hope my right hon. Friend or the Joint Under-Secretary will look into that question.
I shall not go into the question of having only one witness, because I am sure my right hon. Friend can deal with that. I believe there are many other cases in which one witness is accepted. Under the Road Traffic Acts and various Acts of 1902 and 1903 and as far back as 1832 in the Day Trespass Act, one witness is accepted. The latter Act is used to this day in many cases.
There was a suggestion that gamekeepers should be made special constables. I have talked to many people in the Highlands and found the general feeling among police and others against that. It was felt that that would be putting to much power into the hands of private citizens and might lead to disputes and a great deal of hostility in some areas.
The hon. Member for Western Isles did not criticise the Bill in detail, but threw out a general challenge to the landowning system, the system of the ownership of game in the whole of the Highlands. He 289 was challenging the whole conception and order of society in the Highlands. That is a logical part of the philosophy of hon. Members opposite and does not come to us as a surprise. I suppose that in the end they advocate nationalisation of the land, nationalisation of salmon fishing and of deer, so it is quite logical for them to put forward that view on the Second Reading of this Bill. But I do not think that it is a sufficient reason for voting against the Bill.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
May I point out to the hon. Member that his predecessor as representative of Inverness, Sir Murdoch Macdonald, advocated here in 1936 the taking over and public control of all fisheries in the Highlands?
§ Mr. McLean
He may well have done. That does not mean that his successor must necessarily support him or that other Highland Members of various parties support that point of view.
I feel that, if, as a result of the airing of these general views about land ownership in the Highlands and about game and rights to game in the Highlands, the Bill were to be held up, the Opposition would show themselves to be no friends of the Highlands, because on the whole the Bill, with certain modifications, is earnestly desired by people in the Highlands.
§ Mr. McLean
I do not want to become involved at this stage of the Bill in a long argument about the rights of private property. I hope that the hon. Member will excuse me for not following him.
I do not know the views of the Parliamentary Liberal Party on the Bill. The hon. Member for Western Isles and my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart) spoke about the heart of Scotland being touched by the Bill. It may have touched the heart of Scotland but it certainly does not seem to have touched the heart of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. The leader of the Liberal Party put in a short appearance to see whether anyone else was taking his grazing, but he came into the Chamber alone, without even bringing his small herd with him, if one can call them a herd, and soon afterwards he disappeared. Very little interest seems to 290 have been displayed in the Bill by the Parliamentary Liberal Party.
On the other hand, the Chairman of the Scottish Liberal Party made some suggestions in a letter to the Glasgow Herald. He condemned the Bill and said that every farmer and crofter in the deer areas would condemn it. I do not think that this is strictly true, because I believe that many farmers and a number of crofters have been consulted on the Bill, through the N.F.U., and are in favour of it There is, of course, a number who feel that they are not adequately covered by it.
The Chairman of the Scottish Liberal Party said in his letter to the Glasgow Herald that he opposed the Bill because its central purpose seemed to be to conserve the deer and to punish poachers only and it totally ignored the protection of farming interests. I do not believe that that is true. In the Bill we have the control schemes, we have the panels and we have various other means of dealing with this problem. Hon. Members opposite may feel that this is not enough, and in some cases I agree with them, but to say that there is no provision for protecting agricultural interests is very wide of the mark.
I have to quote the letter from the Chairman of the Scottish Liberal Party because the Liberal Party today have not made their views clear in Parliament. I do not know whether the Leader of the Liberal Party holds the same view as the Chairman of the Scottish Liberal Party, but presumably in the Liberal Party it does not matter if everyone advocates different views.
The Chairman of the Scottish Liberal Party advocated that areas of deer forest should be designated as conservation areas, that landlords should be forced to put up deer fences around these areas and that the deer should be fed. If we started to do that in the Bill before we had set up the Commission, the quarrelling and the disputes about which areas should be designated would wreck the Bill at the outset. Secondly, on a large estate it would involve 30, 40 or even 50 miles of deer fencing at between £1,000 and £2,000 a mile, totalling £50,000 to £100,000. In addition, there is the problem of feeding the deer. If this policy were seriously advocated it would be a death warrant for those deer in that 291 area, because no private landlord could undertake that expense. The landlords would therefore have to shoot the deer on a very large scale.
In his letter the Chairman of the Scottish Liberal Party also advocated that outside the designated areas it should be a free-for-all; farmers and everyone else could shoot the deer as and how they liked. Either this proposal by the Chairman of the Scottish Liberal Party is frivolous, as I believe it to be, or, if not, it would end in mass extermination of deer even within the designated areas and would also cause great unnecessary cruelty in areas which were not designated.
I hope that when the Commission is appointed it will be a balanced Commission representing all the interests concerned, and that when it starts to function it will take a balanced view about deer, about the numbers of deer, about the places where it is best for deer to be kept and about sheep and cattle. Thus we shall have a balanced view about the rôle of deer in our Highland economy. I am glad that the Commission will be able to make recommendations to the Secretary of State about other matters affecting deer and about the close season affecting the roe deer and fallow deer.
I warmly support the Bill as a serious attempt to deal with this problem. The sooner it becomes an Act the better. In Committee many valid points can be made. I hope that they will be considered in an open-minded way by my right hon. Friend and that if they are found to strengthen the Bill or to make it more workable they will be incorporated in it.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)
I am sorry to have to disagree with my hon. Friends who have moved the reasoned Amendment. I hope that they will give me the satisfaction of thinking that I am sincere in my views, as I know they are sincere in theirs, but I cannot see my way to vote against the Second Reading, although, as hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, this is a Bill which could well be altered in Committee.
As a South Briton, I am sorry in a way to intervene in a matter which is entirely for Scotland, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for South 292 Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) will forgive me. I know he is very sensitive on the point and that he has raised it more than once in Standing Committee. Nevertheless, as a great lover of the Highlands of Scotland, I feel I am entitled to say a word or two. After all, this is the United Kingdom, and we are very much concerned in what goes on in the Highlands.
For three years, I was a member of the Nature Conservancy and, while a member, I had to go to Scotland on several occasions to look into the work which was beginning there. I have since been there several times. I was there last summer to look at some very important work on the shores of Loch Maree in the Ben Eigh country. Important research is taking place there into the question of the re-establishment of the old Caledonian pine forest, which is disappearing in many parts of the Highlands, to see how far the balance of Nature can be restored and at the same time the ancient forests re-established. In this matter, the deer population is of very great importance.
The Bill seems to provide a method of controlling a noble and beautiful animal which can also be a very serious pest. In my constituency, in the Forest of Dean, the Forestry Commission has to have shoots at this time of the year to control the deer because of the damage which the deer do to young trees. I occasionally take part in those shoots. The deer must be controlled in the interests of forestry and of agriculture. At the same time, no one wants to see the extermination of a beautiful animal of this kind.
I feel therefore that we cannot go wrong in supporting the establishment of the proposed Commission, which would have the duty and responsibility of controlling deer. As was said by the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. N. McLean), the agricultural executive committees are not so well able to do this work. They have neither the means nor the staff to deal with this problem such as a Commission of this kind will have under the powers provided by this Bill, which will be able to recruit the necessary staff.
I am very glad, of course, that this Measure enables the farmers, the hill sheep farmers and the crofters to be represented. The question whether they should have more representation is a committee point. They are there, and it is 293 right that they should be. I believe that just as in England so in the Highlands of Scotland the old landlord system is breaking down—
§ Mr. Price
As he was my cousin, I know something about that.
The old landlord system is breaking down. I myself was brought up with the view that any land I might hold was held in trust for the people. That is the old Liberal idea. The old system is going, and public authorities are now getting power to control abuses. Agricultural executive committees and other authorities now have power to control rabbits—no farmer can allow rabbits to multiply on his land without getting into trouble.
In the same way, under this Bill it will be possible to control deer, and, for the first time, it is being properly arranged. The poaching that goes on at present is evidence of the existence of a vacuum. There is no one at present to replace the old system under which the deer were kept under control by the laird and his keepers. That system is going, and now the public authorities must do the work.
One of my hon. Friends said that he would like to see forestry extended at the expense of the deer forests. I agree, but I recall that for three years during the last war I was a member of the Forestry Commission. I took it upon myself to visit forests not only in England and Wales but in Scotland, and I know that there was then and that there still is a gradual extension of forestry throughout the Highlands. That must continue, and I am quite certain that it will.
I believe that there are provisions in the Bill for dealing with the worst aspects of the problems that result from our being in an interim period, during which the old system is dying out. We must now have some other system whereby public authorities, aided by far-sighted and broad-minded private interests can control the resources of nature.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Noble (Argyll)
Many hon. Members opposite have suggested that this is, perhaps, not a suitable time for such a Bill as this to be introduced. It is eighty-seven years since a Committee 294 of this House first considered this subject, and I, who have spent most of the last four years negotiating with the farming interests of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, the Blackface Sheep Breeders' Association and the landowning and sporting interests, know that, at least in the mainland of the Highlands, this is regarded as an extremely important question. I do not think that the Government will be criticised for now bringing in a Bill for which the whole country has been waiting for so long. This is the first time that we have had any sign of agreement.
The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) said that a certain farmer on Speyside would probably not be entirely happy about everything in the Bill. That is certainly true of probably all the people with whom I have negotiated, very carefully and very closely, over the last few years, but we were all practical people and we all knew the facts and difficulties that had faced us for so long. When we finally signed the agreement, I do not think that any of us thought that it was the perfect solution to all the problems, but we felt that, at least, it was the first time we had ever been able to reach agreement, and that, to some extent, it was worth while reaching solutions that might not be perfect in order to get that agreement.
If I may refer to a number of points that have been raised, it may help hon. Members on both sides who have not, perhaps, been as closely in touch as I have with the arguments on this matter. It was interesting to note, among hon. Members opposite—and perhaps this applies to this side as well—some confusion of thought as to whether or not deer had increased in number. One could argue about that for a long time and still not arrive at an accurate assessment.
I think that it is true—and my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. N. McLean) also mentioned this—that the ground upon which the deer used to wander has contracted considerably in the last twenty years due to plantations by the Forestry Commission and, in some measure, to the operations of the Hydro-Electric Board—both admirable things in themselves. It is also important to record that in my own County of Argyll we have today as many sheep as we had in 1900—and that in spite of having given over 100,000 acres to the Forestry Commission and a very considerable acreage 295 to the Hydro-Electric Board. That is a measure of the success of the sheep farmers in Scotland as a whole—I do not say that it is possible in every area—in getting stock back on to the deer forest areas.
In 1939, it was calculated that the total stocking of sheep on deer forests was about 50,000. A similar calculation made five or six years ago—I have not a more up-to-date figure—puts the number at 142,000, so that when the Opposition said that more use should be made of the deer forests I think that they were thinking more in terms of the 'thirties than of today. Great efforts have been made by farmers to restock wherever that is practicable.
I found it difficult to agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray) on some of his feelings about the Bill. It seemed to me that he was suggesting that this problem should be considered in relation to who was on the side of the deer and who was against the deer. That is the sort of fundamental mistake which we have struggled for the last four years to eradicate. All those who signed the agreement honestly believed that we were doing it, not for or against the deer, but in the best interests of all the people who had either agricultural or forestry interests, and also in the interests of the deer themselves. It is a pity if the House feels that one should try to balance the composition of committees on one side or the other. I do not think that that was originally intended.
I know that a close season has become very much a question of prestige, perhaps far outweighing the real importance of the actual date. The farming community, perhaps naturally, over a great many years has been suspicious that the landowners did not want to reduce the stocks of deer where they ought to be reduced as quickly as possible. They therefore hung on to the idea that the close season should be put back for two or three years as a guarantee of good faith that this problem would be tackled. I cannot say that I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian, or with my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) in saying that the Government should not 296 restore the position to what it was before it was amended in the other place. It is a pity that that Amendment was carried.
In his lengthy and sometimes interesting speech, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) raised two important points. The first concerned the question of providing fodder in the winter and the second concerned the problem of fencing. To some extent, the two are allied, because if one does not fence one's deer forest the deer will tend to break out and to seek their winter fodder in places were one does not want them to. But it is totally unrealistic, as it was also in the letter of the Chairman of the Liberal Party for Scotland, to talk about fencing as though it were a simple operation.
I can assure hon. Members that we considered this point very carefully in our discussions. If one tries to fence high hill ground, the cost is quite prohibitive. Secondly, if there are severe storms of drifting snow the fences will be broken down and the deer will get out. Many rich and, perhaps, not very wise people have tried to fence deer forests in the past, and they have found that before long the fences were more efficient in keeping the deer out than keeping them in.
It is difficult to think of a satisfactory scheme for the problem of providing winter fodder, but I will come back to that point in a moment. While it is true that in the old days people who had big deer forests normally fed their deer, that, to some extent, has added to our problem today. They fed them in some of the more difficult deer forests because they wanted to get bigger hinds and bigger stags. The war came in 1939 and it was necessary to stop feeding them, and that could always happen, whatever arrangements this House might make.
When that happens, deer which have come year after year to the low ground to feed break out because food is not available. Some places where, today, the problem of marauding and colonising deer are the worst are places where feeding was carried out up to 1939, but then had to be abandoned. It would not be wise to adopt a principle of feeding deer again as a general policy both for that reason and also for the reason that what we are trying to do is to establish the deer as perhaps the most noble of out wild animals. As soon as we begin to 297 turn the deer into a park animal, it seems to me that we are ruining the main reason for keeping deer in this country at all.
§ Mr. D. Johnston
Is it not true to say that the deer is really a parkland animal in this sense, that its native habitat is very much better in lusher pasture, and it is only because of the advance of agriculture that it has been driven to the high ground where it is now found? In Germany, Norway and other countries the red deer is not found in conditions in which it is found in this country.
§ Mr. Noble
The hon. and learned Member is absolutely right. Historically, in the days when Scotland carried a population of about three-quarters of a million deer, they were mainly forest animals, and it says a good deal for their powers of survival that they have survived, but I do not think that either the Lands Committee of the Forestry Commission, or the farmers and crofters, want to bring them back to the state which they were in several years ago, because that would very much complicate our problems.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr spoke about his dislike of the possibility of the use of shotguns. This is again a problem about which we thought a great deal, and it is difficult. My hon. Friend suggested that if many farmers did not have rifles, but had deer, they could get a rifle and then would be able to deal with the deer. I seriously suggest to my hon. Friend that, much as one dislikes the idea of shotguns being used against deer, the cruelty likely to be caused by the use of shotguns is very much less than the indiscriminate use of rifles.
I know a great many farmers, and I shudder to think what would happen if they were given rifles and told to go out and use them, particularly under the rather difficult conditions which one often finds in trying to control this problem. There would be much more suffering for the deer and there would be grave danger to the human race as well.
It is probably very risky for any ordinary person to try to touch on legal points in a Bill of this sort. But of all the problems that the Bill raises, the legal problems are perhaps the most complicated, because the law on deer is very obscure, at least to the ordinary mortal. I would, however, ask hon. Members 298 opposite, who perhaps naturally dislike the idea of conviction on the evidence of one witness, to bear in mind that there is only one Clause in the Bill where that applies. Many people who objected to conviction—among them were the Lochaber crofters—were clearly unaware of the fact that it applied to only one Clause, and that was the Clause where it was a question of illegal possession. That seems to me to be the sort of case where this particular feature of the Bill is not very difficult.
My next point, of which my noble Friend the Joint Under-Secretary has a note, is the problem of shooting deer at night. As a farmer, I know that often there are times when one would like to be able to shoot deer at night. Occasionally, there are times when it might possibly be safe to do it. As, however, one of the prime purposes of the Bill is to reduce, if possible, the amount of cruelty which is involved, we ought, on that ground alone, to try to prevent night shooting, by whoever it might be. The argument has been put forward that the Bill does not change the law very much because the 1948 Act prohibited a tenant from shooting deer at night. This provision should be extended to include everybody, because the practice is not a desirable one.
The Secretary of State has powers to control the deer, to reduce their numbers so that they are more closely related to the feeding that is available for them in the winter and to eliminate, if necessary, the colonised deer. If we make proper use of these powers, the problems of marauding deer coming in at night and the dangers of this and the difficulty of that will automatically disappear.
I do not want to follow the arguments of all the various Members who have spoken on this subject, because so many of them bore little or no relation to the problem. I was disappointed that the Opposition were not able to show in more detail how hon. Members opposite consider that the problem might be dealt with. In their Amendment they refer to the problem, which they say we have done nothing to solve, of curing winter starvation. Surely, if we use our controls—and there would be no point in putting them in the Bill if we did not intend to use them—the proper way to prevent winter starvation is to have the right 299 number of deer to eat the available feed in the winter. It is exactly the same principle as we use with our sheep stock.
I do not think that anybody really believes that the Bill is designed to protect the landowner. I assure hon. Members opposite, if they still believe that, that, having sat through all the discussions, the impression of all of us on the farming side was quite clearly that the landlords had come much further to meet our wishes than we had had to move to meet theirs. We were surprised how co-operative and helpful the great bulk of the Scottish landowners were. It is a gross disservice to the people who represent them to suggest that they are trying to gain some sordid advantage out of the Bill at public expense.
Innocent people are not likely to suffer hard penalties. There was a moment when I thought that the enjoyable speech of the hon. Member for the Western Isles would develop into a sort of "Poachers Galore". Those of us who live on the West Coast and in the Islands, know that certain things go on which are not entirely the same as happen on the mainland. We also know, however, that the courts are well aware of that, and that if we have the misfortune to be caught we are not treated in the same way as the spiv who comes out from Glasgow.
I welcome the Bill, because I am quite certain that the Opposition are wrong in saying that there is any large body of farming opinion in disagreement with us. The National Farmers' Union has agreed to the Bill; the blackface sheep breeders have agreed to it; the landowners have agreed and the Nature Conservancy has agreed. The Nature Conservancy has agreed not only because of the farming and the preservation of our hill grazings, but for the conservation of the deer themselves.
For all these reasons, because I believe it to be for the good of Scotland as a whole, I am delighted not only that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has brought in the Bill, but that he has brought it in now.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. John Taylor (West Lothian)
The hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. M. Noble) has made a thoughtful and detailed speech, evidently after a considerable amount of homework. At times, I thought 300 he was almost usurping the duties of his noble Friend the Joint Under-Secretary in making a winding-up speech and covering every speech which has been made during the debate. I do not, however, propose to follow the hon. Member in the detailed and technical points he has raised, but will rather examine the Amendment and some of the statements which have been made about it.
A strange doctrine has been repeated several times from the Government benches during this debate. Its general trend was that it was wrong for the Opposition to put down an Amendment of this nature and that our speeches did not address themselves to the general principles of the Bill or, indeed, even to the reasoned Amendment. That is a strange doctrine in this Parliament. It is surely the duty of the Opposition to oppose a Bill if it is not considered to be good enough.
There were three courses available to the Opposition. We could have announced that we did not propose to divide against the Bill on Second Reading, but that there were certain points of detail which were largely Committee points and in Committee they could be examined carefully and Amendments put down in the hope that the Government would consider and give way on them. That is a standard procedure if there is general agreement in the House on the broad principle of the Bill. There is agreement in the House on some of the principles of the Bill. That is stated at the beginning of our reasoned Amendment.
The second course which the Opposition could have taken would be the direct negative, in Parliamentary form, of a "six months" Amendment, which, if carried, would mean that the Bill would never be read a Second time. That, however, represents direct opposition to the whole of the Bill and all its contents. The Opposition, of course, did not oppose all the Bill and all its contents. A great deal of its content is approved, particularly the two aspects to which the Amendment refers in its opening lines:That this House, while recognising the need for legislation for the protection and control of deer and the prevention of cruelty …Those are the two main points of the Bill upon which the Opposition agree. Therefore, the direct negative by way of 301 an Amendment for Second Reading in six months' time was a closed door to us.
There remained the reasoned Amendment. I admit that it is a somewhat unusual reasoned Amendment, because of its length and because it goes into so much detail, but we felt it necessary to state the five main reasons why we consider that the Bill is not good enough, does not go far enough and will not be effective in some of the points which we want to see brought into legislation.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland, in opening the debate, used almost as his opening gambit the point that we ought not to oppose the Bill. He could not understand why we were opposing it, because, as he said, it had the unanimous support of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
My hon. Friend should repeat that last sentence. The Secretary of State for Scotland has just come into the Chamber.
§ Mr. Taylor
I see that the right hon. Gentleman has arrived. I was pointing out that in the course of his opening speech he expressed pained surprise, much more in sorrow than in anger, that we should oppose the Bill at all. He explained that the main reason for his surprise was that the Bill had received 'the support of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland. This is a new line. It is not long since the Agriculture (Small Farmers) Bill was before us. The National Farmers' Union of Scotland was directly and unanimously opposed to it, but the Government said, in effect, that the men in Whitehall knew best and even that Farmers' Union had no great effect when the Government's view was the opposite one.
§ Mr. Maclay
I am certain that the hon. Member has no desire to misrepresent what I said. I do not think that I claimed in the words that he used, in my actual speech, that we had the unanimous support of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland. I said that it wanted the Bill and the quotation I made was from the chairman of the Union's legal committee.
§ Mr. Taylor
Certainly, the approval of the Farmers' Union was suggested to us as a good reason why we should not oppose the Bill.
302 What are we to do? The people with whom we are in contact and who are in contact with us in the House all tell us that we must oppose the Bill. We do not feel inclined to ignore the matter when people with knowledge say that the Bill must be opposed. Even today I have received telegrams on the subject. Here is one from Ross-shire. The sender has the magnificent name of Duncan Macrae, a name which rolls around like a challenge. It says:One million acres of deer forest in Ross-shire rateable valuation £4,283 "—
§ Mr. Taylor
The telegram adds:Poaching Bill retards instead of promoting production of food and clothing with present day scientific knowledge.—Duncan Macrae.The sender, I believe, is a councillor of Ross-shire County Council.
There is another telegram from the constituency of the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. N. McLean) which says:Oppose Deer Bill and keep men on the crofts.Nothing ambiguous about that. Short, sharp and to the point. It is signed "Lochaber Crofters."
We have all had letters from correspondents, whom I admit fall into two main groups. There is a small group of those who are appalled and whose humanity is shocked by reports of cruelty to maimed deer. I must admit that my postbag was fairly full of that kind of letter for a time while the Bill was being discussed in another place. The letters came mainly from ladies in what seem to be comfortable addresses in the Lowlands. I make no point about that. It is always a natural human reaction, and I hope it always will be, to recoil from cruelty of any kind and to support any Measure which appears to stop it.
There was a second group of correspondents, much more numerous and much more vociferous, and many of them were tenant farmers, smallholders and crofters. They declared emphatically that they were in diametric and determined opposition to the Bill. It is true that it was because they believed quite sincerely that the Bill did not go far enough along the lines which they wanted to see adopted to protect their rights and cure some of the evils, such 303 as the depredations of marauding deer, which have existed over a long period. But they said emphatically that the Bill should be opposed. Some, as we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin)—and I have written it down—went so far as to claim that, "The real object of the Bill is to strengthen the powers of the deer forest owners." They also said that the Bill deprives farmers of the right to deal adequately with marauding deer when they ravage their crops.
Others said indignantly that the Bill makes a criminal offence of a practice sanctioned by the common law in Scotland. I do not know whether the practice is sanctioned or not by the common law. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston) will possibly deal with that point. The point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. MacMillan) about the punitive Clauses has raised a vast amount of indignation. Clause 25 (4) legalises what one of my correspondents describes as:The totalitarian practice of conviction on the evidence of one witness.He adds that:This is a travesty of justice and a sign of a police State.That may be an exaggeration. With due respect to my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles, some Western Islanders tend to paint a picture in dramatic tints. Nevertheless, it is not without some truth. There is a great deal of uneasiness about that Clause in the Highlands, because if there is one place in the country where it might lead to unfortunate and unjust effects it is in those sparsely populated areas, for reasons into which I need not go in detail. I could go on cataloguing a list of the indignant resistances of angry Highlanders to the Bill.
§ Lord John Hope
The hon. Gentleman, like his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), has given us examples of sincerely felt objections by Scotsmen to certain points in the Bill. Every point he has mentioned, just as every point mentioned by his hon. Friend, however important—and, of course, they are important points—can be argued in Committee. The hon. Gentleman seems to me to be arguing that, because he and his hon. Friends have had representations 304 on detailed points, they are bound to oppose the Bill en bloc on this Second Reading Motion. It is a curious Parliamentary reaction.
§ Mr. Taylor
I do not think so. I recall that during the Committee stage of the Agriculture Bill, when the noble Lord was in charge of the Clauses applying to Scotland, he used to say to us frequently "Hon. Gentlemen opposite have advanced their views and they hold them sincerely. I grant that they do, but we do not agree with them and therefore we are opposing them". I admired his technique. I thought it was good and I give the same reply to him today: these people think that the Bill ought not to be given a Second Reading for the reasons they have advanced and in which they believe sincerely.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
May I point out to my hon. Friend that the noble Lord has a new technique? Now he explains his retreat from that Bill by saying how gallantly he and the Secretary of State fought against the Government to get our Amendment.
§ Mr. Taylor
That is past history but nevertheless the technique appealed to me at the time and I feel no compunction about using it now. We believe that the reasons advanced to us by our colleagues and fellow countrymen in the Highlands are sufficiently strong to justify the Opposition putting down a reasoned Amendment and stating in it their objections categorically, one after the other.
There is another point raised by at least one correspondent, namely, that many farmers who are adversely affected by what they believe to be the inadequate and ineffective anti-marauding provisions of the Bill are these from whom the M.A.P. grants have been removed. Whilst in the past they might have been able to bear their losses because of the grants, they will not have them now because they farm under twenty acres and so they are suffering a double blow and feel doubly aggrieved.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Argyll raised the point about night shooting. Frankly, it would seem to me to be rather difficult to shoot accurately at deer at night and to make sure that one hits them in a vital spot. Nevertheless, the people who suffer from marauding deer all seem to be agreed that the only effective way to deal with 305 them is at the time when they are marauding and on the spot where they are marauding, and they do this marauding at night. I do not know if the existing law makes it illegal to shoot at night but the Bill, they claim, takes away that right from them. At any rate it now becomes a criminal offence to shoot these animals at night.
§ Mr. Taylor
Apparently they do it nevertheless. I say at once that obviously some legislation is necessary because the marauding goes on. It has been argued that the existing legislation gives adequate powers to stop this practice, but in fact they are not adequate. My main concern is to protect the farmer from crop spoilation by vermin and therefore a Bill to protect the farmer in that respect is required. We believe that the Bill goes about it in the wrong way and that it is not adequate.
I think it was the Secretary of State who, in an intervention, said that someone was displaying ignorance of the natural habits of deer. The natural habits of deer do not seem to be catered for or recognised in the Bill. As I said earlier, at least the leaders of the marauding deer must be dealt with on the spot and at the time. Apparently if the leaders are driven off, the rest of the herd goes, and the most effective way is to deal with them at night. The Bill makes that impossible.
When I first read the Bill and the report of the Second Reading debate in the other place, knowing very little about the habits of deer—four-legged ones anyway—I began to consider what deer are. In the minds of most of our people in Scotland, who are traditionally and happily rather romantic, the deer is an animal romanticised by Sir Walter Scott, Landseer, and even Walt Disney, and is regarded as rather a beautiful and attractive animal which ought not to be exterminated.
Because of their ravages, deer become vermin—the most destructive vermin in the Highlands; at any rate, in that part of the Highlands where the deer forests are. Whenever vermin become a nuisance, they should be destroyed, just as we destroy rats, polecats, and rabbits; but these deer are not entirely and wholly vermin. The deer can be a very decorative animal, and some should obviously be preserved to lend enchantment to the 306 sylvan scene, or even for sport, although it would not cause me any distress if the vast acreage required for deer forests were to be put to some more important use. I have some personal puzzlement as to exactly what sporting satisfaction can be obtained from human beings going out with shotguns and shooting helpless deer, whose only defence is their speed. I do not see that it is a very sporting use of time or that there is much sportsmanship about it, but that is only my personal opinion.
When we have at least 100,000, or sonic suggest perhaps 140,000, deer in this restricted part of Scotland, then the deer cease to be decorative and cease to become entirely attractive. A large number do become vermin. They do not belong to anyone—and this argument has been thrown across the Floor of the House earlier today. No one owns the deer, at least, not the deer in the Highland deer forests. It may be that in some parts there are controlled small herds of deer which are preserved for decorative purposes, and which look very attractive if they are well looked after. In fact, they are fed in winter, and some are even taken indoors in rough weather. These are not, however, the kind of deer we are discussing.
Nobody says "I own a herd of a thousand deer." No one makes that claim. A deer forest owner may say, as in fact one did say in another place, "My forest contains approximately 1,000 or 2,000 deer," but that owner does not fence them in. He does not do anything to preserve them, and does not regard himself as responsible for feeding them. If, in a hard winter like this one, they suffer greatly from starvation, no one feels a personal responsibility for their plight and their sufferings. In fact, it seems to me that more suffering is inflicted on deer by winter starvation than by all the inaccurate shooting by poachers or by other types of shooting. We want to stop both kinds of suffering—the suffering from inaccurate shooting and maiming and the suffering from starvation in winter. We do not think that the Bill goes far enough towards achieving that end satisfactorily.
We also want to give the farmers the power to deal, in the most effective way and at the most effective time, with marauding deer by preventing them from ravaging their crops, not by sending a postcard to the local panel, or the county 307 executive committee, but by shooting them there and then, provided that there are proper safeguards, such as discouraging the leaders of the herd and driving the rest of the herd off. The Bill does not give them that power. In fact, it makes it a criminal offence, unless they are authorised in writing, and while they are waiting for the authorisation, the whole herd of deer might well move in and destroy the crop on which they depend for the feeding of their stock in the winter.
The Bill does not differentiate between the farmer, smallholder or crofter who defends his croft against vermin and, on the other hand, the poacher gangs who try to take deer not for human consumption but for some grey market—for feeding greyhounds, perhaps, or making cat or dog meat, or something similar, which, I understand, is the main use to which the poacher gangs put the venison which they illegally acquire.
There still remains the point about the 3 million acres—or, to be generous, the 2½ million acres. It may be true that most of that area is not capable of rehabilitation. It may be impossible to put it into good heart for the production of grass. But the history of the Highlands of Scotland shows that at one time the land was in good heart and was maintained. Not many acres of it could produce arable crops, but other stock was fed on it.
There is a need for the extension of forestry, which I support in spite of the fact that the growth of forestry in Scotland in the last decade has closed Boness Dock, in my constituency, because of the decline in the importation of pit props. Nevertheless, the larger interests of the nation sometimes have to take precedence over the small interests even of one's own constituency. When that happens it is the duty of the Member of Parliament concerned to try to persuade the affected people in his constituency that that is the case. It is never easy to do so when these people lose their jobs as a result. In such cases it is also the duty of the Government to find alternative means of employment for those who lose their jobs.
The 2½ million acres of land which is devoted to this purpose, which is uneconomic from the point of view of the general interests of Scotland, represents a 308 misuse of our native land or, to use language of extreme moderation, does not represent the best way of using our precious and beloved native soil. In the long run Scotland cannot afford to use so much of its land in that way. In advancing these varied reasons, the Opposition have justified their right to put down a reasoned Amendment, and they have also justified the terms of that Amendment.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)
I hope that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor) will forgive me if I do not follow his speech, much of which did not seem to have anything to do with the Bill.
I wish to raise three points. First, I very much welcome the Bill, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend upon bringing it forward. It seems that considerable difficulty has been experienced in obtaining agreement among all the organisations interested in the matter, but that that agreement has now been obtained and we can safely say that all reasonable people in Scotland are delighted to see the Bill coming on to the Statute Book.
Secondly, I want to refer to Part IV of the Bill, which deals with enforcement. Powers of seizure and search are to be given to constables. My point is that in these vast and remote areas we have only a limited number of constables available for patrol, and I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would consider taking reserve powers under the Bill so that, if need be, he could appoint special people as bailiffs to reinforce the police, to see that when the laws are made they are properly enforced, and poachers and others who are guilty of cruelty are brought to justice.
I speak as a Member representing a city constituency, and I have received some letters about cruelty to deer. I know that many of my constituents are concerned about the disgraceful acts of cruelty to deer. They have read about the many shocking cases which have occurred in the Highlands and I share the anxiety which they feel. The Bill may not be perfect—very few man-made things are perfect—but it represents a genuine attempt to improve the present situation. It has the backing of many 309 reasonable and knowledgeable people and for that reason I welcome it.
In declining to support the Bill, hon. Members opposite are prolonging the present unsatisfactory situation. I think that the people of Scotland will note from the debate that many hon. Members opposite have been more concerned to make silly gibes about landlords than about getting on with the business of trying to stop this cruelty and securing more justice for farmers, landowners, the Nature Conservancy and the deer.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
I hope that I may be forgiven if, as a mere Englishman, I venture to intervene briefly in this Scottish debate. I have never had the temerity to do so before in the nine years that I have been a Member of the House, and it will probably be another nine years before I do so again. My only excuse for intervening today is that I have spent many happy days watching and stalking deer in Scotland and I have a genuine interest in the subject—although I suppose hon. Members opposite would consider it a wrong sort of interest, judging by the tone of most of the speeches that we have heard from the opposite benches.
Listening to the debate, and especially to speeches made earlier by hon. Members opposite, I was surprised by the highly controversial nature of those speeches. Many of them contained what I can only describe as the class-conscious approach which so often mars and distorts otherwise quite reasonable arguments advanced by hon. Members opposite. It is very old-fashioned stuff, like so much of their politics—
§ Mr. Fisher
I cannot help feeling that it is a pity that that sort of consideration—if it was the consideration which prompted some of the earlier speakers from the benches opposite—should have caused them to oppose this Bill on Second Reading. As has been said, they support broadly the main principles of the Bill.
I should add that I much enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) even though it consisted mainly of a 310 sort of dissertation in praise of poachers. The hon. Member elevated poaching almost to a moral virtue. I was surprised at the controversial nature of the debate, because I consider this an extremely well-balanced Bill. Its two objects—and there are only two main objects, both of which hon. Members opposite have said that they support, the conservation and the control of the deer—seem to be well balanced. Not only are they compatible, but they are actually complementary, as is recognised I think by hon. Members opposite. I do not understand why, when supporting the two main objects of the Bill, hon. Members opposite have decided to divide against it on Second Reading.
My main personal interest is the conservation of the deer, so I shall confine my very few remarks to that aspect of the matter. It has been argued, I think quite fallaciously, that the very existence of deer is uneconomic, and we are told that large areas of the Highlands which could graze sheep or cattle are not so used because of the presence of deer. That, I understand, is one of the arguments.
I cannot speak of Scotland as a whole, but in certain parts of the Western Highlands which I know that certainly is not true. I have seen again and again sheep and deer grazing on the same ground. I am sure that in fact there are very few landowners in these days who can afford not to graze sheep if the ground is suitable for them. The truth is, of course, that there is always some ground—and quite a lot of it in the Highlands of Scotland—on which deer can live and sheep cannot.
Before the war, the problem eve are confronted with today would have been quite different. One used to shoot stags for six or seven weeks in September or October and a few hinds in the winter, and there were plenty of stalkers and ghillies. Nowadays, there are very few stalkers and ghillies because the owners of dear forests cannot afford them. The higher prices which have been obtained for venison has, in fact, resulted in the appearance of gangs of poachers who slaughter the dear with impunity. These gangs operate mainly at night, when the deer are on the lower ground and very often dazzled by the headlights of their lorries, and they indulge in a shooting match—I do not know whether they use Sten guns or not, but they certainly use 311 shotguns—and leave the deer killed or wounded and maimed to die a slow death on the hill. I cannot imagine anything more cruel or a better object than this Bill contains in trying to put a stop to that sort of thing. Hinds are killed, often leaving their helpless calves to die of starvation. It is really a horrible, brutal sort of business; a business which is carried on for gain—not by the attractive, sporting kind of characters like John MacNab. It is not that sort of poaching, but poaching by butchers—I know no other word for them—who care nothing at all about the cruelty of their methods or the suffering caused to these beautiful animals.
I think that the part of the Bill which deals with the conservation of the deer is genuinely concerned much more with the prevention of this cruelty than with the prevention of poaching. I am sure that is my right hon. Friend's objective. It is a Bill, in fact, designed not to protect the interests of the owners of deer forests but to protect the deer themselves. That is, I am sure, the intention and the effect of the Bill.
The Bill deals primarily, of course, with red deer, but I was glad to see, as a result of representations made in another place, that my right hon. Friend has taken power to fix a period in each year as a close season for roe and fallow. I hope that he will use that power because I think it would have been illogical and wrong in a Bill which covers all deer deliberately to exclude roe or fallow and allow them to be killed when carrying their young, or when the fawns cannot support themselves.
§ Mr. Maclay
There is very much less knowledge about the appropriate seasons for these other types of deer.
§ Mr. Fisher
I appreciate that we have not enough knowledge actually to fix the dates, but I hope that they will be fixed in due course when that knowledge has been acquired.
My right hon. Friend asked us for our views on the date when the Bill should come into operation. I rather welcome the initiative of another place in making it 1961 instead of 1962, and I hope that that date will be allowed to stand.
§ Mr. Maclay
I think it was a slip of the tongue when my hon. Friend said 312 that that was the date when the Bill would come into operation. It is the close season only. The only reason why I interrupt him again is because there has been some misunderstanding about that. That date affects only the close season.
§ Mr. Fisher
I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend. I appreciate that, although, perhaps, I stated it rather badly.
There are one or two minor criticisms which I should like to make about the Bill which, in principle, I welcome most gratefully. The first is the difficulty of enforcement. There are very few policemen in the Highlands of Scotland and the deer forests are large, lonely and remote. The poachers operate in gangs and I suppose—I have never met them myself—they must be pretty touch characters. I imagine that a solitary policeman, even if he caught red-handed a gang of poachers, might be in some personal danger if he tried to apprehend them.
The Government have rejected the suggestion, made in another place, of appointing special constables. I recognise that there are many objections to a course of that sort. I do not pretend to have any other solution to this problem, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear it in mind.
Then there is the point made by the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) that deer may, under the Bill, be killed with shot guns. I rather object to that. Rifles are humane and painless, in the hands of a good shot. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Yes. Shot guns are not, even in the hands of a good shot, in this context. They wound more often than they kill outright. It may be necessary sometimes for a farmer to use a shot gun against marauding deer who are attacking his crops, in the sort of area where the use of a rifle might be dangerous to human life. But I wish a form of words could be devised to limit the use of shot guns to circumstances of that kind, rather than make the wording of universal application.
These are very small criticisms of a Bill which is useful, workmanlike and long overdue. On this side of the House we are most grateful to my right hon. Friend for finding Parliamentary time for the Bill and we hope it will have a speedy passage to the Statute Book.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
The hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) has indicated an interest in the Bill that does not make many Scottish people happy about the continuance of this kind of practice. Far too many people who are not Scotsmen come to Scotland to shoot deer and have done no good to Scotland at all over many years. Far too much of our country is reserved as a playground for people acting like the hon. Gentleman. Those of us who have any feeling for our country cannot but resent that state of affairs.
That is not to say that we are not concerned about cruelty to deer and not anxious to see that adequate steps are taken to get rid of it and to provide conditions in which there is, as far as possible, no cruelty at all. We are not satisfied that the Bill will do that. In the first place, we do not distinguish very much between the so-called "gang" with rifles coming at night and the sportsmen. We hear much about the cruelty of stag hunting in England, and probably all hon. Gentlemen have been approached on many occasions by those who are concerned about this cruelty. Much evidence has been submitted indicating that this cruelty has disturbed very many people.
Stag hunting is carried on by orthodox hunters, and some people argue that the stags enjoy the sport and that there is no cruelty. Evidence has been submitted that stag hunting can be very cruel, so we take it that the so-called legitimate shooting of deer in Scotland can also be cruel. If we could be satisfied that this type of hunting was not cruel to the deer, very much of what has been said on Government Benches would be substantiated, but we are not so satisfied at the moment.
§ Mr. Fisher
A good rifle shot with a reasonable rifle would not very often wound a stag. The hon. Member is talking of a microscopic proportion of the problem.
§ Mr. Lawson
Is the hon. Member saying that the majority of those who go hunting deer in Scotland are good shots?
§ Mr. Lawson
I very much doubt it. Is it not the case that if anyone is prepared to rent a piece of land that person has the shooting rights? Is there any test of the capacity of that person or of the party to shoot? Is it stated in the Bill that there should be such a test?
§ Mr. Lawson
The hon. Member has been telling the House that stalkers are very difficult to obtain and that that is one of the difficulties. If the genuine concern of hon. Members opposite is with cruelty to deer, the proposals put forward from this side of the House could go very far indeed towards meeting that concern.
The principal proposal is that the number of deer should be reduced. It has been put forward that most of this so-called gang shooting—I am not arguing that there is no such shooting—by gangs coming from the cities is done on the road, or very near roads. That indicates that the deer come down to the road. If deer are so numerous—we are told there are about three times as many as the area can reasonably be expected to carry—the answer is to reduce the total number of deer. That would seem to call for an organised effort at humane destruction. This was well argued by my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan). The number suggested was somewhere around 50,000 to 60,000, and I understand that at present there are about 140,000.
Where are the proposals to reduce the number of deer? As I understand the Bill, the proposal is a patch-work local type of activity. If complaints come from a given area it is suggested that something might be done, in the same way as when complaints about rats come from a certain area, and that then someone will be brought in to deal with the problem. Surely the sensible approach is to think in terms of what the area can carry and to set about the business in an organised, humane way, using men fitted to do the job of reducing the size of the deer population to the extent at which it will be controlled, as clearly at present it is not. On that basis one can see that there would be sense in the operation of a closed season.
I submit that the concern in another place about bringing forward the close 315 season did not indicate any great desire that the total number of deer should be reduced to manageable proportions. That concern, on the contrary, was that the deer population should remain as large as possible and not be reduced to the size which we thought reasonable. The only sense in having a close season is to see that deer are not shot out of season when they are carrying young, so that they may be properly looked after and can breed sufficiently. The concern shown in another place with bringing forward the close season bears out that the purpose of those in another place who had so much to say about the Bill was not the protection of deer from cruelty but rather the preservation of deer for their own shooting rights and for the shooting rights of those people to whom they had let the land.
If the object of the Bill is genuinely to eliminate cruelty, then I have shown what is the first step to be taken. What other reasonable steps are there? We could reduce the size of the herds and then see to it that they are proprly balanced, with the right number of males and females. This can be done only on the basis of a continuous watch over the herds by game men trained in this work. I find nothing in the Bill which shows that this is the concern of the Government.
In an area such as the Highlands, over the generations men have had this right to shoot the deer, whether it has been legally recognised or not. The right has been recognised morally as one which they should have, and they have practised it. This right should be preserved for them, and it is not preserved in the Bill.
The fines which can be imposed on them—£1200 or £500—with the addition of two years' imprisonment, is a much more severe penalty than I have ever heard imposed on a drunken motorist. The attitude of authority towards a type of crime can be measured by the severity of the punishment. Here the punishment is not a £200 or £500 fine or two years' imprisonment but the fine and two years' imprisonment, and this seems to me to indicate an attitude of, "This is something which must be crushed for all time." It indicates where the bias lies in the Bill. To my mind the bias lies towards the preservation of those shooting rights which mean very little indeed to the mass 316 of the people of Scotland and which bring very little meat to them. This is the kind of thing which breeds servility and the touching of the hat and the holding out of the hand, which is something which no true Scot wants to see preserved.
§ Mr. Maclay
What the hon. Member says has been touched on by previous speakers. I am not clear what he meant when he referred to the moral right. Was he referring to the right to deal with deer which stray on to enclosed land and damage crops? If so, I would point out that the provisions of the 1948 Act still operate and are not changed at all. I think there is a genuine misunderstanding about this, and it would be a pity if it spread abroad. That right remains, as far as I can understand the position; it is exactly as it was. If he is asking what these powers are wanted for, I put it to the hon. Member that he has agreed that this poaching by gangs coming from outside the Highland area is to be utterly deplored. It is recognised that this is a problem with which it is extremely difficult to deal. These penalties are aimed at stopping that practice.
§ Mr. Lawson
We agree with the right hon. Gentleman's attitude towards the organised gangs who come from the cities. By all means stop that, and I do not think it is very difficult. I will come to that point in a moment. I am thinking of the possibility of two natives of the Highlands ganging together to get a deer for themselves from the hills of their own locality, where for generations they and their fathers have acted in this way. No doubt the illegality will be that they go on someone else's land, not that they shoot the deer and not that the deer belong to anybody else. I understand that the deer does not belong to anybody. It is the land that belongs to someone else, and it is illegal to go on someone else's land.
It is certainly not for any hon. Member to say that though certain practices may be illegal they nevertheless have a certain moral sanction, but one must recognise that where, for generations, an occasional deer has been shot on someone else's hillside by a person to whom the hillside does not belong, there is in that sense a certain moral right for the practice to continue, and I think that the punishment to be imposed on two of 317 these people acting together—because by being together they become a gang—is extremely harsh.
I also find it difficult to understand why it is so enormously difficult for the police to handle the problem of gangs operating from long distances. A car in which I was travelling was stopped twice and searched, not by one policeman but by two who were there with a motor car and with other policemen available if necessary. If that sort of thing were carried out extensively at key points, to seek to carry deer from the hillside to certain spots across which cars or lorries must pass could be made a very risky operation.
In that case, if any lorry were then found with deer in it, I would be very happy indeed to see harsh penalties inflicted. If we are really concerned with stopping this practice, thought could be given to that idea. The work could be done fairly simply by focussing attention on given points—
§ Mr. Burden
That, of course, is precisely what will happen when this Bill is passed, because under it the police will be empowered to do just what the hon. Member now suggests. Indeed, I think that most of the points of our present disagreement could be settled in Committee.
§ Mr. Burden
But at present they have no powers of arrest whatsoever. At the moment, they can find carcases in a van, with shotguns beside them, but provided the man has a 10s. gun licence the police have no power of arrest whatever.
§ Mr. Lawson
If that is the case, by all means let the police have such power. In that way this practice could be stopped. But to do it in this way seems to be turning a Bill which could serve a real, genuine purpose of preventing cruelty into a Measure concerned with the preservation of landlords' shooting rights—that rather than the elimination of unwarranted, unnecessary, and needless cruelty.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Johnston (Paisley)
There are two remarkable things about the Bill. The first is that during the debate more English Tory Members have been present than have attended our debates on any other Scottish Bill that I can remember. 318 I cannot remember any Scottish Bill—any Bill dealing with agriculture, fisheries, unemployment, economic affairs or anything such as that—that has ever drawn such attention from English Tory back benchers as has this one. I do not resent it. I hope that, in future, they will come oftener and, perhaps, even attempt to take part in our debates.
The second remarkable thing concerns two constitutional doctrines which have been advanced during the course of the Bill. The first was put forward in the other place by the Minister of State, who, subject to interruption from certain Members of that place, advanced a doctrine that it was wrong and unconstitutional to attempt to amend any Bill to which there had been substantial agreement by so-called interested parties. I am glad to say that at a later date the Minister of State withdrew that doctrine after he had been suitably rebuked by certain Members sitting behind him.
The second doctrine was advanced by the Secretary of State today, namely, that it is wrong for the Opposition to seek by means of a reasoned Amendment to draw attention to certain objections to a Bill. I think that that is wholly remarkable. I do not know that it has ever been advanced before. What I find even more remarkable, however, is that in a leader in The Times today it is put forward almost as a constitutional doctrine, and the remarkable thing about that is that the proprietor of The Times was, of course, the person accused in the other place of attempting to torpedo the Bill. In using that phrase, I am quoting the Minister of State.
Having said that, let us be clear how far apart we are on the Bill. In order to ascertain that, let us put aside immediately the question of gang poaching.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
I wonder whether the hon. and learned Member would allow me to interrupt? Earlier in the debate, he asked me for my authority for stating that sten guns had been used in poaching, and I vaguely told him, when I did not know where to find the authority, that he would find it in the Scott Henderson Report, which I thought he would have read. May I now tell him exactly where to find it? He will find it in paragraph 212 of the Scott Henderson Report.
§ Mr. Johnston
I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Member for telling me that. I had not forgotten it, but I wonder whether he has examined the Scott Henderson Report sufficiently to ascertain on what it is based. So far as I can recollect, no one ever gave evidence to the Committee saying, "We saw someone use a sten gun we saw someone use a bren gun; we saw someone use an automatic rifle such as is supplied to the Army", and no one ever said that he found a bullet. However, that is not an important matter. I interrupted the hon. and gallant Member only because I thought that he had evidence on a point in which I had been most interested, namely, to ascertain whether there was any proper evidence that weapons such as those were ever used.
As I have said, I think that there is no difference on either side of the House in the condemnation of gang poaching. We know what happens. An incident occurred when I was in Sutherland this year, not far from where I was living. A few people motored up the strath, came to a place where deer commonly congregate, got out of the car, turned the spotlight on the deer and shot a number of hinds. That is very deplorable and dreadful. Of course, we must do something about it, and something will be done about it.
But the Bill is about rather more than that, and in deciding whether to give it a Second Reading one has to examine just how much more the Bill is about. One has not simply to consider stopping poaching. One must consider how this type of poaching arises at all.
How it arises is that for many years in Scotland there have been far too many deer for the land available. Nobody will doubt that, except those whom I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray) seems to support: that is, those who let shooting—rough shooting, as it is usually described—with a parenthetical advertisement that a stag or two may be expected. That is the very worst type of shooting. It is rarely that a stalker is employed. Very often a gamekeeper is not employed. What happens is that deer are colonising in places where deer never were before and those who own the ground which has been colonised are letting off those rough 320 shootings. That has occurred in several places which I know personally. They may not be the places which the hon. Baronet knows—
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
It is, in fact, the poor man's type of shooting. I know that we on this side are accused of standing up only for the very rich, but sometimes we take an interest in the poor, too.
§ Mr. Johnston
It is a type of shooting which I can only condemn. What happens is that the poor man's shooting is largely enjoyed at the expense of the farmer and the crofter because very often it is from that type of shoot that the deer go down, not only in winter, but throughout the year, and feed in the darkness on the turnips and the growing crops. I have no sympathy whatever with that type of shooting. I much prefer the big landowner on whose land the deer are properly looked after with a sufficient number of stalkers in the forest.
This is really a conflict of how we are to use a great part of the land of Scotland. There is no doubt whatever that a substantial part of the land is suitable only for deer forests, but there is much that is suitable for other purposes. This conflict, which has been going on for nearly 100 years, is a conflict, on the one hand, between the sporting interests, the deer forest owner and the shooting tenant and, on the other hand, the interests of those who want to put that part of Scotland to some other use. Much of the depopulation of Scotland has resulted directly from so much land being used for deer forests. If we are to get people back to the Highlands, we must make better use of almost the only asset in the Highlands—the land.
The hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison), in his interesting speech, with much of which I agreed, said that there were three things that could be done in Scotland: agriculture, forestry and tourism. I will deal with those three shortly and in the reverse order. It is not realised how much harm deer cause to the tourist industry in certain parts of Scotland. Outside the Cairngorms, I know of no place in Scotland north and west of that area where one could be certain of getting a day's walking in the hills without the danger of being put off the hill.
§ Mr. J. Morrison
I was under the impression—the hon. and learned Member is a lawyer and I am not—that under the Access to the Mountains Act, people can, and do, walk anywhere.
§ Mr. Johnston
I fear that that is not so. A person may be put right off the hill. There are certain places in Scotland where one can walk not by reason of that Act, but simply by common courtesy—that is, the whole of the Cairngorms. It is a magnificent recreation ground. As a result of that, the whole of the Spey Valley and the villages thereof have become wonderful recreation grounds for people. The hotel keepers there, who are a most go-ahead lot, have a season which runs almost from now for the ski-ing right on to the end of September. That is not so in many other parts of the Highlands. It is really impossible to go on land if there is the danger of being put off.
The second point is that we have never really exploited our best asset in the Highlands. This is not the grouse moor or the deer forest, nor is it the salmon river. It is the enormous number of lochs. We have hundreds, indeed I should think thousands, of lochs running in Argyllshire, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross and Cromarty, and very little use has been made of them. I am sure that many hon. Gentlemen opposite have had my experience of being told, "You are the first person to fish this loch for two, three or five years." I had that experience last year. It is shocking that we should fail to exploit this great natural asset. The reason we do not exploit it is that it is much easier for the owner of the ground to let the ground as a deer forest or as a grouse moor, which may bring him in an income but it does not bring in any income to the area.
Another thing was brought to my notice by an American with whom I toured part of the Highlands last year. It is depressing to see so many cottagers' and crofters' houses going to rack and ruin. The American said to me, "Why don't you do what we do. Have a weekend cottage? It would not cost you much. You could get a place for £100 and put it together yourself. It would be primitive but good enough for a weekend cottage or for a week or two in the summer time." That cannot be done in Scotland and the reason is not that one cannot get the cottage but that it is made very clear that 322 one gets the cottage only and has no right of access to the hill. I have tried it myself, so I have personal experience. This is all there for our tourist industry, which in my view will be one of the most important industries in the Highlands in the next thirty years.
The second effect of our deer policy today has been on forestry and on agriculture. We all know the vast amount of damage a small herd of deer can do coming down to root crops or into the corn. It is not true to say that they come down only in the winter. The last sight I had of Sutherland in 1958 was in the first week of September, short of Bonar Bridge. There were five hinds, and I suppose some calves though I did not see them, all grazing peacefully between 6 and 7 o'clock in the morning in a field of corn. That is bad, and it is not only bad in the arable ground but it is bad in the pasture ground as well, because the deer get the first crop of the early grass and the result is that the ground does not carry nearly as much as it should. It is against that background that we have to approach the Bill, and the Bill really does very little for it.
First of all, it sets up a Commission which I venture to think suffers from the fault of very many Commissions. It is an attempt to balance interests. The hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and East Lothian said that on the whole it was balanced in favour of farming interests. My impression is that it is balanced on the whole in favour of deer forest interests. I say that because I think the two Nature Conservancy people are rather more likely to come down in favour of deer than of farming. At least one could argue that from experience. But if the balance is right, who will make the decision ultimately? It will be the chairman.
I suggest to the Secretary of State that that is not the sort of Commission that he wants at all. He does not want a Commission of interests. That sort of Commission may be very good indeed for advising. The right hon. Gentleman wants an executive body, which has not any of these interests at all. The real executive body, of course, is the Secretary of State himself, and in the Bill he is giving up very substantial powers which he already has but of which he has never made use. The reason he gives us for 323 not having used them is that they are too cumbersome. I cannot understand that. All that he requires to do is to make an order that deer in a certain area must be destroyed. It is up to the proprietor to do it and, if he does not, the Secretary of State has certain default powers.
Instead of that, what is now proposed is a most complex arrangement. The Commission, for example, when it deals with marauding deer has to go through a great many constitutional steps before it can do anything. Let me remind the House of what it has to do. It has been dealt with in outline already by several hon. Members.
The Commission must first of all be satisfied that the marauding deer are habitual marauders. Secondly, that the damage is substantial. That means that the crofter or farmer comes along and says to the Commission, "There are deer marauding on my land." The Commission cannot act on that. It must go along and be satisfied, not, one presumes, by one night's stay but by half-a-dozen, that the deer are habitually marauding, and secondly, that the damage done is substantial. The Commission cannot take action even then. It has then to ascertain the owner of the forest from which the deer are most likely to have come. Having done that, the Commission has to make a request to the owner of a forest that he shall deal with the marauding deer.
After an unspecified time, if nothing is done, the Commission may give twenty-four hours' notice that the Commission intends to do something itself. Then the Commission winds up by paying a person whom it has employed to kill the deer. Is that a really satisfactory way of dealing with marauding deer? How long will it take—a fortnight, three weeks, a month? It will not be very helpful to the farmer on whose crops or whose lands the marauding deer have come.
Let us deal with this much vaunted control scheme. Let us suppose that the Commission makes such a scheme. It cannot do anything at all about a scheme until it is satisfied that damage has been caused to agriculture or forestry. Then it can put forward a control scheme, and, having put forward a control scheme, it must then have consultations with the 324 forest owner. If he objects, we go through all the paraphernalia of an inquiry, with which we are so familiar in this House.
I venture to suggest that not only will this be long, but that it will be extremely expensive. I personally take the view that this provision and the one which I mentioned previously will certainly result in substantial litigation in the Court of Session when it has to be decided, as a preliminary to making any use of Clauses 6 and 7, what the word "habitually" means and what "serious damage" really is. I and those behind me would not have objected to these provisions appearing initially in the Bill if we had had any indication whatever from the Government that they intended to amend the Bill in the manner suggested in another place by certain of the Amendments, but I must say that all the Amendments except one, which was accepted, got such a frosty reception in the other place that it does not surprise me in the least that this Amendment has been put down.
May I now touch for a moment upon some of the other objections to the Bill, remembering always that I have already said that I am strongly in favour of provisions that deal with this mass poaching? If these provisions against mass poaching are to be at all useful, there is no doubt whatever that they must have the support of the community; that is, ordinary persons living in the glens. The ordinary person living in the glen, as more than one hon. Member on both sides of the House has said, will from time to time take a beast off the hill. That is recognised, and it is not surprising. At least, it is recognised by persons who have lived long in the country, although I am bound to say that some who have recently come into the North of Scotland take a somewhat different view of this, and appear to think that, by acquiring a shooting tenancy over an area of ground, they have an absolute right to exclude everybody from that ground, and that for anyone to take a beast off the hill is a most heinous offence.
That attitude makes the enforcement of the law most difficult, and it makes provisions such as are contained in the penal part of the Bill most dangerous, because while the old landowner would not, on the whole, bother to do very much if Roderick McGregor or John MacNab 325 took a hind, the new type of landlord is on to the police at once. I have had one chief constable make the most bitter complaint to me about what representations had been made to him—representations which he though most unreasonable. He could not do anything, and did not do anything, which was most sensible, but under the present Bill, he can do something and may be compelled to do so.
For example, let us take Clause 24, which deals with the unlawful killing of deer by two or more persons acting together. A crofter and his son may go out and take a stag off the hill. They do it at half an hour before first light. They come within the provisions of the first part of Clause 23, and they are then liable to be charged, and, if convicted on indictment, to be fined £500 or suffer imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. Is that sensible? I am sure that the Lord Advocate will agree that that is what can happen under the provisions of the Bill. Do I get his assent?
§ The Lord Advocate (Mr. W. R. Milligan) indicated assent.
§ Mr. Johnston
Nobody can justify such a provision. I suggest that if we really want to deal with the type of poacher mentioned in Clause 24, as I am sure the whole House wishes to do, the way to do so is to catch those who use motor cars and convict them of this dreadful type of poaching—and I do not mind how heavily they are penalised.
Many other provisions are objectionable, but the main objection is that the Bill does not represent a serious attempt to deal with a most serious problem. If the reception had been different in the other place; if, as a result of our experience of past Bills, we had had some expectation that the Secretary of State would not only listen to our arguments but would pay some attention to them, we should not have felt it necessary to move the Amendment. But that is not his habit, and it is in those circumstances that we propose to divide the House.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord John Hope)
The speech of the hon. and learned Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston), couched though it was in his usual friendly and moderate tone, has not made any clearer the reason why the Opposition have decided—
§ Lord John Hope
I have been in the Chamber all day, but the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Oswald) has not.
The hon. and learned Gentleman's speech has not made any clearer why the Opposition must vote against the Bill. It is often the custom of hon. Members on both sides to appeal to each other, sometimes rather synthetically, to agree about something which, in their hearts, they know that they cannot agree about. But on this occasion I cannot see how, by voting against the Second Reading of a Bill which public opinion plainly wants, the Opposition will help themselves. I should have thought that their opposition will help us.
On this occasion, I would far rather see us agreeing upon the Second Reading so that we can argue the details in Committee than to have a Division, however much the result may help my party. I say that with absolute sincerity, and I was sorry for that reason that the hon. and learned Member said that his party had already decided to take the course that they threatened to take before the end of the debate had arrived.
The first observation regarding the question why the Opposition attitude had been decided upon was made by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), at the beginning of the debate, when he told us that they were opposing the Bill because they had not opposed two other Second Readings this week—and he asked why they should go on like that.
§ Lord John Hope
The right hon. Gentleman's attitude is less impressive than I originally thought.
Another reason was given by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), who found it in a very long and fairly acid quotation from Carlyle. I am not at all sure that that did not betray the seeds of the determination of the Opposition to take this course.
327 Nobody has tried to argue that the House is in any way bound by the fact that there has been a very remarkable agreement on the part of all the vital interests concerned—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not all."]—all right—so many of the vital interests concerned. Of course, Parliament is sovereign and we must reserve the right to pass our legislation as we think fit. Nevertheless, in the very difficult circumstances which are now familiar to the House, and are represented by the story of how this Bill came to be introduced, I think it would be a great pity to underestimate the immense value of agreement. If ever a Measure depended on complete co-operation in order that its provisions may be carried out, this is certainly such a Measure.
§ Mr. D. Johnston
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me whether the consent of any of the crofting communities was obtained? Secondly, was the consent of the Crofters Commission obtained? Thirdly, was the Forestry Commission asked, and were any of those three organisations ever consulted?
§ Lord John Hope
I am not absolutely certain about each of them, but I will inform the hon. and learned Gentleman. As he knows, the crofting community is behind this Bill and many crofters support it, even those mentioned by the hon. Member for the Western Isles. The hon. Member, in an helpful aside, said that they would be comforted if something could be done about the close season date. I give that as an example of how narrow is the dividing line between those who are supposed not to want this Measure and those who support it.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State dealt with the Opposition Amendment in great detail. He showed conclusively—this is the extraordinary paradox about this debate—that we are doing each of the things asked of us by the Opposition Amendment.
§ Lord John Hope
But he showed it to be so.
The Amendment says that the Bill makes no provisions for the prevention of cruelty to deer by starvation in winter. 328 The answer to that is that the Bill provides what is the only acceptable answer to the risk of starvation, to bring down the total number of deer so that they may live on the food to be found in the deer forests—
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
The Secretary of State said the other day that it was not the purpose of the Bill to control the number of the deer.
§ Lord John Hope
The hon. Gentleman has not read the Bill properly. Its purpose is to prevent that danger. If we can so cull the deer population that it will not overflow from its own feeding grounds; if we can cut back the numbers of the deer so that they will not come on to the agricultural land, we shall have achieved our objective. If this is not the best way to do it, that can be remedied during Committee stage, but to say that we have not tackled this problem is to ignore what has been abundantly proved.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
The Joint Under-Secretary says that we can go into this matter in greater detail during the Committee stage discussion. But there is not a single word in the Bill about reducing the deer stocks in Scotland.
§ Lord John Hope
This purely local reaction, as instanced by the hon. Gentleman's intervention, is fascinating. Wherever there is damage being done this Bill will allow that to be put right by destruction. What more practical way could there be to put that matter right? That argument also covers the next point in the Opposition Amendment. The only real and permanent cure for depredation by red deer is to bring the deer population within bounds, and that is what we seek to do.
I turn to one or two points made by the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan), who opened the debate for the Opposition. May I first congratulate him on his speech, which was, I think, the first he has made from the Dispatch Box on the Opposition side. He began by quoting, I thought beautifully, what we all recognise to be beautiful poetry about the Hebrides, and I only wished that he had stuck to the poetry and not descended to the diatribe which, although gentler than we are accustomed to from him, had perhaps the effect of making his speech much less 329 constructive than it otherwise would have been.
The hon. Gentleman did what several of his hon. Friends did. He deliberately connected depopulation with the extent of the deer forests. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made it perfectly clear, in the figures that he gave, that there really is nothing in that. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), when he was Under-Secretary of State, and his right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), had to deal with that point, and they recognised as a result of experience, and they said so in debate, that this point could be overdone. I will put it no higher than that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart) followed, and as he so often does, he put the thing in a nutshell when he invited the House to consider this Bill in terms of public interest. We have had examples of individuals who have protested against parts of the Bill but not against the whole Bill. We have been told that this and that protest has been against the whole Bill. But in fact they were really Committee points. That is again an example of how unnecessary it is for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to vote against the Bill.
I believe that public opinion in Scotland is right behind the Bill. I know that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Major Spence) has, in fact, had a petition of well over 100 of his constituents asking for it. It is fair to put that in as against one or two examples given during the debate by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) put what one might call the point of view of the Marxist versus the marksman, and I do not think that any one would expect other than that from him. His speech was engaging and delightful as usual. He said that we were backing the régime of the landlord and pushing this Bill on the Statute Book to help our rich friends. The facts make it perfectly obvious that that accusation is particularly ludicrous in this case.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray) complained about the composition of the Commission, and that point was also touched upon by my 330 hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison). This point is an interesting one. I believe that we have got the answer. It is agreed by the parties concerned, but we can listen to anything that may be said, as we shall, in Committee about the composition of the Commission, as we shall listen to every other point that is raised by hon. Members.
Another point, common to several speeches, which worried many of my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite concerned shot guns being banned or not. I do not think it is practicable, and I believe it would be awfully dangerous to do so. The first thing that would happen if rifles were used—it may take some time before it happened, but one it did it would be tragic—would be that somebody would let a rifle off in the half light trying to get a deer that was on his crops. A rifle can kill at perhaps 1,000 yards. Somebody going along the road to work or to school might be hit. That seems to be a convincing reason why we cannot ban shot guns for this purpose.
There was misunderstanding in one or two quarters about the right of an occupier to shoot deer on his own land without permission. On enclosed land he can do that now, and he will still be able to do so. One of the main criticisms of the hon. and learned Member for Paisley concerned the penalties, which will no doubt be discussed in Committee. He was concerned at what he thought was the slow process of dealing with marauding deer, but the process can be very fast indeed. That is the intention behind the Bill.
§ Lord John Hope
As fast as it can possibly be done in terms of getting on with the job. There are Committee points, which in themselves are of importance and which will have to be discussed. I believe that public opinion is solidly behind us in Scotland on the Bill, and that the decision of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to oppose the Bill is a tragedy. I would remind them of Pooh-Bah in the "Mikado", who described their attitude and their Amendment better than I could, when he said:Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—332
§ The House divided: Ayes 221, Noes 174.333
|Division No. 28.]||AYES||[9.58 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Neave, Alrey|
|Altken, W.T.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat(Tiverton)||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Noble, Michael (Argyll)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Ashton, H.||Hay, John||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Osborne, C.|
|Baldwin, Sir Archer||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Page, R. G.|
|Balniel, Lord||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Barber, Anthony||Hesketh, R. F.||Partridge, E.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Peel, W. J.|
|Barter, John||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Batsford, Brian||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Hobson, John(Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Hope, Lord John||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Hornby, R. P.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Bingham, R. M.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Horobin, Sir Ian||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Body, R. F.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Redmayne, M.|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Howard, John (Test)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Braine, B. R.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Brown, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh, S.)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Bryan, P.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark(E'b'gh, W.)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Iremonger, T. L.||Sharples, R. C.|
|Channon, P.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Shepherd, William|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Cole, Norman||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Cooke, Robert||Joseph, Sir Keith||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Keegan, D.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col, J. K.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Stanley, apt. Hon. Richard|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kershaw, J. A.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Kirk, P. M.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Lambton, Viscount||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Cunningham, Knox||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Storey, S.|
|Curie, G. B. H.||Leavey, J. A.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Dance, J. C. C.||Leburn, W. G.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Deedes, W. F.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Teeling, W.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Temple, John M.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Longden, Gilbert||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Loveys, Walter H.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Duncan, Sir James||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Tiley, John (Wavertree)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Maddan, Martin||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Fisher, Nigel||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Gammans, Lady||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Wall, Patrick|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.||Webster, David|
|Glyn, Col Richard H.||Mathew, R.||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mawby, R. L.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Gower, H. R.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Green, A.||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Moore, Sir Thomas||woollam, John Victor|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Mr. E. Wakefield and|
|Gurden, Harold||Nairn, D. L. S.||Mr. Brooman-White|
|Abse, Leo||Hayman, F. H.||O'Brien, Sir Thomas|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Oswald, T.|
|Albu, A. H.||Herbison, Miss M.||Owen, W. J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Holman, P.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Holmes, Horace||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Holt, A. F.||Parker, J.|
|Baird, J.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Pentland, N.|
|Balfour, A,||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Popplewell, E.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Hoy, J. H.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Probert, A. R.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hunter, A. E.||Randall, H. E.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Rankin, John|
|Boardman, H.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Reid, William|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Rhodes, H.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Janner, B.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Jeger, George (Goole)||Ross, William|
|Broughton, Or. A. D. D.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St.Pncs, S.)||Royle, C.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Short, E. W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Champion, A. J.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cliffe, Michael||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Clunie, J.||Kenyon, C.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Coldrick, W.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||King, Dr. H. M.||Steele, T.|
|Corbet, Mrs, Freda||Lawson, G. M.||Stonehouse, John|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Cronin, J. D.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Stross, Dr.Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Deer, G.||Logan, D. G.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Diamond, John||Mabon, Dr. d. Dickson||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Dodds, N. N.||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||McCann, J.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||MacColl, J. E.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Edelman, M.||McGhee, H. G.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McInnes, J.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thornton, E.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||McLeavy, Frank||Timmons, J.|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Finch, H. J. (Bedwellty)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Fitch, A. E. (Wigan)||Mahon, Simon||Weltzman, D.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Forman, J. C.||Mikardo, Ian||Wigg, George|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mitchison, G. R.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Moody, A. S.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mort, D. L.||Williams W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Grey, C. F.||Moss, R.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Lianelly)||Moyle, A.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Woof, R. E.|
|Grimond, J.||Nicolson, N. (B'n'mth, E. & Chr'oh)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons|
|Bill read a Second time.|
|Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).|