§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
In asking your Lordships to give this Bill a Second Reading, I would point out that though the question raised in the Bill is perhaps not of great importance, still it is, both as regards food supply and economic conditions, one which materially affects Scotland at the present time. The total rents of grouse moors in Scotland amount to nearly£1,000,000 per annum, and the, amount spent in addition to the rents by strangers, very often foreigners, is nearly an equivalent sum. The rates in ninny of the poorer districts of Scotland are dependent on this grouse rent to an extent of 50 per cent., and in some cases more. As anybody acquainted with Scotland knows, the rental per acre for grouse moors is often from five to ten times as much as the corresponding rental of grazing land. This is a matter, therefore, which is important both to the owners of this ground and also to the ratepayers in the district.
The food supply arising from the grouse is also not unimportant. About 2,000,000 grouse are killed in an average year, and in such a year as this when the grouse coveys are very large it is probable that over 3,000,000 grouse may be killed. While there has been a rise in the price of meat, it is a curious fact that grouse, which is as a rule only for the table of the comparatively rich, went down during August and September last some 50 per cent. in price. I believe that actually per lb. grouse was sold at a less price than beef is actually sold at to-day. Birds that weighed on an average from 22 ozs. to 20 ozs. were sold at the rate of 9d. during last year, which works out —I am talking of wholesale prices—actually lower than what is being paid for first-class beef. We ask for this Bill because we wish to maintain this supply of grouse; and a certain number of people in Scotland have great fear that unless these birds are killed in sufficient numbers we shall, in the first place, not have the number we desire killed this year, and in the following year we shall very probably have disease.
The reason why the Bill is important this particular year is this. As your Lordships know well, probably no class of 385 individual has gone forward to the war in such large numbers as the landed proprietors of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The result is that these men who are capable of shooting the birds—not an easy feat after, say, August 20—are either at the Front or so occupied in this country that they will be unable, except in a few cases, to kill the birds in the way it is normally done. The shooting of the birds will be left to the owners and keepers, the younger me having been entirely recruited in most cases; and unless this matter is taken in hand at an early date when the birds can be easily walked up to, there will be an over-stock and a certainty of disease in another year, and also a considerable reduction of the rateable area of certain districts in Scotland, not to mention a diminution in the food supply.
This Bill only asks for the date to be put forward for one week for one year. Further, it is only applicable to Scotland, and for this reason. On the smaller moons of England it is possible that better organisation for driving may be in operation; they are also more get-at-able, and it will be possible to cope with the abnormal number of grouse there. In Scotland, however, the moors are more inaccessible, and it Will be difficult to get over the ground before the grouse become too wild to be shot, especially as they will have to be shot, especially as they will have to be shot by elderly people, keepers and so on, as there is no one else available. This matter as it affects the food supply is deserving of your Lordships' consideration. The Bill is purely permissive. If it is found in certain districts that there is no necessity for any one to take out a gun on that day, he need not do so; but the Bill will make it possible to cope with the abnormal supply of birds which undoubtedly exist on the moors of Scotland this year. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Lord Lovat.)
§ LORD STANMORE
My Lords, every one admits that the noble Lord is a great authority on the subject of grouse, and I have no doubt that a large majority of your Lordships will agree with the speech which you have just heard. I am empowered to say that the Government will not in any way oppose this measure. At the same time they cannot now promise any special facilities. It is not yet certain whether tale measure may not be opposed, 386 and the noble Lord will realise that at the present time it would be impossible for the Government to support what may turn out to be a controversial measure.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole house To-morrow.