§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Buckmaster.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Protection of lapwings.
§ 1. It shall not be lawful for any person—
- (a) during any time between the fourteenth day of March and the eleventh day of August to sell any lapwing for human consumption, or to have any lapwing in his possession for the purpose of sale for human consumption; or
- (b) to sell for human consumption, or to have in his possession for the purpose of sale for human consumption, any egg of the lapwing.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH moved, in paragraph (a), to leave out "time between the fourteenth day of March and the eleventh day of August" and insert "such period as may be specified from time to time by an order of the Secretary of State." The noble Lord said: I have put down this Amendment at the instance of the Home Office, and the reason of my doing so is this. As your Lordships are well aware, there are two Advisory Committees, one to advise the Secretary for Scotland and the other to advise the Home Secretary, with regard to the protection of birds. Certain 229 representations have been made to the English Committee by poulterers and others to the effect that, while they were quite willing to give up the very large trade in plovers' eggs, they did ask for some consideration with regard to the sale of lapwings in the close season. They represented that these lapwings kept in cold storage were not really killed in the close season, and, indeed, those which were killed in the close season were of very little value; but they did supply a want when other game birds were out of season.
§ The Committee thought, after hearing them at some considerable length, that there was much force in their argument, and therefore they advised the Home Secretary at all events to put down this Amendment, as it might possibly facilitate the passing of the Bill, in which they are interested, in another place if the matter were dealt with here in this way. They will be quite satisfied if these birds are, not interfered with during the close season. I do not know whether my noble friend will take the same view of this matter, but I can assure him that this action is taken so as to facilitate the passage of the Bill and in response to the advice given by the Committee appointed to advise the Home Secretary on these matters. There is also another point which might perhaps appeal to my noble and learned friend, and that is, that instead of having a hard-and-fast line with regard to dates it is suggested that the Home Secretary should be allowed to see how the provisions of the Bill work, and should have absolute power to make any orders which might meet the case, even going so far as a total prohibition of the killing of lapwings.
Clause 1, lines 7 and 8, leave out ("time between the fourteenth day of March and the eleventh day of August") and insert ("such period as may be specified from time to time by an order of the Secretary of State").—(Lord Desborough.)
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
I cannot help thinking that the first part of the noble Lord's argument was addressed to an Amendment that is not really on the Paper at all, because the only Amendment that he proposes to move is one that substitutes in the place of the fixed times provided by the Bill a reference to the Home Secretary, which was the latter 230 part of his argument and not the former. That, I understand, is the only Amendment which is before the House, and I submit respectfully that there is no reason in the world why it should be adopted. I do not quite understand these Committees which appear suddenly to have sprung into life, because this Bill is absolutely nothing but a reproduction of the measure that was before the House last year, and the Government themselves actually proposed this very limit of time which I have inserted in my Bill.
That is the first answer, and the second is this. What reason is there for taking away from the provisions of an Act of Parliament the power which the Act contains, and putting it into the hands of anybody else? I strongly object to that kind of legislation. If it be found that for any reason whatever this Bill fails to operate, either because it is too lenient or because it is excessively drastic, the proper method of amending it is by another Bill, and not by putting an elastic power into the hands of any Minister advised by Committees whom we have no opportunity of examining. I should like very much to have had a word or two with this Committee, which appears to take the view that the plovers will be adequately protected if you will only allow the poulterers to kill enough of them in the season, when they can kill them, in order to put them into cold storage for the period when they cannot. I hope your Lordships will reject this Amendment.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, I have been very much impressed by the arguments of the noble and learned Lord. After all, what is this Amendment? It is merely a repetition of the very bad practice which has obtained during the last six or seven years, that no Bill can be brought in of which the provisions are decided by Parliament, but that the provisions must be decided by a Secretary of State or a Government Department. The power is taken entirely out of the hands of Parliament and put into the hands of a dictator, either of a Secretary of State or a Department. Now, the Secretaries of State have a very great deal to do. Surely it is not worth while to take up their time in saying whether the close time is to be from March 15 or March 21. Far 231 better let it be decided in an Act of Parliament. Further, I must protest against taking away the powers of Parliament and putting them into the hands of officials. If the noble and learned Lord goes to a Division I shall vote with him.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
My Lords, this Amendment does not meet with a very great deal of acceptance from either side of the House. I may say that the Committee referred to is presided over by a great ornithological authority, and a great friend of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Grey of Fallodon. The reason why it did not appear before is that the representations were only made to this Committee, as I understand, after the Bill had been through your Lordships' House. The Amendment was only put forward as a suggestion in the hope that the Bill might possibly avoid the several processes that may take place in the other House. But, as my noble friend does not wish to accept the Amendment, I do not wish to press it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3:
§ Application to Scotland.
§ 3. This Act shall apply to Scotland.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH moved to leave out "apply to Scotland" and insert "not apply to Northern Ireland." The noble Lord said: I hope that my noble friend will like my next Amendment rather better. My information is that this Bill will naturally apply to Scotland if it is not stated that it does not, and, with regard to Northern Ireland, it is felt by the Government that this is one of those matters which can very well be dealt with by the Parliament of Northern Ireland.
Clause 3, line 20, leave out ("apply to Scotland") and insert ("not apply to Northern Ireland")—(Lord Desborough.)
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
This is an Amendment which appeals to me more than the other, but is it really necessary? I say frankly that I am very anxious indeed to expedite the passage of this Bill in order to secure its early consideration in another place. If, of course, this Amendment is necessary it does necessarily postpone this Bill here, for a 232 further short time, it may be, but it does postpone it. When we have Amendments we have another stage, but if it be necessary, and the noble Lord says that it is on the authority of the Home Office, then I should not dream of opposing it.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clause agreed to.