HL Deb 01 August 1951 vol 173 cc210-27

5.55 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, it may be as well if I jump one or two fences backwards, so to speak, since I was under the impression that my speech had to be brought to a conclusion whereas it was. I find, only a kind of adjournment. I will briefly re-sketch, if I may, what I have already said. Deer-stalking, from being the sport of the few, has become the uncontrolled sport of a great number, and the commercialisation of deer forests, where no harm was done, has resulted in the wanton destruction of deer by persons who are not capable of dispatching the animals in a sportsmanlike, humane, or correct manner. I have asked the noble Earl, Lord Haddington, to deal with the legal aspect. At the moment I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the awful cruelty of killing large animals at night by the headlights of motor-cars along motoring roads, which is the commonest form of deer poaching to-day.

Whatever is decided in regard to fines and penalties, I respectfully submit that the strongest possible action be taken against these inhuman people who kill deer at night from a car. Between January and April, when the main destruction occurs on the roadsides, the deer are often emaciated and in a starving condition. These unfortunate animals, suffer-as they are from the severity of the winter, are yet seeking protection from human beings—whom in former days they had every reason to trust. Some of your Lordships know that when you were motoring northwards from Blair Atholl you were never out of sight of deer along the roadsides. You could go through the Scottish Lake District into Perthshire and Inverness, from Blair Atholl, where the Boar of Badenoch looks across to the Sow of Atholl and to Cape Wrath, and you would always see deer in the winter time. You would probably see them at any season of the year with glasses or a telescope.

That situation has entirely changed. One evil leads to another, and, although I am not discussing sheep stealing in the Highlands, that is getting progressively worse. It is simply a matter of taking chances and getting away with it, and the sphere of action is being extended. The reply that was given prior to the issue of the Report of the Committee on Cruelty to Wild Animals was that some of the accounts of cruelty were grossly exaggerated and that such things as tommy guns, sten guns and other automatic weapons had not, in fact, been used. I am leaving another noble Lord to deal with that matter, but I can tell you, as one who lives all the year round amongst deer, that that is not in fact a correct statement. Every form of weapon is being used. I have even known cases of deer being shot at by night with tracer bullets. Surely that is the lowest form of behaviour—shooting up large animals with phosphorus.

I will not speak on that further, I will not multiply instances of large-scale poaching, but I should like to tell your Lordships of a case which is very much in my mind because it happened recently. I think it shows how discipline has slipped, whatever the chief constables of the county police have said in their report—and I gather a report has been asked for by the Government from the chief constables in the Highland or crofter counties. This case concerns a policeman who was caught poaching. He was a sergeant, not in the county police but in the burgh constabulary of a county town with which I am well acquainted. He was caught red-handed shooting deer wantonly and in the early summer, as recently as three weeks ago. When the factor of the estate concerned investigated the case, this police-sergeant first denied all knowledge and made various false statements.

Subsequently, when the matter was referred to the burgh chief constable, he made the excuse that he thought that, as he was in company with a stalker, he was doing no wrong. Since that incident occurred the sergeant has been promoted to an inspector, and the unfortunate stalker has lost his job. I hardly think that is a very happy state of affairs. I can give your Lordships chapter and verse for that case because it happened to occur on my own property. It is a typical example of the lawlessness which exists at the present time, when this can be done by a police-sergeant or anybody else who has a sister who keeps a boarding-house and likes to sell steak diane at 7s. a pound or maybe a halfpound—whatever it is one gets for it on the black market. When the maximum fine which can be imposed is £2, there is bound to be trouble; and there must be cruelty if men try to kill big animals by rifle fire at night, or shoot out of boats, which is a frequent occurrence in the Western Highlands. There deer are caught along the loch side and shot at with little accuracy but with plenty of opportunity, as the animals climb from water level to the higher skylines.

I do not propose to multiply the instances, but I will give your Lordships one more case which occurred this last winter in Glen Affric, which your Lordships know quite well. A lorry was apprehended passing through Glen Urquhart on its way to Loch Ness with no fewer than sixteen carcases on board, all shot at night. Those sixteen carcases on the black market—and there is not even a black market now in one respect, because there is no price control on venison—would have realised anything up to £160. The maximum penalty was confiscation and a £2 fine. If the lorry driver had been found in possession of a rifle and not in possession of a firearms certificate, he might have suffered a further fine, but this £160 haul of meat—and it was quite uneatable, as the month was January or February—could not get him into worse trouble than confiscation of the carcases and a £2 fine because deer are not game. I am not going to multiply the instances. I think your Lordships have probably grasped the trend of what I have to say.

The Motion that stands in my name refers to two paragraphs of this Report. I will not read them out. I am in full agreement, except with one subsection of paragraph 215 of the Report of the Committee on Cruelty to Wild Animals. It reads: Dealers in venison should be required to be licensed as game dealers, and records of all purchases and sales of venison should be kept. Such measures would, however, call for special new legislation, and since deer are likely at any time to do appreciable damage on agricultural land it would be necessary to provide, by way of exception, for the lawful killing of deer that is authorised by the Agriculture (Scotland) Act, 1945. I do not agree with that part of the paragraph which says: Dealers in venison should be required to be licensed. I suggest that, as there should be a close season for the killing of deer, there should be, also, a close season for the selling of venison. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, who is to reply will bear that point in mind: a close season for the killing of all deer, both hinds and stags, from January 1 until August 1, and a close season also for the sale of venison. It is particularly important for the sale of venison, otherwise there will be a black market springing up with licensed dealers, which I think is wrong. I think it is wrong that any dealer should have a licence to sell venison in the close season.

I said at the beginning of my speech that I stand here, first and foremost, as an agriculturist and not as a sportsman or a landowner defending the interests of a few. In the paragraph which I have just read there is a reference to the Agriculture (Scotland) Act which was threshed out and agreed to in 1948. There were conflicting interests between agriculture and landed proprietors. It was quite a controversial subject for a time, but it was agreed to and has, in fact, become the law, and in no case—I have investigated this matter fairly thoroughly—have agriculture and the private interests clashed. Where deer are found on enclosed ground, they have to be killed at any season of the year. I hope I make that point clear: that the deer will be killed if they are net in their lawful habitat. What one might call nomad deer or wandering deer, or deer that are out of bounds, if they are invading turnip fields or young corn have to be killed, as the Agriculture (Scotland) Act insists. But the close season and the closing of sales of venison during the close season would mean that these animals, after having been destroyed, would be buried or consumed under the arrangements of the agricultural authorities who shot them. In no case would these carcasses be fit to eat. If them were no sale of this venison of nomadic deer, there would be no chance of it being black-marketed, providing no sale or special licences were allowed to dealers.

I hope your Lordships will not put the clock back by saying: "We must have different close seasons for the hinds and the stags." Many of your Lordships are experienced sportsmen. I should like that to be permitted if the deer forests existed in the old way and could be run and administered in the old style; but if stalking starts on August 1 and the stags are shot from that date until October 15, which is the normal season although it is not laid down in a Statute or in any known law of the land, from October 15 to January 1 is quite long enough a season in which to shoot your hinds. Therefore, I respectfully submit that my Motion is correct in standing firm on that basis. We all know that a law, if it is to be a good law, must be easy to execute, not complicated and not one to cause controversy or the appointment of too many Government officials. Having consulted with owners of deer forests, I am convinced that they are all satisfied that the pursuit of red deer of both types of the species in these Islands would be sufficiently long if there were a close season from January 1 to August 1, and a close season for the sale of venison for the same period.

I will not weary your Lordships longer, but the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, speaking for the rather smaller deer population of the West Country, has asked me to endorse these views. He says there is a very strong suspicion—indeed, there is actual evidence—of the fact that many crippled deer are seen at the present time in the counties of Cornwall and Devon, and that the deer population there has shrunk to the tune of 15 or 20 per cent. since the war. He also says that a carcase on Exmoor is worth £20 more than we can get for the rather smaller specimens that we breed in the Northern Highlands, but he points out, quite rightly, that the pains and penalties are in keeping with the value of the animal. I think I am right in saying that whereas the maximum penalty is £2 in Scotland, in England the penalty is £50 for the first offence and imprisonment on the second occasion. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, I am extremely glad that my noble friend has put down this Motion, and has come to speak to it so ably this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Lovat, always speaks with conviction, and, if I may say so, he speaks with authority. He is a Highlander, and lives among the deer where the deer live; and, if he will not mind my saying so, with regard to matters connected with the Highlands he knows what he is talking about; he speaks on this subject with far more authority than myself. In fact, my Lords, when I raised this subject in your Lordships' House some two months ago I felt that it was rather out of the sphere of a Lowlander, because in the Lowlands, of course, we live amongst the roe deer, the other native deer of the British Isles. The roe deer are very plentiful, of course, but they are not poached to the same extent as the red deer. We are not today really concerned with the roe deer because, although they are multiplying very rapidly, the game is not worth the candle for the poacher: in a densely populated district he would much more easily be caught.

I can do little better in my remarks than follow the line on which my noble friend has spoken, because I agree almost entirely with everything he has said. The answer to my original Question which I put to your Lordships' House some two months ago was that we should wait for the Report. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison, was quite correct. The Report came out a few days after he made that statement, and whatever we may think of that Report (I may say that I am pretty sure that some of its recommendations will be the matter of severe criticism throughout the country, but I do not wish to draw a red herring across the trail, because we are concerned with deer this afternoon) it condemns in no uncertain terms the depredations of these gangster deer poachers. After describing the methods employed, the Report goes on to say: Because of this there is much cruelty which has caused widespread concern on the part of forest owners and proprietors, as well as all those who are only interested in the humanitarian aspect. I do not wish to harry your feelings on the question of the suffering which is inflicted on deer by organised poaching. I leave it to the imagination of those of your Lordships who have had time to read the contents of this Report. I leave it to your imagination to conceive the dreadful cruelty which wounding can often cause, especially when it is inflicted by automatic weapons. There is direct evidence—we have had it from the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, himself, and we have it in the Report—that automatic weapons are used, and at night; and, of course, by unscrupulous and inexperienced marksmen, whose nerves are probably in a state of jitters all the time. How can they be expected to shoot accurately? We have plenty of evidence of the terrible condition in which deer are seen after such raids have taken place—animals with their entrails hanging out, walking about on the moor, animals hobbling about with broken limbs until they die. This is a ghastly business. This is what has been seen: how much more is there left which remains unseen?

Let us leave the cruelty aspect for a moment, and deal with another aspect. I am told that in some of the wilder districts which are not keepered (and of course the reason why they are not keepered is that the keepers' wages have risen to such a phenomenal height that the proprietors cannot afford to pay them), poaching has been so heavy that the rateable value of these forests has been considerably reduced. In some cases, where there is a road running alongside or through the forest, proprietors have not been able to rent their forests at all, except perhaps, as the noble Lord has said, to the butchers. The butchers, if you please! This is a very serious matter to the economy of the Highlands, because deer-stalking, as the noble Lord has told you, is no longer the domain of the rich only; many hotels offer facilities for deer-stalking, and many owners lease out their forests at so much a day or at so much a head of deer. Of course, as your Lordships will know, this is very much on a parallel with organised salmon poaching, to curb which Parliament has recently passed legislation—and it is most gratifying to me to know that they have done so. Only this week we read in the papers of three men who were convicted in, I think, the Mull of Kintyre of throwing a tin of Cy-mag into a pool of water, killing large numbers of fish and destroying I do not know how many hundreds of parr of salmon. They received thirty days' imprisonment. The legislation was just in time. In exactly the same sort of way we want to curb the activities of the deer poachers. Clearly, it requires speedy and firm action on the part of the Government. Of course we do not know what a salmon feels or what a deer feels, but we must imagine that a deer can suffer far more than a salmon.

I do not wish to detain your Lordships for long, but I cannot understand why the deer poacher in Scotland is so comparatively immune, compared with his brother in England. The fact is, however, that, in England, for the unlawful killing of deer a man is subject to a penalty of £50 on summary conviction, and for a second offence he is liable to a maximum of two years' imprisonment. In Scotland, on the contrary, as deer are not included in game under the Night Poaching Act, there is no means whereby night poachers can be prosecuted. I imagine that very little poaching takes place by day, because the men would be so easily caught; but by day the maximum penalty is only £2. If five or more persons are engaged in an operation I believe that the fine is extended to £5. That is the position as regards the legal aspect. From what I have said your Lordships will see that in Scotland there is nothing worth calling a law to deal with the deer poacher. The law, then, must clearly be revised, and I would strongly support the recommendations made by the Report on cruelty to wild animals, which include increased penalties, power of search and power of forfeiture. Power of forfeiture means the forfeiture of all equipment, guns, ammunition and vehicles.

I am credibly informed that apart from the forfeiture of vehicles, which I understand must be dealt with by separate legislation, the other provisions could be given effect to merely by bringing deer into the definition of "game" under the two Night Poaching Acts of 1828 and 1844 respectively, and the Poaching Prevention Act of 1862. It seems to me that this would not require a great deal of legislation. It is something that could be done quickly, and quick action is what we want. I really do not know why deer have been excluded from the definition of "game." But that is the main reason why the law is so powerless to deal with the poachers. I would make it illegal for any deer to be shot at night. I think that is important. Nobody can be accurate in shooting a deer at night.

I would also beg the Government to pay great attention to what my noble friend has said about a close season. At present there is no close season for deer in Scotland. I believe this is a controversial point, on the score that adequate powers must remain to control deer on enclosed land. As I understand it, that is the whole point at issue with the Department of Agriculture. Of course, we all know that, if left to themselves, deer multiply very rapidly. Now that wolves and bears—the natural predators of the deer—are extinct, deer must be controlled by human hands; and, incidentally, that is probably the most humane way of doing it. I must remind Lord Morrison, how- ever, that under the Agriculture (Scotland) Act of 1948 adequate powers already exist to deal with the control of deer. The occupiers of these agricultural holdings can control the deer if they do damage to their crops or trees. It seems to me that there is no need to interfere at all with the Agriculture Act. Let it go on as it is. On the score of humanity alone I feel that it is a disgrace to our country that there should be no statutory close season for the noblest of our native animals. For example, hinds can be shot when they are in calf, and calves can be left to die of starvation on the hill. I think that is an indictment on our country, and will remain so until this matter is put right. The Report recommends that there should be a close season, not only for killing deer but also for the sale of venison, and these dates could be fixed after consultation with experts.

A further point that I think would help in checking the activities of these poachers, although it is not popular with the Government and is not one with which the noble Lord who moved this Motion is in agreement, is the compulsory registration and licensing of those who want to sell venison. I think this would be a very important check on this evil. This was a recommendation of the Scott Henderson Report on cruelty to animals. It was also a recommendation of the Maconochie Report which dealt with fishing. I know that it was not given effect to in the legislation dealing with salmon—I believe that it was considered too controversial, and that it was felt that it would be difficult to establish proof of the illegality of consignments. But it seems to me that, if two separate Committees both recommend the same thing—namely, that there should be compulsory registration and licensing, and that dealers should be compelled to keep records of all transactions in venison—then the weight of evidence must be so great and the argument so strong that it ought to override other obstacles. However, I do not wish to press this point. My noble friend has not recommended it in his Motion and I know the Government are very much against it. But I cannot help feeling that it would be an important factor in attaining the object which we have in mind.

I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer. In conclusion, I would say that this is such an important matter that it should not have to wait to be included in any comprehensive legislation which the Government want to make in regard to the Report on cruelty to animals. It seems to me that cruelty to deer stands out in the Report as calling for immediate steps to be taken. I hope and believe that the noble Lord's reply will satisfy many of your Lordships who want to see this wicked and cruel practice stopped as quickly as possible.

6.26 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend has asked me to say a few words on the point of humanity. I remember as a boy the unwritten but unbroken and extremely humane laws that governed deer stalking in Scotland, and when I contrast them with the situation shown in this Report I am completely horrified. I will not lay too much emphasis on the Sten gun; but shooting at night, shooting from boats, from lorries and at impossible range and awkward angles, with tracer bullets and all those things, simply horrifies me. And the suffering that this must inflict on the deer is beyond description. The evidence one gets on this subject from Dr. Fraser Darling is particularly to be respected, because I think he knows more about deer than any man in Britain today. It is a great pity that we have not his book in the Library. I understand it is practically impossible to obtain. Shakespeare says that … the poor bettle, that we tread upon. In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great As when a giant dies."— which may be poetry but I do not think it is true. The higher the organism, the greater the suffering. My noble friend and other noble Lords know from the experience of two wars what it is to suffer from gunshot wounds, and one wonders what the wretched deer have done that such suffering should be inflicted upon them. I think we must do something quickly to prevent the continuation of this condition of things. Therefore I hope that my noble friend opposite will have something to give us in his reply.

6.29 p.m.


My Lords, this all too brief discussion has been to me and, I think, to the House both interesting and valuable. I am sure we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, not only for putting down the Motion but for the practical knowledge which he brings to your Lordships' House. I have only one complaint to make against the noble Lord and I am sure all members of the House will support me in making it. My complaint is that the noble Lord does not address the House as frequently as we should like. I understand that he is returning to the North very soon. I hope to follow him in the course of an hour or two. While I am spending a few days' vacation in that country where the noble Lord's activities are chiefly carried on, I hope to gain some further information about the problem with which he has dealt this afternoon.

It is often said that history repeats itself, and it is repeating itself now inasmuch as a demand is being made for speedy legislation which is, in effect, a similar demand to that made when I sat in another place for legislation in regard to salmon. There were difficulties then, but by good will on the part of all Parties and all the interests concerned, we were able to get an agreed Bill on salmon poaching through both Houses of Parliament. It is now in operation and, as the noble Earl, Lord Haddington, has said, by virtue of it offenders are now being sent to prison. I hope that, as the result of the operation of that Act, fewer people will commit that particular crime. The difficulty in this case, as it was in the case of salmon poaching, is to reduce all the valuable suggestions that are made to terms of a Parliamentary Bill—in other words, to legislation which can be enforced. I am not going to detain the House at this hour, and I know that noble Lords will forgive me if I make a general reply covering the main points which they have made.

First of all, a great deal has been said about the extent of the problem. When the noble Earl, Lord Haddington, put his original question to me a matter of two months ago, as he will remember, in answer to a supplementary question I said that one chief constable in Scotland had reported that such poaching was fairly widespread, but most of the other chief contables knew of only occasional cases. I must say that there is no reference in police reports—and I have read them all—to the use of automatic weapons, such as tommy-guns or Sten guns. I am not saying that no automatic weapons are being used; I am only saying that all the poaching of which the police say they have knowledge seems to be carried out by means of rifles. I should also like to say, before I state the case generally, that I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Earl, Lord Haddington, that a fine of £2 is a ridiculous penalty for an offence of this nature.

As the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, has said, the recommendations of the Scott-Henderson Committee can be boiled down. I boil them down—and I do not think noble Lords will disagree with this—into four groups. The first group suggests that deer should be included within the category of "game." The second (I am not putting them in order of priority) is to the effect that powers should be given to the courts to order the confiscation of vehicles used for the purpose of deer poaching. The third group of recommendations propose that there should be a close season for the killing of deer and for the sale of venison, the duration of which should be decided after discussion with experts on the subject. The fourth group of recommendations suggests that dealers in venison should be licensed and should have to keep records of purchases and sales. If your Lordships will bear with me for a moment or two, I should like to deal with these groups of recommendations in a little more detail.

First, let me take the proposal for the inclusion of deer within the category of "game." Let us see what the Report actually says. I quote from page 58: Most of these recommendations could, we think, be given legislative effect by a simple provision bringing deer within the scope of the Night Poaching Act, 1828, the Night Poaching Act, 1844, and the Poaching Prevention Act, 1862. The Committee describe this as "a simple provision," but if you investigate it a little closer it shows many complications. The first is that to amend an Act passed 123 years age is by no means simple. Many of the provisions of these old Acts are completely out of date. The Night Poaching Act of 1828 refers to crossbows. The penalties authorised by the Acts are not related to modern conditions at all. For instance, the Night Poaching Act of 1828 provides that any person unlawfully taking or destroying any game or rabbits by night, or who shall by night unlawfully enter any lane, whether open or enclosed, with any gun, net or other instrument for the purpose of taking or destroying game shall, on conviction, be committed to the common gaol or house of correction for any period not exceeding three calendar months. Upon a second offence, the period of detention is increased to any period not exceeding six calendar months and, upon a third offence, the penalty was transportation for seven years. Today the maximum penalty for day poaching is a fine of £5. A fine of £5, I agree, is not likely to prove a serious deterrent: perhaps transportation for seven years would be a little more effective.

The Acts distinguish between day and night poaching and for the latter they provide a heavier penalty. It seems pretty clear from a preliminary study and from consultations which have been taking place with the criminal authorities and the police that, if legislation were to be introduced, it would not be possible just to apply the existing Acts to deer as the Committee seem to have contemplated. I need not add that this, of course, is not a reason for not legislating, but it does mean that legislation is not necessarily so simple and straightforward as the Committee's Report implies. The second point I would take is that with regard to the recommendation for confiscation of vehicles. Your Lordships will remember that under the recent Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act of this Session the power of confiscation is exercisable only where an offender has been convicted after trial by sheriff and jury or in the High Court. Whether this extreme penalty should be applied in a case of deer poaching requires examination in consultation with the appropriate authorities.

Now I come to what I think Lord Lovat will agree is his most important point, and the most important point that arises out of this Report so far as deer poaching is concerned—the question of a close season. The proposal to institute a close season is, I am advised, a particularly difficult and controversial one, upon which consultations with experts and agricultural opinion are proceeding as the Committee recommended. There has, in the past, been much argument about it between sporting and agricultural interests, and up to now no agreed solution has been found. It seems to be clear that the agricultural repercussions of a close season may be considerable and that their nature and extent may vary according to the period which may be adopted. It would, of course, be possible for the agricultural executive committees to direct the killing of deer during the close season, as the noble Lord indicated, under the Agricultural Act of 1948. But I think it will probably be agreed that no one wants to create a situation in which deer forest owners have to be served with directions by the agricultural executive committees.


If I might interrupt the noble Lord for one moment, I should like to draw a rather clearer line of distinction between deer forest owners. The term "deer forest" indicates a place where the deer are controlled. There are also other deer which are not true forest deer in enclosed land. They are nomadic and are marauders. There would be no opposition from the neighbourhood when such deer, destroying crops, were themselves exterminated. That has, in fact, been going on since 1948. There is no "rift in the lute" as between deer forest proprietors and agricultural interests on this matter.


I am very happy to hear that. I just suggest that that is another reason why a perfectly simple Bill is quite impossible. This question of the effect upon agriculture and upon agricultural opinion of the institution of a close season is, I am advised, controversial. I am happy to hear that the noble Lord thinks that a great deal of the controversy has already been resolved. That is a most encouraging thing to say, and when I go to Scotland to-morrow I will make special inquiries in order to check up. I hope to find that what the noble Lord has said is correct. It is clear, however, that no final view can be reached by the Government regarding the imposition of statutory close seasons, or as to the periods over which such close seasons should extend, until there has been the fullest consultation with all interests concerned. Apart from the experts suggested by the Committee, I will mention a number of organisations which I believe may be in a position to make a useful contribution to the examination of the various problems involved, and which are being, or will be, consulted. First, there is the Scottish Landowners Federation; secondly, the National Farmers' Union of Scotland; thirdly, the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society; fourthly, the Black-faced Sheep Breeders' Association, and fifthly, the agricultural executive committees in the deer forest areas.

That brings me to the fourth point, on which I need not spend much time, because the noble Lord himself is not in favour of it. That is, the licensing of dealers in venison and the keeping of records. The Committee's proposal that dealers in venison should have to be licensed and to keep records is rather in line with a similar recommendation on salmon poaching. In relation to salmon, the recommendation was exhaustively considered and fully debated in another place. It was finally decided not to adopt it, because it was not felt that the advantages which would result from doing so would be commensurate with the amount of work which the system would impose on people dealing in salmon. The same consideration seems to me to apply in the case of deer. It would be an onerous business if all dealers had to keep precise records of all their transactions, and it is more than doubtful, even if this burden were placed upon them, whether it would be of material assistance in detecting and suppressing poaching. The system of record-keeping would have to apply throughout Great Britain, and from the investigations made in connection with salmon, it is clear that in the normal case it would be a matter of difficulty to trace an offence or to base a prosecution upon a dealer's record of his transactions. It would be wrong, therefore, for me to hold out any hope that this recommendation will be accepted.

Finally, may I say a word about the application of the Report to England and Wales? When the noble Earl, Lord Haddington, asked a Question on this subject on June 13, the noble Marquess, Lord Willingdon, inquired whether any legislatior would apply to England and Wales. This point has been carefully considered, and the balance of advantage seems to favour a purely Scottish Bill. First, the problem of deer poaching, at any rate in the sense in which it is now before the House, seems to be almost entirely a Scottish problem. The Scott Henderson Committee did not refer to any such cases occurring in England. Secondly, the present law of England, as the noble Earl, Lord Haddington, has said, would seem to give the police adequate powers to deal with any poaching that may occur. The Larceny Act of 1861 provides penalties of £50 upon summary conviction in England on a charge of unlawfully hunting, snaring, taking, killing or wounding of deer on unenclosed ground, and a second offence is made a felony, punishable by up to two years' imprisonment, while any instruments used are liable to confiscation. Obviously, it will be necessary to consult wider interests if the Bill is to be a United Kingdom one, and therefore the Government incline to the view that a purely Scottish Bill is preferable.

I hope that what I have said may be enough to illustrate the complexities of this whole subject, and to explain why I am unable to-day to give a definite undertaking about immediate legislation. There will be questions of policy and many technical questions of some complexity to be decided. All I can say to-day, therefore, is that there will be no unavoidable delay in completing the examination of this subject which is at present in progress. We are all anxious to stop cruelty, but to introduce a Bill without full consultation and, if possible, agreement with the organisations I have mentioned, is much more likely to delay legislation reaching the Statute Book than it is to advance it. The Scottish Department will welcome any help your Lordships may give in securing the co-operation of the bodies I have mentioned and at least a measure of agreement sufficient to ensure that the Bill, when drafted, will have a friendly reception in Scotland and a speedy passage to the Statute Book. After that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply for the noble Lord, Lord Lovat (who has been unable to stay, as he hopes to catch a train which goes soon after seven), will see fit to withdraw this Motion.

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, has said, my noble friend Lord Lovat has had to catch a train for Scotland, and he has asked me to reply on his behalf. He has asked me to thank the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, for his reply which, while it may not be altogether encouraging, at least leaves some promise that something will be done—and that in the not very distant future. I am sure we appreciate the difficulties that are inherent in intro- ducing any fresh legislation, but we hope they may not be insurmountable. My noble friend has asked me to put this question to the noble Lord: In the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, would it expedite matters if a Private Member's Bill were introduced?


My Lords, I think I can say to the noble Lord that if any Member of the House cared to draft a Private Member's Bill, that would be an excellent idea. It would give the House an opportunity of getting their teeth into some of the difficulties that I indicated in my reply. The Government would welcome a Private Member's Bill.


My Lords, I am glad to hear that assurance. One further point my noble friend has asked me to make is that, when the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, is in Scotland, he extends to him an invitation to a day with him on the hill, an invitation which I hope the noble Lord will accept. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.