HL Deb 02 July 1953 vol 183 cc156-60

5.15 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Amherst of Hackney.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair]

Clause 1:

Penalty where dog worries livestock on agricultural land

(5) Where the Minister is satisfied that it is inexpedient that subsection (1) of this section should apply to land in any particular area, being an area appearing to him to consist wholly or mainly of mountain, hill, moor, heath or down land, he may by order direct that that subsection shall not apply to land in that area.

THE EARL OF LISTOWEL moved, in subsection (5), after "down land" to insert: adjacent to towns, and commonly used for exercise or recreation by their residents,

The noble Earl said: I shall not say much about the merits of this Amendment, for the simple reason that however good the Amendment might be no one would wish to press an Amendment which would result in the loss of the Bill. But I think that this subsection, as it stands, is not drafted in a way which carries out the real intention of the promoter The subsection would enable the Minister to exempt from the land where this Bill will operate—that is to say, from land where livestock will be protected from worrying of dogs—any upland area in any part of England, Scotland and Wales. It would apply equally to the Highlands of Scotland, to Dartmoor, to the mountainous areas of Wales and to the upland areas in the North-West and North-East of England, and these, of course, are places where hill farmers and upland farmers keep a large number of store cattle and sheep.

The intention of this subsection is to enable the Minister to exempt land which is used for the purposes of recreation in the neighbourhood of large towns. People who want to go out for a walk with their dogs on moorland in the neighbourhood of a large town in the North, obviously should be able to do so and should not be in danger of getting into trouble on account of any livestock that a neighbouring farmer may have allowed to graze on the land. If that is the object of this subsection I cannot help feeling that a form of words should be found which would define that object more precisely. I am not wedded to the words which I have put down. They are probably entirely inappropriate. I am not an expert draftsman, but I hope the noble Lord who is promoting this Bill and has expert advisers may be able to find a form of words which will carry out the intention which we all have in mind. As I say, I certainly would not press this Amendment, because we do not want to lose the Bill. We all think it is a good Bill, and the last thing we want is to lose it. It is a great pity that a Private Member's Bill arrives so late in the Session that we cannot amend it. It deprives this House of its function as a revising Chamber. I hope some consideration will be given to the arrangement of business in another place so that Private Members' Bills can come to this House rather earlier in the Session. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 9, after ("land") insert the said words.—(The Earl of Listowel.)


I support the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in this Amendment. I am quite unable to understand why any differentiation should be made between moorland and ordinary arable land. It seems to me that the position is even more unsatisfactory from the point of view of the hill farmer than from that of the lowland farmer, because if a dog starts worrying sheep on an arable farm it probable that it will be noticed in a very short space of time and action taken; but sheep on the mountains are often many miles from the shepherd, and the shepherd making his long rounds can visit them only once or twice a day. I should like to know why it is that the owner of a dog that worries sheep or other livestock on a hillside gets off scot free, while the owner of a dog which worries sheep or other livestock in an enclosed pasture is liable to prosecution. I hope that something will be done to remedy the situation to which the noble Earl has very rightly drawn attention.


I think we all have great sympathy with the intention behind this Amendment. Obviously, as the noble Earl says, we do not wish the Minister to exempt or exclude from this Bill all those high lands in Scotland and Wales, and other high lands, where the farmer is having even greater difficulty than the lowland farmer in making a living. But we must remember that the Minister who has to make the order exempting land for the operations of the Bill is, in fact, the Minister of Agriculture. I feel it would be stretching the point rather too far to think that any Minister of Agriculture, with the force of the National Farmers' Union and all the other bodies behind him, would exclude any land from the Bill unless he felt that the case for excluding it was overwhelming. I also feel that the insertion of the words to provide that he shall be able to exclude only land which is near a town, would not make the matter very clear. There is a great deal of land near towns, even in the Highlands or in Yorkshire or elsewhere, and people might feel that as in those particular cases he had power to exclude land he should in fact do so. Therefore, although I agree with the intention of this Amendment, I feel that on the whole it might weaken the Minister's position rather than strengthen it, and or those grounds I hope the noble Earl will not press his Amendment.


Perhaps I might lend some support to the noble Lord, Lord Amherst, over this matter, and allay some of the fears and suspicions expressed by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield. The Minister concerned in this Bill is, as Lord Amherst has said, the Minister of Agriculture, and therefore on the side of the sheep and not of the dog, if I may so put it. Moreover, your Lordships will see that Clause 1 (5) reads as follows: Where the Minister is satisfied that it is inexpedient … and so on. That, I think, disposes of Lord Mansfield's point. But I can give this undertaking: that only in the rarest of cases would the Minister consider himself so satisfied and so bring this subsection into force.


Would the Minister explain why sheep or other livestock should be worried with impunity anywhere?


This is not my Bill, but I did explain that point on Second Reading. The object of putting in this small subsection is that very often, near large towns and elsewhere, there are certain open spaces which for fifty-one weeks in the year are used for recreation, and it is felt that hardship might be caused to citizens of those towns if they had to restrict their dogs unduly.


I am grateful to all the noble Lords who have taken part in this discussion, and particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for the assurance he has given that this power would be used only rarely by the Minister of Agriculture. It seems to me, nevertheless, that the Amendment is right in principle. Parliament should not give any Minister more power than is absolutely necessary to carry out the purpose laid down in a Bill. Here very wide powers are being given to the Minister of Agriculture. We all believe that he will use these powers with judgment and responsibility; but I feel it is a bad thing in principle that Parliament should give Ministers wider powers than are absolutely necessary. However, I certainly will not press this Amendment and I hope the Bill will become law as soon as possible. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.