§ 2.40 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government if, and when, they will introduce legislation designed to cover the following aspects concerning deer in Scotland: (1) a close season; (2) penalties for poaching; and (3) procedure for dealing with complaints regarding damage to agricultural land.]
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (LORD STRATHCLYDE)
My Lords, the three aspects of the deer problem in Scotland mentioned in the noble Lord's Question are dealt with in a joint report on the subject submitted by the interested organisations, which I have since discussed with them. The Government are considering the recommendations for legislation contained in this report. I regret that in the circumstances I am not in a position to give the noble Lord any undertaking. I can tell him that progress is being made.
§ LORD FORBES
My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his reply, may I point out that it will be very disappointing to all those in Scotland. May I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that agreement concerning the deer problem was reached between all the interested parties away back in October, 1956; and still nothing has been done to produce a Bill.
§ THE DUKE OF SUTHERLAND
My Lords, I have repeatedly raised this question before, and I shall again, I have no doubt, on many occasions. Deer are the only animals left that have no close season. In addition, penalties for poaching should be much higher than they are; there is no doubt about that. Also, I think that deer which are damaging agricultural land should, of course, be shot or driven away.
§ THE DUKE OF SUTHERLAND
I have raised this matter before, and I felt that I must come to the support of the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, to-day.
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
My Lords, is the noble Lord the Minister aware of the appalling cruelties perpetrated against deer, as reported in the Ross-shire Police Report during this last winter? Deer have been found still alive, with their legs shot off above the knee and with their eyes hanging out; and deer still alive have been found in stock cars underneath piles of dead deer. In view of these facts, and considering that this matter was first raised in your Lordships' House seven years ago this month, can he not give a more definite undertaking that legislation will be promoted by the Government as near in the future as possible?
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he cannot promise, in common humanity, at least to do his level best to push the matter forward as quickly as possible?
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, I can give him that assurance. I have seen reports in the Press about cruelty such as that referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Haddington. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, that while it is true that an agreed report was submitted to my right honourable friend, it raised questions of difficulty which had to be carefully examined. Before reaching a decision, the Government wished to satisfy themselves that any proposals presented to Parliament would be workable and would entail the minimum of interference with legitimate interests. I am afraid that I cannot add further to the Statement which I have made.