HL Deb 30 January 1962 vol 236 cc1024-7

4.5 p.m.

Debate continued.


My Lords, I cannot help first treading on the coat trailed by the noble Lady opposite —I almost said "rising to the fly she cast," but I have a feeling that she might object to the thought of casting a fly over anything at all. I do not live in a fox-hunting county, and in my part of the world we shoot them. However, we are only too apt to shoot them at a range which is too long for the weapon used, and I am quite convinced that a great deal more cruelty is inflicted on the foxes in my part of the world, where a large number go away wounded, than is inflicted in a fox-hunting county, where they do not suffer that fate. Indeed, if the noble Lady will look at the Report of the Committee to which reference has been made—and I presume she has it —she willsee that the Corn-mince said: Fox-hunting makes a very important contribution to the control of foxes and involves less cruelty than other methods …". and so on. I admitted that I was inconsistent. I hesitate to accuse the noble Lady of being inconsistent, but I have a feeling that, in opposing fox-hunting, she is being in consistent, and is suggesting the more cruel alternative that I see in my own part of the world.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl—I am quite sure he is very sincere in this matter—this point?


I have seen many foxes shot at.


I was impressed by his sincerity, but, in view of the fact that he emphasised that the whole purpose of this Bill was to find the least painful mode of death, would he say that he thinks the least painful mode of death for a fox is for it to be chased and then torn to bits?


We are getting rather of the subject in this debate, but I will reply to that point once more. I entirely agree with the noble Lady that the least painful mode of death for a fox, or for her, or me, or anybody else, is to have a bullet through our head and to die on the spot; but that very seldom happens to a fox which is shot at. That is the trouble.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, and to the other noble Lords who have supported me, and to the noble Lord who answered the point made by my noble friend Lord Saltoun. He, I think, ought to be thankful that what he has said in this House is privileged, because I am not quite certain what the law is in Scotland, but in England, at any rate, he could get strychnine, which is one of the poisons set out in the first Part of the Pharmacy and Poisons Act, only by saying that he required it for either moles or seals; and if he used it on rats, I am not sure he is not transgressing the law.


My Lords, may I say to the noble Earl that I was talking about the days before that Act was passed?


I suspected that that might be the case, because the noble Lord was obviously not using the more modern poisons.

The noble Earl who replied for the Government did not exactly damn with faint praise, and I think he accepted the necessity for this Bill, but, like every other noble Lord, or any other spokesman replying for the Government, he rather objected to that for which I did apologise—an additional Committee and additional regulations. He suggested that the Committee set up under the Pharmacy and Poisons Act might be a suitable Committee to use. I think that perhaps, on consideration, he might think that that was not an appropriate Committee. The Pharmacy and Poisons Act is the direct descendant of the Arsenic Act, 1851, which was passed not to protect wild animals but because there was a considerable use of arsenic just before that time for poisoning unwanted wives and husbands, and strict regulations were made for the sale of poisons. That is the type of poison with which the Pharmacy and Poisons Act deals. The Committee which advises the Home Secretary has to put those poisons into two categories.

I must apologise for dealing with what is really a Committee stage point here, but I think the noble Lord virtually made it a Second Reading point. The poisons are divided into two classes. Part of them are sold only by chemists, and the like, and the other part are sold by other people. The latter category is expressly provided for in the Pharmacy and Poisons Act, Section 17 (3), which says that these items are to be articles which are in common use, or likely to come into commonuse, for purposes other than the treatment of human ailments…. Rat poisons, and the like, would come into that category.

The regulations which the Minister can make prohibit the sale only of poisons Which Dome into the other category, which comprises the strychnines, arsenics, and so on, which are extremely dangerous to human beings as well as animals, and the sale of which has to be controlled. So I do not think that the existing machinery would meet the case which I have made. Additional powers would have to be taken to prevent the sale of these poisons which are not so seriously poisonous that their use must be prescribed, and I think additional powers would have to be taken to prescribe them for the use of poisoning animals only, because some of them are used "for other purposes". That is a point which we can discuss at a later stage, but I think some compromise between what the noble Earl said and what is in the Bill would have to be made.

In addition, I do not think that the sort of advice which he suggested as sufficient would, in fact, be sufficient. I know the sort of country people who use these things. They tend to stick to the things which their fathers used, just because they have always seen them used. Admittedly these cruel poisons are effec- tive, but I do not believe that that sort of man is likely to be moved away from an article which is effective, although cruel, if he does not see this cruelty, to some thing which he does not know will be so effective and when he will not be able to see whether or not it is lets cruel. However, they are Committee points. I hope your Lordships may feel that I have made my case. I feel that this will prevent suffering to animals, suffering which few people like and which few people see. I think it is worth trying to prevent all suffering, and I hope your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.