§ 3.14 p.m.
§ LORD HURCOMB
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, especially in view of the heavy mortality caused by the hard winter, they will repeal the orders which legalise the taking of the eggs of more than a dozen of our favourite song-birds and garden birds and whether they will do so now, before the coming breeding season.]
THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, as the noble Lord will be aware, the Advisory Committees for the Protection of Birds have been considering the question of the repeal of these orders in the course of a general review of the working of the Protection of Birds Act, 1954, on which their considered opinion is expected soon. My right honourable friends the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland will bring to the attention of the Committees the considerations adduced by my noble friend, together with any information obtainable about the level of mortality.
§ LORD HURCOMB
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that reply, but would proceed to ask him whether it is not a fact that the Advisory Committees have had this matter under consideration for a very long time and whether they have not already expressed a view upon it?
My Lords, I understand that in 1956 the Advisory Committees in fact submitted recommendations to the effect that these orders should be revoked, but at the time neither of the Secretaries of State concerned found sufficient case for reversing the decision of Parliament.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, could the noble Earl tell us whether the Government are arranging for the birds to defer their breeding season until such time as the Government have arrived at their conclusions?
My Lords, I think that is perhaps a question more properly 1063 directed to the birds' family planning association. Nevertheless, they indulge, I understand, in these pleasurable activities over quite a long period of time—from March to October.
§ LORD HURCOMB
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether he will give a little more attention to the second part of my Question, which draws attention to the urgency of this matter? Of course, I am not entitled to say what is the present view of the Advisory Committees, but I would ask whether he has any reason at all to think that they have changed the view which they expressed in 1956? May I also remind him that to-day is February 14, St. Valentine's Day, the official beginning of spring and the date on which a great many birds make dates with one another. If this emergency action is to have any effect in respect of the current breeding season, there is not a day to lose.
My Lords, the questions which the noble Lord has just directed towards me find a very sympathetic response in my breast, and we are aware that there is urgency in this matter. May I say, too, that anyone who lives in the country, or indeed, in London, is aware of the tragic loss of bird life at the present time.
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the favourite song-birds and garden birds of the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, are not necessarily those of the much-suffering gardeners of this country?