HL Deb 23 July 1963 vol 252 cc684-8

7.16 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, in moving the Third Reading of the Deer Bill, it only remains for me to thank all those noble Lords who took part in the debates, and particularly to thank your Lordships opposite for not obstructing my two Amendment on the Report stage. I think your Lordships quite rightly realised that it would be a great pity to spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar. It would, indeed, have been a tragedy if this Bill had been killed, because I am told, from a very reliable source, that there are about 20,000 deer at the present time wandering about in England and Wales suffering some form of maiming caused by inadequate weapons, traps and snares. Therefore, I am sure that all who are interested in animal welfare will really welcome this Bill, and it should go a long way to curing this scandalous state of affairs. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Viscount Massereene and Ferrard.)


My Lords, I am, of course, going to oppose this Third Reading, despite all that the noble Viscount has said about his ha'porth of tar and the like. I know that whatever I say will not make any difference, and that your Lordships will pass the Bill for return to the other place, in order that it may go through. I was unable to be here on Report stage last Friday, or I should have said some of the things I am going to say now. I was unable to be here for the same reason that others of your Lordships were unable to lake part in debates on Fridays; that your Lordships, having been led to believe you would not be required to be here on Fridays, made your proper business arrangements for Friday only then to find that the Government later had required you to be here.

The reason I oppose the Bill, of course, is that it was a bad Bill at the beginning—and I said so on Second Reading—and we are now about to take leave of a Bill which is just as bad as when it came in. Despite all the gloss put on it that it does some little tiny things to help—and I admit all that—it does not do any of the things that I said were missing in the Bill when it was before the House on Second Reading. It still fails to stop the hunting of deer by hounds anywhere. It does not stop the worrying or hunting of pregnant hinds. It does not stop the dreadful practice of slitting the throats of deer without pre-stunning. It does not stop the disgusting cruelty of the hunting of carted deer in Norfolk. Nor does it stop the use of a shot-gun using what is called "sporting-size" shot; nor the indiscriminate shooting of deer. It does not stop indiscriminate drives, to which I referred on Second Reading; nor does it stop the leaving of wounded deer.

I might not have intervened to-night and kept noble Lords were it not for some of the inaccurate things that have been said entirely by accident by noble Lords who sit on the other side of the House. At the Committee stage the noble Earl, Lord Fortescue, contradicted what I had said by saying this [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 251 (No. 113), col. 1603]: I cannot help pointing out that the noble Lord, Lord Crook, has been considerably misinformed over this. I was not present at the incident at Timberscombe, which was undoubtedly regrettable, but I have made inquiries about it and I think the situation was dealt with as expeditiously and as humanely as possible. The stag in question jumped a bank, not seeing the stationary vehicle in the road, swerved in mid-air, slipped up on the tarmac and got underneath the vehicle. In doing so he broke his leg and was dispatched by the handiest means available. Well, my Lords, why the noble Earl had what I can only regard as the impudence to question the accuracy of what I said, which was from the proceedings in court, I do not know; but I am now in a position to quote from the solicitors who dealt with the prosecution and who are dealing with the appeal that is now about to be taken, who say that they were surprised to learn that Earl Fortescue had said this animal had broken its leg. It was the first indication they had had that there was any question of the stag's leg being broken, although they had been engaged in inquiries and prosecuting the case for the considerable time occupied since last September. They further confirmed to me that at no stage whatever during the defence of Colonel Murphy, who killed the stag, was there a suggestion by defending counsel that the animal had been injured in any way at all. Furthermore, they say with regard to Lord Fortescue's remarks: There is no question of you having been misinformed as he has alleged. There was nothing whatever in your speech not substantiated by evidence at the trial. That is why I have particularly bothered to rise to-night in order to get that first piece of the record clear, before I go on to get the next piece of the record clear, a statement in my absence by the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, last Friday. The noble Earl said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 252 (No. 118), col. 432]: In regard to the Amendment immediately before us, no one who has seen Lord Crook's transparent honesty would imagine for a moment that he would make inaccurate statements intentionally, but there is no doubt that some of the statements he made during Committee stage were inaccurate. I strongly suspect that this is because he had been provided with information by the League Against Cruel Sports". It is very regrettable that that statement was made in my absence when this Bill was put down for Report stage, when I could not be present, and that is why I am forced in a Third Reading speech to deal with it now. What the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, said on that occasion is completely inaccurate. I moved two Amendments, the first to deal with the scandal of the cutting of the throat at Timberscombe, and as I have told your Lordships I quoted from the proceedings in court. I am not going on discussing that with your Lordships now, having been told by the lawyers that the notice of appeal has now been made and the Divisional Court will be considering the matter shortly after the vacation. My second Amendment to stop the scandal of carted deer was based, as any of your Lordships who read the Second Reading report of my speech will see, entirely verbatim on statements from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and it is a complete travesty of anything in the way of sense to suggest that the League Against Cruel Sports is friendlily regarded by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It is not.

I am prepared to stand by what I said. I am prepared to do battle on this matter a good deal in this country, on the public platform and in your Lordships' House, as a little more time goes by. I shall not know, until I know what has happened in the appeal at Timberscombe, the line I shall be discussing with some of my noble friends associated with me in this matter, whether by way of Question, by way of Motion or by way of Private Member's Bill. I shall be asking, anyway, for the assistance of noble Lords of reasonable minds on this subject; and I shall be consulting, not a picked set of people, like those who were consulted by the sponsors of this Bill, for which the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, takes responsibilty to-night. As he told you, they were the British Field Sports Society, the Forestry Commission, the Nature Conservancy, the Council for Nature, the Fauna Preservation Society, the Universities' Federation for Animal Welfare, the National Farmers' Union, the Country Landowners' Association, the Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds and the New Forest Buck Hounds. There is no mention of the three organisations I propose to consult: the Association for the Abolition of Deer Hunting, the League Against Cruel Sports and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It was not worth the while of those who sponsored this Bill to bother to consult what the animals felt. They asked only what the "sportsmen" felt, and it is for that reason I will vote against the Third Reading.


My Lords, I cannot answer for my noble friends, Lord Fortescue and Lord Mansfield, because they are not here, but I should have thought if there is an appeal pending on this Timberscombe case, it is sub judice (perhaps I shall be corrected), and I should have thought it ought not to have been mentioned at all. I do not want to go over all the ground that we have been over during the last three weeks ad nauseam. We have talked and talked about this subject. It is all down in Hansard for anybody to see both sides of the question.

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.


I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Viscount Massereene and Ferrard.)

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.