§ 3.22 p.m.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. When I first became involved with this Bill, it did not take me long 268 to realise that the whole subject of deer in Scotland, and the impact of legislation on deer to sportsmen, deer forest owners, farmers, crofters and those engaged in commercial forestry, is a controversial one, and as I have gone further into it I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that it is really quite an emotive one. But I do not believe that it is a matter any more likely to arouse excitement now than it did over a century ago. Then, the competing interests of the various affected parties led to the formation of a Select Committee in another place:to inquire into the laws for the protection of deer in Scotland with reference to their general bearing on the interests of the community".This was the first of no fewer than six different committees or commissions appointed by Parliament to make recommendations on both conservation and control of deer. Looking at the long list of noble Lords who have indicated their intention to speak this afternoon, I am quite certain that we shall hear much to cover every point of view and I am very grateful to those who are to take part.
The first effective deer control measure to reach the statute book was the Agriculture (Scotland) Act 1948. That Act gave the occupier of agricultural holdings and enclosed woodland, or his nominee, an unqualified right to kill deer found on his enclosed land and to dispose of the carcases. It thereby sought to protect his livelihood from damage by, for example, deer eating his crops, and in view of the fact that there was no practical compensation available for any damage to agriculture, allowed the occupier to sell the carcases.
However, there are, of course, two aspects to the deer question: control, such as the 1948 Act allowed for; and conservation. The 1948 Act did nothing to deal with poaching or cruel methods of killing or taking deer; nor did it provide the species with the protection of close seasons. In 1959, all these matters were reviewed and enacted in the Deer (Scotland) Act of that year. Perhaps the most striking innovation of that Act was the creation of the Red Deer Commission. This body was designed to bring together, regulate and reconcile the various interests relating to red deer which had hitherto been in conflict. Of course the establishment of such a body did meet with some scepticism about how effective it might be, and concern was expressed about how it might use its powers.
Nevertheless, I think it is true to say that to a very great extent the sceptics have been agreeably surprised. Of course the Red Deer Commission has its critics as any public body, effective or otherwise, has; but it is generally recognised that the Red Deer Commission, under its successive chairmen, has been remarkably effective in reconciling conflicts and promoting good management. I believe also that it might be generally agreed that it is to no small extent due to the Red Deer Commission that the traditional "deer problem" is by no means the problem that it once was. Thanks are due also to those in your Lordships' House and elsewhere who framed the 1959 Act so effectively. Of course it has been amended since and, indeed, other related legislation has been produced; but the framework is good and, in seeking to modify it further now, I am particularly keen not to dismantle its basic structure. But in 23 years aspects of the deer question in Scotland have changed somewhat and I believe, as 269 the commission does, and I believe many of your Lordships may also, that the time is ripe to bring the Act up to date to take account of current circumstances.
The historical "deer problem" in Scotland was mainly concerned with red deer—hence the Red Deer Commission. Although there are certainly regional fluctuations in stock numbers, the number of red deer is increasing. In 1970 it was estimated that there was a stock of about 185,000 red deer; this had risen to 255,000 by the end of 1979. But there are also three other species present in significant numbers: roe, sika and fallow. To those concerned with control of damage caused by deer, particularly foresters, roe have been becoming at least as much of a problem as red deer, and sika and fallow cannot altogether be ignored.
I do not suggest—and this Bill does not propose—that the Red Deer Commission becomes a deer commission. Nor do I propose that what is needed is a new commission for roe deer. But the Red Deer Commission does pick up a fairly substantial knowledge about the distribution and habits of deer of species other than red deer and, of course, keeps very closely in touch with bodies which have a more direct interest in them. I would argue, therefore, that it is only good sense that the public should be able to tap the commission for the knowledge which it has, and that in this respect its specific advisory powers should be widened, but without laying on it the full panoply of control powers and other duties which it bears in relation to red deer. To this extent I hope that my noble friend the Minister may be able to indicate at what point after the passing of the Bill—if, indeed, it does pass—he would consider making an order in this respect.
But the active control of these other species remains primarily one for those most directly affected—that is to say, the occupiers of agricultural land and wood-land. This brings me to another major change, in environment, which has occurred since the 1959 Act was passed; that is, that there has been a very considerable increase in the area of commercial forestry in Scotland, much of it on what was traditional red deer range and wintering ground. To take only the decade between 1970 and 1980, the area of forestry plantation in Scotland either owned by the Forestry Commission or aided by them under the dedication scheme, has increased by about 250,000 hectares—that is an increase of 50 per cent. And as I said earlier, the countryside stock of red deer has also increased over the same period.
Accurate assessments of roe deer stock are very difficult to make but the Red Deer Commission's estimates, based on information extracted from venison dealers' records, seem to indicate a total stock of between 125,000 and 175,000 about three or four years ago, and that is more or less borne out by more recent specific checks. Assessment is difficult because roe are a woodland species, but few would argue that as a species they are not ubiquitous.
Unfortunately, it is a fact that deer in forestry, especially in new plantations or where restocking has taken place, can be a serious pest. A woodland owner can only afford to tolerate them to the extent that he is prepared to accept a delay in his trees reaching maturity. Furthermore, the losses incurred 270 through damage to trees, often surprisingly severe, can only be partially offset by the value of sporting lets and by the sale of venison.
It is of very considerable importance now, therefore, to ensure that forestry owners have adequate legal powers, coupled with adequate checks on those powers, to kill deer where necessary in order to protect their crops. I am satisfied that at present there is absolutely no conservation problem with roe deer. I am also very ready to admit that there are very many aspects of deer and forestry management which can alleviate the damage that deer do and make it easier to carry out culling in the way in which we should all like to see it done.
Roe deer thrive. They are attractive, beautiful creatures to all of us and no one likes to see them around more than I do. Indeed, no one would be more upset than I if there were ever to be a roe deer or, for that matter, any other deer conservation problem as a result of the passage of this Bill.
But I am bound to say that there are many in Scotland, bearing in mind the different circumstances which prevail there, who are involved, not only with commercial forestry but at the same time with deer management groups, who are absolutely convinced that provided the checks on control powers are effective —which under the terms of this Bill I believe they will be—this proposed legislation will serve the interests of both the sportsman and the forester, and to some extent the deer themselves.
Before I turn to the actual provisions of the Bill, I should like to deal with one final aspect of the deer question which perhaps is much the same now as it was in the 1950s—in some respects anyway—but perhaps due to modern technology has probably become more severe, and that of course is poaching. If I have a single interest to declare in promoting this Bill, I suppose that it lies in my own love of stalking rather than in protecting my small garden against maurauding roebuck, although the temptation, early on a summer morning, with sometimes three or four roe from nearby woodland coming onto my lawn and eating my shrubs, is considerable but one that to date 1 have been able to resist.
Not only from the research that I have undertaken over this Bill, but more particularly from the lengthy conversations which I have had over the years with the owners of deer forests and, perhaps more importantly, with, for example, their stalkers and others who live on the land day by day and know what is going on throughout the year, I never cease to be appalled at what I hear about the extent and horrible nature of deer poaching, the cruelty so often involved and the apparent ease with which the poachers get away with it.
This Bill proposes to make poaching a much less worthwhile enterprise, by considerably increasing the penalties which have escaped revision over the years. For example, we are now in a position where a poacher who gets away with it may expect to sell a stag carcass for at least £100. If he is caught and convicted however, he faces a maximum fine of £20. Clearly, this is now absolute nonsense and it must be put right. The Bill seeks to do this and at the same time will plug one or two other loopholes in the existing law 271 which I shall come to in due course. I should now like briefly to summarise the Bill's provisions.
The first five clauses deal with the powers and administration of the Red Deer Commission. Clause 1 allows the extension of the advisory function of the commission in the way I described earlier; that is, to other species of deer as may from time to time be specified by the Secretary of State. It also extends the whole range of their powers which apply to red deer, including those involving active control methods, to sika—a species which are akin to red deer in many respects, for which there is a stock now of between 4,000 and 5,000 and which can interbreed with red deer. This gives effect to a recommendation made by the Forestry Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on Science and Technology in your Lordships' House.
The next group of clauses concerns the administration of the commission. Clause 2 empowers it to appoint one of its own members of staff to be an observer at any local panel set up by the commission. The idea behind this is to ensure that adequate communication exists between the local panel and the Red Deer Commission. Clause 3 concerns Section 6 of the 1959 Act. This is the section under which the commission principally operates for deer control purposes. Section 6, as it stands, cannot be invoked unless the commission is satisfied that deer "are coming into" agricultural land, or woodland, and causing damage. It does not apply where deer are established on the ground already; in other words have become resident marauders. This is becoming more and more the case as natural range and wintering ground is eroded by, for example, forestry enterprises. Clause 3 remedies this omission. It also alters the legal specification of the type of damage which deer do and which can be acted upon, to reflect more precisely the type of damage which they have been found to cause. The clause also extends from 14 to 28 days the maximum period for which the Red Deer Commission may authorise a person to shoot marauding deer. As it stands the authorisation is renewable and the purpose of this change is simply to ease the administrative burden by removing the need for too frequent renewals.
Clause 4 is connected with the wider powers conferred on the commission in Clause 1. Under Clause 1 they are not to take control powers for species other than red deer or sika. But situations can and do arise when the commission's stalkers, in the course of action against red deer, may incidentally discover damage being inflicted by other species. It seems only sensible that when this occurs they should have the right, always provided that the owner agrees, to shoot these other deer.
Clause 5 concerns the chairman of the Red Deer Commission, and I think need not detain us long. It merely brings the conditions of service of the chairman of the commission, who is its only salaried member, into line with the conditions applying to members of other comparable public bodies.
I now turn to Clause 6, which deals with firearms and ammunition. This is a subject on which there are very many experts, not least in your Lordships' House. Each of us has his own ideas about what is a suitable weapon to kill deer with, and each idea is backed by sound arguments. Suffice it to say that 272 it is unlawful to kill deer otherwise than by a firearm. I can quite understand that there are those who would like to see a minimum calibre of rifle specified, or at least a limited ban on shotguns. Indeed, there is probably a minimum provision on which we could all agree. I have listened to lengthy discussions in your Lordships' House on the subject in the past, and I fear that if we repeat them again we might never get to the end of considering this Bill. However, I hope that we might hear from my noble friend Lord Mansfield later, that if the Bill should pass, the Government will take speedy action to consult interested parties, so that the necessary order may be made as soon as possible. I myself hope that any such order would be no less stringent than the provision made in other Acts applicable to deer.
Clause 7 is quite the longest in the Bill. Much of it consists of re-enactment of the provisions of the Sale of Venison (Scotland) Act of 1968, which would be repealed. But it does do three things which are new: it requires venison dealers to be licensed rather than at present just registered. A licence, as envisaged, would have finite validity whereas at present there is no means of removing a name from the register. Moreover the Bill introduces the possibility of disqualification from holding a licence as a penalty for a dealer convicted of an offence.
The second innovation in this clause is that it empowers the police to inspect venison dealers' records. Formerly, this was only open to the Red Deer Commission to do, and it should, therefore, materially assist in the detection of poaching offences. And, thirdly, the clause makes it an offence to trade in venison which has been killed unlawfully if the trader knows or has reason to believe that the venison has been killed unlawfully. This, I think, is a most important and valid provision, and together with the other two can only help to make the life of the poacher far more difficult.
Clause 8 sets out the rights of an occupier of enclosed agricultural land or woodland to shoot deer, or have them shot on the land. It replaces the existing provisions contained in Section 43 of the Agriculture (Scotland) Act 1948 and Section 33 of the 1959 Deer Act. There are two parts of these rights: the right to shoot in close seasons, and the right to shoot at night. Somewhat different considerations apply to each of these, and I shall deal with them separately.
First, out of season shooting. The present position under the law, as I described earlier, is that the occupier has an unqualified right to shoot deer on his land and may authorise anyone at all to do so. Now this is widely regarded as one of the most effective aids to the commercial poacher who may obtain several such authorisations and produce one as an excuse when found in possession of carcases. The new subsection puts some restrictions on the occupier's right to grant authorisation, not to the extent of jeopardising his right to protect his crops, but to limit abuse. Under subsection (3) of the proposed new parts of Section 33 of the 1959 Act the occupier will retain his personal right to shoot. He may also authorise an employee, or anyone resident on the land in question, who for example may be expected to know the ground and perhaps share the occupier's interest in its protection. If, however, for any reason the occupier wishes to 273 call in outside assistance he will have to get the persons concerned vetted and approved by the Red Deer Commission. So much for out of season shooting; and I believe that this provision will be widely accepted by those who understand the need to get properly to grips with the poaching problem.
I now turn to night shooting, and I am only too well aware that it is an exceedingly controversial subject, and perhaps the area which will lead to most discussion on the Bill. It is covered in the proposed subsections (4), (4A), and (4B). The law at present is that an occupier in person has the right to shoot deer at night on enclosed agricultural land or woodland. He has no powers to get anyone else to do it for him. Furthermore, if the occupier is not what the law describes as a "natural person"—not as opposed to an unnatural person, whatever that might conjure up in the mind, but as opposed to a corporate body—nobody at all is entitled to shoot them.
Bodies corporate cannot pull triggers. I need hardly add that the Forestry Commission, the occupiers of the largest forestry estate in the country, are a corporate body and therefore have no right to protect their interests by shooting deer at night. This Bill proposes that an occupier may nominate others for authorisation to the Red Deer Commission. The Bill does not envisage that night shooting would be any more than an exceptional or last resort power, and under it the Red Deer Commission will have to satisfy itself not only that the persons authorised are fit and competent but that the operation is absolutely essential to prevent damage.
I do not expect the commission to authorise night shooting by others under conditions any less stringent than they set for themselves. And while as a sportsman I find the idea of shooting at night thoroughly distasteful, I am perfectly satisfied that it is quite possible to set the emotional aspects apart when it comes to the need, however undesirable in many ways, to exercise control of creatures which are becoming pests, and pests are what they can become to those whose economic future depends on maintaining reasonable numbers.
This clause does not seek to allow indiscriminate slaughter either of red deer or roe deer at night. Indeed, since the authorisation will have to come from the Red Deer Commission, and because the Secretary of State may under the existing terms of this Bill be able to specify what types of deer the commission may advise on, there will I hope be a considerable measure of responsibility vested in the Red Deer Commission to advise on the conservation of roe deer at sensible, mutually advantageous levels. I do not regard this proposed measure as a thin end of the wedge so far as night shooting is concerned. What is proposed is a very limited, strictly controlled and humane method of culling which may be authorised to supplement all the less drastic measures which can be used—and I refer here to forestry planning; the provision of control clearings, the size of forestry blocks, and the width and length of downfall between blocks, and fencing, et cetera, as well as shooting by day. All these put together contribute towards the effective mutual management of deer and forestry, but it is essential that the ultimate sanction of shooting deer at night should not be outside the law.
I now turn to Clause 9 of the Bill which, together 274 with Schedule 2, amends the penalties for all offences under the 1959 Act. The maximum fines proposed are in line with those of comparable offences under present-day legislation. In particular they are identical to those for similar offences under the Deer Act 1980 which applies to England and Wales. It will not have escaped your Lordships' notice that the Bill reflects the English legislation in allowing a separate fine to be imposed for each deer involved in an offence. Under the Bill also poaching will become an offence punishable by imprisonment, as other offences involving deer have been all along. And lastly, Clause 9 takes account of the very comprehensive forfeiture provisions which now exist under the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1975.
I end, as I began, by saying that the subject of deer is an emotive one. I do not believe that any legislation on the subject would be without controversy. But we must all accept that all interested parties—deer forest owners, occupier-farmers, the forestry owners, and of course the deer—must co-exist. To do nothing to the law relating to deer would be equally controversial and any measure which is going to have a chance of success must, by the nature of things, be a compromise.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, could he refer briefly to one important point? Are the proposals which he is asking us to accept bringing the law in Scotland nearer to the law in other parts of the United Kingdom or taking them further away? This is important, bearing in mind the very large deer population in the Border areas.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, I think that this is a point that will be amply covered later on. There are differences between Scotland and England. I think the noble Lord will become fully aware later on that they are not entirely the same—in some respects close and perhaps in others slightly wider apart.
The Scottish Office consultative document of last year was widely accepted as presenting helpful ideas. The Bill largely corresponds with the views expressed to the Scottish Office as comments raised on the substance of that document. Furthermore, the Bill has received general acceptance from many interested parties, though of course there are differing views on details. Many of those views will become apparent during this afternoon's debate. I certainly, and the Government I know also, will give serious consideration to the views which noble Lords, with their considerable breadth of knowledge, will express.
The really important thing is that out of all the deliberations and debates should come a sensible, practicable and mutually beneficial Act which will serve all interests for many years to come. To this end, I should like to thank the parliamentary draftsmen and the Scottish Office for their work and for their enormous help to me personally, and for the skill they have displayed in striking what I believe is an effective balance. I commend this Bill to your Lordships as a reasonable compromise in all the circumstances. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time. —(Lord Glenarthur.)275
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Lord Northfield
My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur. In crystal clear terms he has explained the need for the Bill, which I think the whole House accepts, and, secondly, he has explained again clearly the broad lines that the Bill follows. I am only too conscious of the fact that having got the 1980 Deer Act on to the statute book, and having succeeded in adding some important provisions concerning deer to the Government's Wildlife and Countryside Act, I began to make a nuisance of myself by turning my fire on Scottish deer legislation and insisting that it was time that it was brought up to date.
The Minister of State, the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, was extremely patient throughout all this and very helpful, and I should like to express my gratitude to him. I also thank him for having prodded the relevant authorities in Scotland into getting together to fashion the Bill, and all who are interested in deer are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, for taking on the burden and, if I may say so, risking his neck in what will be a period of controversy on these matters, so early in his parliamentary career. We are indebted to him for introducing the measure not only clearly but very agreeably.
We are all agreed that a Bill to reform deer legislation in Scotland has been greatly needed for a long time. The existing legislation—I look with some trepidation in the direction of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, who has parentage in these matters—is dreadfully deficient now, being full of loopholes and quite outdated, so I must welcome the Bill wholeheartedly. I make only one initial comment on the method chosen for reform. When I came to work on the English Deer Bill, it became obvious that the sensible way was to repeal the whole of the existing legislation and then to re-enact it with amendments. I cannot help but think that that would have been a clearer and easier procedure both for the legislators, as we are, and for the police and public, who have to understand and work it afterwards. It is in fact quite complicated to follow the various amendments back through the parent legislation.
Despite my welcome for the Bill, I assure the House that I do not say in any ungrateful way that I am a little surprised and disappointed that those drafting the measure do not seem to have taken fully into account the real progress we made on principles and on precise drafting in the recent English deer legislation and in the Government's own legislation, the Wildlife and Countryside Act. In Committee stages over several years we hammered out carefully drawn principles and precise drafting so as to make the law on deer explicit, up-to-date, easier to understand and consistent between its parts.
Allow me to give examples of apparent failures in the Bill. South of the Border, anyone killing deer in the close season must be able to prove to the court, if charged with an offence, that his action was necessary to prevent serious damage. Not so under this Bill. Yet we all know that this is one of the blackspots in the 1959 Act. It is disappointing that the Bill allows close season killing when deer are merely found on the land. That is very disappointing indeed. We know the abuses that leads to now, and how important 276 the matter is. The noble Lord himself used the words "the need for checks", but I am afraid his check on this one is not adequate.
I was most careful in my Deer Bill to give the Latin name for sika deer as "cervus nippon" in order to take in all sub-species of sika, whereas the present Bill gives "cervus nippon nippon", which of course specifies only Japanese sika deer. It would be a brave man who would assert in your Lordships' House that only Japanese sika are now feral in this country; and even if it were so, it would still not cover the possibility of other sub-species of sika escaping from parks.
To take a third example, in your Lordships' House we established the important principle that offences should be punishable by maximum fines in respect of the deer involved in the offence. The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, said he had tried to follow that, but I am afraid he has slipped up. The principle is enshrined in the 1980 Act and was carried forward by the Government in their own Wildlife and Countryside Act; but under this Bill, anyone, for example, snaring more than one deer—in other words, not using a firearm—would be liable to a maximum penalty in respect of each deer. But if he shot more than one deer with a prohibited firearm—and I hope the whole House would agree that that would have equally bad effects—he would be liable under Clause 6 to only one fine. That is another omission we shall have to rectify and which should have been rectified in drafting in the first place. It will be seen that certain provisions in the Bill do not seem to have been thoroughly thought out, and we have a lot of work to do in Committee. I suggest that some of the progress we made in the House over those many weeks—indeed, years it became in the end—could be looked at so as to incorporate those same sort of provisions in this measure.
A final example I would give is the whole of what would become Part IIIA of the parent Act; in other words, Clause 7 of this Bill. In the debates in this House on the Deer Act and the 1980 Act, we spent much time getting as right as possible the provisions relating to transactions in venison, especially as a weapon against poaching. We made considerable improvements on the present law in Scotland relating to the Scottish Venison Act 1968 and its effect on poaching. The need to tighten up here is even greater, in my view, than it was in England when we were looking at the Deer Act, and I will give one example. On 28th December last, only a few weeks ago. in a huge, double-spread article, the Scotsman said:Poaching is getting worse. Its considerable rewards have equipped some gangs with Argocats, a soft-wheeled cross-country buggy, for carcase extraction. In Sutherland, motorised poaching which can hit remote deer sanctuaries has ghosted out entire deer populations".The article went on a little later:A small gang in a central location may net £15,000 from deer alone".I will not quote further; noble Lords who are more expert than I on the scene in Scotland know that that is absolutely true and that it is time to tighten up as hard as we can on matters covering the poaching industry. Yet in this Bill, the drafting of the proposed Part IIIA leaves very much to be desired. Instead of profiting from the 1980 Act— 277 even perhaps improving on it—the draftsman has fallen back on the old 1968 Act, thus perpetuating recognised weaknesses of which we are all aware. I have heard—I may be wrong—that an entirely new Clause 7 is to he put forward in Committee. I hope that is true. If not, many of us will want to give notice that we shall wish to move many amendments to that clause in order to improve it. Those are just a few examples of the Bill's deficiencies. After all, the Bill must be a blueprint for many years to come; we do not get a chance to reform the law on deer very often, so we must get it right now. We cannot go on nibbling at this particular cherry.
I come to the duties of the Red Deer Commission with regard to the authorisation of night shooting, which is Clause 8(4)M(a) I, and those working with me, very much hope that the commission will adopt a very strict code of practice, a set of criteria, for shooting at night; and perhaps we should amend subsection (4)(a) to insist that a code be drawn up and published. Apart from what is in the subsection— I shall seek to have it amended in certain details—the sort of considerations I have in mind are: first, all other legal control methods should have been tried before night shooting is allowed; secondly, a minimum calibre of rifle must be specified; thirdly, the type and power of spotlights must be controlled; fourthly, the precise area covered by the permit to shoot at night must be given in that permit; fifthly, to cover the danger of wounding, the use of a trained dog should be required; sixthly, the period of the permit should be as short as possible; and seventhly, the local police authority must be informed. There is no reason why we should not work out the kind of code of practice that needs to be followed in the dangerous area of night shooting.
I have been speaking of matters of detail, and finally I turn to suggest three areas where, at Committee stage, we shall have to debate matters more of principle, where in my view the Bill is deficient. I have already mentioned that we cannot surely allow the mere presence of deer to justify out-of-season shooting; serious damage must be evident. in addition, I suggest that the right of an occupier to shoot out of season must be more explicitly regulated, as in the English Act. In this connection I ask the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, to look at the schedule to the Wildlife and Countryside Act—the Government's own legislation—where the matter is carefully regulated for England and Wales, and see whether we cannot follow it for Scotland. Similarly, with regard to night shooting, I think that there will be a majority in this House for limiting it to red and sika deer. It is quite unnecessary to shoot other species, particularly roe deer, at night. But I shall reserve further comment on this point until the Committee stage, because I know that many noble Lords join me in feeling that it must be rectified.
I think it worth noting—and I hope that noble Lords appreciate it when we think about the question of night shooting—it so happens that from next Tuesday, when a Government order brings into effect in England and Wales the relevant schedule to the Wildlife and Countryside Act, it will actually be an offence to take or kill at night any deer at all, of any species. I admit that there might have to be some departures, but I hope that we shall not get too far away from that 278 principle when we finally shape the Scottish legislation.
I am sure that those most knowledgeable about deer in Scotland will be adamant that the right to shoot at night must be hedged around by the same kind of conditions that should be attached to out-of-season shooting. Frankly, I do not think that we can accept the demands of forestry interests for over-liberal rights in this matter. In a letter the Minister of State tells me that he cannot himself make an estimate of the number of occupiers who have overriding rights in the matters covered by Clause 8: shooting at night and in the close season. This is a worrying point, and we all know the abuses that it allows.
Lastly, in the areas more of principle, there is the question of prohibited weapons—and the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, touched upon this. We spent a lot of time getting this right in the English Act. I submit that at least the provisions applying to prohibited weapons south of the Border should apply, with the Minister having power to amend the list by order.
I hope that I have not sounded too critical, but this is the kind of issue on which one must set out one's position, and despite my criticisms, I repeat my welcome for the broad lines of the Bill. It takes us a long way down the road that we have to travel in the coming weeks. In Committee we shall need to amend it in order to secure a version that will be readily acceptable to the several principal interests whose good will is vital. I am sure that with reasonable give and take we can get a splendid piece of legislation; otherwise, I have doubts about how effectively it will be both accepted and enforced. Yes, my Lords, a reforming Bill has been badly needed for some time. We must be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, for having the courage to make the first move.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Viscount Thurso
My Lords, in rising to speak on the Bill, I suppose that I ought to declare an interest in that I am a registered venison dealer who has on occasions supplied your Lordships' refreshment department, but I do not think that that need inhibit me in regard to anything that I want to say. In particular, it does not inhibit me from thanking the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, for the extremely lucid way in which he has introduced the Bill to the House and from wishing him success with its passage through this House and eventually another place.
This kind of legislation is needed. It is over 20 years since the principal legislation which the Bill seeks to amend was enacted. There is no doubt that since then there has accumulated experience which shows clearly lines along which legislation should be amended as well as clear action which should be taken. However, before we start criticising either the old legislation or the measures now suggested for its amendment, we should congratulate the architects of the old legislation on the astonishing success of the Red Deer Commission. It has been a most remarkable body comprising the conflicting interests of all those concerned with red deer in Scotland. It included representatives of the Nature Conservancy, land ownership, sport, farmers, crofters and in particular hill sheep farmers. The conflicting interests of all those people and their representative bodies are enshrined in the original legislation. They were brought together in the Red 279 Deer Commission in which they have demonstrated their ability to talk to one another and to talk sense. I do not know about the talk sense part of it, but I can testify as to their ability to talk to each other on a reasonable, sensible level, having myself been a member of the commission under two chairmen and having seen the workings of the commission from the inside.
Whatever might be said about the English legislation on deer, England has nothing as good, as useful or as practical as the Red Deer Commission. I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, at times made rather heavy weather of his criticisms of the Bill in that he totally ignored the fact that it is built around the existence of a useful body such as the Red Deer Commission. The Bill is not merely putting legislation into the hands of the police and other people, hoping that it will work; it is handing over legislation to the control of a body which has proved itself able to work and to gain co-operation between the conflicting interests.
One of the difficulties that will face your Lordships during the whole discussion of this subject is the fact that the Bill admits the control of roe deer into deer legislation. It is to be only a tiny part of the legislation and indeed of the Red Deer Commission's work to have to deal with roe deer but this is, I believe, the emotive and difficult part where what is good for red deer and for sika will not necessarily be good for roe. This is the whole difficulty of our legislating for all species of deer in one Bill. The fact is that not all species of deer behave in the same way. They might equally well cause damage to the same crops but they do not do it in the same way or at the same time, and controlling them on such occasions is not necessarily achieved by the same methods. It seems to me a weakness of the legislation that we have now admitted roe deer into the orbit of the Red Deer Commission. I could have understood the omission of sika deer, although everything that applied to red deer could have applied to sika deer, but this is not totally true of the roe; and this is one of the difficulties which will undoubtedly concern your Lordships during the discussion of this legislation.
However, if we look at the provisions for the control of red deer and of sika deer there are one or two points in the Bill which I should like at least to ask the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, about, and draw to your Lordships' attention. In Clause 3 of the Bill, concerning the power of the commission to deal with marauding deer, the wording of the 1959 Act is being quite radically amended. It is admitting into the wording of that Act and into the powers of the Deer Commission (and, presumably, through the Deer Commission, other people) the power to control deer where they are competing with agricultural stock for food. I had always understood that the powers of control were vested in the Red Deer Commission only in so far as the deer were marauding on to enclosed land—" enclosed land "as described in the Agriculture Act.
This is a new concept. On the hill, it seems to me that deer compete with all forms of stock that you may put on the hill and all forms of stock that you put on the hill compete with deer. It seems to me that we have now taken away the deer's rights to any specific ground at all. Up until now one tended to regard deer as having a right to roam the hill and to roam the 280 heather and the moorland, but once they crossed the farmer's fence they were marauding. Now it is not quite clear whether this will still be so. I should like some explanation of what is intended in this regard, and how it is thought that this change in the wording will affect the rights of the deer to an area which they may populate without being considered to be marauding.
Then, we come to the question of firearms and ammunition in Clause 6 of the Bill. The Secretary of State is being given powers,to make such order as he thinks fit regarding the classes of firearms and ammunition which may lawfully be used for the purpose of killing or taking deer …".Here, he is enjoined to seek advice from people and organisations which, in his opinion,represent persons likely to be affected by the order".But there is nothing actually written into this clause of the Bill which makes him take the advice of the Red Deer Commission, which is in fact the body, as we have already seen, which represents a meeting of all interests in deer and which has a very well compiled and long history of information on what is the best weapon, what is the method, and so forth, to be used in the control of deer. I feel that in this clause we ought perhaps to enshrine the role of the Red Deer Commission rather more clearly, so that it is known that it is its advice which is principally going to be taken by the Secretary of State for Scotland, although we know that it is his principal advisers.
There is another aspect of this Bill about which I am not totally clear, and it concerns the giving of power to the Red Deer Commission to appoint observers to its deer panels. To my knowledge the deer panel, although embodied within the principal Act, is not an institution which has been frequently used by the Deer Commission. I think it has been used, but I do not know that it has been used recently. It certainly was not used, as I remember it—I may be wrong in this—during my time on the Deer Commission, and I wonder whether there is an intention to set up deer panels; whether that is why the legislation is being amended in this respect. I wonder why it was thought necessary to amend the legislation about deer panels if they are not bodies which are going to be used. If they are going to be used, I wonder what the thoughts of the Government are about how they should be used or why it has become necessary suddenly to use them.
It has been suggested that the extension of the work of the Deer Commission to other species and to wood-land in particular is going to cause a great deal more work for the Red Deer Commission. If so, is it its intention, then, to hive off some of these jobs on to panels? I should like to hear a little more about that, because it is unclear to me why these panels are necessary.
Then there is the question of venison dealers. This is a very big step forward. We have had registered venison dealers of which, as I have told your Lordships, I am one. Now there are going to be licensed venison dealers, and the licences are going to be removable. This is a very considerable step forward. Also, their books are going to be open, not only to inspection in confidence by the Red Deer Commission but to inspection by the police, which is an enormous step forward against the poacher. I think that if we 281 take this fact and the very much enhanced scale of penalties at the end of the Bill, we can see that there is a very firm and powerful blow being struck against poaching. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, on having taken such powerful measures into his Bill, because I think that, together, these high penalties and the inspection of the dealers' books will in fact really "put the skids" under the poachers in a way that has not happened since the Deer (Scotland) Act was first enacted. I am sure that this will do most of what is needed to get the poaching menace under control.
I think that the press is exaggerating the poaching situation. One cannot reconcile populations being "ghosted out of existence" with a rise in the total population from 185,000 to 255,000. The populations of deer in some areas must be rising enormously fast if in fact in other areas they are disappearing and the total is still increasing. I think we have to admit that there are areas where bad poaching is taking place. We have to admit, on the other hand, that the population of deer in Scotland is not in any way under threat. At the moment if it is under threat from poaching in certain specified areas and it is also under threat from cruelty by poaching, it is not under threat of extinction, certainly so far as red deer and sika deer are concerned, and I doubt very much whether it is under threat so far as the roe deer are concerned because I know that in my part of Scotland, in Caithness, the number of deer is rapidly increasing with the increase in forestry. With the trees come the roe; and this is why attempts are being made now to control them.
The last point that I want to make is, in a way, a small one. I cannot see why it has suddenly become necessary to pension the chairman of the Red Deer Commission. We have had this excellent body, composed of the interests of all the different sections of the community who have a concern with deer; they have willingly put their efforts into making this body successful—and a success they have made of it. The chairman of this commission, although he is paid, because he is expected to spend a certain amount of time in Inverness or on business of the Deer Commission in other places, is not meant to be a whole-time Government servant. He is a part-time Government servant. I think it would be wrong if he became whole time.
If he has so much work to do that he has to spend all his time working at the Red Deer Commission—so that he has to get a manager to run his farm and his peat business for him—it would be better, surely, to get other members of the commission to carry some of the load rather than having it all carried by the only full-time employee of the Government on the Red Deer Commission. One must not lose the character which made a success of the commission. With this in mind, I wonder why it is necessary to legislate for a pension for a part-timer. It may not be intended for the present chairman but it may indicate an intention for the future as to the role which the chairman is expected to play. With that in mind I mention this. With that minor criticism and with my other caveats, I welcome this Bill. It is useful updating of legislation which is doing a useful job.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Lord Dulverton
My Lords, in following the noble Viscount, I must congratulate my noble friend Lord Glenarthur on his introduction of this so badly needed Bill to bring the Scottish deer legislation up to date. As other noble Lords have said, he set it out with great clarity and we must be grateful to him for that, too. I take issue on one point only which I may as well mention now. He said that equal damage was caused in the forests as between the red deer and the roe deer. I would say that, whereas the roe deer can be very damaging when the trees are young and not very high, the red deer can go on bark stripping and causing great damage almost right through the life of the crop. With that point in parenthesis, I would return to my general feeling of a great welcome for the Bill and thankfulness to my noble friend for bringing this business before us. I hope that in the light of your Lordships' experience during the long passage of Lord Northfield's Deer Bill, now the Deer Act 1980, this Bill will have an easier ride. That Bill took a very long time. I thought that the noble Lord's speech just now was most important and very interesting. I can only think that there can have been few occasions when noble Lords sitting on both sides of the House were more in agreement than during his speech a few minutes ago.
The Scottish lobby, of course, says, "We don't want to follow the English in this". Nevertheless, a lot of thought was put into the English Bill, now the Act. Although the Act relates to England, and the conditions are not the same in Scotland, the general aim of the two measures is very much the same. The present Bill seems to have three broad aims. First, the revision and extension of the Red Deer Commission's duties in the light of over 20 years' experience and changing circumstances; secondly, the revision, and in some cases extension, of measures to protect agriculture and forestry from serious damage by deer; and, thirdly, the taking of stronger measures to combat what I call commercial poaching, which is so often highly organised, ruthless and cruel, and the subsequent illegal dealings in vension which follow the poachers' activities.
I should declare a variety of interests in this Bill: as a farmer and a forester in the Highlands, as having some responsibility also towards a rather large deer forest, as president of both the Timber Growers of Scotland and the British Deer Society, as well as being a member of the Red Deer Commission; and the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, who has just left our counsels, has been there, I think, longer than I. So I have my feet on both sides of the fence, as it were, in regard to this Bill. The views that I try to express are personal ones, unencumbered by divided loyalties, where these might occur.
There has been much prior consultation on this Bill between interested parties and between them and the Scottish Office. I should like to pay tribute to Sir John Gilmour, so recently retired from his well-known membership of the other place, who has chaired the working party consisting of landowners, farmers, foresters, Deer Society members and others. I think he has done a marvellous job in getting a general consensus among them which, I hope, and to some extent believe, may have been of some help to the Scottish Office in the work they have put in on this subject. In connection with Sir John Gilmour's work- 283 ing party, it is a cause of some regret that certain important matters have been omitted from, or side-stepped by, the Bill. My noble friend doubtless can give the reason for that. I think it worth mentioning.
Many of us had hoped—and we hoped in the Deer Commission; although I speak personally and not for them—that the position of deer farmers themselves, something of a new phenomenon, would have been defined and clarified in relation to the law. A code of conduct over the practices of deer farming is a pressing matter and the rules are unlikely to be the same as those for the wild deer which are considered in this Bill. The use of weapons has been referred to by other noble Lords and the use of weapons with inadequate stopping power is of great concern. We threshed this out at great length, as the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, has said, under the English Deer Act and arrived at compromises over the use of shotguns (which some of us did not want used at all) with reasonably adequate kinds of ammunition for use at short ranges, despite the protests of some that shotguns, as in Europe, should be banned completely. I know the arguments on the other side.
We came to agreement over the ballistic requirements of rifles which are normally used against deer, and those requirements are certainly not far wrong. Yet now in Scotland, having got this Bill before us, we seem to leave it to the Secretary of State to make orders on this matter. The deer of Scotland and England, despite being on either side of the Border, are the same flesh and blood and need the same treatment on the part of those riflemen who have to control them. Meanwhile, it is ridiculous that in Scotland we can, if we wish to be irresponsible, continue to use the .22 rabbit rifle on red deer. That is very wrong and wounding. May we ask that the Secretary of State gives immediate attention to this matter and lays his order before Parliament for an affirmative resolution soon?
In the matter of illegal dealing in venison, it is regrettable that there is no adoption of the carcase movement register suggested by some as a practical alternative to a carcase tagging scheme. The latter scheme involves certain difficulties under Scottish conditions. The carcase movement book would provide a very good check. I understand that it was rejected by the Scottish Office because it would increase public expenditure to some extent and was thought to be putting legitimate shooters of deer to undue trouble. I cannot think that a carcase movement register could increase public expenditure significantly. Any inconvenience to legitimate croppers of deer would—speaking as one of them—be entirely acceptable for the protection of their interests.
I am moving as quickly as I can through this Bill. I have given a little recital of my interests and I could let myself go. I am trying to hold myself in rein. To pass to the next point, some of us are a little concerned over the power conferred on the Secretary of State to add roe deer to the Red Deer Commission's responsibilities. That could be all right if it were limited to being an advisory role. My noble friend Lord Glenarthur told us this afternoon that that is what it would be. I cannot find that it says so in the Bill. I may be incapable of reading properly between 284 the lines; but I cannot find that. I do not think that the commission could as at present staffed and constituted, cope with anything further than an advisory role because roe are so numerous and virtually ubiquitous throughout the whole of Scotland, whereas the red deer and the sika are confined either to the Highlands or to certain parts of South-West Scotland. Could we have some assurance on this point?
Clause 2 of the Bill, dealing with research matters, is wholly to be welcomed although a noble Lord opposite queried whether these panels were a good thing or not. I entirely welcome the clause. Under Clause 3, the phrase that deer can be shot out of season, and so on, when, among other things, they are competing with farm animals for food, is extremely loose. Does that apply to any form of sharing pasturage, which is often normal and acceptable? Some ecologists argue that deer as grazers and sheep as grazers are to some extent non-competitive. I know there can be a situation of over-stocking where that is not so; but competing with them for food is another matter and the phrase is awfully loose. One could argue that a deer eating one blade of grass was competing to some extent.
I pass on, my Lords. Throughout what I call the defensive parts of the Bill, Clauses 3, 4 and 8, there is a case—which I hope there is no need for me to labour—for putting in the adjective "serious", as in the English Act. I am sorry to quote the English Act, particularly to Scottish Lords, but "serious damage" or at least "substantial damage" would be better wherever the word "damage" occurs. At the moment it just says "damage".
A definition of "enclosed land" as opposed to "unenclosed moorland" is badly needed. "Enclosed land" would presume some kind of stock fence, or does it mean a deerproof fence maintained in effective condition or an old dyke or wall which fell down years ago and does not keep anything out? This raises a more difficult point in law than might appear, but it is an important matter.
These three defensive clauses seem to exclude the owner of the land, as opposed to the occupier, from even consultation or notification in the case of shooting out of season or at night. That will make it difficult for the owner to fulfil his statutory obligation to make returns of deer killed on his land. I do not know what can be done about it, but that is a point that I should mention to your Lordships.
Under the important Clause 7, which is new and deals with venison dealers, there is something about the licensing of venison dealers by district councils which I should like to offer to your Lordships. I urge that the councils should consult with the Red Deer Commission who have a great deal of intelligence as to the fitness of a number of likely applicants for licences. Whether that should be enshrined in law or dealt with in some other way, I think is a serious point.
Now I turn to the business of the extension of night shooting, as proposed in the Bill, so that others other than the occupier himself may practise this. I do not think anybody really likes it but a lot of my forester friends demand it, and I include my friends in the Forestry Commission. If I may be so bold, I think I have a number of forestry friends sitting in your Lordships' House this afternoon, and I do not think that they like it very much. I am at least gratified that 285 my colleagues in the Red Deer Commission are given, and are accepting, powers to monitor and sanction cases and persons in this connection.
I have come to the view that there is a case for night shooting in Scotland in those great big forests where the red deer have got in and are established whether inside a deer fence or, as in the case of the Forestry Commission down in Galloway, without a deer fence. They have got in and they are established there. They are doing damage. They are jolly difficult to get at in the day time; they lie up in the thickets. I am persuaded that there is a case on certain occasions, monitored by the Red Deer Commission, for doing some night shooting against the red and the sika deer.
I am not at all happy about extending it to the roe deer, those charming little woodland sprites from whose depredations among newly planted trees I as a forester have suffered sorely—and still do. Yet I am utterly opposed to the extension of night shooting in their case for three reasons. First, they are so widespread all over Scotland, and even through reasonably built up areas, that it could well be beyond the scope of the Red Deer Commission to monitor cases and monitor the credentials of the operators who are going to shoot at night. They need to be closely monitored otherwise there will be an awful accident. Think then of the possible dangers in areas of human population where the roe certainly are.
Besides this, there is a far greater danger of wounding such small targets as the roe and then being unable to follow them up in the dark. The noble Lord, Lord Northfield, said that operators must have a dog with them; but even so it is sometimes difficult to follow the dog in the dark in a thicket plantation. I feel I am giving your Lordships a recital of my various personal involvements but I speak as an ex-chief instructor of the army sniping school, sniping and observation in the last war, and I know a little bit about rifle shooting. I give that as my credentials for making that remark about the roe.
Also on the roe deer, night shooting is unnecessary. There is a race of stalkers and forest managers today who can prove an ability to control roe effectively without resort to night shooting. The higher echelons of the Forestry Commission should be prepared to take the trouble to find out about such methods and give their rangers suitable direction and training and to modify their forest design—the noble Lord who preceded me mentioned this—because forest design is important. I have on occasion spoken up for the Forestry Commission in your Lordships' House and I have a very great regard for much that they do, so I hope that they will not resent this rather censorious remark, which is certainly not directed against their rangers. In fact, if I may make so bold, I think that some of their very best rangers would agree with what I have just said.
I could, with diffidence, praise the help of the British Deer Society in any effort towards more effective control and training of roe stalkers if that were acceptable at all. The British Deer Society do run very successful little courses in England, training roe shooters. I will not labour the point but I wanted to mention the fact. Having said all that, I should like again to wish my noble friend well and I would repeat my anxiety not to occasion undue delay in the passage of his most welcome initiative in bringing this Bill before us.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I think I should begin by declaring my interest, which is probably fairly well known. I own a deer forest, I have a sheep farm with sheep farm tenants, and I am also on the deer committee of the British Field Sports Society. I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Glenarthur for his very lucid and clear introduction of the Bill. However, I am afraid I cannot agree with everything that he said; as regards deer the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, is rather more after my own heart.
I should like to support what my noble friend Lord Glenarthur said regarding poaching. This has grown appallingly in the last few years. I believe that one big venison dealer has made a statement that the amount of legal venison exported from Scotland now is about £2 million, while the poachers' amount is also about £2 million; so there is a black economy, if you like—free of tax. If you add on to that the number of poachers actually selling to hotels at home, it is probably a great deal greater. Of course, it is quite riipossible for the police in these vast tracts of land in the Highlands, and for the stalkers and keepers, actually to apprehend poachers because, as my noble friend said, they have all the latest modern scientific means. They can drive over the hills in tracked vehicles or Argocats and they also have citizens' band radio, so that they can have accomplices at various road intersections to warn their friends if the police are coming. Also they shoot chiefly by night. I have myself suffered from this quite a lot on my estate. They shoot largely by night with extremely powerful searchlights and use a form of telescopic sight so that they can shoot in the dark.
It is a very serious matter, and therefore I congratulate my noble friend on Clause 7. I think that it probably may need some redrafting, but it will act as a great deterrent to poachers and will make it far more difficult for them to sell their ill-gotten gains. However, I am very worried about Clauses 3, 4 and 8. My noble friend Lord Dulverton mentioned those clauses. Clause 3, which refers to an amendment of the 1959 Act, says this:for the words 'that land' there shall be substituted the words 'any agricultural land or woodland or garden ground or injury to farm animals (including competing with them for food)'".I have never known wild red deer do any injury to farm animals. I understand the Red Deer Commission have had three instances in their years of office where a farmer who was feeding stock: whether he was feeding on a open hill or in an enclosed pasture, I do not know, but apparently a stag came and butted a sheep or some such thing. Down here I have deer in a park where they are among sheep and cattle the whole time and they have not caused any injury.
Another thing I am a little bemused about is the phrase referred to by my noble friend Lord Dulverton:(including competing with them for food)".I agree that if you have a clamp of potatoes or turnips and the deer eat them, that cannot be allowed; but it is a different situation if they are just on some old pasture, probably badly fenced, in the middle of the winter and they are half starved. After all, the red deer is a browser and not a grazer. He does not 287 have the same habits as sheep or cattle. So I think the phrase is too wide.
Turning to Clause 4, I think that roedeer come into this too. It says:Where the Commission are satisfied that deer of species other than red deer or sika deer are causing or are likely to cause damage …".When it comes to the Committee stage we must strike out the word "likely". It refers to the Red Deer Commission and their so-called stalkers who, in my opinion, know very little about stalking. However, that is only my opinion. They might be going through a wood; they see roedeer and say, "They are likely to cause damage" and they shoot them. That is not good enough. The provision is too wide.
Turning to Clause 8, of course I am very disturbed about this. I agree that under the old legislation any crofter or any farmer has had the right to allow anyone to shoot deer on his land all the year round. I have heard of one croft where I gather police apprehended people on the road whom they suspected of having deer carcases in the car, and they used to say, "We shot them on old So-and-so's croft. He allowed us to shoot them". It so happened that this man's croft was only about 12 acres and the police told me that in the year well over 100 deer had been shot there by bogus acquaintances. Many deer forests with thousands of acres do not do that. This new clause will stop that happening, and so I like this clause as far as it goes.
But how about the poor owner? With due respect to crofters and farm tenants, my experience has been that they know very little about deer. The average owner of deer land, who is quite likely an amateur naturalist, knows far more about deer, but his advice is not asked at all by the Red Deer Commission. So this clause is drawn far too widely.
May I refer to the Forestry Commission? I am sure your Lordships know that the power behind this Bill is the Forestry Commission and the National Farmers' Union of Scotland. I have sheep and sheep tenants, but your Lordships must remember that the sheep breeders drove the Highlanders off the hill in the early part of the 19th century, and we do not want to see them drive the deer off the hill, because there are several million acres in the Highlands which can support only deer. You can have a few sheep there in the summer, but that is uneconomic. So we must not let the sheep farmers drive the deer off the hill, as they did the Highlanders.
In Galloway and Dumfries-shire, the Forestry Commission have done a lot of planting in the last 15 to 20 years, and a lot of their plantations are not deer fenced, although they are sheep fenced. As the red deer is a woodland animal, it comes into the woods in hundreds in the cold weather. But the correct thing for the commission to do is to deer fence properly. Though the Forestry Commission deer fence in the Highlands, they do not keep up their fences. I have had this trouble on my estate, and I am always going on about it. I agree that in heavy snow, which you get on the East Coast though not on the West, the deer might get in, because the snow drifts across the fence and freezes, but the onus ought to be on the Forestry Commission. After all, they have all that 288 state money and they should be made to fence properly. Furthermore, as my noble friend Lord Dulverton said, it ought to be laid down in law what enclosed land is. Many farmers put up a few rotten posts and a strand of wire, and call that enclosed land.
Before I end, I should like to say that the police must be notified when there is night shooting. That is essential. We do not want a lot of young men wandering about with rifles during the night. The bullet from a high-velocity rifle can go two miles and it is highly dangerous if they are anywhere near a road. I have probably outrun my time, but before I close I should like to put in a plea for the deer. After all, deer are the hardiest animals that we have. They can live on the hills where no other animals can live; we get a higher price for their meat than for sheep; they are not subsidised and are no expense to the taxpayer; they are in their natural environment and they are the natural animal of the Highlands. It all goes back to Lloyd George. When Lloyd George spoke of the stags in the Highlands under the spreading oak trees, up to their withers in clover and driving the people off the land he did not know what he was talking about, and seldom did. I hope that when we reach the Committee stage my noble friend Lord Glenarthur will be happy to accept some amendments or, at least, will deal gently with them.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Lord Lovat
My Lords, I was interested that the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, who is leaving the Chamber, referred to an article written in the Scotsman about the trouble which the red deer population is getting into in Scotland. If he had looked at the paper a day or two later, he would have seen a photograph of a royal stag, walking down the street in Braemar and posing in front of a butcher's shop. I think that gives an idea of how the loss of habitat has grievously afflicted the deer population, which has drifted away from the Highlands and moved into areas where it has become nomadic and, therefore, a danger to agricultural interests.
The Highlands have suffered from, or enjoyed—whichever way you look at it—the flooding of their glens for hydro-electric development, and the hillsides of the valleys and glens have been afforested. I think that most of those forests have been reasonably well fenced, unless they have been flattened by snow, but, in either case, the wintering of the red deer has been denied them by the improvements devised by man. There is no sadder sight than what I saw only 10 days ago. The red deer had got down into a glen and had gone in front of a car. They could not get back to the hill and, in the headlights of a car, those deer might be driven a matter of 10 or 15 miles, without breaking out. This happened in the Forest of Strath Conon, which is a 60,000-acre forest and they almost got down to Dingwall before they could jump out and find access to an arable field. They were then in immediate trouble, because it was not their intention to go there. This is something of which ecologists are well aware.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, because he has presented this Bill in a very fair way. He has not taken sides about it, although his numbers may be at fault. I was astonished to hear that the deer have increased so vastly in recent years. That is certainly not so with deer in the Highlands. But 289 there are too many deer as far south as Angus, where they are sheep ground deer, and are competing for sheep ground feed. In the Highlands, the deer population is kept under far better control, but, at the same time, it lacks the facilities. What is certainly true is that there will be a great many fewer deer this year, if we have a late spring. In the bad weather of 1947 and 1963, all the old stags and a lot of the yearlings died, and the hinds had no milk and left their calves. This can be expected in the spring, if we have a bad one this year, particularly on ground where the deer truly belong. So we must look at this from two different points of view, whether we want to kill them down, or let them live in good shape where they are entitled to spend their lives.
I shall not embroider anything that other speakers have said, except that I should like to add this on Clause 7, which deals with poaching. I am entirely opposed to firing rifles or shotguns at night. You do not succeed very often. The stags would be up the hill at night, but the hinds or the nomadic deer are apt to bunch at night. There are horrible stories about poachers firing off a shotgun, blinding two or three animals and not picking up one of them. The whole idea of shooting at night tends to lead to further poaching and depredation of deer stock. When people who are in the poaching business find a stag in very poor condition, which is quite unfit to eat and is just a bag of bones, but which can still be off-loaded somehow, it is surely an unforgivable crime to shoot such a deer at night with a shotgun. It inflicts enormous cruelty on animals sprinkled through the herd—not just the one that is fired at, but the one beyond—and blinding is common practice. So I urge the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, when he takes his excellent Bill a stage further, to make poaching at night a much worse offence than poaching in the daytime.
That is the only contribution that I make to this debate, that poaching at night should be doubly fined. That should deter the kind of poaching which, through my experience covering 50 years in this House, means that sheep are shot, on the roads if there is no worth-while target in the form of a stag or a hind. The A9, from Perth to Inverness, is about 100 miles of hill country and sheep are killed all the time by poachers on the road, on the excuse that they are going out to look for a stag with somebody's permission to do so, which is quite untrue in the first instance.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Burton
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Glenarthur may be surprised to hear that I welcome his hopes for this Bill. However, I sadly regret that his Bill will not achieve many of the objects to which he aspires. Had I not studied the Bill but had heard only his excellent speech, I should not be standing here today. However, having carefully studied the Bill, I regret to have to say that there are a number of points in it to which we shall have to return at a later stage. If my speech is a little disjointed it is because I have tried to delete large sections of what I have written down on this heap of paper, since my noble friend Lord Dulverton, who is sitting behind me, has made many excellent points. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will not only listen to but will act upon what my noble friend Lord Dulverton has said.
290 I was very interested to hear what the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, had to say regarding the introduction of roe deer to the Red Deer Commission remit. We must consider whether or not there is still to be a Red Deer Commission or whether we are simply going to have a Deer Commission. Over the years, the Red Deer Commission has done a remarkable job. As my noble friend Lord Glenarthur said, it is remarkable how controversy has disappeared. But the commission was not constituted for other deer. The commission would be the first to admit this. They are the red deer experts. Although some of the members and staff of the commission have experience of other deer, this is not enough.
A working party covering most of the different interests affected by deer, to which my noble friend Lord Dulverton referred, was set up under Sir John Gilmour and considered this legislation. They agreed, as did your Lordships' scientific committee, that sika should be under the Red Deer Commission remit as, regrettably, sika are crossed with red deer. Sika have spread throughout the Highlands in recent years. They have extended their territory quite considerably and it is undesirable that they should cross breed. They have done this in Ireland. The result has been that the Irish deer are now very inferioir to what they used to be. The red deer-sika cross is not a good animal.
Furthermore, at least one well-known poacher has excaped justice because it was represented that the prosecution could not show that the animal concerned was a pure bred red deer. This poacher had a clever lawyer. I am afraid he was a member of the Deer Society. He said that it might be a red deer-sika cross; could the prosecution decide otherwise? Of course they could not, and the case had to be dropped.
As the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, has said, the description of "sika" in the Bill is not correct. There are 13 different sub-species of cervus nippon—and nippon nippon is only one of the 13. Furthermore—this is a slightly doubtful point—the Japanese for "deer" is "ska", and "sika" is probably derived from that. Therefore to put "sika deer" into the Bill is to refer to "deer deer". So we ought to refer to plain "sika". This bears out my argument that the Red Deer Commission should not deal with other species but should confine themselves to red deer.
The Bill refers not only to sika but to all these other deer "as may be specified". This is a very different matter. Although there may be about 3,000 sika in Scotland—I do not think anybody really knows how many there are—to include roe deer and fallow deer as well would double, if not treble, the number of animals for which the commission would have responsibility. The Red Deer Commission informed our working party that with their existing staff they could not deal with roe deer. Thus, the working party recommended that they should deal only with red deer, sika, and the sika crosses. The Red Deer Commission should not have foisted upon them the duties of a Deer Commission.
Apart from anything else, the commission are already clearly extended by the amount of work which they have to do. They are well behind with the counts which they have to make of the number of red deer. I believe they are two years behind. Therefore it must be wrong for the Explanatory Memorandum to 291 say that the effect on public service manpower would be minimal. The commission would undoubtedly require extra staff. Furthermore, I gather that the commission did not ask for these extra powers, which have been written into the Bill only as a result of pressure from forestry interests, mainly in the south.
In view of what has already been said and of what is already well known to many of us, it is clear that some of these forestry interests have displayed over the years an abysmal and even a wilful ignorance of deer management. Therefore, it is up to them to put their own house in order. It is not up to us to legislate to make it easier for them to interfere with deer management. Therefore, it seems to me that any reference to species other than "red" or "sika" should be deleted from the Bill. If they are not deleted, then serious consideration must be given to changing the Red Deer Commission to a Deer Commission. I cannot see how one can have it both ways.
Clause 6 gives power to the Secretary of State to make an order regulating firearms. Such a regulation is very badly required, as many noble Lords have already said. Last June, near the Bridge of Earn, a poacher fired five shots from a 22 rifle at a stag and left it wounded. It should have been possible to penalise him severely for using an unsatisfactory weapon but it was not possible to bring such a charge against him. Therefore it is important, as my noble friend Lord Dulverton has already said, to secure a firm assurance from the Government that they will introduce an order relating not only to firearms but also to other equipment associated therewith.
As the English Bill is worded, it probably does not include sights. There are now very sophisticated sights. This means that you can shoot at night without a light. There is a feeling that if a plain order is written into the Bill it will be insufficient. An ordinary order can be made and Members of Parliament need not know that it is in force. We ought to write into the Bill that it should be an affirmative order, not just a plain order.
May I now move to the vexed question of control. Clause 8 as at present drafted could be said to be a poacher's charter. Occupiers would have more power to kill deer than they have at the moment to kill rabbits at night under the Ground Game Act. Clearly, nobody wants there to be damage to forestry, but at present there is too much unnecessary killing out of season. If one consults the annual report of the Red Deer Commission for 1980, which is the latest of their reports, and not untypical, one finds that nearly 3,500 stags and nearly 900 hinds were killed out of season. This was nearly double the number of out of season animals which estate owners knew about and indicates that poaching was rife. It also indicates that many of these animals may have been killed by occupiers, unbeknown to the owners.
However, what is of real concern is that nearly 20 per cent. of all the stags killed in Scotland were shot out of season. It is shocking that one-fifth of all the stags killed should be killed out of season. Apart from anything else, it means that there is a serious loss of revenue to an already economically depressed area. On 20 per cent. of all the stags unlawfully killed, there will be no rent or rates, and a large number of 292 inferior carcases will be on offer, thus causing damage to our quite considerable export trade of venison.
So far as roe deer are concerned, there seems to be little or no attempt by the forestry interests to abide by the seasons, as practically all roe deer are shot upon what is currently termed "enclosed land". It is on the enclosed land, to which my noble friend sitting behind me referred, where much of the trouble lies. It is deeply to be regretted that the Bill makes no attempt to try to define "enclosed land". I know that it is difficult, but I cannot believe that it is beyond the wit of man to find a suitable definition for enclosed land.
Nor for that matter is pasture defined, either. This is another loose phrase in the Bill. All land in Scotland is enclosed sooner or later and, if no definition can be found, we will have to look at the problem in another light. I suggest here that there should be no night shooting nor out-of-season shooting until it has been shown that a reasonable attempt has been made to exclude the deer by other means. I have kept the deer out this winter (after all, it has been a hard enough winter) by putting in a field a flashing light of the kind that is used on the roads. This was very effective for a short time. There are other means. At the present time there are deliberate attempts to attract deer on to allegedly enclosed ground, purely for the profit motive of selling their carcases and not for protecting crops.
At a recent meeting we heard of a Forestry Commission plantation in Glenorchy which had been fenced around at great expense, but a main road ran through it and there was neither gate nor cattle grid on the road. What a waste of money, to put an enormous fence around it and then leave the road open so that the deer could walk in. The deer did walk in and they did not return. It became a deer trap. What is more, it was seriously depleting the deer stocks in the neighbouring valleys. And, presumably, when the deer were trapped in it they did some damage as well. I know of another case where deer were deliberately attracted into a field of rape which was largely fenced. The gaps in the fence were quietly closed during the night and a very large number of deer were killed. I cannot prove this, but I am told that no less than three lorry loads of deer went away from that place that day.
In recent years about 100 acres of ground changed hands and they were fenced off near a well-known deer forest, and in this forest they were feeding the deer in the winter very close to this area. This had a fence around it, and not adequate fence but just wire, and the deer were going through it to join the feeding deer, who were half tame. During February, when they were at their poorest, they were getting killed even though they were doing no damage. They were going on so-called enclosed land and there was nothing to stop that man killing them. This must be stopped. It is really not good enough that it is now legal to string a few pieces of wire around a piece of ground and then murder the deer in the winter. How many Forestry Commission plantations have deer jumps on their fences? Very few of them, I would suggest. I think the answer will be found that it is the profit motive for killing the deer which is too tempting, and the venison revenue too great.
At one of our joint working party meetings, a 293 forestry company representative stated, "We have no poaching problems because we shoot all the deer ourselves." That is the attitude we have. Last year the Forestry Commission killed nearly 13,000 roe and 5,000 red deer in Scotland. This is a terrible indictment, because surely on Forestry Commission ground one is not supposed to have any deer and to keep them out, but one-seventh of all the deer in Scotland to be killed in plantings, in areas where they should not be, is something we must try to put right. We wonder how many more may have been killed by forestry companies. This does, of course, produce a very substantial revenue for the commission of, I believe, well over £½ million. It is appreciated that Scottish forestry is not economic and that the commission is not flush with money, but should not those who develop land and change its use have some responsibility for ensuring they have proper fences? At the moment it is up to the agricultural owner or the person with the stock to fence that stock, but I believe we ought to look to see whether there should be some change in this respect.
The winter killing is having a very serious effect upon the economy of the glens. The livelihood of many of the inhabitants of the remoter areas depends on what rents and venison sales can be secured. If the men employed in these areas have to leave through the destruction of their livelihood, it is a real social disaster. There will be no one to look after the land; there will be no one to man the local mountain rescue squads, foxes will proliferate, heather will remain unburnt, and even more poaching will occur.
Throughout the Bill, permission to kill is given if "damage" has occurred. But what is "damage"? Is it just a few blades of grass eaten? This shortcoming has been recognised in England, and the wording of the English Act is far superior. In this Bill the wording in each case should besubstantial damage has occurred and to prevent further substantial damage".This could well curb indiscriminate and illegal killing taking place.
The noble Lord, Lord Lovat, has referred to the position of the owner as far as the making of returns is concerned. The owner must be kept informed, not only on the question of returns. How can he be expected to manage his deer if he does not know what is happening to them on his own ground; if other people have been allowed to kill deer without his knowledge? How is he and his employees expected to go running around at night because there has been a shot or lights seen, only to find it was a tenant farmer entitled to do so because of our legislation? The point has already been made that the police should be notified, but I believe that the owner should be notified too.
I now turn to the vexed question of shooting. Many of your Lordships feel very strongly that there should be no night shooting at all. These views would be entirely in line with European thinking, and, my good-ness, those of us who sat through the Countryside and Wildlife Bill will remember how the Berne Convention was rammed down our throats by the Front Bench. Why should we now turn around and say that we will not do what is being done in Europe? 294 We have to do it for other forms of wildlife. Things are different in Scotland, we are told; yes, indeed, they are. We are shamefully less enlightened in these matters than our European neighbours and even our English neighbours. Education is badly required. The deer are no different and there is very little difference in the environment. It may be said that some of the woods are bigger, but that is not a strong argument. If the Highlands can manage their roc deer, why not the south of Scotland? If most of Scotland can manage their red deer, why not the South-West of Scotland? It is a change of deer management that is required and not a change in deer law. I have for long seen wildlife mismanagement by the Forestry Commission. There should be a wildlife management hierarchy within the commission. At the moment we have excellent rangers, but they have no scope for promotion within their own field; they have to go out selling timber or doing something quite outside the wildlife tree. They should be given a chance to advance up the wildlife tree in which they have such expertise.
Again, one cannot accomplish wildlife management on a fixed, 40-hour week. One must have shift working because it is no use starting work at 8 o'clock in the morning and finishing at five o'clock, but I gather that is the position in the Forestry Commission at the moment. I will only reiterate what has been said by my noble friend Lord Dulverton. He himself is an expert and has wide practical experience of forestry and deer. I do so hope that the Government will follow his advice. The Forestry Commission have put out official letters expressing their concern lest red deer should spread into south-east Scotland and Northern England in such numbers as they are in South-West Scotland. But if the deer in South-West Scotland are to be submitted to 24-hour harassment—I believe it is part of the idea that light should he used and they are already harassed during the hours of daylight—what better way to scatter them? This is exactly how the deer will move into the North of England and South-East Scotland, if they get chased out of South-West Scotland all the time.
The illusion seems to have grown out of this Bill that it will give the RDC control over night shooting. This is an illusion. It is only in very special cases that the RDC will have control. The rights given by the Agricultural (Scotland) Act 1948 seem to be sacrosanct. I cannot see why they should be sacrosanct. It is a 33-year-old Act. Surely we must have learned something in those 33 years. My noble friend Lord Lovat referred to blinding stags at night. There have been two occasions when I have had to shoot blinded stags. On one occasion I was asked to get my rifle quick because there was a stag staggering about in the road. I went out and shot this poor creature. All his legs had been cut and he had been shot in the eyes. Surely we must stop this sort of thing? Twice I have had to do that and it is not a nice thing to have to do.
There is one point the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, brought up, and I congratulate my noble friend Lord Dulverton. They both thought that sika should be shot at night. I agree that red deer should, but why should sika be included with the red deer. They are not animals wandering about a lot; they are fairly local, like the roedeer in their territory. You find them in 295 much the same places day after day. There is no reason why for this purpose they should be lumped in with red deer.
We must all welcome the increased penalties, but the sheriffs are not even imposing the existing penalties. I do not know if anything can be done to prevail upon the sheriffs to impose more strict penalties. There was a poacher who had five shots with a .22, and he was fined £10 for having a rifle without a certificate, £5 for shooting out of season and £5 for shooting a stag without permission, a total of £20 for shooting an animal worth over £100. In another case, a gang caught for the third time were given a £25 fine. So far as I know, they have still got their weapons. What sort of deterrent are these penalties? Why must the penalties south of the Border be sensible and those north of the Border left far behind?
Again, there is concern over the existing powers for apprehending poachers. We have a very keen legal mind on the Front Bench, and I hope that he will look at this. My noble friend says that he hopes the Bill will improve the poaching situation. I hope he is right, but I hae m' doots!
Finally, I wonder if it has been considered that many of the powers given to the occupier in this Bill are strong disincentives to any owner of deer ground to enter into an agricultural tenancy. With the acknowledged need for more land to be let in Scotland, it seems a great pity that we should impose unnecessary deterrents in this Bill, and where possible I think we should try to alleviate the problem. Indeed, in many ways I fear it is an unsatisfactory Bill, but I have great admiration for my noble friend for having taken on the challenge of trying to improve our Scottish deer legislation. I believe he knows that the Bill has many shortcomings. On the other hand, it has the bare bones upon which we may well be able to hang some better legislation as it passes through this House. Indeed, it is vital that we try to do so, as we may not get any further legislation on this matter for some time.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, would he not agree that in no civilised country in the world is it legal to shoot deer at night?
§ 5.23 p.m.
My Lords, it was good of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, to be kind enough to swap places with me in the list. I have to apologise to your Lordships that, unfortunately, for inescapable reasons I cannot be here for the whole of the Second Reading debate. My Lords, unfortunately, my noble friend Lord Arbuthnott, who is also my colleague on the Nature Conservancy Council, and whose knowledge of deer is recognised in Scotland as here, and is certainly much greater than mine is, is unable to be present today because of a minor ailment. He has asked me to raise two points on his behalf based on his experience as chairman of the Red Deer Commission from 1969 to 1975. But first, may I say that 296 this initiative by the Government, enabling my noble friend Lord Glenarthur to introduce this Bill—and he did it very well—to improve the management of deer, is most welcome.
Deer are, of course, an important part of the fauna of Scotland; they have a considerable impact upon the natural and semi-natural habitats, and so their management is very much a conservation matter. It is very hard indeed to strike the right balance; the obvious example is the difficulty of striking a balance between the right amount of culling and the need for natural regeneration in some areas, or for that matter to protect new planting of trees. My noble friend's first point is that it is, therefore, strange to see that Clause 1 of the Bill seeks to delete the words "in the interests of conservation", thus erasing the only mention of "conservation" in the relevant part of the 1959 Act. He does not understand why this should be the case, and neither do I. That Act purports to deal first and foremost with the conservation of red deer.
This may be the result of a common misapprehension, which is that conservation of wildlife merely involves the prevention of the extinction of species, and since nobody doubts that deer are numerous, they are not therefore in need of conservation. This is a very long way from the truth, as I am sure everyone would agree. Perhaps it needs to be said that wildlife conservation is, above all, the proper management of populations of wild species, and it is with just such management that this Bill is concerned. Surely it would therefore be entirely appropriate, indeed, may I say, essential, if instead of deleting "conservation" from the Act the Red Deer Commission were given powers to advise landowners upon the conservation, management and control of deer.
Secondly, and this arises under Clause 3, my noble friend feels—and again I share his view—that several loopholes have been found in the 1959 Act which have reduced the powers of the Red Deer Commission to deal with marauding deer on garden ground, pasture and moorland. Nevertheless, could not a different form of words be found to deal with this problem than those in Clause 3 of the Bill? These words equate competition between deer and farm animals for food with injury to farm animals by deer. This is an uncomfortable use of English, as I see it, and ignores the complexities of assessing the extent to which the diets of farm animals resemble those of deer, seeming to imply that their diets arc identical, which of course is not the case. The appearance of these words on the statute book would increase the likelihood of deer being regarded only as a pest, which they sometimes are, instead of as a very valuable wildlife resource which should be managed as such with the greatest of care.
These are the two points my noble friend asked me to raise. I will greatly appreciate it, though sadly I cannot be here, if my noble friend who moved the Second Reading, and perhaps even my noble friend Lord Mansfield as well, feel able to comment upon them.
I have one or two very brief points of my own which I would like to mention. First, with regard to licensing to deal in venison, I strongly support Clause 7, and particularly the strengthening of penalties and the increased powers of search, including by the 297 police. That clause should have a powerful effect on blocking up easy outlets for poachers, something which it is impossible to do completely. Obviously this is the Government's view, and it needs no confirmation. Why, then, cannot the experience gained be just as easily applied to the licensing of fishmongers who deal in salmon and sea trout, following the pattern of Northern Ireland legislation and the excellent precedent set here? This is not the time to debate this issue, which is one in which my noble friend Lord Mansfield has taken a close interest. Such a licensing system, perhaps combined with the system of tagging used so successfully in New Brunswick in Canada, would be extremely helpful in dealing with the poaching of salmon, which is now conducted on a frightening scale; small wonder, with Scotch smoked salmon costing £11 per pound today.
The Secretary of State would obviously not use his powers under Clause 6 to prohibit the use of shotguns for shooting deer, though the less they are used the better, I think we must all be agreed, since so many animals only get wounded and die a lingering and painful death. The rifle is obviously the right weapon. So this thought occurs to me: might it not be sensible to make it illegal to sell a deer or offer a dead deer for sale which has been killed with a shotgun? It is easy enough to tell. That is the weapon most commonly used by poachers. That is only a thought and I have not thought it through very carefully, but I think it worthy of consideration. I would like, under this same heading, to say that I fully share the serious doubts that have been expressed about night shooting. It is undiscriminating, it is cruel, inefficient and can sometimes be very dangerous. At the very least it should be under the strictest possible control. For myself, I would like to ban it absolutely, except in the rarest cases where there is an unanswerable need for it.
Finally, I would make a general point, which arises out of an interruption by my noble friend Lord Ingle-wood to which Lord Glenarthur replied, about the difference in the legislation in Scotland and in England and Wales concerning the conservation and control of deer. It was quite clear from the reply, and indeed we probably already knew, that there are wide differences, although perhaps this Bill narrows them in certain respects. Some of the differences are very wide indeed. We also know that the deer know no boundaries. I think it is perfectly true that where I live in East Sussex, the deer we have on Ashdown Forest, in much larger numbers than many people realise, are just as much in need of conservation and control as are deer in Scotland. It seems to me most unfortunate that, year in year out, we legislate separately on such matters for England, Scotland and Wales. It leads to quite unnecessary complications. Nothing can be done about that now in this Bill, but one would hope that it would be possible in future to co-ordinate legislation in this field for the whole of the United Kingdom.
I apologise again for the fact that I cannot be here for the whole of the Second Reading debate. I hope I am forgiven and I very much hope that my noble friend Lord Mansfield will, nonetheless, be able to comment on the points that I have raised, particularly those that I have raised on behalf of my noble friend Lord Arbuthnott.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Glenkinglas
My Lords, it seems to be the general pattern this afternoon not only to declare an interest but to declare any number of any other relevant or irrelevant matters which happen to occur to noble Lords at the time. I only declare that I was mainly responsible with the Nature Conservancy Council, the NFU and others at the time, for drawing up the details for the 1959 Act many years before it came in, and then found myself in the rather curious position of having to help it through its passage in the House of Commons a little later. So I think I can say that I have at least some knowledge of the difficulties of what my noble friend Lord Glenarthur has so bravely taken on.
Of course, there have been changes. Perhaps the most significant to me, looking back, has been the change in the attitude of people towards deer. When I first started to deal with this issue one could tell very easily the difference between the Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood. Now they have become so much closer together that they are often almost indistinguishable.
The second change, of course, has been the growth, particularly in the south-west of Scotland, of the very large forests. Noble Lords have referred to very bad management and have said that they ought to have been fenced. But that proposal is much too late. The deer were not there when the forests were planted, but they are there now and if the forests are fenced now they will almost certainly be damaged much more seriously. The next change, partly connected with that one, has been the enormous increase of roe deer not only in the south-west but in the Highlands too.
All those changes have meant that the Red Deer Commission has obviously got to take some cognisance of what is happening. If we are to insist that the Red Deer Commission cannot even give advice—which is what the relevant section in this Bill says it is to do—on the subject of red deer or other deer as specified by the Secretary of State, then we shall have to have another deer commission somewhere to do just that. So we must accept that there are changes and we must move with them.
I share the views of several noble Lords that it is unlikely that the Red Deer Commission, as at present set up, will be capable of handling all the problems which roe deer are likely to create across the length and breadth of Scotland, let alone across the borders. This is a problem which we can discuss, perhaps, more fully in Committee. However, I should like to concentrate on two or three subjects, all of which have been covered, and therefore I hope that I can deal with them extremely quickly.
The first matter is poaching, which again has been one of the big changes. In my youth and in my early activities with deer Bills, poaching was a comparatively small offence, mostly a "one for the pot" type of operation, because the value of a deer carcase before the war was 15 shillings and after the war it was £2 or £3. Today it ranges from £80, to £100, to £120 and some of the very big deer in the forest areas can fetch even more than that.
The increase in the number of poachers is directly connected with the value of the booty that they can get. I believe that it is not easy to stop poaching without having very severe penalties; that is the only 299 way that one can reasonably be certain that the punishment fits the crime. It is very difficult, in a great deal of the country in which poaching takes place, to catch the people who do it. It is almost certain that if you do catch them they will have had three or four days without having been caught, and no way are they going to be caught at all regularly. The police are very scattered in these areas and it is not altogether a safe operation for ordinary people to try to interfere in. You are dealing with people armed, often with high velocity rifles, who have no particular inhibitions against firing them, if not at you, then sufficiently near you to make it a frightening experience. So I believe that the main method of poaching control will be through the severity of the penalties for the offences.
Venison dealers provide a very excellent method of controlling poaching—I quite see that point. But I believe that the Red Deer Commission should have some say in the number of venison dealers who should be licensed because if there are a great many of them it will make it much harder for the police to keep proper control. I think that when it comes to whether or not people are fit to have a licence, the police ought to be consulted because in certain areas one is a lot further away from the Red Deer Commission than others. My only immediate point on penalties is that, as I read the Bill as at present drafted, if a venison dealer buys venison illegally he is liable to a fine of only £200, whereas the person who has shot it is liable to a fine of £500. I think that the penalties should be at least equal. There should be a fine of £500 for acquiring it and for selling it because it is at that end that I believe you will control poaching.
I am 100 per cent. against night shooting. I do not believe that it is effective. In my view, it is terrifyingly dangerous. If it has to be done at all it must be done, in my view, with the police present controlling what is actually happening, because again the idea of people driving along Highland roads blazing-off with rifles of this velocity and killing power is to me an entirely wrong concept.
Finally, I am sorry that we have not been able in this Bill to contemplate the problems of deer farming. I am sure that they will come up and that we may have to have a small Bill to deal with them, in a few years time when we know more about the subject. But in my view this Bill is a very great improvement on the present situation, not unnaturally because there have been the changes to which I have referred in my speech. I hope that, although there are endless Committee points which quite clearly could be argued for ever, we shall give the Bill a Second Reading and get the Committee stage through quickly because we really need the type of action that this Bill advocates.
§ 5.38 p.m.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, I should like to congratulate and thank my noble friend Lord Glenarthur for carrying out a necessary and very useful task—that is to say, revising the deer legislation for Scotland. He gave us a very clear presentation in his speech today of what is required. Since the Red Deer Act 1959—which is the basic Scottish legislation— 300 was passed, it has fallen to private Members, or private Peers in this place, to amend and try to keep up to date the legislation. The House will have more reasons for gratitude to my noble friend in a few weeks' time because he will then have had to cope with the Committee and later stages and the work and burden of considering amendments and where to make changes to the Bill. Indeed, he will have been carrying out the piloting through of this Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Northfield, referred to me in the context of the Sale of Venison Act 1968. I, indeed, sponsored that Act when it was a Private Member's Bill in the other place. It went through and became law. But I think I must say to him that I do not regard that as the parent Act. He spoke of me as being responsible for the parentage of the legislation. I regard the 1959 Act, which was introduced by a Government, as the parent Act, and I am glad to see that this Bill incorporates the new version of my Sale of Venison Act in the 1959 Act.
The 1959 Act—the parent Act—was passed before I entered Parliament and I cannot claim to have had anything to do with that. As the sponsor of the 1968 Act in another place, I asked my noble friend the Duke of Atholl to sponsor that Bill when it then came to your Lordships' House. I also sponsored another Private Member's Scottish Deer Bill earlier in the 1960s. The noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, was Secretary of State at that time and I acknowledge the help which the Scottish Office gave in assisting with the drafting and in other ways with the passage of those Bills.
I agree that the provisions of the deer legislation now need to be brought up to date and considerably tightened. As a sponsor in the other place of two earlier Bills which became Acts, the principal point which I should like to make in this debate is that I fully accept the need for revision now. It may help if I remind your Lordships of the situation in those days and explain the background to the earlier legislation.
When I piloted the Sale of Venison (Scotland) Act 1968 through the other place I had to convince Members of the Commons that any degree of control of venison dealers was necessary at all. This was something new. The formula of registration and the contents of that Act were thought to be suitable and acceptable at that time. It was a tentative step in that direction. I think that had that Act tried to go much further at that stage, it would have run into opposition and doubts. It is not possible for a Private Member's Bill in another place—unless the Member has been fortunate enough to be in the first six or eight of the annual ballot for Private Members' Bills—to go through if it is controversial: so, of course, it was necessary to try to get general agreement upon what was included in that measure.
I now believe that that Act needs to be brought up to date and strengthened in the way in which my noble friend suggests. For example, in 1968 the abuses were not on the scale published in an article in the Scotsman, which was read by the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, earlier this afternoon. We heard about these new, modern vehicles specially adapted for hill and moorland country, and about gang activity, which must shock everybody who reads about it or hears of it. I do not 301 think that it was happening on that scale in the 1960s, though we were concerned about this kind of activity. If it was, we did not know about it. That is the background to the Acts in the 1960s which brought up to date the parent Act of 1959.
Another point is that the value of the venison and, therefore, the rewards for illegal killing were not as great in those days as they are now. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend Lord Glenarthur will look at suggestions for tightening even further Clause 7, some of which have been made today. He will already be well aware—if only from this debate—that there are controversies and argument ahead. But I wish him well.
I hope that the Government will ensure that time is available in the Commons, besides being available in the Second Scottish Standing Committee, which normally takes the Committee stages of Private Members' Bills. I hope it will be possible for my noble friend Lord Mansfield to tell us something of this today because, clearly, if we are to work hard on a measure here, we would want to have some idea (even though, of course, the other place has its own control over everything that it does) as to procedure in order to make sure of this Bill having some prospect, when it leaves here, of being granted time in the Commons.
Of course, if we manage to resolve all the contentious matters, the Bill, as amended, or as it is, may go through without any further points being raised in another place. But I doubt that. I am sure that points will be raised because this is a matter—as is this whole subject—which arouses the comments of a whole range of interests. So that is unlikely. But we must do our best to help my noble friend Lord Glenarthur achieve the most suitable measure to pass to another place.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, my experience on the Wildlife and Countryside Act led me to believe that in all debates on wildlife and animal welfare in Scotland it was desirable to have the civilising influence of the English brought to bear.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, when one considers the merciless attitude of noble Lords from Scotland towards that majestic bird, the great black-backed gull, and their unyielding attitude on the use of the snare against the fox, one wonders whether the standards that are adopted by noble Lords in Scotland are in need of some civilising influence. I give notice that that will be my role in the further stages of the Bill.
I take the points made by noble Lords about the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, very much to heart. I think that he is a courageous, comparatively new Member of your Lordships' House to embark on this enterprise. As the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, said a moment ago, congratulations now may turn to sympathy later on, because a good deal of homework will have to be done on this Bill and I am quite sure that a good deal of work will have to be done in the Committee stage.
I should like to support my noble friend Lord 302 Northfield in nearly everything that he said. I certainly take him as my guide on many matters relating to this Bill. One point that he mentioned, and which I endorse, concerns the structure of the Bill. We do not seem to have got our legislative processes right even yet. It is a great inconvenience to pick up a Bill and find that you cannot follow it without having a book in your hand. It seems to me that there are better ways of amending legislation and furthering the progress of new legislation than by introducing amending Bills which legislate by reference in a most inconvenient way but which are then left, after a repetition of that process on the principal Act, to a consolidating measure later on. I thought that the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, had suggested some improvements in this direction, but I do not seem to have noticed them. However, I leave that point and deal with the status of the Bill.
I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, has had plenty of encouragement from ministerial circles to proceed with this Bill. I think that he would be embarking on a futile exercise if he introduced the Bill without some confidence that he would get the goodwill of the Government. If that is so, if the Government are to give their blessing to a Bill of this kind, would it not be more convenient if the Minister of State intervened earlier in the debate and did not leave the expression of the Government's attitude towards the Bill to the end? It seems to me that it would facilitate debate if we knew about half way through where the Government stood. It saves us from going on in a fool's paradise, or from saying things which would become unnecessary if we knew the Government's attitude. I leave that point to the consideration of your Lordships.
Next I come to the context of the Bill. We have to bear in mind what the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, said about the existence of the Red Deer Commission. That has to be borne in mind when we are making comparisons between the English law and the Scottish law. Nevertheless, the basic conditions of legislation in both countries should come as close together as possible. It seems to me that there are two main issues in this Bill. One is to check the abuses of poaching, to increase the penalties for breach of the law, and the second is deer farming, although deer farming is not really dealt with under this Bill.
On the ethical question of the relationship between man and the animal kingdom, what we are now confronted with, not only in this but in many other fields of animal life and human activity, is the growth of the commercialisation and exploitation of the animal kingdom on a scale never previously known, and under conditions which, to make the enterprises commercially viable or more profitable, bring in their train considerable hardship and misery, if not downright cruelty. On the poaching side of this activity, obviously normal standards of animal welfare are disregarded in the interests of those who are doing the thieving and want to get away with it. Mutilation of animals and cruelty in transit, and other horrors connected with this business, will be condemned on all sides. The conditions for enforcement and the penalties for conviction should be as stringent as we can make them.
It is a paradox in human affairs that animals that children are taught to love are the ones subjected to the most ruthless exploitation for commercial gain, 303 and indeed for the supply of services to meet the demand of the public. It is difficult to avoid double standards in these matters. There seems to be one standard for children and another for grown-ups. For children, the sentimental, and for grown-ups the reality. It is difficult for young people to move out of the age of sentimentality towards animals and to find that the grown-ups are behaving towards them in a manner which would have distressed them had they known about it in earlier life.
These are just philosophical reflections on some of the issues in this Bill. I shall not pursue them, because we have business to do, and I assume that we are talking business on this Bill and not just going through a Private Member's Bill exercise which will run into the sand through lack of time somewhere else. Therefore, I assume that we are dealing with a Bill which represents a serious attempt to improve and amend the 1959 Act. In those circumstances, I must suppose that this is the answer to the consultative document issued by the Scottish Department in April of last year, which asked for comments on various matters raised in it by the end of June. If so, then I think that the Bill will have to stand comparison in Committee with the headings which were under discussion in this document as well as the provisions of the English Deer Act 1980. I think that it will be quite valid to make those two comparisons on the conditions of this Bill.
My own agenda for the further stages of the Bill will surely cover shooting out of season. That is an obvious point because it occupies a considerable part of the Bill. Second will be firearms and methods of taking deer. I sincerely hope that we are going to try to deal with taking deer from helicopters and from moving vehicles—we had all this debate in the Wildlife and Countryside Bill—and the use of firearms; the kind of firearms.
The Bill provides in Clause 6 for the Secretary of State to make regulations. The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, suggested that the Minister should have the orders ready by the time the Bill reaches the statute book. If there are to be orders about this, and they are going to be ready so soon, one may ask why cannot we put them in the Bill? We put them in other legislation. Night shooting is obviously another question of serious importance. It is a most distasteful form of taking animals to attack them at night. I have all the recollections of the proceedings on the Ground Game Bill a year or 18 months ago.
On the question of deer farming, there may be differences of opinion as to whether the present is yet the time to deal more comprehensively with deer farming. I remind your Lordships that although deer farming has begun, the deer is not covered by the farm animal welfare legislation. It is not covered by the Slaughterhouses Act. There are other aspects of deer farming. Taking animals from the wild and bringing them into captivity for farming purposes, and not confining deer farming to animals bred in captivity. There are those aspects of the matter.
There is also what constitutes a farm. This was dealt with in the discussion document, and I do not pursue it further, but I hope it will be possible to give some attention to the question of the deer farm when we come to the later stages of the Bill. Finally, there 304 is the question of transport, which raises special problems for the removal of animals like deer. There is a little agenda for the Committee stage. I hope that it will not depress the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, because he must anticipate all these items as being inevitable parts of the Committee stage to follow. I conclude by congratulating the noble Lord on introducing the Bill. I am sure that he will have more success with this complicated Bill than I am having with my two-clause Bill on pet animals. I envy him, but I congratulate him nevertheless.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Lord Margadale
My Lords, I welcome the opportunity of saying a word or two on this Bill. As I spent most of the morning at the dentist, I am going to be rather brief. May I first apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, for having taken his Committee Room last night. We were talking on the subject of deer. It was done quite unwittingly. I was told to go to Room 4, and I did.
I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, on the way he presented this Bill fully and clearly. I hope that the Bill gets a Second Reading. From what I have heard all around this afternoon, I think it most certainly will, without much opposition. However, I feel that it will require some amendment on the Committee stage in due course. I hope it will not take quite so long as, for example, the Wildlife and Countryside Bill to produce the final answer; it would be in the best interests of the health of members of this House and possibly the Government if, as one noble Lord said, it were finished "fairly expeditiously".
Very little seems to have been said about notification and consultation both to owners of land and the police, though in the interests of safety I should have thought that was essential. In regard to night shooting, a number of noble Lords have said how much they dislike it, and I join them in that view. When I was first taught to stalk red deer, and that was over 60 years ago, it was in broad daylight. The golden rule was that if the animal was shot dead, that was that; if it was not shot dead and could possibly have been wounded, the person who fired the shot followed the animal up till and indeed after dark to get it if at all humanly possible. With night shooting it is dark when you start, so there must be a certain amount of inhumanity; the best shot in the world cannot be certain every time, and therefore I am not happy about that.
The noble Lord, Lord Burton, referred to the numbers of deer killed in forestry plantations and, if I am correct in adding up the figures, they come to just under 20,000 of all sorts, which is quite a lot. A closer look at some of the holes in the fences might prevent some of that, though I know that fencing is an expensive item.
I look on the whole Bill rather from an island point of view—the bottom island in the Inner Hebrides—and I wish to endorse what two members, one past and one present, of the Red Deer Commission have said. The job of the Red Deer Commission is done very well; there were doubts when it started, but 1 think everybody is now happy, and certainly the relationship with the island of Islay has always been a happy one.
I received a letter this morning from a man with 305 legal training and training in land management, and I feel I should quote from it. He refers to certain provisions which give him considerable concern and says:It appears that the new wording of Section 33(3) of the 1951 Act will cut across many existing tenancy agreements and it could be possible for any tenant to shoot virtually at will. If this is so, it should be amended so that the Red Deer Commission should authorise occupiers to do this only when the owners are not doing their duty to do so".
§ 6.4 p.m.
My Lords, I wish to refer briefly to a point I raised when my noble friend Lord Glenarthur was speaking, and that is the cross-border implications of the Bill. Not for the first time in your Lordships' House I have had to make a mild protest that those who drafted a Bill seem to think Scotland is an island, It is not. It has a land frontier at the southern end and there are a great many deer in that area which cross the boundary without let or hindrance.
It is generally a mistake when we propose amendments to the law to end up with a final solution which takes the law of the two countries, England and Scotland, further apart. It is not always easy to bring them together, because of tradition and history, but it must be a mistake to take the law on one side of the Border even further than it is now from the law on the other side of the Border. In this case it is particularly reprehensible because firearms are concerned and in the age in which we live we should be careful before doing anything to increase the number of authorised firearms in any part of this country. What is more, it seems absolute folly to authorise an increase on one side of the England-Scotland border but not on the other.
It does not need a great deal of thought to see how difficult this will make control, whether for game-keepers, stalkers. police or well-intentioned citizens, whose powers in this regard are not inconsiderable. To authorise shooting at night on one side of the border and not on the other seems to me to he an act of folly, and I will not say any more.
§ 6.6 p m.
§ Lord Ross of Marnock
My Lords, it is now my turn to offer congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur. I do not know whether this is the first Bill he has tried to get through. I wish him luck. His speech merited it, and he even anticipated some of the criticism he is going to get. With a rueful smile he said it would come, but he was quite satisfied, with his reasonable attitude, that he would be able to meet it when it came. I hope he was not too despondent over the agenda put forward by my noble friend Lord Houghton. I assure the noble Lord that my noble friend speaks like that, but he does not act like that.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and my noble friend Lord Houghton were right to ask where the Government stood in the matter because the answer to that will considerably affect what happens in another place. We may spend a long time on the Bill—and there is obviously a wealth of knowledge of the matter, albeit on one side of the House—and we do not want to do that only to find at the end that we are frustrated by events elsewhere; the Bill must get a Second Reading in another place. If it gets that, then we have so arranged business in the other place that a Scottish 306 Private Member's Bill has a far better chance of getting on to the statute book than any other Private Member's Bill coming fron this House. It might be helpful, therefore, if the Government told us exactly where they stand. As soon as I read the measure I thought, "This is a Government Bill that has been farmed out". If that was the case, they certainly got somebody to take it on who knew the subject and who had mastered the Bill.
However, I wish he had had some influence on the draftsmen. Right from the first page to the last it is very difficult to understand. One noble Lord said you needed one book in front of you and another in your hand to understand the measure, but that is not true; you need perhaps three books in front of you and another in your hand as you go through it. Clause 1, for example, really is not good enough. We could all have been spared a considerable amount of time in the Library going through the Acts of 1959, 1968 and 1980—and that was English, not Scottish at all—endeavouring to work out all the various permutations. I was quite worn out by the time I reached Clause 11, where I read:(1) This Act may be cited as the Deer (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 1982".I then read:(2) With the exception of section11(1) of this Act"—which is the provision I have just read—insofar as it refers to paragraph 2 of Schedule 3 to this Act"—but it does not refer to anything of the kind. You have some reasonable complications, as one might call them, in the first subsection, and then you come to what is a nonsense in the next; you then have to go over it a few times to see whether you are being stupid or whether the draftsmen have forgotten they have left out a clause that was there and in consequence have forgotten to change the reference. But I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, will have the answer as to whether I am right, or whether that particular provision is nonsense, and should read "section 10(1)". We are only human and when a point is made about thanking the draftsmen for their help, we start on the basis that the Bill is right. It gives us a lot of work, and 1 hope that that kind of situation can be avoided.
I was glad that the noble Lord mentioned the Red Deer Commission, the work it had done, and the reputation it had built up. Mind you, I began to wonder about it when I heard some people talking about some of the things that are in the Bill and the implications of them. There was a suggestion, I think by the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, that what we need is deer management. I would suggest that he looks at a pamphlet produced by the Red Deer Commission. There is a copy in the Library, and he could go there after the debate is finished. The pamphlet is entitled, Deer Management. Not only is it about that, but it shows the advance that there has been, and the co-operation that there is, between the Red Deer Commission and the Forestry Commission on the one side, and deer forest owners on the other, on various matters.
think that the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, is quite right—the Forestry Commission was hopelessly wrong in ignoring deer when it first set up its large forestry operations. There are great blocks of forest—not 307 just in the South of Scotland, as was suggested by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Burton, but in the North, too—where there is no fencing at all. What has happened? The people went off the land, we brought in sheep, the profitibality of sheep declined, and so deer was the next thing, and with the growth of industrial prosperity in England it became fashionable for people to go up to Scotland, to the great deer forests, to go stalking, and then stalking became commercial as well. All that has been part of the development.
Now we push the deer out, or push them higher up. We build great forests between them and their feeding grounds. If there is fencing, they will get round it, or through it, Once they get through, they will stay there, because deer are indeed woodland animals. That has been their advantage in the past, they were there before we were. There was the old Caledonian forest. We got rid of the forest. Many of the Highland forests were cut down and used for smelting; and then there were all the other developments. We have pushed the deer around, and we, not the deer, are to blame for the dilemma they are in. They have to live.
Remember my Lords, that the 1959 Bill was intended to further the conservation and control of red deer. A feeling I have about this Bill—and I think it is shared by one or two people—is that the conservation aspect is becoming increasingly eroded, and it might well be that the forestry owners, be they the Forestry Commission or private developers in forestry, have switched the balance a little.
There are ways of dealing with the animals other than killing them. They can be controlled properly. This point has come out from what the Red Deer Commission and the Forestry Commission have said—I think it was at Fuinary. They have come to the conclusion that one way to handle the matter might be to make clearances in forests and so encourage deer to come in and feed. They would then be much easier to control and there would not be the slaughter which offends a tremendous number of people. I was impressed by what was said by, I think the chairman of the Deer Society in evidence to the Select Committee; that is certainly well worth reading.
I tend to agree with those who say, "Yes, let's look again at what is proposed in respect of both out-of-season killing and night shooting ". It is so easy to slaughter the deer in these circumstances. This might be a disadvantage of the idea about clearances. You attract the deer, switch on the spotlight, stun them with light, and then slaughter them. That is all right if it is done from the point of view of control. But the difficulty arises in that those people who benefit from the presence of the deer, whether in terms of venison for human consumption, or commercial stalking, are not the people who are at a disadvantage when damage is done. And who owns the deer anyway? Nobody. The person who owns the deer is the person who kills it, provided he kills it lawfully. So we have to balance the interests, and it is the balance that I am concerned about.
Now I turn to the question of poaching. I do not think that there is any disagreement among any of us about poaching. Where there is cash, there is 308 crime, and it is a fact that as the price of venison has risen, interest in poaching has become all that much greater. I think that it was the sub-committee that pointed out, as well as the Red Deer Commission—everybody agrees—that the penalties must be increased. Proposed changes in the licensing procedure, getting away from registration, are I believe quite right. I understand that at the moment there are about 500 registered venison dealers, and 250 of them are no longer in business. So the local authorities are carrying a register that is virtually half dead; it should be kept alive.
I now come back to familiar ground because I want to ask why was this matter not included in the Civic Government Bill? Under that Bill we are licensing itinerant scrap dealers, chimney sweeps—oh no, not chimney sweeps—window cleaners, taxi drivers. We are getting all the licensing together, all to be done by the local authorities. This matter could have been in that Bill, and it would have saved the noble Lord all the trouble he will have at the Committee stage.
There is not very much leeway left for the local authorities, there is no limitation on numbers. Someone suggested—I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, but certainly someone suggested it—that there might be limitation of the numbers of licensed venison dealers. I do not think that will be on. There is also the question of consulting the police. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, who mentioned this—the trouble is that when people come in here they will change their names from those with which we are all familiar. I think that there is value in consultation. It is done in regard to the other licences that I have just mentioned. It is important that the police know who in their area have licences. That would be better for them in carrying out their work, because it is not going to be easy for them, the whole thing is so scattered.
On a previous occasion in Scotland we made a decision about evidence regarding prosecution for poaching salmon; I think it was in 1951. Then in 1959 we decided that a person can be prosecuted, and the Crown Office would allow the prosecution to go forward, on the evidence of one witness. Not only that; there is also the question of whether vehicles are being used, these "cats" I think they are called. We have heard about them in another Bill. Boats are used, too. I was fascinated by the fact that a discrepancy regarding the number of boats—I think it was in Rum—could not be understood. Then it was realised that that was at a time when the price of venison was at its highest, and a number of boats had been seen around the place. We must not underestimate the difficulty of catching the culprits; nor must we underestimate the penalty, because all their engines, boats, cars and everything else can be confiscated. But I agree that the penalties must go up. The change in the licensing system will of course give a greater measure of control in respect of the outlet, and the penalties have been improved.
On firearms, that aspect has to be dealt with, of course. I am perfectly sure the noble Lord will see to that himself. Let him stand no nonsense from the Scottish Office. Tell them that the House insists upon it. We have the actual firearms listed, and the ballistic references as well, in a schedule, and he can take power 309 to add to them or take off from them, but we must see this before the Bill goes through.
On the whole, I am pleased with the Bill. There are one or two things that I do not like about it; but the last legislation was passed in 1959 and it is now 1982. I do not know why the Scottish Office have not produced their own Bill, but, anyway, the noble Lord has rescued them with this one, to make a start. It is only a start, because we have this document from them which was sent out last year, I think it was, called Deer Legislation in Scotland. The whole question of farming has not been dealt with; and, although it is complicated and complex, if farming is going to spread then we shall need to deal with it and make it possible in some way to make sense out of the present position and remove some of the difficulties which rest with them.
The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, asked: Why the differences in Scotland? One of the big differences is that we probably take things a bit more seriously in Scotland. You can see the attendance here tonight on this relatively unimportant Bill. We cannot get an attendance here when we are dealing with Scottish local government. Lord Mansfield and myself are here together at midnight, and not another single Scot. I am delighted to see some of the faces; but it is because we take this business seriously, evidently.
But let the noble Lord appreciate one other thing. We have a Red Deer Commission. It is there. We want to keep our Red Deer Commission; and I hope he will listen to that. We want it to be a Red Deer Commission, and not an all-deer commission. It has enough to do. By the way, let us be a little more honest during the Committee stage. How much is this going to cost? Are we going to give this man a pension at all? I do not know whether Mr. Innes Miller wants one, or is in need of one. It may be that his work warrants it; but I am tempted to agree with what was said about this by Lord Thurso.
However, when I received the last report from the commission I saw there were six meetings and one or two other things as well. It is an important job, but not exactly onerous. But if the Government are going to give him the opportunity of a pension, is it going to be a minimal pension? Because we are told here that the effects of this are minimal. I think there is potential here, especially if you want the Red Deer Commission to take on new duties in respect of scientific research, and so on. Of course, I can now see why that is wanted. It is because we have not got the Nature Conservancy doing the kind of work that they did in Rum.
But I have been impressed with what has been done in respect of research by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, under the aegis of the commission. We are making headway. There is so much more that we know about it that it merits a much bigger Bill and a much fuller Bill dealing with some of the more up-to-date problems. But I congratulate the noble Lord for having courageously started off, and I hope that he looks as well and as young by the time we come to the end of it.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Mansfield)
My Lords, I should like to add my voice to the congratulations which have showered upon my 310 noble friend Lord Glenarthur from all sides of the House—and quite rightly, too, if I may say so—first on the manner in which he presented this Bill to your Lordships this afternoon, and I think more especially for having the courage to take it on. Any debate in your Lordships' House which concerns the subject of your Lordships' House, which concerns the subject of animals or birds or fish, excites an interest and attendance almost more than anything else except the possible reform of trade union law, and feelings tend to run somewhat high. I have, of course, as always, been impressed by the depth of interest and, indeed, expertise shown by other noble Lords from all parts of the House who have taken part in the debate; and I think in some ways—in many ways, perhaps—the debate has been reasonably constructive and certainly points the way to an interesting Committee stage, which I hope will also be constructive.
The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, at one point in his remarks, asked what was the attitude of the Government to this Bill. He talked about himself as, I think, a civilising influence, although that, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. But if he was sufficiently civilised to be a Scot, I think he would know that the Bill which my noble friend has introduced had its origins in the Scottish Office. He would also know of the intense interest which I personally have taken in matters to do with deer since the general election of 1979, and indeed before it, when, in a private capacity, I pontificated (if that is the right word) upon the Bills of the noble Lord, Lord Northfield—and I see him nodding, if not in appreciation.
Having said that, besides having lots of consultations we also issued the consultative document to which reference has been made this afternoon. It has been recognised for some time, of course, that a fresh look was needed at the law relating to deer in Scotland. We therefore published the discussion paper which was widely circulated, and it drew a good deal of interesting and useful comment. There was also considerable help given by a working party, convened on the initiative of the Scottish Landowners' Federation, which was chaired (as has already been mentioned) by Sir John Gilmour. This brought together all the main interests concerned with the management and, indeed, the conservation of deer. I hope that the result of all this has been that the main interests now understand, and have at least a measure of respect for, each other's points of view. I would have hoped, at least before this afternoon, that there was a degree of consensus between them.
I am asked what the Government's attitude is likely to be towards this Bill and its future progress. I cannot of course give any undertaking on behalf of the business managers in another place, but any Private Member's Bill is a tender plant and it is apt to succumb if it reaches the other place in a state which makes it unwelcome. I therefore hope—and I do not say this as a threat—that when we debate this Bill in Committee the consensus which I have already referred to will be preserved, and that even those who feel, quite rightly and perfectly understandably, passionate about some aspects of deer management will appreciate that, as I shall illustrate, in various parts of this Bill there have been brought together divided opinions in the form of a compromise which may in the end prove the most 311 satisfactory; but I shall say no more about it at this stage.
I must also mention the immense help which the Scottish Office has had from the Red Deer Commission in preparing the Bill. The commission are a thoroughly balanced and representative body, and they have taken a great deal of time and trouble to review the matters raised by the consultative document. They have given their advice to the Government; and if this is a good Bill—and I believe that it is—then it is due in no small measure to the assistance that the Commission have given to us.
I have to say that the Bill relates to two Government Bills which are at present before Parliament; not in a direct way, but rather by touching upon some common matters. The first point is contained in Clause 7, which introduces the concept of licensing for venison dealers; and, rightly, the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, said that we are already considering very comprehensive licensing provisions under the Civic Government (Scotland) Bill. Why then should we not transfer the venison dealer provisions into that Bill, where they could go in with the metal dealers and window cleaners and so on?
Precisely how the provisions of this Bill should relate to that Bill is a question of some complexity and, above all, I think that there are difficulties in relation to the schedule in the Civic Government (Scotland) Bill which lays down the procedures under which licences are obtained. Nevertheless, I take the point and I think it may be very well worthwhile examining the position afresh in the light of his remarks before this Bill and indeed, the other Bill get very much further. We are very keen to see a sensible system of licensing for venison dealers but we are not sure whether it would be right at this stage that they should go with the other trades and occupations contemplated by the Civic Government (Scotland) Bill.
The other Government measure which relates to this Bill is the Criminal Justice Bill in which the penalty provisions of the Deer (Scotland) Act 1959 are proposed to be revised on similar lines to those contained in this Bill. Should this Bill make good progress, we would intend to let the penalty provisions stand as they are here, since this is the proper place for them, and in that event we will withdraw them from the Criminal Justice Bill.
This brings me to the first point which was raised (first by intervention, and latterly by a speech) by my noble friend Lord Inglewood. He asks—and complains about it; as I think did my noble friend Lord Chelwood—whether this Bill does not make the law of Scotland and that of England somehow wider apart. I do not think that it does. In three areas, in fact, this Bill brings the law of Scotland and of England closer together; namely in the field of penalties, in the control of firearms and in the control of poaching. The Bill, in fact, brings the laws of both countries nearer to being identical. I have to say that, as far as the rights of the occupier are concerned—that is to say, night shooting and so on—there is a divergence between the two countries.
However, the conditions between the two countries are very different and I am not sure that the circumstances which are contemplated by this Bill will not 312 very soon be reproduced in places in Northumberland like the Kielder Forest. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future, although I do not think that, for the purposes of this speech, I should speculate further in that direction. But basically there is little that is in common in the problems faced as far as deer control is concerned between Scotland and southern England; and I would take issue with my noble friend Lord Chelwood in his assertion that the problems are very similar.
Another matter raised concerned the order-making powers of the Secretary of State. There are two places in the Bill where power is proposed to be conferred upon the Secretary of State. First, in Clause 1, which will empower the Secretary of State to give the Red Deer Commission directions as to which species of deer it is to give its attention to and its advice upon. This was one of the matters of complaint of my noble friend Lord Burton, who in a speech of about 20 minutes had nothing good to say about the Bill at all, except a word of congratulation to my noble friend, and in it he quoted to us Latin, if not Japanese, as part of his complaint.
What this does is to give the Secretary of State in the future power to, as it were, direct the Red Deer Commission to turn its attention to other species as may become necessary in the light of future events. Of course, we arc concerned now, and will be so in the future, that the commission's resources should be put to the fullest possible use but not overstrained. I think that even now the commission has a considerable understanding of roe deer but, in any event, before he makes use of such powers the Secretary of State of the day, without any doubt, would consult the commission to find out what are their needs and how they can fulfil them before any direction was made. The alternative is to leave the commission so that they cannot have this power. It would then be necessary to have primary legislation once more—and we all know how difficult it is to have legislation of this sort because of the crowded parliamentary timetable.
The other power is in Clause 6, upon which quite a lot has been said already. The Secretary of State is empowered to make orders by statutory instrument restricting the use of types of firearm and ammunition. This is a good power. I have been asked, not least by my noble friend Lord Glenarthur, whether it would be the Secretary of State's intention to make such an order almost at the time when the Bill receives the Royal Assent. I cannot give an undertaking about that. This is a flexible power which the Secretary of State is given.
I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, that it is a much better power than writing in great, cumbersome rules and codes and dotting the i's and crossing the t's; because the Secretary of State is empowered to take the right advice, and he can act swiftly in an executive manner. I have no doubt that this is something to which we shall return in Committee, but, as at present advised, I think it is a neater and less cumbersome way of controlling the use of firearms so far as deer are concerned.
§ Lord Northfield
My Lords, when the whole House and many people outside are agreed that some methods are barbaric, is it not a good idea to put a provision in 313 the Bill?—because we still find that Ministers are got at, even on issues like that, and they do not move as swiftly as does public opinion.
§ The Earl of Mansfield
My Lords, there is every difference between what the noble Lord says and the situation some years ago when we were debating crossbows and things like that. I agree that the use of crossbows and of lurchers should be prohibited by statute; but because of the 1959 Act we are well down that particular path already so far as Scotland is concerned. What we would be legislating for or what the Secretary of State would be legislating for in his order, is, for instance, the type of rifle to be used. That is quite different. We need primary legislation for that.
A great number of Committee points have been raised which I shall not attempt to answer. If my noble friend Lord Glenarthur feels like doing so, because it is his Bill, he is free to. There are obviously matters to which we shall return in Committee. So far as the Government are concerned, I am sure that if my noble friend wishes to accept amendments then the Government probably will be sympathetic. The noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, with his eagle eye—and I would hate to have been taught history by him in the old days—spotted the one misprint; and, of course, an amendment will he gratefully accepted from him if my noble friend does not table it himself. The Latin, I am sure, can be tidied up.
I am also sure that the point that the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, made, perfectly properly—why one fine for one carcase and not more?—can easily be debated in Committee. I imagine that an amendment would be given sympathetic consideration by my noble friend. Where I am less in sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Northfield—and I have already indicated this—is over the matter of codes of practice, both so far as night shooting is concerned and the related suggestion which the noble Lord made that there should be some kind of code laid down by the Red Deer Commission when they are making authorisation.
So far as the Red Deer Commission are concerned, I am sure that when they make their authorisation they would lay down strict conditions. They are minded to do so at present over the ground to be covered and also the identity of the person who would undertake the shooting. Probably notification of the police would also be part of that authorisation.
§ Lord Burton
My Lords, may I ask a question? Am I not right in thinking that the vast amount of night shooting will not be controlled by the Red Deer Commission? It will still be under the old Agriculture Act.
§ The Earl of Mansfield
My Lords, I am coming to that That is the night shooting point. What I was trying to cover was the question of a code of practice. We shall come back to that; but I have no doubt that it can be covered by the Red Deer Commission, and that there is no need for primary legislation.
The noble Lord, Lord Northfield, is very anxious, I know, to see those provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act on control over firearms incorporated 314 into this Bill. We can have a lot of debate on that. I do not think that it would be very profitable of me to go into it now apart from saying that I myself do not think it is necessary.
The noble Lord, Lord Northfield, then complained in effect that there was no question of serious damage before an occupier can shoot in the close season. I want to come, if I may, to this whole question of night shooting. May I remind your Lordships that the present law is contained in Clauses 21 and 33 of the 1959 Act. Putting the matter quite shortly, the occupier—both as regards out of season shooting and also night shooting—has a very wide power. He does not have to prove that the marauding deer—if I may so call them—were doing anything; they merely have to be on his land. As my noble friend illustrated when he introduced this Bill, this has had one effect particularly so far as the Forestry Commission are concerned: because they are a corporate body they do not, as it were, count as an occupier for the purposes of Clause 33.
May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that so far as know this Bill has been drafted in complete compliance with what was recommended by the committee which was chaired by my noble friend Lord Renton. This is the way of legislating by reference. I appreciate that at first blush when one picks up a copy of this Bill it is not easy but it was the way which was recommended, for a variety of reasons.
I hope that it will be agreed by the whole House that the provisions contained in subsections (4) and (4A) of Clause 8 represent a considerable compromise so far as occupiers are concerned, because for the first time it shall be lawful for the occupier to carry out night shooting of deer only if he is satisfied that the night shooting is necessary to prevent damage to crops, and so on. If not he but a third person—who is to be nominated by him—is to shoot at night, then the Red Deer Commission are brought into the matter, and they will not act unless the matters in paragraphs (a) and (b) satisfy them.
This is a very real advance. I appreciate that none of us, nobody in any part of the House, likes the idea of shooting. Speaking as an individual, I certainly do not. Equally, most noble Lords would agree that there are certain occasions—particularly in Scotland where we have these vast areas of single age woodland—where unfortunately control cannot be kept without it. It is not only the Forestry Commission which would not be able to control deer as things stand, but also some of these other new private enterprise companies which have grown up and which are also planting large areas of trees.
My noble friend Lord Burton asked: "Why cannot the Forestry Commission put proper deer fences round their woods with suitable jumping off points for the deer to get out?" He says that they are rich and should be able to undertake this. But the Forestry Commission are not rich. They have a certain amount of taxpayers' money and one of the duties of the Government which I take seriously is to see that the Forestry Commission do not have a penny more of the taxpayers' money than is necessary. Whether my noble friend's particular suggestion is one which commends itself to your Lordships, I rather doubt. 315 The fact of the matter is—and I state it reluctantly—that, unfortunately, it is necessary to have night shooting; but, of course, if in Committee it is felt that certain safeguards should be written into the Bill, then that will be examined with the greatest care.
§ Lord Northfield
My Lords, may I trespass on the time of the noble Earl once more? He made a passing mention to shooting out of season and then left that and went on to night shooting. May I press him on the point that I made about it being possible still—unamended in this Bill—for an occupier to shoot out of season at any animal simply found on arable land; not even causing damage, not even causing serious damage, but merely found? Does he admit that is an error in the drafting?
§ The Earl of Mansfield
Yes, that point is so, my Lords. I think that the reasons are plain. I was asked by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, about Red Deer Commission observers on deer panels. The Government are of the opinion that, particularly if the role of the Deer Commission is to be enlarged, these local panels will be a very useful means of obtaining local advice on management and, where necessary and perhaps more importantly, control. Observers will be necessary to ensure that the panels' policies are reasonably uniform and reflect the policy of the commission as a whole. I would regard that as a worthwhile idea.
Then, asks the noble Lord, what about a pension for the chairman? What I can say to him is this: this clause of the Bill is part of a tidying-up exercise. What happens is that whenever legislation is introduced affecting a particular Quango—and of course the Red Deer Commission is one—the opportunity is taken to include provision for a chairman's pension, and also, in the earlier part of the clause, for a rather more unpleasant fate that might befall him, if he were to become mentally unstable or bankrupt.
The position of the chairman of the Red Deer Commission is very different from that of the members. He has to carry the burden of day-to-day decisions and attend a number of conferences, meetings and so on. He also has to keep in constant touch with his staff. No other member of the commission undertakes work that is nearly so onerous as this, and I do not suppose they would even compare themselves with the chairman in this respect. I am not saying that this power means that the chairman will inevitably be given a pension; nor is it contemplated at the moment, I believe. But we are taking the power and, as I said before, primary legislation in the matter of deer does not come every day.
I am painfully conscious that I have taken up a great deal of your Lordships' time; but mention was made of the monitoring of roe shooting at night. Roe deer are very widespread in Scotland, and one wonders therefore whether it would be beyond the power of the Red Deer Commission to undertake such monitoring. I do not believe that the Red Deer Commission will grant authorisations at all freely. If I am right about this—and I am sure I am, because everybody shares the distaste of night shooting—these authorisations will be granted as an exceptional measure, and in that 316 instance I do not believe that it will be difficult to keep an eye on the situation. And, of course, it will be essential for the occupier to keep the Red Deer Commission in the picture.
Most of the other matters which were raised are really Committee points, I think. I will look through the Official Report tomorrow and take stock with my noble friend Lord Glenarthur. If any point has been raised which I can answer, because I have lived with these problems rather longer perhaps than my noble friend, I will undertake to write to the noble Lord concerned; but if my noble friend, whose Bill this is, wishes to do so, then no doubt he will write the letter himself.
I hope from what I have said that I can have the agreement of the House when I say that the Government are keen to see the law relating to deer amended and brought up to date. Quite obviously, so far as this Bill is concerned, there is going to be contentious debate, but I do not think we should be too frightened of that if, at the end of that contentious debate, on a number of points a real consensus emerges. If that happens, then I think such consensus will impress itself upon another place and the chances of this Bill becoming an Act and going on to the statute book will be immeasurably higher. For this evening I will merely say that I hope your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, we have heard a great deal this afternoon in more than three and a half hours on the subject of deer, and though I must say I have heard a great many of the points raised before while we have been discussing this Bill, I still feel I have learned a lot from what has been said in your Lordships' House this afternoon. Of course, when I read the Official Report I will have an even better opportunity to mull over what has been said and consider the views that have been expressed, with a view to the Committee stage in due course. As my noble friend Lord Mansfield said, I am sure that the Government will do likewise.
I am most grateful to those noble Lords who have thought it brave of me to take the Bill on. I must confess that, in the face of all the comments that have been made, particularly from behind me, I am beginning to feel rather brave and perhaps even foolhardy myself—but I have it, and I shall continue with it. I think, as my noble friend has said, it would be a mistake to go into too great detail now on all the points that have been raised. There are a great many of them and I should like to look at what has been said and then consider them further at Committee stage. However, there are one or two points I can usefully comment on now, and the first one I should like to mention is the question of the interests of conservation. Several noble Lords have expressed the view that the Bill seeks to remove or in some way adjust the important power of the Red Deer Commission to conserve red deer. That is in fact quite a simple matter to explain, because where it specifically removes the words "in the interests of conservation" in Clause 1, it does not amend the provisions in Section 1 of the 1959 Act, which says: 317There shall be constituted a commission to be called 'the Red Deer Commission' … which shall have the general functions of furthering the conservation and control of red deer …".So the prime interest of conservation remains. It is only in the other part of the Bill, which relates to an extension of the power to deal with marauding deer, that the words "in the interests of conservation" have been removed. That is simply because there is a general requirement for the commission to advise on control. They are being increasingly asked to do so; but again we shall come back to that at the Committee stage.
Several noble Lords expressed concern about the need for owners to be kept informed, at the very least, of what is going on so far as the killing of red deer is concerned. I think there is a fairly valid point here, because in the case of a deer forest owner the management of deer is all-embracing and he cannot possibly be expected to have a broad idea of what is going on all over the place if, willy-nilly, people are shooting deer. I would myself like to see some provision in the Bill at a suitable point to take that further so that the owners are kept aware of what is going on. How it can be done I am not quite sure at this moment, but certainly I am keen on the idea myself and I am sure that my noble friend will be able to help me with it.
I do not propose to go further into the firearms question tonight. It has been hammered out often enough, and I think that my noble friend Lord Mansfield has made the point perfectly well in his reply to the noble Lord, Lord Northfield. I am delighted that the subject of poaching has come up and also that the effect the Bill will have on this has met with widespread support. I feel that the provisions are a real help, and anything further that can be done to improve them in the Committee stage will only be welcomed more.
I do not propose to get bogged down now in the question of night shooting. It has been covered by my noble friend Lord Mansfield, and it is too complex and too emotive a matter to get bogged down in now. But I should like to make one last comment on the rights of occupiers, to extend the comments that my noble friend Lord Mansfield made in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, just now. I think that the point which the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, was trying to make was that occupiers by day will still have a right to shoot, even if the deer are not doing any damage, and that part of the Bill repeats part of the Agriculture (Scotland) Act 1948. That is all it does. I do not think I want to go into it any more just now. As I said, all it does is to repeat provisions of the 1948 Act.
I hope that noble Lords will not become too entrenched in respect of any particular aspect of this Bill. There is a great temptation to take up a position and refuse to budge. I also feel, from the views that have been expressed, that there is a general wish that this Bill was not a Bill at all, but was a deer management document. The idea of the Bill is to amend the law which, as I see it, relates to certain specific maxima—how far one can go in a certain direction. I believe that it would be wrong to try to incorporate any more into the Bill. The object of the exercise is to try to set a maximum limit on certain aspects, and specifically to remove the possibility of certain things not being covered by the law. That is where the night shooting 318 aspect is particularly important, because it is not covered at the moment so far as forestry owners are concerned, and I believe that it ought not to be outside the law.
We have had a very interesting and stimulating debate and I do not propose to detain your Lordships any longer. I shall look forward, after a certain amount of work, to the Committee stage. In the meantime, I hope that your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.