asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the depredations during the past winter of gangs of unauthorised men armed with rifles who fire at night-time upon herds of deer from cars whose headlights illuminate and dazzle the animals; that considerable numbers of deer are thus wounded and die on the hillside; that doubt exists as to whether either the rifles or the lorries and cars used are licensed; what reports he has had on the matter from the police; and what action he proposes to take.
Police reports which I have obtained from the Highland areas show that in some places there is some killing and wounding of deer in the manner described by the hon. Member, but information as to the numbers killed or wounded is not available.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the considerable anxiety on the part of public opinion in Scotland about this? Is there not a case for an inquiry into this somewhat revolting form of commercial poaching?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, a Committee is inquiring just now into cruelty to wild animals. This is part of their remit, and their Report is expected shortly.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that very often on these expeditions sheep are killed or wounded, and that this causes a great deal of worry in the Highland areas?
I am aware of that, and the police are similarly aware of it. The police use mobile forces to try to cope with it.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries of local owners of deer forests and from the police force to find out exactly what has happened? Damage and cruelty are not confined merely to the Highland areas but are far more widespread.
As I have already indicated, I have called for the fullest reports from the police. While I do not want to minimise the distressing extent of this practice, it is possible to exaggerate it.