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Deer

Volume 499: debated on Tuesday 22 April 1952

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35.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the total area of deer forest land in Scotland; the area of land in Scotland grazed by deer and also by cattle and sheep; how many deer forests there are; the estimated deer population of each forest for each year since 1931; and the estimated total deer population today.

The Agricultural Returns of 4th June 1951, show that there are 196 deer forests in Scotland extending to some 3,100,000 acres. Of this total slightly over 1,000,000 acres are returned as being grazed by cattle and sheep. I regret that information as to the estimated population of each forest for each year since 1931 is not available. The total deer population today probably exceeds 100,000, but here again no reliable information is available.

Is the Minister aware that legislation is pending relating to deer? Can he say how many individuals own these vast territories, and is it not a fact that during their years of ownership they have done very little to solve the problems relating to deer?

I think the numbers of owners would approximate to 196, that being the number of forests.

Will my right hon. Friend take steps to make it more profitable and practicable for owners of deer forests to agist cattle during the summer months?

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland his estimate of the extent and value of the damage to crops caused by deer in Scotland during each of the last 20 years; in which districts this damage occurred; and what steps he proposes to take to control the herds which cause this damage and to organise them in national parks for their own protection and the protection of crops.

There is no statutory or other obligation on deer forest owners or agriculturists to report damage by deer, and I have no statistical data which would enable me to give any estimate of the extent and value of such damage or to say in which districts it may have occurred.

Agricultural executive committees have power in certain circumstances under the Agriculture (Scotland) Act, 1948, to secure the destruction of deer causing or likely to cause damage to agricultural production.

The hon. and learned Member's suggestion that deer should be confined to national parks raises wide administrative issues which cannot well be dealt with by way of question and answer.

Is it not clear, in view of the failure of the existing owners of these deer forests to discharge their ordinary duties to the deer, that it is time the deer were protected in national parks?

I can only say that to contain deer would involve a great deal of fencing of a very high and expensive character.

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the annual wastage and loss of life among the deer of Scotland; the causes of this wastage; and how much of it is due to starvation, disease, wounding, sport and poaching, respectively.

Can the right hon. Gentleman suggest any other way of protecting these deer than that of protecting them in national parks?

I must say that it is not a question I have considered up to date, but it would be an expensive project.

Would my right hon. Friend consider introducing a closed season for deer when the Bill from the other place reaches this House, or before?

I am very anxious to do all I can in that respect, but there are difficulties.

In view of the fact that neither the Secretary of State for Scotland, nor any one else, seems to know anything about what is happening to deer in deer forests except by poachers, what right have they to introduce a Bill in this House, based on no information or evidence whatever, in order to suppress the poacher, who, if anyone has it, has a certain natural right to do something about deer?

Will my right hon. Friend say how this Government, or any other Government, could keep deer within a national park?

In view of his reply regarding damage caused, that there was no statistical record, is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that in many areas there is no feeding of deer in the winter? Could he influence some of his hon. Friends to help the deer over the hard period and thus preserve good arable land?