I beg to move, in page 1, line 18, to leave out "injuring."It might be convenient if we considered this Amendment together with the Amendments in lines 20, 23, and 25 which are concerned with the same subject. Clause 2 allows an authorised person to kill, injure or take birds listed in the Second Schedule and allows anyone to kill, injure and take birds included in the Third Schedule outside the close season. As the Clause stands, a sportsman who wounded a bird in attempting to kill it and was unable to recover it would be liable to a penalty and this would not be reasonable. In Committee, the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) pointed out that, as drafted, the Clause would authorise the deliberate infliction of injury without killing. This was never intended and these Amendments are designed to make it clear that Clause 2 does not authorise a deliberate cruelty but only injury in the course of an attempt to kill.
I beg to second the Amendment. I am quite sure a special chorus of birds will greet the noble Lady tomorrow morning when she wakes.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: in page 1, line 20, at end, insert
"or by reason of the injuring of such a bird in the course of an attempt to kill it."
In line 23, leave out "injuring."
In line 25, at end, insert
"or by reason of the injuring of such a bird outside that season in the course of an attempt to kill it."— [Lady Tweedsmuir.]
I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, at the end, to insert:
In Committee, the hon. Member fox Portsmouth, South (Sir J. Lucas), supported by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price), suggested that there should be some provision authorising the taking and sale of water fowl eggs, otherwise the Bill would prohibit the practice of the taking and selling of eggs for the restocking of ponds of owners who like to have waiter-fowl on their places. This Amendment, and the subsequent Amendment to Clause 6, page 6, line 36, makes provision accordingly that only authorised persons will be allowed to take eggs for this purpose, and I think that is a desirable safeguard. The only eggs that may be taken for the purpose are those of ducks, geese and swans, because game birds are outside this Bill, and the practice in question is confined to them and to the birds referred to in the Amendment. It seems desirable to include the eggs of geese and swans since they are often kept in more or less wild conditions. It is sometimes thought that all swans enjoy a royal protection, but that is not so."or by reason of the taking of an egg of a wild duck, wild goose or swan if it is shown that the egg was taken for the purpose of causing it to be hatched."
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 14, after "poultry," to insert:
Clause 2 and Clause 6 of the Bill authorise the taking and sale of gull eggs for human consumption or as food for poultry. In Committee, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) asked whether for this purpose poultry included ornamental water fowl and suggested that the use of gulls' eggs for feeding them should be allowed. It seems a reasonable point and this Amendment and a later Amendment to page 6, line 36 allows their use for the feeding of ornamental ducks, geese and swans as well as poultry."ornamental ducks, ornamental geese or swans."
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 26, after "and," to insert "(except in Scotland)."This Clause applies to the shooting of woodcock and the Amendment refers to a time when, in any case, they are in thick cover. The shooting could not conceivably make any serious inroads on the woodcock population if they were shot after 1st September in Scotland. This provision would also give holiday-makers a chance at the woodcock which he otherwise would not get, and the acceptance of the Amendment would bring the law into line as between woodcock and snipe.
I beg to second the Amendment.
The reasons for prolonging the closed season for woodcock to the end of September, as at present provided in the Bill, is because the bird breeds late and many are still moulting in September. I said in Committee that I did not have the times of the close season in various parts of the country by me, but I have since found that the close season for woodcock has been extended to the end of September in nine counties, to 31st August in four, and to 31st July in the remaining 20 counties.An Amendment was moved in Committee but was defeated to end the close season on 11th August throughout Great Britain. It seems to me that there is very much less objection to the present proposal to end the close season in Scotland only at the end of August, in view of the different dates in different parts of the country, and it may be that in parts of Scotland there would be little chance of sportsmen shooting woodcock at the end of September. Because the Amendment is a reasonable compromise I should like the House to accept it.
The noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) said that in Committee an Amendment was defeated. That Amendment would have provided for a close season from 1st February to 11th August, instead of 1st February to 30th September as is provided in the Bill. The Amendment was defeated by 16 votes to nine. The present Amendment provides a close season in Scotland from 3rd February to 31st August. One of the reasons that were advanced in Committee for an earlier date for shooting was that youngsters would have an opportunity of gaining experience, but as the Amendment affects Scotland only I do not propose to vote against it.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 31, at the end, to insert:
(c) in the case of wild duck and wild geese in or over any area below high water mark of ordinary spring tides, the period in any year commencing with the twenty-first day of February and ending with the thirty-first day of August.
On a point of order. I should like to have your guidance, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the two subsequent Amendments in my name and in the names of my hon. Friends as Amendments to the Amendment which my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) is moving.
It might be for the convenience of the House to say now that I do not propose to call the Amendments standing in the hon. Member's name to the Amendment proposed by the noble Lady.
I abide by your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but a number of hon. Members and others outside this House are interested in my Amendments and I wonder whether there is any chance of you reconsidering your decision.
Further to that point of order. I have had many representations made to me about the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) and, although this concerns only myself, I might add that I have taken a good deal of trouble to be here today and so, Mr. Speaker, I am doubly disappointed by your Ruling.
My selection was made after considerable care and study of this matter and of the Committee proceedings, and I cannot have it questioned in the House. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Devon, North (Brigadier Peto) should have been put to inconvenience to be here, but he should recollect that his duty is to be always here.
This is a very important Amendment, and I ask the House to allow me a little time to explain it fully. I am naturally conscious that there is a large number of Amendments to this Bill and that many hon. Members are waiting anxiously to discuss other Bills, but I feel that this Amendment is important because it touches two completely divergent views on the subject, both in the House and in the country.The Amendment extends the shooting season for wild duck and wild geese on the foreshore to 20th February throughout Great Britain. The Home Secretary still has power under the Bill to extend the close season up to 1st February if necessary. The Amendment is exactly in accordance with the recommendations of the Advisory Committee which was established in 1938 under the chairmanship of Lord Ilchester and on the recommendations of which the bulk of the provisions in this Bill are based. Hon. Members are well aware that this is a very controversial matter, because they must have noticed that their correspondence has reflected two exactly divergent views. The Nature Conservancy, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and others wish to close the shooting season on 1st January. The Wild Fowl Association and the British Field Sports Society and others wish it to come to an end at the end of February. To preserve a balance between these two views the Amendment retains the status quo. In other words, the present close season starts on 1st February, including all Scotland, except for four counties. In the other counties the dates are 11th February, 15th February and 21st February, the last including many of the major wildfowling counties. The arguments in favour of closing the season either on 31st January or 20th February are well known. Those who favour 31st January maintain that there is a serious decline in the world population of duck and geese, particularly the latter, and, in order to arrest the decline, the close season should start on 1st February, particularly to help the geese. It is said that it is not so much the number that are shot that matters as the whole question of disturbance, though it is true that in a hard winter the number shot does matter. It is thought that wildfowl need longer to recover from the winter and to get into a better condition for breeding. This obviously affects some species more than others, but we could not have different dates in the Bill for different kinds. I favour 1st February as being in the long-term interest of wildfowlers themselves, but on the other hand I do not think that one's personal views should colour one's judgment. On a matter like this one should try to secure a reasonable compromise among the interests concerned and all of us have to give and take, both inside and outside this House. Without doubt, the wildfowlers have a case. They point to the Ilchester Committee's recommendation, which without doubt is in the exact terms of the Amendment, and they say that they usually have a chance of shooting only at weekends, a fact with which I have considerable sympathy because my husband is only a Saturday wildfowler, for we do not shoot on Sundays in Scotland. At the beginning I did not accept 21st February because, as I have said, I knew that the matter was hotly disputed. Furthermore, Parliament is not bound by the recommendations of any outside body, although if it is wise it takes them seriously into account. In Committee, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) moved a similar Amendment, but this was withdrawn because it included all edible wildfowl, and it was never suggested that waders should be included among wild duck and geese. Since the Committee stage, I have been impressed by one argument in particular—namely, that certain wildfowl associations and local authorities did not put forward applications for extensions of the shooting time on the foreshore because they understood that Parliament was about to pass a Bill which would provide a statutory date of 21st February. We all know that the layman does not always understand Parliamentary practice, and it seems that some applications were withheld waiting for the Bill to become law. As a result, it appears that a sense of grievance has been built up, which is the last thing I want connected with the Bill. For all those reasons, I think it is a fair compromise to ask the House to accept the Amendment. I may be asked how it was that the Advisory Committee agreed on 21st February when their members included representatives not only of the Wild-fowlers Association and the British Field Sports Society but also of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the British Ornithological Trust and others. The Nature Conservancy was not directly represented on the Committee because it was not formed until 1949, and it is very strongly in favour of 1st February as the start of the close season. The Advisory Committee's agreement came as the result of a bargain. The Committee wanted the main close season to extend from 1st February to 31st August. The representatives of the British Field Sports Society and the Wild-fowlers Association were prepared to accept this with the rest of the Committee's recommendations if the Committee agreed to some extension of the shooting season to 20th February for duck and geese on the shore alone, and this was duly agreed. This was to apply to the whole of the country, but the Secretary of State was to have power to extend the close season on the shore of any area, by order. If the Amendment is accepted the Bill will still give him this power. Later Amendments are designed to secure that an extension of the close season need not be permanent but can be reviewed so as to restore the original situation after a time if circumstances change. Whatever our personal views—and I know they are all strongly held—it is vital in a Measure such as this, which involves so many different interests, that the Measure should be generally regarded as reasonable. In dealing with wildfowl in the lonely places, if this Bill becomes law it can be enforced only because people generally believe it to be fair. I therefore ask the House to accept the Amendment.
I beg to second the Amendment.I should like strongly to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) has said. In the original Bill for the protection of wild duck and geese which I was lucky enough to be able to introduce in 1939, and which was passed, we stipulated 11th August. Some people may ask why we chose 11th August then as the termination of the close season and are now suggesting 31st August I think hon. Members know that some of my hon. Friends have suggested that 11th August is a suitable time. But hon. Members should also recall that my Bill was introduced in May, 1939. Everyone knew that a war was coming, and speed was the essential quality required in order to ensure that the Bill was passed before the worst happened. It was therefore entirely a matter of compromise. We had to take the date on which everyone seemed to be generally agreed. The statement which I then made seems to represent exactly what my hon. Friend is seeking to do in the Bill:
That explains my hon. Friend's purpose in the Bill. I have discussed this matter with keepers of long experience of bird shooting and of wildfowl and bird life, and I am convinced that my noble Friend is right in extending the date to the 31st. I hope the House will support the Amendment."We are seeking to prevent the old ducks and geese being killed off while they are mating and nesting, and at the other end to prevent the young birds being shot before they are able to fly."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st April, 1939; Vol. 346, c. 676.]
I should like to give my full support to the Amendment. Like other parts of the Bill, it is a compromise, because various interests must be considered in connection with bird protection. First of all, there are the protectionists who are concerned, as I think we all are in the House, with the preservation of the stocks of birds, and particularly of wildfowl, in this country. Secondly, there are the sporting interests. Thirdly, there are the commercial interests, if I may so describe them—the interests of the wildfowlers. I have several wildfowlers in my constituency who are engaged in the part-time occupation of wildfowling in the Severn Estuary. I am sure other hon. Members are in the same position. We must therefore try to achieve a compromise.I know that this is a difficult problem, because if shooting continues until 21st February there may be disturbance to birds which are breeding, but that is much less likely to happen if the shooting takes place on the foreshore. If the date inland is 1st February, the breeding of wildfowl will not be disturbed. It is inland rather than on the foreshore where breeding takes place. With geese it is another matter, but geese breed in the Arctic or the Far North. I do not think the argument about disturbing breeding will be a serious argument in the case of wild duck. Moreover, wild duck are not on the decline in this country, certainly not in the South of England, which I perhaps know best. In the case of geese it is a more serious problem, but there, as I have said, other considerations arise. There is an additional reason why the Amendment should commend itself to the House. If there is any danger of any species becoming rare owing to too much shooting, the Home Secretary will have powers, which are to be fortified in the later stages of the Bill, making it possible for him to vary the order and to give protection until the stock of birds has been built up again. For those reasons, I support the Amendment.
It would be appropriate, although the two Amendments which follow are not to be called, for me to add my thanks to my noble Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) for going as far as to accept the date of 21st February. I know it is against her own feelings to do so. I am sure wildfowlers will appreciate what she has been able to do in this matter.No doubt I should be out of order if I said that I wish the date were a little permissive in the other direction, but I would emphasise that the date 21st February is only the outside date; it is permissive, and it is up to local councils, through representations to the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Home Secretary, to have the final say.
I am sure that wildfowlers will be grateful to the noble Lady for asking the House to agree to this extension for shooting on the foreshore. I am sure that I am not the only hon. Member who has had a great many letters on the subject over the last two weeks. Wildfowlers as a class are not among those who write to their Members of Parliament every week-end, so they must feel strongly before they write the number of letters which they have done.The noble Lady has called this a reasonable compromise. As far as it affects the foreshore it is, and those who do not agree with her wholly ought to be satisfied with regard to the powers of the local authorities to make amendments lengthening this close season if they see good reason. It would be impossible for this House to agree to one firm, fixed date to cover both the South of England and the North of Scotland which would only be alterable by fresh legislation. The climate is so different from one length of this Island to another that local authorities must have discretion. Where I disagree with the noble Lady, and where I think the compromise is not reasonable, is with regard duck shooting inland. On the shore three weeks have been taken from one end of the season and three weeks added to the other end. Is this not correct? Inland three weeks have recently been lost at one end while nothing is added at the other.
It is quite incorrect.
Something more midway would have better warranted the title of a reasonable compromise, so I hope that something in this direction may be done in another place.It is not true, as the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) has said, that inland people shoot ducks before the birds can fly. I have never seen that happen even if he has. If that is the argument on which the inland shooting has been delayed until 1st September it is not convincing.
Perhaps it is time that this House heard something from somebody who is not a wildfowler. Reference has been made by various hon. Members to the number of letters they have received, but of course we are all aware that this has been an organised campaign. I will pay my tribute to the wildfowlers organisation, however, for they have been efficient in their campaign, and I only wish the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds had been equally alive to the implications of this Clause. I have no wish to divide the House this morn- ing. The noble Lady has offered a compromise to many who feel strongly on this subject, but it is only right that we who do not shoot, the majority of the people in this country, should voice what we have to say.The Bill which was introduced in another place, before this one came here, provided for shore shooting in just the way that this Amendment offers, but during its passage through the other place it emerged with the provisions which were included in this Bill as originally introduced. I want to quote from the "Shooting Times and Country Magazine" because, although it is a magazine which I do not take normally, and although through the kindness of its editors it was supplied to Members of Parliament, strangly enough no copy was sent to me. Whether my activities during the Committee stage of the Bill precluded tie from this concession I do not know, but at any rate the omission has been remedied. That is what it said:
What does this August shooting mean? We are covering wild geese and wild duck, but wild geese are not here during August so that this surrender means very little. As far as wild duck are concerned I have nothing to say, but we ought to be able to assess the real value of the concession which the wildfowlers are said to have offered. Mention has been made of the proceedings of the Wild Birds Advisory Committee and that they recommended the period which the noble Lady has included in her Amendment. Nevertheless I understand that there was violent controversy within the Committee as to what should be recommended, and although it emerged as a compromise recommendation, we are not bound as Members of Parliament to accept whatever comes to us from outside. I repeat what I have said before, both on this Bill and on other occasions, that it is time Parliament asserted its independence of outside organisations which choose to reach compromises and then expect us to ratify them. I think I am correct in saying that we are going to allow nearly six months of shooting now for wild geese and wild duck, whereas in the United States of America they get just five weeks—five weeks as opposed to more than five months. In the United States not so long ago there were multitudes of wild geese and wild duck but indiscriminate shooting reduced their numbers so much that the Legislatures of the States decided to cut down the period to five weeks. As I have said before, I have no intention of dividing against this Amendment because, unhappy though I am about it, we want to see the Bill go through. I hope, however, that the local authorities which already have earlier dates for the close of the shooting season will submit recommendations to the Home Secretary so that he can exercise his powers under Clause 9 of this Bill to restore the position to what it is today."Wildfowlers were prepared to surrender their August shooting in exchange for a fixed February extension."
I want to add my thanks to those of others to the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) for placing this Amendment on the Order Paper. I was one of those who, on receiving communications from wild-fowling friends and others, felt that closing down at the end of January was too harsh from their point of view and that a compromise of this sort might be advisable.I believe it is a fact that most of the wildfowl on the foreshore in February are widgeon which breed later than mallard, and there is little reason why the wildfowl population should suffer unduly by this extension. There are plenty of wildfowl at present and there is no reason, therefore, why there should be a serious decline in the numbers of ducks and geese; indeed, with the passage of this Bill we may even get a superfluity of these birds before long. Because of that I regret that we are not to have an opportunity of considering the Amendments which have been ruled out of order by you, Mr. Speaker, because if they had been moved, I would have supported them.
I have a considerable area of foreshore in my constituency and a large number of wildfowlers. Like other hon. Members, I have received many circular letters and printed documents about this matter. My constituents do not write long personal letters giving their experience in sport unless they feel strongly about a matter, and many of those letters have impressed me considerably. I look upon wildfowling as one of the best forms of sport and it is appreciated by people in every class of society. Therefore, while I am not enthusiastic about this, I am quite ready to accept it as a reasonable compromise.
It is perhaps right that I should say a word on behalf of the Government on this Amendment. I do not want to enter into its merits; it is a matter on which the House must be free to make up its own mind. On the other hand, it is important, as my noble Friend has said, that what this Bill does shall be generally approved by those whom it will affect. Therefore, it is important that where we get a matter of fairly sharp controversy, something near the middle line should be taken. I think it is fairly clear from the course that the debate has taken this morning that my noble Friend has just about hit the middle line. For that reason, I would personally recommend the House to accept the Amendment as the proper way of dealing with this admittedly difficult and somewhat controversial question.
I should like to support my noble Friend. In my constituency we have a very large foreshore. My constituents are mostly people who work from Mondays to Fridays, and it is only on Saturdays that they are able to do their shooting. I am sure that my constituents, like all wildfowlers, appreciate the need to preserve these birds, as my noble Friend has said. Indeed, there has been in my constituency no divergence of opinion on this Amendment.I should like to draw attention to the dangerous attitude which was revealed on the other side of the House, when reference was made to local authorities intervening and perhaps shooting down and undermining this Amendment—
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the local councils already have this power and have exercised it in the majority of cases?
I am aware of that, but I hope that local councils will pay attention to the feeling in this House.
I should like to thank my noble Friend on behalf of the Kent Wildfowlers Association, of which I am President. As my noble Friend knows, there are many wildfowlers in Kent, and I assure her that they are most appreciative of the manner in which she has met their desires in this matter. I should also like to assure her that many of them are very keen ornithologists; they are very careful to preserve wildfowl, and they assure me that they will give the utmost support to this Bill.
I have received more letters from those who want to protect birds than from the organised efforts of the wildfowlers. My feelings were like those of my hon. Friend for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman), and at first sight I felt strongly inclined to oppose this Amendment. I have been persuaded, however, by the noble Lady that we had better accept it. I hope this will be the last concession that is made, and that the Bill will not be further amended in this respect elsewhere.
I should like particularly to say how pleased I am that my noble Friend has moved this Amendment. Upstairs in Committee I was rather inclined to favour the original suggestion, but I found that certain reasons which persuaded me to give my support to her upstairs were not founded upon fact. I think that the noble Lady, I am sure quite unwittingly, may have exaggerated the decline of wildfowl in certain parts of the country, including that part that I myself have the honour to represent, Holy Island. The noble Lady said that about the largest number of geese seen during the year was about 25. I was told later that a colony of about 3,000 soon appeared, which would seem to prove that the noble Lady may have exaggerated.11.45 a.m. The only other subject which I should like to mention is this. I wonder whether the noble Lady might at some stage today either justify a remark she made upstairs about the slaughtering of geese by punt gunners, or withdraw it. It is my opinion that until one is able to substantiate a fact it ought not to be brought out on the Floor of the House for discussion. There are very few punt gunners left in England. They do very little harm, and I think that unless a case can be proved and the names of the slaughterers given, my noble Friend should, in justice, withdraw what she said upstairs.
I rise to intervene for the first time in this debate. I suppose hon. Members will say that I am more concerned with the making of guns and with the stuff that goes in them, than their use. As a matter of fact, I have had some experience of wildfowling, both in season and out of season, and I think it was recorded in the game book as "various."I should like the Minister to elucidate one point for me. He said that this Amendment has been supported by those whom it affects most. May we be assured that "those" includes both the wildfowler and the wildfowl? I am certain that he will not have had assurances from the wildfowl. I do not wish to waste any more time. I represent neither wildfowlers nor wildfowl, and that is all there is to it.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 39, to leave out "extend," and to insert "vary."May I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that we should consider, at the same time, the next Amendment in page 2, line 40.
Yes, these two Amendments might well be discussed together.
Attention was drawn to the fact that while the Bill enables the Secretary of State to extend the close season, it does not enable him to shorten it. This means that an extention order is irrelevant. The effect would be too rigid. The intention is that the close seasons laid down in the Bill should be minimum close seasons and the Secretary of State should have no power to reduce them.On the other hand, it was intended that if he extended a close season, he should have power subsequently to reduce it again to what it was originally. This is desirable to meet special cases so that the close season for a species which had suffered a particularly severe winter could be extended for two or three seasons to allow the species to recover, and then be reduced again to its original length. These Amendments accordingly enable the Secretary of State not only to extend the close season but also to shorten the extended season again, so long as it is not made shorter than the Bill lays down. I notice that several hon. Members have put their names to my Amendment in line 39 to vary the seasons, but not to my Amendment in line 40 which makes it clear that any variation can only take place within the general limits laid down by the Bill. It would be quite wrong to give the Secretary of State power to reduce those seasons to even shorter periods, not only because of the obvious harm that it would do to the birds during nesting periods, but we might get an extreme Secretary of State who might say that there should be no close season at all.
I beg to second the Amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: In page 2, line 40, at end, insert:
"so, however, that no such order shall prescribe a close season for any bird in any area commencing on a date later or ending on a date earlier than that which would have been applicable in the case of that bird in that area if this proviso had not been passed."
In page 2, line 41, leave out from beginning, to end of line 10, on page 3.—[ Lady Tweedsmuir.]