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Protection Of Birds Bill

Volume 527: debated on Friday 21 May 1954

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Lords Amendments considered.

Clause 1—(Protection Of Wild Birds, Their Nests And Eggs)

Lords Amendment: In page 1, line 5, leave out from beginning to "any" and insert:

"If, save as permitted by or under this Act."

11.5 a.m.

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if we discussed with this Amendment the following Amendment to line 11.

Before I give the reasons why I hope that the House will accept the Amendment, I take the opportunity to say that though the House may consider that there are a large number of Amendments on the Order Paper, 48 in all, I should encourage hon. Members by saying that 13 are consequential, three are only drafting Amendments and that none alters the principles of the Bill. While none of the points now raised have been discussed before in the House there is, nevertheless, only one new one of substance on which hon. Members may wish to express their views.

The Amendment which I am now moving deals with an important point which has been raised by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Hon. Members may have noticed that there was a letter in "The Times" on the subject towards the end of April and perhaps I should give in some detail the reasons why it is considered desirable that the Amendment should be agreed to. Section 3 of the Wild Birds Protection Act, 1880 makes it an offence, among other things, for a person to
"… have in his control or possession after the fifteenth day of March, any wild bird recently killed or taken …"
but it is a defence to prove that it was legally killed or taken.

The Act of 1880, apart from local orders, only protects wild birds between 1st March and 1st August, and even then only scheduled birds are protected against owners and occupiers. Thus, all birds could be legally taken at some times of the year, and most at all times. Consequently, apart from the words that I have quoted, it would not be possible to prove the offence unless the person was actually seen to be taking or killing a bird. Therefore, a provision placing upon the person concerned the burden of proof that it was legally taken or killed is dearly necessary.

Under the Bill, however, most birds will be protected at all times and, therefore, I thought that the need for such a provision was less evident in this case. That was why it was not included in the Bill when it was first drafted, but the R.S.P.C.A. says that the absence of the provision would seriously hamper enforcement. The Society has been responsible for the great majority of prosecutions under the Wild Birds Protection Act in England and Wales and most of the prosecutions have always been for the offence of being in control or possession of a wild bird recently killed or taken. The Society points out that even when all birds are protected at all times it will often be impossible to bring home to a person found in possession of a dead bird the offence of having killed it himself, and under the Bill there is no other offence for which a person in those circumstances could be prosecuted.

This also applies to people found with birds which had obviously recently been taken, in cages. In all these cases it will be obvious to hon. Members that an offence has been committed and it seems reasonable that a person found in possession of the bird should be made liable even though it is impossible to prove that he actually took or killed the bird. These Amendments will provide accordingly.

Question put, and agreed to.

Further Lords Amendment agreed to: In line 11, at end insert:

"or if any person has in his possession or control any wild bird recently killed or taken which is not shown to have been killed or taken otherwise than in contravention of this Act or any order made thereunder."

Lords Amendment: In line 16, after "Except" insert:

"in Scotland on Sundays and on Christmas Day or."

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

If convenient, we could discuss the following three Lords Amendments, in line 22, page 2, line 1 and line 8, with this Amendment.

The effect of these Amendments is to extend to Christmas Day the prohibition already in the Bill of killing or taking birds mentioned in the Second and Third Schedules and there is a consequential Amendment, to leave out line 24. At present, in Scotland, there is no prohibition against shooting on Christmas Day. For that reason it was thought at first that it would be perhaps wiser not to include the provision in the Bill. I have, however, given a great deal of thought to this matter and I do not think that these Amendments are open to objection for the following reasons.

First, I am not aware that it is the custom to shoot on Christmas Day in Scotland. After all, it is a religious festival just as the Sabbath is and, in regard to game, we can take guidance from Section 3 of the Game Act, 1831, by which the killing of game is prohibited on Christmas Day in England and Wales. Although that is not the case in Scotland, it is the generally recognised custom not to shoot game on Christmas Day North of the Border. As that is the recognised custom, I suggest that the same should apply to birds covered by this Bill.

The two following Amendments make it an offence to do on a Sunday or Christmas Day any of the things permitted under paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (4). The intention is to give nest and eggs further protection. Taking or destroying all wildfowl birds is prohibited by order in 28 Scottish counties and is only allowed in Berwick, Bute, Caithness, Roxburgh and Selkirk. I must confess that I did not know that, but it is very interesting to know that the law wisely prohibits taking and killing on a Sunday, a wild bird which it is prohibited to take or kill under Clause 2, except I believe that in Perth-shire a nest may be taken, although birds may not be killed. Therefore, there seems a good ground for conceding this additional degree of protection to eggs and nests.

Question put, and agreed to.

Further Lords Amendments agreed to: In line 22, after "Except," insert:

"in Scotland on Sundays and on Christmas Day or"

In page 2, line 1, at beginning insert:

"Except in Scotland on Sundays and on Christmas Day"

In line 8, at beginning insert:

"Except in Scotland on Sundays and on Christmas Day"

Lords Amendment: In line 21, at end. insert:

(c) by reason of the taking or destruction of an egg of a lapwing before the fifteenth day of April in any year."

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

Would it be convenient, Mr. Speaker, to consider this Amendment with the five Amendments to page 3, lines 23, 24, 28, 29 and 33?

I think that would be convenient, but the Amendment to line 23, to leave out "(i)", and the next three Amendments all appear to me to be merely printing matters which would be dealt with automatically by amendments made by the Clerks to the printers and no Motion is necessary in respect of them.

This Amendment is the only one of real substance that we have before us today. It is an interesting one and I look forward very much to hearing the views of hon. Members upon it. I have given a great deal of thought before deciding to ask the House to agree with the Amendment because this is a new departure.

11.15 a.m.

The Amendment makes it legal to take lapwings' eggs before 15th April and subsequent Amendments allow the eggs to be sold and imported up to that date. I considered whether the sale or import could be separated from the taking of eggs, but found that was virtually impossible because we would create a black market if we allowed the taking of eggs not for sale or import. It would not be fair to say in legislation that only people who owned private land could take plover's eggs while the general public could not have that advantage. The reason why the new departure is provided is that, as everyone will agree, lapwings have decreased all over the British Isles.

The question we have to answer is whether anything can be done to arrest their decline. In 1928, the Protection of Lapwings Act stopped the sale of lapwings' eggs and local orders stopped the taking of them in most of the country. Despite that, lapwings do not increase, they have seriously declined. It is a striking fact that since the passing of the 1928 Act their numbers have steadily decreased.

It is maintained that the cause and effect of that Act was as follows. The first clutch of eggs was laid towards the end of March at a time of bad weather and thin pasture and had little chance of hatching and being reared with success. But, if the eggs are taken up to 15th April, the peewits will lay again and a later brood has a far greater chance of hatching successfully and surviving, not only because of better weather conditions, but of longer pasture.

If the peewit hatches such eggs she will not lay another clutch, but. if her eggs are taken, she will certainly lay two, three, or more clutches. The taking of the early eggs is the practice in Holland although there the dates are a little later—up to 19th April—and the sale can go on until 21st April. After that date protection given to the eggs is rigidly enforced. The interesting fact is that there are far larger numbers of lapwings in Holland than in this country.

The idea behind the Amendment is interesting. When it was proposed in another place the statement was made on behalf of the Government that this should be an experimental trial only for five years. Later Amendments on the Order Paper to page 9, line 13, give the Secretary of State power to stop this practice after the first year, if it is suspected that harm and not good is the result of the first trial. I confess that when I first heard of the Amendment I was rather uneasy because it is a major departure from what has happened in the past. But we have to face the facts as they are. It seems to me that when we have the opportunity in this House on a Bill such as this to try to do something to see if it is possible in any way to increase the numbers of plover we should do so.

The present trend of decline of lapwings raises the fear that we may see the same situation in regard to them as to the passenger pigeons in America. I suspect that the major cause of the decline of the lapwing can be found in two important facts. Although the bird is protected in this country it is widely shot, for instance, in France.

In Holland thousands of lapwings can be seen all over the country from July onwards, and they are protected there as they are here—I am talking of the bird—not the egg. But many of these birds appear to be of Danish, Scandinavian, or Russian origin and, when hard frost comes, they fly to England and France and in France they are widely shot.

The other reason is because of the agricultural revolution. It takes about seven days to make a clutch and 24 days for incubation—or 28 if much disturbed. In former years there was a considerable amount of permanent pasture in Britain, but now with the rotation of crops and mechanisation these birds have little security in their breeding places. I know that at my own home in the North of Scotland there used to be thousands of lapwings at a time when one was allowed to take the eggs and when the green plover was allowed to be shot. The fact remains, however, that in parts of the world where the pasture has not been greatly disturbed there is still this extraordinary decline in the number of lapwings.

In such a case one cannot rely on scientific evidence to give the exact reasons for the decline. While one might say, logically that it is probably due to the agricultural revolution, on the other hand, in places such as Suffolk, where certain areas have not been disturbed, the lapwings are still declining. I think that there is a strong element of doubt, if we look at both sides of the argument. I suggest, therefore, that we should try the experiment of taking the eggs of the lapwing up to 15th April. This should be regarded as a definite experiment and there should be imposed the safeguards which I have described.

If the idea behind this important theory is right I believe that there will follow two results. First, where there is permanent pasture there will be a good chance that the plovers will return. Where there are intensive agricultural methods the plover will not return unless we do something else which I consider even more important than anything we have suggested today. I believe that the only lasting encouragement which can be given to lapwings to increase their breeding is to undertake in this country what is the practice in many parts of Holland.

There, they have a bird society whose members are most active. I believe that there are 75 branches of the society and 4,000 members, and they have managed to enlist the help of farmers. Members of the society go out into the fields which are due to be ploughed or sown and mark the nests of the plovers. Then they enlist the help of the farmers to ensure that these nests are spared. I believe that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds could render a fine service in this country if members were encouraged to do the same here.

It is an interesting fact that, despite all this protection, the lapwing is still declining in numbers in Holland, and it may well be that we are facing one of those phenomena of nature which no human being can control. I should like the House to agree to this Amendment because if we continue under present conditions the situation will worsen. I suggest that we can do three things. First, I hope we may be able to enlist the help of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in getting wherever possible voluntary agreement to spare the nests of the lapwing. We can also try this experiment, and encourage lapwings to lay a second clutch by taking the eggs of the first clutch, so that we may ensure better breeding conditions. Thirdly, we ought as a Government—I do not know whether the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to say anything about this today —to make representations to other countries such as France, regarding the conservation of the lapwing and its eggs.

This will be a very limited experiment, because in subsequent Amendments great safeguards are incorporated, and so I hope that the House will agree to it. I shall, of course, listen with great interest to any arguments which hon. Members may advance, but I think that when we are faced with a serious situation we should never be afraid to be bold.

It would be a hard decision for the House if it had to choose between the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) and the lapwing. I hope that we shall not have to make it. Her arguments have convinced me to some extent, particularly as this will be an experiment and she will impress upon the Government that if it shows any sign of failure the experiment shall be stopped. I hope also that what the hon. Lady has said about France and Holland will be noted and that it will be possible to make representations to societies in those countries—if not through the Government—to see if something can be done to encourage this very attractive bird.

The lapwing is a very attractive and unique bird. It has a flight unlike any other bird, and is of the greatest beauty. I am sure that if this bird were rare people would come far to see it. I am glad to say that in my part of the world there are still a good many of them. Whether their number is decreasing or increasing I do not know, but I am sure that the hon. Lady is right in saying that the fundamental difficulty arises because of the new methods of agriculture and the decline of permanent pasture and long grass. Exactly the same has happened in regard to the corncrake, which is cut up every year by the early reaping.

While it may be laudable to take the early clutch of eggs, I am doubtful if that is the only reason for allowing it to be done. The fact is that human beings like to eat the egg of the plover. I believe that among the greatest enemies of many nice birds are the big gulls and the grey crows. I hope that human beings may be persuaded to eat the eggs of the gull as a change from devouring the eggs of the lapwing. I am sure that if we could reduce the number of gulls in some places many other birds would be able to hatch out their young and rear them.

I am doubtful about this Amendment because I think that it may have the effect of confusing matters. There are many people in this country, who, surprising though it may be, are anxious to keep the law. But too often they are not certain what is the law, and, therefore, so far as possible Parliament should pass simple and straightforward laws. People will ask, "Is it legal to take the eggs of the lapwing? Can we buy them and eat them? "I do not think that many people will remember that it is legal to do so up to 15th April, but that on 16th April it becomes illegal.

I am afraid that people will continue to take the eggs beyond that date. If we could stop it on a particular date little harm might be done, but it will be extremely difficult, I think, to get people to do so. If it is so good a thing that they should take the eggs of this bird, surely we might take some positive step to get that done. Members of societies might be encouraged to go out and destroy the nests of the lapwing, and the eggs, up to 15th April. Is that really what we mean? Is the hon. Lady convinced that if she found that schoolchildren were being encouraged to destroy the nests of the lapwing up to 15th April that that would be a good thing?

I cannot believe that we should encourage small boys— which I think is the argument being advanced by the hon. Member—to go out and put their foot on every lapwing's nest they find. We are trying to ensure, not the destruction of the nest, but that the eggs of the first clutch should be taken. In any case, the lapwing will make another nest, which is not a very elaborate affair, and will lay another clutch of eggs. It has been proved over and over again that the maximum the lapwing can lay is up to five clutches.

Poor bird. I feel more and more for the lapwing. But if the noble Lady is right, this is a logical thing to do and we ought to encourage people to take the first clutch. Nevertheless I do not think the noble Lady would want to do that. This, I consider, is a dangerous Amendment and at the back of it is the desire of human being to eat the eggs of the lapwing. But the noble Lady has been so persuasive, that, as a backer of this Bill and therefore anxious to see it on the Statute Book as soon as possible, I think we should be well advised to take her advice and agree to accept this Amendment; so long as we insist that this is an experiment and that she will impress upon the Government that should it prove a failure a change should be made immediately.

11.30 a.m.

I am very sorry that the Amendment has been brought before us today, and if I were not so passionately anxious to see the Bill on the Statute Book I should ask the House not to agree to it. The arguments put forward so persuasively by the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) are open to grave doubt. One might also say that, coincident with the passing of the Act to which she referred, in 1928, there has been an increase in motor cars and because of the increase in motor car fumes and their deleterious effect the lapwing has decided not to lay eggs.

The plain fact is that modern agricultural methods have led to a decrease in the number of lapwing nests and there has obviously been a great decline in the number of breeding lapwings in the country. That has to some extent been the case in Holland. We ought to take note of what the Ministry of Agriculture says about the bird. In a leaflet which is widely issued to the farming community, the Ministry describes the lapwing as "the farmer's friend," and says:
"It is also of benefit to the sheep-rearer, as it eats water-snails that harbour the immature form of the liver-fluke."
The Bill was very carefully considered during four sittings of the Standing Committee, and this question did not then arise. I suggest that it is due to the obstinacy of one Member of another place that we have the Amendment before us today. When the Bill left this House I hoped that the inhabitants of another place would take heed of what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), that this House had given long, careful and sympathetic consideration to the Bill and that, after all, we are the elected representatives of the people.

However, this has made me more than ever convinced that we need single chamber government in this country, because there has been an inordinate waste of time and duplication of effort during the passage of the Bill. I have carefully read the whole of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings in another place, and I speak with some feeling on this subject. I hope that when the other place goes to yet another place its toes will never lose warmth.

I want to see the Bill on the Statute Book and, therefore, I do not propose to divide the House upon the Amendment.

I am very glad that the hon. Members for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman), though obviously not wholeheartedly in favour of the Amendment, are prepared to accept it so that the Bill may be passed. On Report we had no Divisions, and I very much hope that there will not be any today. I admire the attitude of those hon. Members.

What is being done to the green plover might be compared with what is sometimes done to human beings who suffer from long and wasting illnesses. The doctors decide that drastic operations are necessary, hoping by that means to cure their patients. The Amendment is doing something better than that. If a drastic operation is unsuccessful, the patient dies; but in this case if, after a period, the Home Secretary receives information that the operation is obviously not being successful, the treatment can cease.

I find myself in a dilemma. If we were sure that sufficient hon. Members were present, I think that some of us would divide the House. It is a most dangerous Amendment if the arguments which have been advanced prove not to represent the reasons for the decrease in the lapwing population. It will mean that, whatever the reason is, the decrease will continue, and, in addition, there will be destruction of eggs up to 15th April, which will mean an even greater decrease in the bird population.

Has the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) any information about the position of the lapwing between 1928 and 1938? I understand that the Act of 1928, which entirely safeguarded the lapwing, is said to be the cause of the decrease. Was there a decrease between 1928 and 1938? We can understand why there should have been a decrease after that time, because during the war a lot of permanent pasture was ploughed up and there was intensified use of mechanised methods of agriculture.

In addition, there has been a great increase in stock on permanent pasture. Our cattle and sheep populations are increasing, and, because of ley production, there is a greater concentration of stock upon the permanent pastures, and that means that more lapwing eggs and nests are destroyed by stock.

If we accept the Amendment, we shall be embarking upon a very dangerous procedure. I note that it is to apply for five years only and that information about what is happening is to be gathered each year. Who will be responsible for collecting the information about what is happening to the lapwing? Conditions vary greatly in different parts of the country. For instance, I am not aware that the lapwing hatches eggs before 15th April in East Lancashire. Indeed, last year I saw lapwing chicks there in July. I do not know whether the earlier nests were destroyed by stock, but I have certainly never found a lapwing nest there before 15th April. Therefore, this provision would not apply to East Lancashire.

I am rather afraid of the effects of this Amendment, and I have read very carefully the arguments used in another place. The noble Lord who spoke so strongly on this point made the statement that he did not know the difference between a snipe's egg and a lapwing's egg, and that makes me more uncertain than ever, because anyone who cannot tell the difference between the eggs of a snipe and a lapwing does not know very much about birds. I am afraid that we are in a very difficult position.

I am not at all happy about this Amendment, the effect of which has been likened to a serious surgical operation, about which I know something. I would remind the noble Lady that sometimes a serious surgical operation results, not in the cure of the disease, but in the death of the patient; and I am a little unhappy about the effect of this Bill on the fate of lapwings in this country, and whether this suggestion may not result in the increased destruction of these birds.

I have no doubt that the cure has been suggested in all good faith, but one cannot help remembering that some people who like to eat plovers' eggs will obviously benefit. Nature is very complex, and one cannot help remembering the story about the farmer who asked Darwin why his clover crop had failed. Darwin replied that they wanted more old maids in the village, and, when asked to explain that, he said that old maids kept cats, the cats ate field mice, field mice rifled the nests of the bumble bees, and the bumble bees fertilised the red clover.

I think that is typical of nature, and one could give numerous other examples. I have very serious doubts whether a simple thing like this—the destruction of these early eggs—will result in what is intended, and, of course, while one does not wish to endanger the fate of this very valuable Bill, I feel very much inclined to agree with those who express a wish to divide the House.

Several hon. Members, and in particular my noble Friend, have put the arguments on this matter fairly thoroughly. The only point I would make about what has been said already is that perhaps the noble Lady was unfortunate in saying that these birds were widely shot in France. I think she meant to say that they were too accurately shot in France.

This is a scientific question. The arguments have been put forward, and it is now open to any hon. Member to make up his mind as to which side is right. I cannot give any advice to the House. All I can say is that, as far as the Government are concerned, this is an open question. In another place, Lord Jowitt, who, at all events, is a good judge, was in favour of the Amendment. If the House sees fit to agree with the Amendment, I can say, on behalf of the Government, that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and also my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will regard this Amendment as being in the nature of an experiment, and that the Government will certainly keep the position carefully under review.

The proposal is that the experiment should continue for a period of five years, though such a period is not specifically mentioned in the Bill. The reason for that is that we want to leave it open to the Government, if need be, to bring in an order to put an end to these proposals earlier, if it is clear that they are having an adverse effect.

11.45 a.m.

Does that mean that, before the end of the five years, an application could be made to the Home Secretary if it was felt that the result of the experiment was harmful?

The machinery of Clause 13 would apply, and hon. Members will see what the procedure would be if it was thought necessary to bring the experiment to an end earlier.

As was said by my noble Friend in another place, the Government contemplate, if it is decided that this experiment should be made, that it ought to last for some such period as five years. If successful, no doubt it will continue, but we shall keep the position under review, and, if it is quite clear that the experiment is producing disastrous results, it will be open to the Government to take action earlier.

I was rather shocked by the last sentence of the speech of the Joint Under-Secretary. Let us assume that the result of the experiment is not disastrous, but adverse. What then will be the attitude of the Government? This matter is cumulative year after year, and, if we compare one year with the year before, it may show an adverse result of this legislation, though it might take several years before cumulative adverse results could be properly described as disastrous.

I regret very much that my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) is not going to divide the House on this question, because I think there is a strong feeling that we ought not to give way to another place. I am also rather discouraged by the attitude of the noble Lady, but I would not say much about that, because I did not hear the whole of her speech. I have heard enough since, however, to convince me that the sense of the House is against the Amendment, and it is a great pity that this Amendment is going to be made, because none of us want to kill the Bill by calling a Division with the number of hon. Members likely at present to come into the Chamber if a Division is called.

The noble Lady has no right of reply, except by leave of the House. If the leave of the House is given, she may do so, but there is no automatic right of reply.

May I ask for the leave of the House to reply to the points raised? I am much obliged. I was asked a specific question by the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), and, as hon. Members seemed rather disturbed about accepting this Amendment, perhaps I should say a few words in reply.

The hon. Gentleman asked me whether, between 1928 and 1938, there was any evidence of any decrease in lapwings' eggs. That is exactly the point. From 1928, lapwings did begin to decrease, and there is the difficulty. There is. of course, in all these matters, a very great element of doubt as to the real cause, and it is because we are faced with the fact that the lapwing is continuing to decline that I put it to the House that we should try to encourage the lapwing in this country. I did not only suggest that we should accept this Amendment. I also put forward a view which, since the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) may not have heard it, because he said he was not here during part of my speech, I may be allowed to repeat to him.

There are three things we could do. The first is to ask the bird societies to try to enlist the help of farmers in marking the nests of lapwings. The second is that the Government should make representations through the international committee to countries such as France not to allow the killing of a lapwing. The third is to proceed with this limited experiment, which is without doubt a very interesting idea.

We are not in danger of exterminating the lapwing by trying this experiment. The Secretary of State will have power to end the experiment after the first year. If necessary, he will ask for evidence to be collected and put before the various bird societies. There will also be a statutory advisory committee on which the bird societies will be represented. The Secretary of State will consult the advisory committee before he makes an Order, and the advisory committee will always be there to give him any information at all times.

I have not accepted the Amendment lightly but have given a great deal of thought to it. Although my noble relative was in charge of the Bill in another place, I am quite prepared, if necessary, to disagree with him. The main point to remember is that there is an increasing decline in the number of lapwings, and that no harm can be done by the experiment because of the safeguards that are written into the Bill. If we undertake this experiment, together with the other suggestions which I have made, it will show that this House is prepared to experiment. I hope that the House will agree to accept the Amendment, which would be of great value to the country. It will show that, while there are disagreements on it, the Bill is considered generally to be a useful and necessary Measure.

Question put, and agreed to.

Further Lords Amendment agreed to: Leave out line 24.

Clause 3—(Power To Establish Bird Sanctuaries)

Lords Amendment: In page 3, line 17, at end, insert:

(c) that any person who, save as may be provided in the order, enters into that area during any period specified in the order shall be guilty of an offence against this Act:

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The Amendment enables the Secretary of State to make an order providing that a bird sanctuary shall be strictly enclosed during part of the year. The Minister has power to make orders under the National Parks (Access to the Countryside) Act, 1949, but Clause 3, apart from keeping alive existing orders, provides for the setting up of bird sanctuaries for the protection of birds and their eggs, and gives rather more comprehensive protection to all forms of bird life than that Act. We should bear in mind that the creation of bird sanctuaries under the Act changes the user of land for planning purposes; and we think it wrong to sterilise land merely to protect birds for part of the year.

We have to ask whether the Amendment can be enforced and whether the machinery of the National Parks Act is more appropriate than the machinery of the Bill, in that game wardens might be able to make the protection more effective. We do not wish to include anything in the Bill which cannot be carried out. The Amendment only gives the Secretary of State power to restrict access to the sanctuary and he does not have to include any more than this in his order. The Bill will include supervision in cases where it is desirable that the sanctuary should be undisturbed.

Question put, and agreed to.

Further Lords Amendments agreed to:

In line 23, leave out "(i)."

In line 24, after "offence" insert "(i)."

In line 28, after first "or" insert "(ii)."

In line 29, after "or "insert "(iii)"

In line 33, leave out "(ii)" and insert:

(iv) by reason of the taking or destruction of an egg of a lapwing before the fifteenth day of April in any year:

Lords Amendment: In page 3, line 38. leave out subsection (2) and insert:

(2) Before making any order under this section the Secretary of State shall consult with any local authority within whose area the area with respect to which the order is to be made or any part thereof is situated and shall give particulars of the intended order either by notice in writing to every owner and every occupier of any land included in the area with respect to which the order is to be made or, where the giving of such notice is in his opinion impracticable, by advertisement in a newspaper circulating in the district in which that area is situated, and he shall not make the order unless either—
  • (a) all the owners and occupiers aforesaid have consented thereto; or
  • (b) at the expiration of a period of three months from the date of the giving of the notice or the publication of the advertisement, none of those owners or occupiers has objected thereto.
  • I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    The existing subsection provides that the Secretary of State shall not make an order establishing a bird sanctuary without the consent of every owner and occupier of the land concerned. On further examination it is clear that in some cases it would be impossible for the Secretary of State to comply with that requirement. It would raise such obstacles, that the making of the order would be virtually impossible.

    In the case of the ordinary private landowner no difficulty would arise, but the position would be extremely complicated where there are a number of owners. All sorts of people may have rights, for instance as commoners. Having regard to the definition of "occupier" in Clause 14 they would be technically occupiers and it might be impossible to discover who had the rights of ownership of the land, or to trace them. We should have to try to trace people who had little or no interest in the land, but whose consent would be essential before the order could be made.

    These difficulties are by no means imaginary and have been shown to exist already by experience, for example, in negotiating agreements for the establishment of a nature reserve. The Forestry Commission have had the same experience. The Amendment is designed to avoid these difficulties whilst safeguarding the rights of owner-occupiers.

    12 noon.

    The effect of the Amendment is that the Secretary of State has to notify every owner and occupier about the intended order by notice in writing, but where that appears to be impracticable, by public notice in a local newspaper. The Secretary of State has not to make an order unless all owners and occupiers have consented to it, or unless none of them have objected to it within three months. In other words, every owner and occupier still has a complete right of veto in respect of his land on any proposal to make a sanctuary. Where the questions of ownership and occupancy are secure the Secretary of State will be able, by means of public notice, to avoid undue administrative difficulty.

    The second part of the Amendment sets out the procedure which must be followed. In particular, the Secretary of State must give to any county or county borough affected an opportunity to submit objections or representations. This provision has been made at the instance of the Association of Municipal Corporations. It requires that before making an order, under Clause 3, to establish a bird sanctuary the Secretary of State must consult every non-county borough or district council concerned as well as the county council.

    This seems really to be opening the door very wide to a person who in accordance with the definition Clause may make a very doubtful claim to being an occupier. Anyone who has had anything to do with claims under the various Acts governing commons knows how hazy and almost impalpable some of the claims turn out to be when examined.

    I do not see any machinery in the Bill —although it may be there—for testing the claim of an objector to be a person entitled to make the objection. A person may say that a piece of land which he occupies has at some time in the past had rights of common exercised in respect of it, but there are cases in which it has been demonstrated that the subsequent use of the land has amounted to an abandonment of the claim to exercise rights of common.

    For instance, I know of one case where a piece of land had at some time or other been covered by a concrete reservoir. Quite obviously, sheep cannot be grazed during the time a common is covered in that way. They will not get very fat on anything they may pick up there. A great many people imagine that they have rights of common when they have not and when the land which they occupy never has had a right of common. Is there anything in the Bill which enables a person appearing in response to the advertisement to have his right to object tested?

    As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has asked a specific question, I must again ask leave of the House to reply.

    This is a very difficult point. There is nothing written into the Bill. As originally drafted, and as it left this House, the Bill contained a much more difficult provision. It said that no sanctuary could be made without the specific consent of either the owner or occupier concerned. It was to facilitate the creation of a sanctuary that this Amendment has been proposed.

    I do not think that we could go further and say that the Secretary of State had only to make an order for a sanctuary, without receiving the consent of the owner or occupier concerned. That, I submit, would be the only practicable way to get over the difficulty suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. That would be going too far. It is to get over the bulk of these difficulties that I am asking the House to agree to this Amendment today. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State may be able to say something further on this difficult point.

    I can assure the right hon. Gentleman for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that the Amendment does nothing to exacerbate the kind of difficulty he has in mind.

    As I understand, the Bill, as drafted, meant that the Secretary of State had to consult persons whom he thought were occupiers or had some right under the Bill when it becomes an Act. Under this proposal the Home Secretary will publish an advertisement and the claims may be shadowy. Some person whose claim is so shadowy as not to exist at all may put in an objection, and, as I understand, one objection kills the opportunity of the Home Secretary to proceed.

    I do not think it is right to say that, as drafted, the Bill is limited to those people whom the Secretary of State, so to speak, chooses. Under subsection (2) of the Clause a person would have power to object because he had not been consulted. However, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's difficulty will, in practice, arise. There might, of course, be a dispute as to whether a person was an occupier or not, but that would be a proper matter to be decided by the courts and I think would have to be decided by them. Although it is unlikely to arise that would be the way to deal with it.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause 4—(General Exceptions)

    Lords Amendment: In page 4, line 18. after "marking" insert:

    "or examining any ring or mark on, that or some other bird."

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment." This is virtually a drafting Amendment. Clause 4 (1, c) allows the taking of any wild bird solely for the purpose of ringing or marking and then releasing it. Strictly speaking, this would apply only if every bird taken were ringed or marked. This, however, does not correspond with the actual practice of ringing stations. A good many birds of common species that enter the traps are often released without being ringed, and birds which have already been ringed are quite often caught either accidentally or for the purpose of examining the ring. It is clearly desirable that the exemption for catching birds for ringing should be expressed in terms appropriate to the actual practice of ringing stations, and this Amendment is designed for that purpose.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause 5—(Prohibition Of Certain Methods Of Killing Or Taking Wild Birds)

    Lords Amendment: In page 5, line 19, leave out from beginning to "of" in line 20.

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    This Amendment leaves out the prohibition on pump guns which have not been adapted so that they cannot fire more than two shots without reloading. The reasons are threefold. First of all, it is suggested that it would be unreasonable and beyond the proper scope of this Bill to prohibit the use of pump guns. Secondly, a man shooting a pump gun can shoot no more birds than a man using two guns with a loader. Thirdly, the pump gun is a valuable weapon for taking effective toll of wood pigeons and other pests. Above all, the extra shots will enable the shooter to make sure that no bird is sent away merely wounded.

    On the other hand, there may be people who think that the pump gun in irresponsible hands is capable of causing a considerable slaughter of birds, and that is why the prohibition was first included in the Bill. I have given considerable thought to this matter, but 1 think that any objections that I have heard to the use of the pump gun may be more theoretical than real because there are very few pump guns left, and I do not think any more will be manufactured. They are not popular weapons.

    I think also that it is hard on the owner of a pump gun to prohibit its use, because it would mean that he would have to get another gun. Apart from that, I do not think that anybody would look favourably upon someone using a pump gun for shooting game birds. It should only be used for shooting vermin, for which purpose it is a most useful weapon. For these reasons, I hope very much that the House will agree to this Amendment.

    Those of us who are in favour of this Bill and who admire the work that the noble Lady is doing are in a difficult position, because we object to this Amendment. I am very disappointed indeed that the noble Lady has moved that we agree to this Amendment.

    Let us be quite clear what we are talking about. We are taking from the Bill the power to prevent birds from being shot by a gun firing five shots—a gun described in another place as one holding five cartridges of which four are contained in a magazine under the barrel— in other words, a miniature machine-gun. The argument in another place, which the noble Lady has, in her usual way, so carefully and impartially presented, is that the prohibition of a particular type of gun is outside the Title and the scope of this Bill.

    But the Bill is a Protection of Birds Bill. We have prohibited the use of a gun with a larger bore than the maximum that we have fixed, because such a gun can kill not only the bird that it is aimed at but can kill or wound lots of birds which are not aimed at. The Bill itself contains a number of interferences and precautions, and this is one of them, for the protection of birds. Therefore, I submit that the original provision that we made is within the scope of the Bill.

    It has then been argued that the third or fourth or fifth shot in the hands of a very good sportsman might be used for mercy killing, and there have been numerous accounts in another place by noble Lords, pointing out that they have used their third shot so that they do not send away a wounded bird. But it was said, even in another place, that we are not legislating for sportsmen; we are not legislating for one who will use his extra powers to do kindly acts. We are legislating to prevent this kind of gun being in the hands of anybody.

    12.15 p.m.

    The noble Lady has said that it would be a pity to deprive the owners of pump guns, because they would have to buy another gun, but we have already made provision for these guns to be adapted. Therefore, that point does not arise. The most extraordinary argument in the other place was used by a very distinguished noble Lord, who said that he did not suppose the bird would mind whether it was shot with one gun or another. But that was not the point of our original provision.

    If there was a plebiscite of birds in the country, obviously they would vote for the two-barrelled gun as against the five-barrelled gun, and in favour of the five-barrelled gun as against the machine-gun—not because the effect would be the same by whatever gun they were killed, but because the smaller the number of barrels to a gun the less chance they have of being killed. We have tried throughout this Bill to compromise between the sportsmen, on the one hand, and those who seek to protect birds, on the other.

    I think that two points should be made. First, it is legal to shoot game with a repeating gun—if I may use the word "repeating" rather than "pump" because "pump" may be confused with "punt." A vast number of game birds are shot, and, therefore, we are really considering a minority problem.

    Secondly, there are today certain kinds of vermin which can be killed only with a gun, and I refer specifically to wood pigeons. In recent years, largely because of the increase of Forestry Commission plantations, which give them more room to nest, they have been increasing all over the country, and are becoming even worse pests than rabibts. In my part of the world they are very destructive of young clover and lucerne, and they are much harder to deal with than rabbits.

    They do not go into holes, where they could be dealt with by poison gas, and therefore guns are the only weapons to use against them. When using a gun against them in the interests of fanning and food supplies, we obviously want the most efficient weapon available. There is no doubt that a weapon capable of firing three shots is better than one that fires two shots.

    I should like to repeat the point made by the noble Lady, that a spare cartridge is always useful to stop a wounded bird. After all, this is very important. One may fire one shot, the second shot may hit the bird but may not kill it, and it is very useful to have an extra shot to make certain that the bird does not get away. For these reasons, I hope this Amendment will be agreed to.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Lords Amendments: In page 5, line 34, at end, insert:

    (2) The Secretary of State may by order prohibit or restrict the use of any form of decoy specified in the order within any areas so specified for the purpose of killing or taking wild geese, and any person who contravenes any such order shall be guilty of an offence against this Act and be liable to a special penalty.

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    The House will probably remember that the suggestion of this Amendment was first raised in this House by the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu), who has expressed his regret that he is unable to be here today, but who, I understand, agrees with the form which this Amendment takes. It concerns the question of prohibiting the use of dead, stuffed or model birds for decoys for shooting. The case for the prohibition, as it was put in this House on Report, was that this type of decoy has been abused particularly in Lincolnshire by certain people who have been able to get very large bags.

    On the other hand, I thought that the Amendment as it was then drafted was going too far because it prevented a legitimate sportsman from using decoys for the purpose of getting two or three geese. I therefore suggested that it appeared largely to be a local problem and that it should be dealt with on a local basis by the Secretary of State making a prohibition by order where there seemed to be a case for it. Therefore, the Amendment in its present form was moved in another place, and it enables the Secretary of State to make local orders restricting or prohibiting the use of decoys for killing geese.

    I should like to thank the Undersecretary of State and the Home Office generally for having accepted an entirely new provision of this nature in the Bill. The penalty for an offence against the order will be the same as for the other offences set out in the Clause, the special penalty provided by Clause 12 (2, a). The provisions of Clause 13 will apply to any such order, and the Secretary of State, before making an order, must consult the advisory committee, and allow opportunity for objections, and he may hold a local public inquiry.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Further Lords Amendment agreed to: In page 6, line 6, after "marking" insert:

    "or examining any ring or mark on, that or some other bird."

    Lords Amendment: In page 6, line 8, at end, insert:

    Provided that nothing in this subsection shall make lawful the use of a rocket-propelled net.

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    It was suggested on Report by my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison) that the use of rocket nets for catching birds should be restricted, and I promised to consider that. Rocket nets are not very much used. I think the only considerable use of them is by Mr. Peter Scott of the Severn Wild Fowl Trust. He is quite happy that this provision should be in the Bill, because there is clearly a risk that a good deal of damage may be done by the use of these nets by people not accustomed to them. By this Lords Amendment their use will be permitted only under licence. Another Lords Amendment, to Clause 10, page 9, line 14, will enable the Secretary of State or the Nature Conservancy to license the use of rocket nets for catching birds.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause 6—(Restrictions On Sale Of Live And Dead Wild Birds, Eggs, Etc

    Lords Amendment: In page 6, line 17, leave out "which" and insert:

    "if any bird of that species."

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    This Amendment was made to meet a point raised a very long time ago by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings). He raised it in Standing Committee on 17th December. I considered it between then and Report, and I thought that, perhaps, it was not necessary to make an Amendment to meet his point, but I went through the Bill again and considered the matter once more and concluded that, perhaps, he had indeed a case.

    Subsection (1, b) prohibits the sale of eggs of wild birds of any species that nest in the British Isles in a wild state. It was thought that the words were ambiguous and could refer either to the species—although that raises the question whether a species can properly be said to nest—or to individual birds. The Lords Amendment makes it clear that the prohibition applies to any bird of a species nesting in a wild state in Britain. The provision does not apply to eggs imported from overseas because it could not be enforced because it would be impossible to tell where the egg had been laid. I thank the hon. Gentleman for having brought the matter up.

    I thank the noble Lady for using any influence she may have in another place to have this Lords Amendment made. She makes light of it, but I look upon it as a very important thing indeed. I do not like people who make a business of collecting birds' eggs in this country and selling them for collections.

    Without this Lords Amendment it would be very easy for them to carry on their nefarious trade. A dealer, for instance, may want to sell an eagle's egg that he had taken in Scotland. Were he prosecuted for doing so, then, without this provision, he could easily say, "This egg was not taken in Britain." He could say it was taken in Switzerland or in the Carpathians. It would be easy to make that defence. This provision makes it impossible to use such a defence for an action that, I think, we all want to render illegal. It may seem a minor matter, but I think it is a very important one indeed.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Further Lords Amendment agreed to: In page 6, line 48, at end, insert:

    (iii) in the case of an egg of a lapwing, at any time before the fifteenth day of April in any year.

    Clause 7—(Restrictions On Importation Of Certain Wild Birds And Eggs)

    Lords Amendment agreed to: In page 7, line 18, after "or" insert:

    "on or after the fifteenth day of April in any year."

    Clause 8—(Protection Of Captive Birds)

    Lords Amendment: In page 8, line 4, at end, insert:

    (c) while that bird is undergoing treatment by a veterinary surgeon or veterinary practitioner.

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    This is to meet a point raised by the British Veterinary Association. Subsection (1) makes it an offence to confine a bird in a cage in which it is unable to stretch its wings freely. The Association pointed out that it might be essential in treating a bird to keep it in a cage in which it could not stretch its wings freely, and yet the Bill would render liable to a penalty anyone treating a bird so. The Amendment makes an exception in the case of birds undergoing veterinary treatment. I think it is fair.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause 9—(Power To Vary Schedules By Order)

    Further Lords Amendment agreed to: In page 8, line 30, at end, insert:

    (4) The Secretary of State may by order declare that as from such date as may be specified in the order the following provisions of this Act shall cease to have effect, that is to say—
  • (a) paragraph (c) of subsection (4) of section two;
  • (b) paragraph (iv) of the proviso to sub section (1) of section three;
  • (c) paragraph (iii) of the proviso to sub section (1) of section six; and
  • (d) in paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of section seven, the words" on or after the fifteenth day of April in any year."
  • Clause 10—(Power To Grant Licences)

    Lords Amendment: In page 9, line 12, leave out from "use" to "poisoned" in line 13.

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    Subsection (1, d) enables the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries or the Secretary of State for Scotland to license the use of traps as well as poison or stupefying bait for catching Second Schedule birds. Since the Bill passed this House an objection has been raised that it would enable the Minister or Secretary of State to license the use of such things as pole traps for catching birds. This practice has been illegal for a great number of years. The use of traps for catching Second Schedule birds is, of course, restricted by licence and by Clause 5 (3, a).

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Lords Amendment: In page 9, line 14, at end, insert:

    (e) for the purpose of taking wild birds in order to ring or mark, or examine any ring or mark on, all or any of the birds taken and then release them, to use within any area specified in the licence any form of artificial light or a rocket-propelled net.

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    This and the next two Amendments are consequential. This Amendment provides for the grant of a licence for the use of rocket nets for catching birds and the use of artificial light. The licensing authority in the first case is the Secretary of State and in the second the Nature Conservancy.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Further Lords Amendments agreed to: In page 9, line 17, leave out "or paragraph ( b)" and insert"( b) or ( e)"

    In line 21, leave out "the said paragraph ( a)" and insert:

    "paragraph (a)or (e) of that subsection."

    Clause 12—(Enforcement, Penalties, Etc)

    Lords Amendment: In page 11, line 10, at end, insert:

    "and where an order has been made under section three of this Act, any local authority shall have power to institute proceedings for an offence under that order committed within the area of that authority."

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    Subsection (4) enables county and county borough councils in England and Wales to institute proceedings for offences under the Bill. The Amendment extends power to district councils to institute proceedings for offences in areas of bird sanctuaries, for they are, of course, of local interest. It therefore seems appropriate that a district council should be able to enforce the orders.

    12.30 p.m.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause 14—(Interpretation)

    Lords Amendment: In page 12, line 26, after "Board" insert:

    "any statutory water undertakers within the meaning of the Water Act, 1945, any local water authority within the meaning of the Water (Scotland) Act, 1946."

    I beg to move. "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    This Amendment adds water authorities to the bodies which may authorise people to kill birds in the Second Schedule. It seems a reasonable Amendment, because many water authorities are local authorities and, therefore, would in any case have the power, under paragraph (b) of the definition of "authorised person," within their own local authority areas. Their reservoirs, however, may often lie outside their areas, and it seemed appropriate that the power of authorisation should be extended.

    The point of the Amendment is that some water authorities, supported by the Ministry of Health, are much concerned about the pollution of reservoirs by seagulls. They want to be able to authorise their officers to take action against the gulls. These may, of course, include species which are not included in the Second Schedule, and if so it may be necessary to add them by local order for the areas affected, but this would be done only after consultation with the advisory committee.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Lords Amendment: In page 12, line 42, after "occupier" insert:

    in relation to any land other than the foreshore."

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    I am afraid that after the Bill had left the House I discovered a weakness in it. This Amendment seeks to set it night, and perhaps I should explain it at some length because it is fairly complicated. It relates to Clause 3, dealing with the power to establish bird sanctuaries. Several existing sanctuaries include parts of the foreshore. Orders establishing them will be continued in force by Clause 3 (3), but under the Bill as it left the House I found it was virtually impossible to make new sanctuaries for areas of foreshore, and the Amendment puts this right.

    The reasons why it was virtually impossible are these. The second proviso to Clause 3 (1) provides that an order shall not affect the exercise of the right of the occupier. Clause 3 (2), even as altered by an earlier Amendment, gives every occupier the right to veto any proposals to make a new order—and that was something on the lines put forward by the former Home Secretary. Clause 14 (1) defines occupier as including
    any person having any right of … shooting or fishing …"
    In Scotland, the general public probably have a right to shoot wildfowl on the foreshore, although that is very much in dispute, and in England there is a public right of fishing on the foreshore except where it belongs to a subject. Usually it belongs to the Crown. The general public as a whole, therefore, come within the definition in Clause 14 of "occupier" in dealing with the foreshore both in Scotland and England.

    Every individual member of the public would have the right to veto the making of any further order under Clause 3, which, of course, would be absurd. The Amendment puts the matter right by excluding members of the public with un-covenanted rights of shooting, fishing, etc., on the foreshore from the definition of "occupier." I think that will to some extent put the former Home Secretary's mind at rest.

    An order under Clause 3, however, still will not operate against the person who has individual shooting rights on the foreshore under a licence or agreement, or who owns or occupies a part of the foreshore in the ordinary sense of the word. Such an owner or occupier would still have the right to veto the making of any new order.

    I should like to take this opportunely to say something more about the creation of bird sanctuaries which include part of the foreshore, because there has been a little disquiet among those who are habitually wildfowlers and who fear that large areas of the foreshore may suddenly be created as sanctuaries and that they wall be unable to carry on their sport. In amending the definition of "occupier" there is no suggestion that the power to create sanctuaries on the foreshore should be lightly used. It is clear that the rights of shore-shooters must be respected but it seems reasonable that, if we are to have provision in the Bill to create a sanctuary, we must be able to do so on the foreshore, if necessary.

    The existing Wild Birds Protection Acts allow this on the application of the local authority and, as I have said, a number of existing sanctuaries include part of the foreshore. The part of the foreshore included may be private property, but on the other hand it may not be private property. Cases may occur where there is a good reason for making a foreshore sanctuary—for instance, to protect terneries, or breeding waders or even to provide a refuge for certain migratory birds when they reach our coasts.

    The Bill includes substantial safeguards against unreasonable use of this power to make sanctuaries in a way which would deprive shore-shooters of their rights. The Secretary of State is required by Clause 13 to consult the advisory committee and to give the public opportunity for objections or representations before he makes an order. There is, in addition, the most powerful safeguard of all. The Secretary of State will be answerable to Parliament for what he does. This Amendment simply preserves the existing power under the Wild Birds Protection Acts to establish a sanctuary on the foreshore.

    While I recognise that this Amendment is essential—without it there would be a legal flaw in the Bill—and while I support it, I think its effect on wildfowlers should be put on record. Of all the owners and occupiers in whom sporting rights rest, they alone will not have the benefits conferred by the new subsection 3 (2) of receiving

    "particulars of the intended order either by notice in writing to every owner and every occupier of any land included in the area with respect to which the order is to be made.…"
    They will not have that advantage, and the reason is that, at any rate in England, the rights of shooting on the foreshore rest mainly on the courtesy of the owners or on long-established custom and are not legal rights in the same way as are the rights of other owners and occupiers of land. I sincerely trust that the Secretary of State will take this matter into consideration and perhaps extend the same courtesy to representative bodies of wildfowlers as is extended by the present owners who let them shoot.

    I hope he will try to give them as much notice as possible of any intended changes in the status of the land, for instance where it is to be made into a sanctuary. There is not as much need for a sanctuary on the foreshore as in other places, because sanctuaries are largely for the purpose of encouraging birds to breed, and no bird can breed between tide marks.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Lords Amendment: In page 12, line 46, after "bird," insert:

    "in sections five, ten and twelve of this Act means any wild bird, but in any other provision of this Act."

    I beg to move, "That the House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    This Amendment raises a rather interesting legal point. The definition of wild birds under Clause 14 has the effect that the Bill will not apply to game birds, the reason being that the Games Acts already contain provisions for protecting them fixing close seasons and controlling sales.

    It has, however, been pointed out that the Wild Birds Protection Acts of 1904 and 1908 which make it an offence to place gin-traps and similar instruments where they are likely to injure wild birds or to use hooks for catching wild birds apparently applies to game birds. Clause 5 of the Bill which re-enacts and adds to this provision, like the rest of the Bill, does not apply to game birds. In consequence, it would not be an offence to use any of the methods prohibited by Clause 5 for catching game birds, except that the Game Act, 1831, prohibits the use of poison for taking game.

    This Amendment extends Clauses 5, 10 and 12 to game birds. Clause 10, as well as Clause 5 is mentioned so that licences to use some of the methods prohibited by Clause 5 for special purposes may be granted in respect of game birds, as well as of other wild birds. Clause 12 is mentioned so that the power of the police under subsection (1, b) of that Clause to seize and detain for the purpose of proceedings—to be produced in evidence-any wild bird, in the possession of a person found committing an offence under the Bill would extend to a game bird, in respect of which an offence has been committed under Clause 5.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause 15—(Amendments, Repeals, Etc)

    Lords Amendment: In page 13, line 16, at end insert:

    (2) This Act shall apply to the Isles of Scilly as if the Isles were a county and as if the council of the Isles were a county council.

    I beg to move, "That the House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    It is, of course, a fact that the Bill covers the Scilly Isles, but the effect of this Amendment is to give the council of the Scilly Isles the functions of a county council in the Isles. The council of the Scilly Isles has no power under the Bill as it stands, although, as I have said, the Bill does cover the Scilly Isles. The Council is unique. It does not possess all the powers of an ordinary local authority, but only those expressly conferred on it by statute or order under the Local Government Act, 1933. The council has been given the functions of a county council under the existing Wild Birds Protection Acts by such an order—the Isles of Scilly Order, 1937. It has expressed a wish to have the same functions under this Bill, and it seems appropriate that it should have them.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    First Schedule—(Wild Birds And Their Eggs Protected By Special Penalties)

    With regard to the Amendments to the First Schedule, I suggest to the House that as they may not interest all hon. Members, the learned clerk should read out the Amendments to page 14 line by line, and that if any hon. Member who is interested in a particular bird will rise when the line is read out, this would perhaps expedite our progress.

    Further Lords Amendments agreed to: In page 14, line 8, column 2, after "Osprey" insert "Peregrine."

    In line 16, column 1, leave out "Curlew, stone."

    In line 18, column 2, after "Stint, Zemminck's," insert "Stone Curlew."

    In line 24, column 1, after "Grebe, Slavonian," insert "Greenshank."

    In line 29, column 1, after "Marsh-harrier" insert "Merlin."

    Lords Amendment: In page 14, line 32, before Godwit, black-tailed, "insert" Brambling."

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    I should like to ask a question about this Amendment. I understand that the object of the Amendment is to put the brambling in the class of birds which are protected by special penalties if they are taken during the closed season. The birds already in this Schedule are birds which people may want to shoot outside the closed season—though 1 do not know why anyone should want to shoot a godwit or a whimbrel. I cannot understand why the brambling should be put into this Schedule. If it were not in the Schedule, I take it that it would be an offence to kill a brambling at any time of the year. This will make it legal to kill a brambling outside the closed season. If the brambling is the bird which I think it is—I am not sure that I know it by sight; I do not know that I should recognise it in its street—it is a rather small inoffensive bird which no one possibly outside the Mediterranean would want to kill. Therefore, why is it put in Part II of the Schedule?

    I should like to support what the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) has said. I think that, inadvertently, in another place an almost ludicrous situation has arisen. The effect of the Amendment is that this bird is especially protected for part of the year but can be shot without any protection at all for the rest of the year. That is an anomaly which should not be allowed to go through. Surely if this bird is felt to be a rare bird it should go fully into the First Schedule. I suggest to the hon. Lady that this is an Amendment which should be negatived.

    12.45 p.m.

    In spite of what has been said I must ask the House to agree with the Lords in the Amendment. I understand the difficulties put forward. The purpose of the First Schedule is to encourage birds who have only very rarely nested in this country to establish themselves as a breeding species. The brambling has made some attempts to nest in Scotland. If we protect it by the special penalty of the Schedule of a maximum fine of £25 or three months' imprisonment, we are giving it the maximum protection which it can have for its eggs. It is true that if we put it in Part II of the First Schedule we are allowing it to be shot at other times of the year. The point about the brambling is a very difficult one because it cannot be said to be eligible for Part I of the First Schedule. On the other hand, if we want to give the maximum protection in order that it may establish itself as a breeding species, we have to put it in Part II of the Schedule. By this Amendment I think that we shall be giving it the best possible protection that we can.

    Cannot this point be made in respect of the black-tailed godwit and of the brambling? I do not know the machinery of the House at this stage, but perhaps it would be possible to achieve the noble Lady's purpose and give it special protection at breeding time, without removing totally its protection for the rest of the year by adding after "Wild birds which may be killed or taken outside the close season" at the top of the Third Schedule, the words: "except the brambling and the black-tailed godwit."

    We did discuss the question of the godwit in Committee. After considerable discussion it was agreed to leave it where it is in the Schedule. I feel that it would be illogical to make special provision for the brambling if we did not include the godwit and under the machinery of the House at present it would not be possible to move any Amendment about the godwit.

    At first sight I was inclined to support the hon. Member for Reading, North. I thought that it would be tidier not to have the brambling in Part II of the First Schedule. No other land birds are at present included.

    On thinking the matter over, however, I see the force of the noble Lady's argument. The brambling is a very small bird, much smaller than a thrush. The number that are shot or killed in any way during the winter is very small. On the other hand, we want to encourage this bird as a breeding species, and I think it would be in much greater danger during the winter than in the summer. If one could regard these birds as constituents and the matter was put to them, I am sure that those in my constituency would prefer to be protected during their breeding season, like most of the good family birds, and would not mind taking the chance of an occasional accident in the winter.

    It seemed to me extraordinary that the brambling should be put into Part II of the First Schedule, which is confined wholly to sea birds. One understands that perhaps the sponsors of the Amendment desire to give this bird greater protection outside the close season. On the other hand, however, previously it had protection all through the year. It is a finch, and if this finch is allowed to be shot in some parts of the year, we may be giving licence to people to shoot other finches, with the excuse that they cannot distinguish one from another. I hope that consideration can be given to adopting the proposals put forward by the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett).

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Further Lords Amendments agreed to: in line 33, leave out "Greenshank."

    In line 36, after "Common scoter" insert "Garganey teal."

    In line 37, after "Goldeneye" insert "Long-tailed duck."

    Second Schedule—(Wild Birds Which May Be Killed Or Taken At Any Time By Authorised Persons)

    Lords Amendment: In page 15, line 13, column 1, after "Jay" insert "Little Owl."

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    As some of us feared when the Bill was before the House and before it went to another place, the little owl has now got back on to the condemned list. This is rather a pity. I have read carefully what was said in another place and, as any of us who studied equally carefully what was said upstairs and in our House knows, not a single jot or tittle of evidence that this bird is as dangerous as it is said to be has been produced. All the evidence written in the reports of at least a half a dozen European countries and of America, and from our own British Trust for Ornithology, is that, on balance, the little owl does considerably more good than harm.

    It seems to me a pity that the return of the little owl to the condemned list is based simply on prejudice. None of those who wanted the bird put back in that list has produced any positive evidence that it does harm. I must express sincere regret that on such flimsy ground the little owl has been added to the condemned list, and I hope that other hon. Members will support me.

    The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish), whose absence we all regret and whose interest in the Bill everybody knows, was against the little owl when we came to it. He then examined all the evidence on its behalf, and the classic statement in defence of the little owl is the speech by the hon. and gallant Member himself in Committee.

    We spent a lot of time on the Schedules; we did not do our work idly, and I hope that one by one, particularly with the list in the Schedule, we shall urge the noble Lady, now that the main work of the morning is over, to dig her heels in and to resist the noble Lords in what they propose.

    I support What my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) has just said and also what was said by the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett). We gave a lot of consideration to the little owl in Committee, and I am inclined to think, as I said earlier about another bird, that there is a good deal of prejudice in regard to it.

    The little owl was introduced into this country some years ago and then it developed habits which were unusual. But there seems to be no doubt, from tests which have been carried out, that it is not the harmful bird that it was thought to be. I do not want to repeat all that other hon. Members have said, but if I quote from a leaflet issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in December, 1951, perhaps that is all I need to say. The leaflet says:
    "Its food consists of rodents, small birds, worms, insects, frogs, etc. It hunts by day as well as by night."
    At the end it says:
    "At the present time the little owl must be regarded as a useful bird and, like all other British owls, well worthy of protection."

    I know that the little owl has always excited controversy as to whether it does more good than harm, but I should be doubtful whether it is really proved that on the whole it does less harm. I should have thought it was in very appropriate company in the Second Schedule. We must also allow that these Schedules cannot be so logical that they will satisfy us all.

    In Part I of the First Schedule we have just inserted the peregrine, which, I should have thought, did a great deal more harm than the little owl. We have given it the maximum protection, and we are putting—

    Does the hon. Member not agree that there are comparatively few peregrines in this country?

    There are comparatively few. It would be a pity if there were as many peregrines as little owls. By and large, I should have thought that the little owl would be quite happy where it is proposed to put it.

    The position seems to have arisen that one often encounters with inquiries. On the one hand, there is the evidence of the expert witness, and on the other hand, the evidence of the ordinary man in the street of what he see and hears. The expert witness—the British Trust for Ornithology—can produce a long and well-documented piece of evidence, but if we were to talk to any working man or farmer in the country we would get a completely different story. I am inclined to support the man who describes what he has seen and experienced himself.

    There is no doubt that the little owls are increasing very much in number, as, I think, all expert witnesses would agree. It is not one of our native birds. It was introduced into this country, and perhaps I feel a little differently about it for that reason.

    The Bill is for the protection of birds, and I suggest that it is not only for the protection of birds against human beings. Birds have lots of other enemies also, and the little owl is one of them. Out of consideration for the other birds we should, therefore, support the Amendment, which will allow some control throughout the year over the numbers of the little owl.

    I hope that the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) will not feel obliged on this occasion to carry out the obligation she entered into with a particular Lord to obey, and that we may have proof today that, after all, inside a marriage there are still two individuals.

    I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman). I think it is proved that this bird is not a criminal; he is eccentric. I should have thought that that would have appealed to another place, and I believe that that is the most flattering thing that I have ever said about the other place.

    1.0 p.m.

    As I told the House on the Report stage, I once had to sit in the chair at a county council meeting while the debate ranged over an hour into the character of this bird. While I feel that probably the right verdict might have been "Not guilty but do not do it again," I came to the conclusion that what was read out by my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) from the Ministry of Agriculture leaflet probably represents a true picture of the bird's character. I should have thought that on the whole he does not deserve to be put in the rogues' gallery. I do not feel quite as strongly about him as I do about the moorhen which is mentioned in the next Amendment, but I feel that he is a nice looking bird.

    After all, all questions of beauty are matters of opinion and taste and I give my opinion. He has a very impudent air which I like to see encouraged in the country where feudalism is still too often rampant. I hope that the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South will feel that she can advise us to resist the Amendment. If she does not, we ought to take our own course.

    I want to say a few words in favour of the little owl. I know that his claws are very sharp, because they went into my hand once when I put it in a hollow tree. I had great difficulty in withdrawing my hand and the scars are on it still. Nevertheless, I am very fond of this little bird. Its queer character interests me and I believe much more the report of the Ministry of Agriculture than the opinion of certain gamekeepers who are very keen on killing everything they see, whether it is of value or not.

    I hope that we shall not allow the little owl to appear in this list of criminals. It has led to a good deal of good in the country and I do not believe that it is increasing rapidly, at any rate in some parts of the country. In the Chilterns we see the little owl comparatively rarely, although it may be increasing in abundance in some parts. In saying these words in favour of the little owl I hope that we shall show our independence in this matter by disagreeing, on one occasion at any rate, with Members of another place.

    Needless to say, I am in great difficulty over this matter. The debate has gone as I expected it in this House, whereas in another place it was equally strongly in favour of putting the little owl back into the Second Schedule. Therefore, I am in the position, as promoter of the Bill, of having to try to make up my mind, since there is an evident dispute between the two Houses, what is the correct thing to do in examining the case of the little owl on its merits.

    I am in a particular difficulty because, as hon. Members know, the little owl was in the Second Schedule to the Bill as presented to the House, and it was owing to a speech made by the seconder of my Bill, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Major Beamish), who quoted the British Trust for Ornithology, that it was moved out. Therefore, I feel an added responsibility to him because he is not present.

    I should like to put three considerations before hon. Members. The point has been made that from a scientific examination of the little owl's stomach contents it cannot be found that it does have animal contents. I have made researches since the Committee stage to find out whether this is the case. I found that it is true, but I was interested to find that it is true for quite different reasons from those which I originally accepted. Toe habit of the little owl—and this is why it is always so constantly in dispute— is to take the young fledglings and kill them, leave them and go away for an appropriate time, and then return to eat the grubs which by that time have eaten the carcases of the fledglings. In the course of carrying out what he considers to be a quite innocent pursuit the little owl is in fact causing a great deal of depredation among his colleagues in the bird world.

    As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) said, we must remember that birds do not always suffer from the cruelty of human beings but suffer far more from the cruelty of their own kind. In addition, there is the most important point of all that the little owl is without doubt increasing by leaps and bounds. That is the main fact that we have to consider. It has been shown that he is well able to look after himself and when we put a bird in the Second Schedule we are not suggesting that the bird should be indiscriminately slaughtered.

    The birds cannot be killed or taken except by authorised people and that gives them more protection than is given as the law now stands. I submit to the House, therefore, that we should leave the bird where it originally was in the Bill as I presented it to the House—in the Second Schedule.

    Was it originally in the Second Schedule in the Bill as introduced in another place?

    It was not in the Second Schedule in the Bill as introduced in another place, but I submit that that does not affect the Bill which we are considering now. I have to take the responsibility as the promoter of this Bill and therefore, for three reasons which I give to the House, I submit that we should agree to the Amendment. Firstly, as promoter of the Bill, I put the bird in the Second Schedule because, and as has been shown by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), I knew that if there is one bird that causes controversy in local councils it is the little owl. Secondly, I recommend the House to agree to the Amendment because of the harm that the little owl does inadvertently when it kills fledglings in order to eat the grubs which feed on the fledglings, and thirdly because the bird is increasing by leaps and bounds. I feel that it would be wise to leave it to authorised persons to keep it within limits if they can.

    This is a difficult question on which clearly there is a very sharp division indeed within the House. If one were to take a cross-section of opinion in the House one would find that there are parts of the country where the view is held that the little owl is an enemy and other parts where that view is not held. It would be very unfortunate if the House were to be divided on this Question.

    It need not be on any Question, but it seems fairly clear that hon. Members on each side of the House feel sufficiently strongly to take the matter to a Division. I understood that to be the effect of what the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said and I think that it would be unfortunate, for various reasons.

    There is a consideration which I think it right to put before the House. In fact, the little owl will normally meet those who are its enemies in places where there are not many people to see it. Not only gamekeepers are concerned here; the farming community as a whole certainly entertains the view, very strongly indeed, that the little owl is an enemy.

    I think it right to say that whatever is provided for in an Act, if it does not reflect the general opinion of those concerned, there will be a tendency for the Act to be ignored, with all the evil consequences which follow.

    I suggest to my noble Friend that the best way to deal with this matter would be to leave the Bill as it was without this Amendment, in other words, to disagree with the Lords. But I also wish to make it absolutely plain that if we took that course there are parts of the country where it would be necessary to make local orders to put the birds into the Second Schedule.

    I do not mean it offensively, but I want to make that clear to those who have disagreed with the Amendment on rather sentimental grounds. It would be essential to do that over large areas, principally in the South. If that commends itself, as I hope it will, to both sides of the House it may be that the best action would be to disagree with the Lords on the clear understanding that orders would be made to the effect I have suggested.

    May I speak again by leave of the House? I have made my position quite clear. I very much welcome what the Joint Under-Secretary said and, if I can have a definite assurance that it is possible to do this by order, 1 hope he will make quite certain to ensure that the little owl is included in the Second Schedule in respect of those areas where it is shown to be particularly harmful. I would be quite content to abide by what I think is the majority feeling in this House at present.

    Question put, and negatived.

    Lords Amendment: In page 15, line 14, column, 1, after "Magpie," insert "Moorhen."

    1.15 p.m.

    The noble Lady having gone some of the way with us in regard to the little owl, I hope that we shall not have a struggle over the far more worthy case of the moorhen. Towards the end of her remarks about the little owl, in justifying that it should go into the Second Schedule, she said that it was not such a bad Schedule to be in, anyway. If that is so, it should apply to a wide range of birds. I do not think that many could deny that the moorhen does not really rank with the carrion crow or the magpie as a definitely harmful bird.

    If it were said that the moorhen should be included because it sometimes eats certain crops, we should put blackbirds and thrushes into the Second Schedule because they certainly do more harm to fruit in orchards than the moorhen does to any crops. But none of us would suggest putting the blackbird or the thrush into that Schedule. The only other argument I can recollect to remove protection from the moorhen was that an hon. Friend pointed out that it ate the food of other birds because it got there rather more quickly. That shows a little more initiative and enterprise which I thought that at least those on these benches were keen upon—and seems anyway a singularly poor reason for condemning it to death under this Schedule.

    As I say, I cannot recollect any other reason advanced except that it is what is called a coarse feeder and because of that might drive away aristocratic members of the duck family. I do not think that is a very valid argument because the moorhen is an ordinary little bird, seen mostly on farm ponds and streams and does not do very much harm to other birds by reason of its coarse feeding habits.

    I should think it could be amply controlled if it could be shot all the year round except during the breeding season. Surely there is no suggestion that it cannot be kept under control by shooting or other means of destruction during the greater part of the year. That applies already if the contention is that in a particular area it is necessary to get rid of moorhens. All we are asking is that it should not be included as a complete criminal which could be killed at any time of the year. I appeal to the noble Lady to make this, only the second, concession and deal with the moorhen in the same way as the little owl.

    Mr. Speaker ruled that all these Amendments should be read over. The noble Lady was to move their acceptance, and I was to second them. Then they were to be called out as we came to them.

    I have not, in fact, yet moved a Motion. I wondered if it was possible to hear the discussion and move a Motion at the end of it.

    We cannot talk about something when there is no Motion before the House.

    Your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, did say that these Amendments would be read over one by one and hon. Members would speak on them as they were read out. They could be formally moved afterwards. I think I am correct in saying that that is what Mr. Speaker said. That is why I rose to speak on this Amendment, as we have done that on earlier Amendments.

    I was under the impression that Mr. Speaker indicated that most of these Amendments would perhaps go through without debate and it would be enough if the Clerk at the Table formally read the page and line number so that we knew with which Amendment we were dealing. If there was no opposition the Amendment would be agreed to on a mere formal moving by the noble Lady, but where there was opposition obviously the Motion must be moved by someone. Most of us have looked to the noble Lady to move the Motion in the formal way and the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) to second formally.

    Thank you very much. Therefore, as there seems to be some objection, perhaps the noble Lady will move to agree with the Lords.

    The difficulty in which I find myself at this stage of our discussions is that I have to move a Motion one way or the other before hearing the arguments advanced by hon. Members. Because of the earlier discussion, I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    While I do not intend to press the matter to a Division, I think it should be emphasised that this Amendment from another place was inserted only after consideration by certain noble Lords. I do not think I should be out of order in mentioning their names; there was Lord Hurcomb and Lord Temple-more. They know a great deal about birds and they agreed that this Amendment should be made. I feel that the reasons which led them to take that view—because of the real objection which exists against the moorhen—should be developed shortly.

    I believe the moorhen to be an antisocial bird. [Laughter.] I am not trying to be funny. We have been discussing birds as creatures for which we have to do our best. Moorhens worry other waterfowl, and keep them moving round. Very often the moorhen will drive other waterfowl away completely. Moorhens have been known to kill young ducks. A very good case about that was made out in another place. This Bill is designed to protect birds not only from men, but from each other. The moorhen does a great amount of harm to fish and fish spawn, and, therefore, to fishing interests. Its numbers are increasing and it can do a lot of damage to corn and other crops around the area where it lives.

    There has been some talk about a "rogues' gallery." I do not look upon the Second Schedule as a rogues' gallery or as a list of birds which should be totally destroyed. I should be sorry to see the last rook destroyed. I look upon it as a schedule of birds which should be considered as being under probation, birds which are tolerated so long as they do not do too much harm. But if they exceed their licence they are liable to immediate control, without the necessity of writing to the Home Office for permission, which may be granted three months later.

    I consider that the moorhen should be included in the category of birds which are tolerated, despite the fact that it does a considerable amount of harm, not only to human interests but to its fellow birds. It should be put in a position where its eggs may be taken—in any case, they are good to eat—instead of protecting the eggs throughout the year and giving permission to shoot the birds only in the winter.

    I wish to congratulate the noble Lady on the course she has taken over this Amendment. In spite of what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) I consider that this bird is a great favourite with large numbers of children. The hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead wishes to put it on probation. The trouble is that I for one do not know how we can convey to the moorhen the terms of the probation order which the hon. and gallant Gentleman proposes to make.

    I am reminded of the story of the lady who went to buy a drinking dish for her dog. The salesman apologised because he had not a dish with the word "dog" upon it. The lady said, "That does not matter, the dog cannot read and my husband does not drink water." I stand by everything I said on the last occasion. I know from practical experience that children watch the moorhen with great pleasure and derive delight from its manœuvres. It is one of the birds that town-dwelling children in particular are delighted to see in its natural habitat. It is an attraction towards nature study and we should not pass lightly over those considerations.

    The hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead says that the moorhen eats fish and fish spawn; but after all, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman had to follow the same mode of life as the moorhen, he might eat a great deal more fish than he does now. We must not blame the bird because it eats its natural food.

    The rescue of this bird would appear to be occurring almost at the eleventh hour of our discussions and it seems a pity that all our efforts should be jeopardised by what has happened in another place. We should remind ourselves that for some of us the putting of a bird of any kind into any of the prescribed lists means that we are indicting the bird because it is a killer. No one can argue that the moorhen is a killer, although I understand that a noble Lord in another place had a very distressing experience with an old moorhen and some young birds which he prized.

    We must guard against putting a bird on the list because we regard it as a nuisance. During the brief debate on the moorhen in another place—which consisted mostly of dogmatic statements from judicial gentlemen—we were told that the purpose was to include on this list birds which were a nuisance or which might be a nuisance. That is a new crime which some people wish to introduce. They argue that a bird should be included not because it has done something, but because it might do something, and that is contrary to all the cannons of British law. I hope we shall dig in our heels over this matter and I am delighted that the noble Lady has moved that we disagree with the Lords' Amendment.

    1.30 p.m.

    I, too, should like to thank the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) for standing up against another place on behalf of the moorhen. I am sure she is right to rescue it. I suspect that the Members of another place were looking forward to orgies of plovers' eggs and moorhens.

    We all have a great many moorhens among our constituents, and, as the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said, our human constituents very much enjoy watching them. The moorhen has everything to commend it. It is of unquestionable British parentage, which ought to commend it to the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke). It is mildly eccentric and very democratic, which commends it to the right hon. Member for South Shields. Also, it will not bite anyone, not even the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings). I do not think that there is any objection to the bird.

    Nor do I think it can possibly be argued that in this Bill we are protecting birds from one another. In Part I of the First Schedule we include the goshawk, the hen-harrier, all eagles and the marsh-harrier. I doubt whether, at the next annual general meeting of the birds in his constituency, the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead will be thanked for obtaining total protection for these birds.

    However, there may be parts of the country in which the moorhen becomes too prolific. If it does, no doubt the same step can be taken as is proposed in the case of the little owl, and an order made which will allow the killing of the moorhen at all times of the year. I should regret that, but I personally should also regret the killing of the goosander and the red-breasted merganser at all times of the year, though they are included in the Second Schedule.

    I also thank the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) for the attitude which she has adopted towards the Amendment. The proposal was put forward with feeling by hon. Members from both sides of the House during the Report stage. We assure the noble Lady that if she gets any trouble from a Member of another place, she will have the whole House behind her.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Third Schedule—(Wild Birds Which May Be Killed Or Taken Outside The Close Season)

    Lords Amendment: In page 15, line 20, after "Coot" insert:

    "Curlew (other than stone curlew)."

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    This is a very important Amendment, in view of the discussion which has taken place in this House. It is not because of any fear of dispute with my noble relative in another place that I am not suggesting that the House should disagree with the Amendment for I am already going to have an argument with him about two birds. I have good reason for proposing that we agree with the Lords in this Amendment.

    On the Report stage we found that the curlew was in the Third Schedule, and an Amendment was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) to delete it; in other words, to give it the general protection of the Bill to ensure that it was not shot. I came to the House intending to resist the Amendment because, although the curlew is my second favourite bird, I did not wish to press my personal views on the House. I know quite well that it is a legitimate sporting bird. However, I found in the debate that hon. Members who spoke were all in favour of protecting it. I was very glad to see that, and I accepted the Amendment.

    When the Bill went to another place it was found that an Amendment had been put down to restore the curlew to the Third Schedule. My noble relative and I had many long discussions on the matter, and we came to the conclusion that if we examined the Amendment on the merits of the case, it would be wise to leave the curlew where it was when the Bill was first presented to the House.

    It is a legitimate sporting bird. Every year 2,000 to 3,000 curlew are shot. It is a wary prey and it is an honourable prey of a great number of our fellow countrymen. I and my hon. Friends have examined the Bill as fairly as possible, using our heads even more than our hearts. In view of all that I have said, and because we cannot in any way say that the curlew is declining in numbers, in fairness to a large section of our constituents we ought to agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

    I am glad that the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) has expressed agreement with the Lords Amendment. In one way and another, members of another place have come in for a good deal of criticism today, but this is an occasion when I can do something which I do not often do, and that is praise noble Lords for something which they have done. I am in agreement with their action in respect of the curlew.

    I am interested in the Bill from the wildfowler's angle. I am not a wild-fowler, but many of my constituents are members of wildfowlers' associations. Throughout the Bill I have tried to ascertain their wishes and then made up my mind. I am glad that the curlew has been restored to the Third Schedule. It ought never to have been removed from it. Its removal caused a good deal of consternation to wildfowlers because they think that the curlew is a legitimate quarry for the gun. It is a very wild bird and is most difficult to approach for a shot. I do not think there is any danger of its extinction. It is well able to look after itself.

    Protection of the curlew would spoil the sport of innumerable men who do not shoot very much. Wildfowlers these days do not come from only one social class of the community. A great many working men in my part of the country are members of wildfowlers' associations and are particularly interested in this matter. I am very glad that the noble Lady has moved that we should agree with the Lords Amendment.

    At an earlier stage I spoke in favour of greater protection for the curlew because, among other reasons, there are many people in Westmorland who look upon the curlew as their county emblem, but I will not press that view today.

    I recognise that there are people in this country who regard the curlew as a legitimate sporting bird. I do not believe that they are "innumerable," as the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch) said, and I do not believe that the number of curlew shot annually amounts to a very great total when we consider the large and increasing number of the birds now nesting in this country. In consequence, I feel that hon. Members who on the previous occasion pressed for greater protection were perhaps wrong, on balance.

    If I thought that the number of curlew was decreasing at all rapidly, and if it was a common sight to see curlew hanging in poulterers' shops, I should take a different view from the one I now hold, but in the light of all the circumstances I do not think there is any valid reason for the earlier prohibition in the Bill. In any case, in this country we already have more than enough prohibitions for which there is no apparent justification. We must be careful not to add to their number without very good reason, and in this instance there is no very good reason for doing so.

    I find myself in entire opposition to everything that has been said by the previous speakers. I was under the impression that this Bill sought to protect wild birds—not wildfowlers and good shots—but all the arguments that have been used have been on behalf of the wildfowlers and the good shots in those constituencies where the poor curlew is found. The argument has been put forward that there are plenty of curlews, and that, because its numbers are not decreasing, this is a bird which it is legitimate to include in the Schedule, and, therefore, shoot.

    It is too late to take action when the decrease in the number of birds has already begun, as we have seen in the case of the lapwing. It is far too late when the decline is already proceeding, and the time to safeguard these birds is before that process begins. It we had done it in the case of the lapwing, perhaps we should not have been in the difficult position in which we were placed a short time ago.

    Here we are asked to say that a curlew shall be fair game for the wildfowler and the good shot. The curlew is a noble moor bird—one of the great birds of the moors—and I think it is an absolute tragedy that we should give way to the arguments advanced in support of this Amendment in another place. I am absolutely against it.

    I should like to say a few words on the position of the wildfowler. The aim of the Bill is to protect birds, and, possibly, those who wish to do so may do so from various motives. It will be a great pity if we cannot get a common agreement, because the wildfowlers are not only ready to protect the birds which they themselves shoot, but all other birds as well, if their is any danger of their numbers being seriously reduced. Wildfowlers are often naturalists, and they are interested in birds.

    At the same time, they have their sport, and it is a pity that the good relations which should exist between them and the naturalists should have been imperilled by the curlew being removed from the Schedule, when, as a matter of fact, it is a bird which they have been able to shoot for many years. Not unnaturally, that sort of thing is likely to imperi these relations, and I hope, as a result of this Amendment, that situation will be put right, so that the relations between these two sections of the community may be restored to the harmony which existed before.

    1.45 p.m.

    I agree that this part of the Bill is a compromise between those interested in the protection of birds and the wildfowlers. Everything done in the Bill has been a compromise which upsets either one side or the other, and, on the whole, both the wildfowlers and the bird protectionists have behaved in a very generous and reasonable manner.

    Nobody has said a word against the curlew. In all the debates in this House or in another place, nobody has levelled an indictment against it. It is not even being accused of being anti-social by eating too many fish or of some of the other very serious charges which have been levelled against some birds this morning. As a matter of fact, if we are to sit in moral judgment on the curlew, it is one of those rare birds which helps to protect other birds or animals by warning them—

    I do not think the right hon. Gentleman should consider the curlew a rare bird.

    If the hon. and gallant Gentleman had allowed me to finish my sentence, he would have realised that I was saying that the curlew is one of those rare creatures which not only protects itself but also warns other birds and other creatures of oncoming danger from the wildfowler, so that, morally, there is no case against it.

    The noble Lady said herself that the curlew was her second favourite bird, and I believe that in another place one noble Lord declared that it was his favourite. One cannot accuse him of being anything but extremely honourable, and one would expect that, in proscribing the curlew, we should also be proscribing the whimbrel, because when the curlew goes out, out goes the whimbrel. It is to be killed, not only by association, but by failure to identify it.

    Noble Lords in the other place who had been emulating Anthony, Lepidus and Octavius, in trying to be sure that the lists of their enemies were complete, might produce the result that Cinna the poet will be hanged because they thought he was Cinna the conspirator. I hope the noble Lady will have later thoughts on this matter, and agree to put back the curlew where it should be.

    Although I have been in a considerable measure of agreement with hon. Gentlemen opposite so far, at this eleventh hour I must take issue with them on the question of the curlew. This is not just a wild birds protection Bill in isolation. We have to preserve a balance between various sections of the community in this Bill, just as in any other legislation.

    This is not an anti-shooting Bill, and it is not necessary for us to prove that the curlew does any particular harm, for it to be included in the Third Schedule. It is enough to show it is not there, and an accepted edible sporting bird, as is also the case with a large number of birds already included in the Schedule. We have already removed from the wild-fowler a large number of birds which were formerly his legitimate sport, and we ought to be very careful before we take away another bird which is normally accepted as the quarry of wildfowlers.

    Neither is this a question of birds being shot by a very small but well-to-do section of the community. This is very much a working man's sport, and the curlew has often been called the working man's grouse. Therefore, we should be very careful before we prevent the shooting of a bird which has for a very long time been regarded as a legitimate sporting bird. I do not think anyone would suggest that there is any danger of the bird being exterminated; in fact, the curlew is very much on the increase at the moment, and anyone who lives along the shores of our country is able to see enormous numbers about at present.

    Finally, there is the point that the advisory committee recommended that the shooting of the bird should be permitted in the open season, and I think that it would be a pity to fly in face of that recommendation.

    Question put, and agreed to

    Lords Amendment disagreed to: In page 15, line 22, leave out "Moorhen."

    Lords Amendment agreed to: In page 15, line 31, leave out "Garganey teal."

    Committee appointed to draw up reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to certain of their Amendments to the Bill: Colonel Clarke, Mr. Hastings, Mr. Hayman, Sir H. Lucas-Tooth and Lady Tweedsmuir.

    Three to be the quorum.—[ Lady Tweedsmuir.]

    To withdraw immediately.


    Reasons for disagreeing to certain of the Lords Amendments reported, and agreed to.

    To be communicated to the Lords.

    Juries Bill

    Not amended (in the Standing Committee), considered; read the Third time, and passed.