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Deer (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill Lords

Volume 23: debated on Friday 14 May 1982

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As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

1.30 pm

I have it in command from the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Deer (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill [Lords], has consented to place her Prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

1.31 pm

It is nearly 25 years since a Scottish deer Bill was last debated in the Chamber. As the Bill received only a formal Second Reading, I do not think that I should be straying out of order in taking a few minutes to explain what is set out in it and the reasons behind the various provisions.

I should say at the outset that the Bill was introduced in another place by Lord Glenarthur, to whom great credit is due for taking it through the most detailed discussions there.

We have had close and helpful co-operation from the Red Deer Commission, the Scottish Landowners Federation, the British Deer Society, the Deer Veterinary Society and the Scottish National Farmers Union, and. I am glad to say, warm approval from the RSPCA this week.

The red deer is our largest wild animal and in Scotland there are upwards of a quarter of a million of the species. The smaller roe deer is very numerous, with numbers probably well into six figures, and outside the towns it is virtually ubiquitous.

There is, of course, always a conflict between sport and forestry and agriculture. In recent years this has been dramatically added to by the value of venison and the great temptation that this places in the way of poachers with cruel and unscrupulous methods. Indeed, the attack on poaching is one of the most important aspects of the Bill.

Relatively late in the life of the Bill we had also to consider a further aspect due to changes made in another place affecting deer farming. Deer farming is a relatively recent development in this country, since it has been discovered that the red deer is a highly efficient converter of rough pasture into lean meat and therefore well able to be a profitable form of meat production.

As is immediately evident from the long title, the Bill is an amending measure. The Deer (Scotland) Act 1959 has proved a very serviceable framework, and it is right that we should look at it afresh but retain it as a basis. Over 20 years, however, we have come to see ways in which it should be improved, and the way in which the whole approach to deer in Scotland has evolved and changing conditions have made some modifications necessary.

Taking the provisions chronologically, the Bill first deals with the functions of the Red Deer Commission. The 1959 Act, which created the commission, gave it the twin functions of conservation and control of red deer. Conservation and control are two sides of the one coin which we call management. The commission's outstanding achievement has been to reconcile the ancient conflict between the deer forest owner, with his interest in conservation as a sporting asset, and the farmer, whose prime concern is the conservation of his turnips and grass. It is symptomatic of the changes in land use over the past 20 years that many deer forest owners are equally involved in forestry and pure agriculture. In clause 1 it is important to remove the restrictions on the commission's power to give advice merely on conservation; it should concern itself with the whole of deer management.

The commission can call on a considerable amount of expertise. Many members of the commission own deer forests and are involved in farming and land owning. The Red Deer Commission field staff have experience of other deer in Scotland, such as sika and roe.

One purpose of the Bill is to tap the expertise and to enable the commission, if so directed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, to advise the Government and the public on the management of other species of deer. I do not know what directions he may decide to give, but I imagine that he would wish to give the commission time to think and to advise him in due course on the best way forward. I cannot overstate the good work done by Mr. Innes Miller, his staff and the members of the commission in the development of deer in Scotland since the commission was instituted after the 1959 Act.

The sika is singled out for special mention in the Bill. The species is by no means the most numerous in Scotland. Like red deer, it presents special problems to the forester. Sika are so closely akin to the red deer that they interbreed. They are not as numerous as red or roe. If steps are not taken to develop the national herd of sika we may run into the problems that face red deer today. We could prevent that by taking action now. The Bill extends the range of the Red Deer Commission to looking after sika.

Clause 6 and subsequent clauses deal with a matter of wider public interest—the prevention of poaching and the cruel practices associated with it. In at least one respect the 1959 Act is out of date. The maximum penalty for taking or killing deer on land where one has no right to be present is £20. Courts may impose fines as low as £5 or £6—the cost of a parking ticket. The value of a carcase can be in excess of £100. The Bill makes penalties more realistic. It also improves the 1959 Act by outlawing a number of cruel practices with which it did not specifically deal.

We improved the Bill in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) has great experience of taking deer legislation through the House and great practical knowledge. I do not underestimate his contribution.

We hear that the Secretary of State intends to introduce an affirmative order to deal with weapons and ammunition. We are all horrified at deer being shot by shotguns, particularly if five, six or seven shots are used rather than ball ammunition, which could perhaps be used in extreme circumstances. The Secretary of State has said that the order will deal with the whole issue. I hope that it will restrict the types of weapons and ammunition that may be used. I should not have taken up the Bill if such a promise, and an undertaking about restrictions on night shooting, had not been given. I hope that that restriction will have an impact on poachers, who use the cover of darkness for their nefarious deeds.

The Bill's longest clause puts a new part into the 1959 Act and deals with the control of the venison trade. Not the least important weapon against the poacher is stopping up his outlet. Hitherto, his life has been all too easy. Dealers must keep records of a sort, but they are not normally open to the police. The Bill rectifies that. We expect to introduce a revised form of record, which will assist the police in detection. The Bill also provides that a dealer convicted of an offence may be disqualified from trading.

Perhaps most importantly, the Bill creates the offence of dealing in poached venison. It might seen incredible, but that is not an offence in common law or under statute.

The Bill also deals with the rights of agricultural woodland occupiers to shoot deer in defence of crops and trees. We did not spend much time on that in Committee, because the House of Lords dealt with it at length. If that clause and that affecting weapons had not been modified substantially, many hon. Members would not support it. I am glad that the House of Lords acted decisively. The Bill could have foundered on those two issues. I am glad that we have a compromise which is generally acceptable to farming, deer farming and stalking interests, but I hope that the poacher will realise that it is not a compromise.

We made changes on deer farming because of developments in Committee. The Government claimed that the Bill was not the correct instrument in which to legislate for deer farming. We were told in Committee that the Goverment preferred to wait for United Kingdom legislation after further discussions with the Farm Animal Welfare Council. I understand the Government's position. Events moved rapidly in another place and it became essential to make a change if deer farming in Scotland was not to suffer the most severe handicap possible.

The crucial point is that the open season for shooting stags in Scotland is only three and a half months, whereas it is nine months in England and Wales. When the Bill was changed in relation to shooting out of season and on closed land, it was provided that the occupier had to prove damage, which was not necessarily the case previously. Effectively, the deer farmer in Scotland could slaughter deer, which would be marked and clearly identifiable, only during the three and a half months from July to the middle of October. That would have put him at a severe disadvantage compared with his counterparts in England and would have made the marketing of venison much more difficult.

Deer farmers had a legitimate objection and we felt it right to include the new clause. It was warmly supported on both sides of the Committee and I am sure that it will be welcomed by the House and by another place.

Those who feel that additional safeguards are required may be looking for difficulties that will not arise. We have included provisions about deer-proof fences. They must be deer-proof—a stock-proof, five-strand wire fence will not be sufficient. I do not think that farmers will erect such fences unless they intend to farm deer in the proper sense of that term.

The Government took action by statutory instrument a long time ago to prevent the use of velvet for aphrodisiacs, which would have caused great pain and cruelty to deer.

If deer farmers approach the Bill in the spirit in which it is proposed there should be no problems. Everyone will watch carefully to ensure that there is no abuse and no taking of trophies or other cruelty. If we can go forward together we can ensure that the new clause will be adequate to meet its purposes. I should not have supported it if I had thought that it would allow loopholes for cruelty or other disagreeable practices.

The Bill is important and bears the marks of a number of hands. I am grateful for the work in Committee of my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. In addition, we would not have made such substantial progress without the help of the Opposition spokesmen in the House and in another place, the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. O'Neill) and Lord Ross of Marnock.

I believe that the Bill is a good measure, and I am sure that Mr. Innes Miller of the Red Deer Commission will be eager to use it after Royal Assent. The Bill has received an unusual amount of constructive discussion for a private Member's Bill, and it is supported by the Government.

In my view, there is nothing remiss about the Bill starting its life in another place. At times, the procedures of the two Houses accelerate the passage of a Bill starting in that way.

The Bill is a consensus measure—indeed, a compromise measure. Given the topic that it deals with, that is almost inevitable. If no other message goes out from the House, I hope that we will say that there is to be no compromise in one direction—on cruelty and poaching. I hope that any publicity arising from the Bill will be directed to those who commit such offences. Our message is "Poachers, beware! We are determined to stop your nefarious operations."

1.50 pm

I am anxious to support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro). I congratulate him on piloting the Bill through the House since its arrival here from the other place.

As my hon. Friend said, I have a more than usual interest. I was fortunate enough to secure a very high place in the ballot for Private Members' Bills in 1980 and succeeded in getting my own Deer Bill on to the statute book that year.

I note what my hon. Friend said about some of my efforts in Committee to apply certain provisions in the 1980 Act to Scotland. I can assure my hon. Friend that in Committee I was very conscious that I was not a Scotsman, but I can also assure him that a number of the amendments that I sought to move in Committee, some of which were accepted and are now included in the Bill, were initiated in the first place in Scotland.

My Deer Act 1980 applies only to England and Wales, and brings the legislation up to date there, but I received countless letters from people in Scotland who could see how scandalous the position in Scotland would appear once the legislation for England and Wales had been brought up to date.

It was pointed out to me that many groups of people in Scotland, including the Scottish Landowners Association, wanted desperately to have parts of the 1980 Act applied to Scotland, especially the provisions relating to the establishment of a venison register.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries has far more detailed knowledge of Scotland and its poaching problems than I have, but he acknowledges that poaching in Scotland is rife.

It was felt that the introduction of a venison register by applying part of the 1980 Act to Scotland would help to tighten the screw on Scottish poachers. We have waned a couple of years, and I am glad to say that we now have a Bill for Scotland which not only provides for an effective venison register but also modernises the law in Scotland in many other welcome respects.

My hon. Friend reminded the House that the Standing Committee accepted a new clause concerned with deer farming. That is now included in the Bill. He will not mind if I touch upon it for a moment, because the wording of the clause leaves much to be desired, but I would far rather have the whole Bill go through with the clause than lose the Bill or risk losing it. But clause 7, relating to deer farming, might be thought to be riddled with holes. In particular, I defy anyone to say what is meant by a "deer-proof barrier". The views of experts on what constitutes and what does not constitute a deer-proof barrier will vary, so that there will be a certain amount of ambiguity as a result of the inclusion of the clause. It is a pity that there is not a definition clause stating what is meant by a deer-proof barrier.

Poaching has been the main concern of all those interested in the fate of deer in Scotland, Wales and England. In particular, I welcome the aspects of the Bill which impose a far greater range of much more vigorous penalties on poachers than at present exist.

In Committee it was suggested that greater powers of search should be given to the constabulary and others in regard to poaching offences. The reason for that suggestion was that it was felt most strongly that greater powers of search should be given in the Bill to those responsible for enforcing poaching laws. I was glad that the Minister promised that consideration would be given to tightening up the law in that respect before the Bill went to another place.

Those worried about poaching in Scotland wish the power of search to apply not only to vehicles and boats but to persons and animals. For example, by examining a lurcher's mouth, it is possible to detect whether it has successfully engaged in deer poaching.

There have been many tragic examples in the media of the use of lurchers, more to the south of the border than to the north of it. Until the Deer Act 1980 was passed, there were frequent examples in England of lurchers being advertised for sale in papers such as The Journal in Newcastle, at prices between £50 and £100. Frequently the sale notice which has appeared in that newspaper has said
"Lurcher for sale (good with deer)".
That practice has been removed in England and Wales, and I am confident that the Bill will make it possible for people to resist any temptation to come south of the border to acquire lurchers for the purpose of deer poaching.

One innovation in the Bill—I was lucky enough to have it accepted in Committee—is the provision relating to the use of aircraft in dealing with deer. The Committee readily agreed that there should be a provision in the Bill to prevent the improper use of aircraft for moving deer around, whether in a tranquilised state or not. I welcome the fact that the Bill has been amended to make it impossible for that practice to continue. I have no specific evidence for Scotland, but I have somewhere a picture of an incident that took place in Wales last September. A deer was slung up in a net from a helicopter and transported by the helicopter operators. The House would not want that practice to increase, or even be permitted. It is also right that the amended Bill should include the right of a veterinary surgeon to authorise the use of helicopters if he thinks that such authorisation is necessary.

It would not be right for Parliament to accept the Bill without the amendment, which I am glad to say has been included, to tighten up on the use of aircraft.

My hon. Friend has given us firsthand information about how deer are slung under helicopters. That will now be banned, except under veterinary control. However, the Committee was even more upset by the shooting of deer from helicopters. Can my hon. Friend say a little more about that?

During my hon. Friend's intervention I have found the photograph from The Observer of 13 September showing deer being removed in nets that were slung under helicopters. I did not devote much time to that in Committee, but those of us who pressed for an alteration to the Bill to include the prohibition of the use of helicopters were partly motivated by a film shown a few months ago illustrating the practice in New Zealand. That practice is foreign to us and we would not want it to occur in Britain. The television film was shown in Britain and depicted deer carcases being removed by helicopters. It also showed the hunting, driving and shooting of deer from helicopters. Such a practice is repugnant to us. It also showed deer being transported, untranquillised, in a net. I am glad that we have taken the opportunity to ensure that that does not happen in Scotland.

Clause 7, on deer farming, stands out a mile. It is questionable whether deer farming should be included in the Bill. I shall not resist the Bill's passage or endeavour to alter it, but such a Bill is not necessarily the most appropriate home for a measure on deer farming. I say that partly because, although there are several important deer farms in Scotland, there are more deer farms in England. Therefore, as we did not deal with deer farms in England and Wales in the Deer Act 1980, it is slightly out of tune to deal with deer farms in Scotland in a purely Scottish measure, particularly when most of the deer farms are in England and Wales.

I question whether clause 7 should be in the Bill because I feel that deer farming should be tackled nationally by the responsible Ministries in Scotland, England and Wales. Deer farming is a growing practice, and it is not confined to harvesting venison. There are many side products. It is a practice that is growing throughout the world.

I welcome the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries which undoubtedly will do some good in Scotland, but I feel that the initiative should have come from the responsible Ministers for Scotland and England and Wales, who should have established a national inquiry into deer farming to ascertain whether any practices are being carried out which should be stopped and recommended following the inquiry, a code of practice, or a code of good conduct, which they could decide would be appropriate. A code of practice has to be established by the responsible Ministers on both sides of the border and an inquiry will have to be made into deer farming.

There are many aspects of deer farming that need special investigation. For example, there are the difficulties over the close season in relation to the sale of venison which has been farmed. There are difficulties in establishing what is a farm for deer and what is not. I have referred to the difficulty of defining a deer-proof fence. Another difficulty is establishing the appropriate size of enclosure that can be regarded as a deer farm.

It has been put to me that a man who complies with some suggested regulations and puts some wire netting around his back yard—for example, an enclosure of 100 sq yds—could be regarded as a bone fide deer farmer. Obviously, that would not be correct or appropriate. It would be a good thing if the responsible Ministers in Scotland and in England and Wales were to approach the British Deer Farmers Association, whose secretary is someone for whom I have great regard and who lives in Scotland, to get some ideas on how its shop could be put in order and how deer farming could be regularised and put on a proper and sensible basis, preferably voluntarily.

I welcome the support that has been given to the Bill from many quarters. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries said, it is a delicately balanced package. A group which is associated with farming deer might welcome the Bill as far as it goes. Specialised bodies which promote the interests of deer, such as the Veterinary Deer Society, also welcome it. I received a letter today from the RSPCA in which is said that it does not consider the Bill to be a perfect package. That is the view of many other bodies. However, they all emphasise that when the Bill reaches the statute book—the RSPCA has said that there are many flaws in the Bill and that certain proposals have not been put into effect—they will recognise that its anti-poaching provisions represent a significant improvement.

The new provisions on close season shooting are preferable to the present position. The bodies hope that the Bill, with its improvements, will not fail because of what is regarded as a general advance in animal treatment. The British Deer Society is connected with the task of promoting deer welfare on both sides of the border. The society welcomes the Bill, although it feels that there are many flaws in it. On balance it believes that it is a valuable package that will make a useful addition to the statute book.

I turn now to what some groups of people regard as flaws in the Bill. In another place and in the Standing Committee there have been interesting debates on a number of the matters that have been mentioned. In Committee we discussed the right, which remains in the Bill, of smallholders in Scotland to shoot deer at night for crop protection purposes. We agreed to differ on that point. I am told by many of my hon. Friends from north of the border that that right is still important to smallholders and crofters there. However, there is a wide body of opinion both in Scotland and the rest of Great Britain that feels that it is inappropriate to continue to shoot our largest mammal at night with a shotgun. The Deer Act 1980 and subsequent orders have prevented that in England and Wales. Scotland will be the only country in Europe where that continues to be permitted. As a simple Sassenach living south of the border, I should like to feel that Scottish legislation will be improved in that respect.

Another major point relates to the use of shotguns to kill deer. In Committee we agreed to differ on that. The Bill includes the right of the smallholder or crofter in Scotland to use a shotgun. I am not happy about it. In England we have made it necessary to use a rifled weapon, either by day or night. I understand that the Minister will table an order in relation to the type of weapons that can be used for the destruction of deer in Scotland. I hope there will be some definition of the type of shot, and that a list will be given of the minimum size of the shot permitted to be used. I hope that, at least as an initial step, the use of lightweight shot will be prohibited.

I welcome the Bill, which has been long awaited on both sides of the border. It tightens up legislation and gives us a long-desired common national picture. The rewards of poachers have, for far too long, been too high and handsome. We stopped that in England and Wales and this Bill will go a long way towards making the poaching of deer not worth the candle in Scotland. I congratulate my hon. Friend on introducing this measure and I wish him well.

2.15 pm

The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) has preserved the best traditions of the House, because, after serving on the Standing Committee and having done his homework, he has brought much knowledge to the Third Reading and taken me into realms of which I had little knowledge.

As a Sassenach, it is always difficult to intervene in Scottish matters. I have some Scottish constituents, but as we seldom indulge in hunting, shooting and fishing around Willesden, I have no direct constituency interest. The House, my constituents and the general public retain an intense interest in the welfare of animals, and the Bill demonstrates some of that interest. I am always amazed that, at times of extreme crisis such as he have endured for the past five weeks, I have received 10 times as many letters about seals as about the Falkland Islands.

My only point arises from clause 11 and the tremendous alteration to the provisions for dealing in venison in the Deer (Scotland) Act 1959. The House will understand that I have no personal interest, because I no longer serve in the Government Whips' Office, but there is a tradition that the Lords Commissioners each receive a haunch of venison. I hope that the changes in the licensing of venison dealers will not affect those hon. Members who perform such arduous duties in the Government Whips' Office. Although they may not hold the high honour of Lord Commissioner, but simply Whip the areas with which they are concerned, because of the generosity of their colleagues many Whips have been able to enjoy some venison from time to time. I hope that the rights of the hard-working Lords Commissioners to receive that venison will not be affected by the clause.

2.18 pm

I cannot give any guarantees about the matter raised by the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt), but I should be most surprised if the House were to pass a Bill that would be to the disadvantage of hon. Members and especially Whips.

I did not have the privilege of serving on the Committee, nor am I the Minister with direct responsibility for such matters in Scotland, but I appreciate the importance of the subject. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who was a member of the Committee, is engaged elsewhere, but I know that he would have been most anxious to pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), and for his care, knowledge and understanding of the subject. He would also wish to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr), who, both this afternoon and in Committee, played an important part in ensuring that the Bill has been carefully scrutinised and considered. My hon. Friend has not achieved every detail that he might have wished, but I appreciate the gracious way in which he has not tried to impede the Bill's progress, but has contributed further to our appreciation of the importance of the subject and the value of the Bill.

The Bill has wide support from all sorts of representative organisations in the country. It is a consensus measure and in many respects it is a compromise measure. It is in the nature of such things that everyone will have his own ideas about how it might be improved, but that in no way contradicts the judgment accepted on all sides that at any rate it is a considerable step forward from the present Act.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries mentioned, among other things, a significant innovation that was made in Committee, which is the clause on deer farming. Hon. Members may be aware that the Government's attitude has been that the Bill was not the place to legislate on deer farming. Ministers made it clear that they would wish to hear the advice of the Farm Animal Welfare Council before embarking on that subject. In any case, legislation would need to be framed on a Great Britain basis. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough raised that matter. That is still the Government's position. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State made that clear in Committee when he said that the Government did not consider that the last word had been said on the subject and that in due course they might need to return to it.

The Bill, in the form in which it finally emerged from another place, has substantially altered the position of deer farmers in Scotland in taking away from them, perhaps by accident, the right that they presently claim to slaughter their animals for the market at a time of their own choosing. That meant that the farmers would be bound by the long close season for stags, which was never designed to apply to farm stock. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries gave the House a full explanation of the Committee's thinking on that matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough mentioned poaching, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries. The Bill brings penalties for that offence up to much more realistic levels. It also improves on the 1959 Act by outlawing a number of cruel practices which the Act did not envisage or deal with as specifically as we liked.

I pay tribute to the assistance that was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough, although the Committee and he did not see eye to eye on all points It is fair to say that some of them might not have gone down well in Scotland, but my hon. Friend has great experience in those matters. The Committee was grateful for the attention that he gave to the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries drew attention to control of the venison trade, not the least important weapon against the poachers in stopping his outlet. Hitherto, life had been too easy for him. Dealers must keep records, which are not normally open to the police. The Bill rectifies that. We expect to see a revised form of record that will assist the police in detection.

The Bill also provides that a dealer convicted of an offence may be disqualified. Perhaps most important of all, the Bill creates an offence of dealing in poached venison. It may seem incredible that such a reset is not at present an offence either in common law or by statute. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries said, "Poachers beware."

My hon. Friend is being most helpful. I know that there would have to be consultation with a large number of people in Scotland, but can he give any idea when his right hon. Friend might lay the affirmative order about firearms? I envisage that it will probably be within 12 months. It was a major concern in another place and here that the order should be examined carefully and laid as soon as was appropriate.

I know that my right hon. Friend wishes to do this as soon as possible, and certainly within the time scale suggested by my hon. Friend. If I can give a more accurate time scale, I shall be happy to write to my hon. Friend.

The adequacy of police powers under section 27 of the Act was raised. In Committee, the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay), promised that this would be looked at again. He also told the Committee that the police had extensive common law powers on which to rely, and it is against that background that one must consider any proposal to extend their statutory powers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough asked specifically about three types of search—of premises, persons and dogs. As to premises and persons, there are some provisions in section 27(2) and (3)ofthe Act. In addition, a constable has a general power to enter premises even without a warrant if he has reasonable grounds to suspect that a serious offence has been committed. When there is reason to believe that a person has committed a serious offence, the constable may make an arrest and may then search the person for artic les that might be connected with offence.

As for dogs, it is unlikely that there would be no suspicious circumstance at all other than a lurcher with blood on its chops. Nevertheless, if that were the case, and grounds for suspicion were strong, it seems that the police could make an arrest and, having done that, could impound the dog for examination by a veterinary surgeon.

Before leaving that subject, I should make two general points to my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough. First, the police were consulted about the Bill and made a number of helpful observations, but at no stage did they urge that their powers of search and so on were deficient. Secondly, I would counsel my hon. Friend to be a little wary of proposals to extend police powers. After all, there is another side to the question, as was mentioned in Committee by the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. O'Neill). I refer to the implications for the rights of the individual, innocent citizen. Therefore, I should need stronger arguments than I have heard today before going any further into such a sensitive area.

Deer farming was discussed at some length in Committee and today. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough referred to the Farm Animal Welfare Council which, as he rightly said, is now acutely aware of the issues. I believe that it intends to give its attention to the questions posed by deer farming, and I have no doubt that when it reports the Government will have to consider the implications very carefully.

The provisions of the Bill on the whole will tend to curb abuse, but if experience shows that problems remain there will assuredly be further opportunity to review the matter. In view of his deep interest in this, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough will find these few brief remarks reassuring.

It remains only for me to say once again, as one who was not a member of the Committee, how much the House appreciates the sponsorship of the Bill by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries and the support that we have had today from my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.