[Sir ROBERT HAMILTON in the Chair.]
"This Act shall not apply to the hunting or coursing of any animal which has been kept in confinement if it be proved that such animal has been released from such confinement at least eight days before the day on which such hunting or coursing takes place unless the said animal has been released in a maimed, injured, or mutilated condition or in an inclosed place from which it has no reasonable chance of escape."
The following Amendment stood on the Order Paper in the name of Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS:
At the end of the Clause, to add the words "and this Act shall not apply to the bona fide pursuit of any animal which has escaped from confinement for the purpose of recapturing it, or to the destruction of rats and mice under the provisions of the Rats and Mice (Destruction) Act, 1919."
The CHAIRMAN: When we adjourned on the last occasion we were in the middle, of a discussion as to whether Clause 3 should stand part of the Bill. The new Amendment which has since been put on the Paper, in the name of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams), is out of order.
Question again proposed, "That Clause 3 stand part of the Bill."
Sir GERALD STRICKLAND: When the deliberations of this Committee were suddenly suspended at our last meeting, I was speaking against the Motion that this Clause stand part of the Bill I propose now to proceed with the remarks which I was then making to this Committee. Apart from the general question that this Clause, like every part of the Bill, tends to throw a great many working men out of work, and thereby it will 482 inflict greater cruelty upon them than any cruelty inflicted upon any stag, and apart from the fact that the drafting of this Bill is absolutely famous for its shortcomings, I wish to come to a practical point as to the wording of this Clause. As the Clause now stands it would not be permissible to hunt a deer which would be practically almost wild, if not quite wild, which is let out through a park gate from an enclosed deer park eight days before it is hunted. I wish to point out the obvious incongruity of such draftsmanship. There is very little difference between a deer let out of a large park and a fox let out of a large park. Those that are experts know that the deer is there in a particular spot more or less, and those that are experts know that the fox is there in a particular spot, more or less. These are matters of degree and, if we are to proceed with this specimen of legislation, the country should know at once the immediate consequence is the abolition of fox hunting, for there is nothing to prevent a movement for the abolition of fox hunting, when we have dealt with the deer, for this marvellous society, having dealt with the deer, must then go on with the fox. Otherwise they will not be able to justify the collection of large subscriptions throughout the country, and the spending of those subscriptions on the payment of the staff which they employ. It is dangerous to establish a privileged class among animals. Why should a deer be treated differently from a fox or a rat? I admit that the red deer, the stag, is a noble animal. It is enough to look at him to see that, but when a fallow deer, usually not a very desirable specimen of his class, sneaks out through a gap in a park, and begins eating the crops of the farmers, it is justifiable to treat that animal as vermin and to hunt it. Some of my friends say, "Why not go out and shoot such deer when they get wild?" That is more easily said than done, but they do as much damage in a small way as the elephants do in Uganda when they eat the crops, and they are dangerous wild animals. It is unsportsmanlike to shoot deer. Why should you counteract the spirit of sport in this country, which is opposed to stalking deer with buckshot or short-range rifles? Even then, when you try 483 to stalk deer in Scotland, it takes a time out of all proportion to the result achieved.
Mr. ROBERTSON: This may be a very interesting lecture on deer stalking, but we are discussing this Bill and certain restrictions. We are not discussing deer stalking in general.
Sir GERALD STRICKLAND: If the hon. Member does not want to see the reason for what I urge upon this Committee, if he prefers to adopt the tactics of my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, the promoter of the Bill, who began his defence by threatening to move the Closure, I will restrict my remarks to this point, that it is certainly bad and aggressive and impracticable drafting to say that if within eight days a deer has escaped out of a park—
Mr. WILLIAMS: Not escaped but been released.
Sir G. STRICKLAND: The difference between escaped and released is a matter which I think no mentality can define. If a keeper or a child leaves the gate open, or a young person driving a motor through a park does not shut a gate, who is to say whether a deer has escaped "accidentally on purpose," as the phrase goes, or has been let out? These things are impossible of achievement. If you try to make people, not merely virtuous, but hypervirtuous, and Pharisaical by Act of Parliament you will be attacking the whole spirit of sport in this country, and attacking the sporting mentality of the British nation, with no justification whatever. I will reserve my general remarks in order to come within the very strict interpretation of rules of Order which are not applicable in Committees, to the extent which my hon. Friend opposite suggests, and exercise my right of criticism upon the Report stage. Meanwhile, I hope that the promoters of this Bill will have some better argument than threats to ask for the Closure when there is no hope of getting it, and will give some explanation of why they are going to punish with imprisonment, and fine any gatekeeper who happens to leave a gate open and allows to escape a deer which is afterwards hunted.484
Mr. EVERARD: Do I understand that the Amendment which was to be moved by the promoter of this Bill is out of order?
The CHAIRMAN: It is out of order at this stage because we have already got to the point of discussing the question that Clause 3 stand part of the Bill.
Mr. WILLIAMS: I hope to overcome the difficulty by moving the Amendment as a new Clause, which, I understand, would be in order.
Mr. EVERARD: We, who have endeavoured to put forward certain ideas which show that this Bill is in no way perfect, have at least persuaded the promoters of the Bill that there are a great many gaps in it. This Amendment which has been put down, and which my hon. Friend thinks can be moved as a new Clause, to my mind goes a very long way towards meeting the point which we brought up at the last meeting of the Committee. I think that the Under-secretary for the Home Department mentioned particularly those two points which, so far as the Government were concerned, would not be met by this Bill. But I would like to make one or two remarks about Clause 3 as it now stands. Under this Clause, if I read it aright, the Act shall not apply to hunting or coursing, if it be proved that such animal has been released from such confinement at least eight days before the hunting or the coursing. This Bill would apply to all people taking part in this particular sport. Is everyone to inquire when he goes out stag-hunting whether this particular stag has been let out of confinement eight days before, and if he is not certain on that point, does he make himself liable to very serious penalties under the Act? I think that that is a very serious point. There is nothing at all clear in this Clause to show that, even if an animal were let out eight days before, it might not be taken up each night and let out again the following morning. It does not say that the animal must have been eight days continuously at liberty. This is but another example of the very slipshod way in which this Bill has been brought forward. I think, in this particular case, that it is very difficult to prove whether there are cases of cruelty when you are dealing 485 with animals or whether there are not, particularly in small isolated cases, such as we have dealt with in reference to birds in cages, when you come to dealing with these points which affect only one or two places throughout the country. On the question of whether it is cruel, I do not know whether it is or not. The weather has not been suitable for this Committee to go round making investigations since the last meeting. It is a well-known fact that this goes on. The society's inspectors have not examined the point of making quite certain whether cruelty takes place or not. If that were done it would help in discussing this Bill, which, to my mind, although the object of it is excellent, yet in its wording I must honestly say, as the Bill at present stands, in spite of the fact that my hon. Friend is about to endeavour to move this Clause to try to patch up the Measure a little bit, is very defective, and I think that he will find when he starts patching it up and dealing with this case of the eight days, that it would be much better to leave the whole Bill alone and bring forward some Bill that has been properly drafted and which we can all support, knowing that it will achieve the object which is desired.
Dr. SHIELS: In regard to what the last speaker has said, we are very glad to have his calm, reasoned criticism. I should like, as one who is very much interested in the Bill, to try to answer one or two of his points. He asked, "Who is to inquire whether the stag has or has not been released eight days previously from confinement?" I would suggest that surely the members of all hunts which have a definite status would be quite safe in believing that these hunts, composed as they are of individuals who have a well-known respect for law and order, would not willingly transgress any law which deals with this subject, and I do not think that there is really any danger to any individual of being involved in law proceedings as a result of acting as a member of a properly-constituted hunt.
Mr. EVERARD: Has the hon. Member considered the question of a fox being let out? Anybody hunting in that particular pack will not know whether somebody has let out that fox eight days before or not, and will be liable.486
Dr. SHIELS: That is another point which I do not think would conflict at all with the reading of this Act. I do not think that would arise at all. The Under-secretary for the Home Department suggests that the word "knowingly" might meet that point. That is in keeping with the rules of the National Coursing Club, which are rather interesting in that connection. The National Coursing Club, which is a very well known body composed of prominent sportsmen, has a by-law which says that any person knowingly running a greyhound at a meeting at which the hares have not been at liberty for thirty days previously shall be disqualified from running any greyhound at any meeting during the pleasure of the standing committee, and any greyhound the property of such person, shall in like manner be disqualified. That shows that the Clause of this Bill is quite in line with the rules of this distinguished society, and eight days is a very great reduction as compared with the period of 30 days insisted on by the National Coursing Club. I quite agree with the hon. Member that perhaps it is too small, but this Bill is an attempt to meet public opinion so far as it has developed. We have already seen a certain amount of opposition, and I do not think that it is a sound criticism of the Bill to condemn it because it does not go further, because it is mainly the application of the principle with which we are concerned. For these reasons I think that the hon. Member has not made a strong case against the Clause standing part, and I hope that the Committee will pass it.
Mr. H. WILLIAMS: I think that the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has dealt adequately with all the points which have been put forward, except possibly one. The hon. Member for the Melton Division (Mr. Everard) suggested that possibly an ordinary individual who took part in a hunt might find himself unwittingly involved in trouble. If he will look at Clause 2, he will see that it provides that: "Any person who promotes, arranges, conducts, assists, or takes part in the limiting or coursing of any animal which is or has to his knowledge." So that it is obvious that those who take part in the rank and file of the hunt will not be knowingly guilty, and, if they are not knowingly guilty, they are not 487 guilty at all. Therefore, the only people whom this Bill affects are those who knowingly organise a hunt, which will conflict with this Bill if this Bill becomes law.
Question, "That Clause 3 stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
Clause 4 (Short title).
Mr. WILLIAMS: I beg to move at the end of the Clause to insert "(2) This Act shall extend to England and Wales only. (3) The enactments set out in the Schedule to this Act are hereby repealed to the extent mentioned in the third column of that Schedule." I move this Amendment with great regret, but I have no option, because, unfortunately, the Preamble to the Bill refers to the Protection of Animals Act, 1911, and this Bill is to amend that Act. The Act which applies to Scotland was passed in 1912, and as we cannot make the Act of 1911 apply to Scotland and the title of the Bill refers to that Act, this Bill when it becomes an Act, can not apply to Scotland. It is desirable, therefore, to insert words to make clear that it applies only to England and Wales.
Sir G. STRICKLAND: On this point it would be suitable to point out that if there is, which I maintain there is not, a strong public opinion in favour of this Bill, for very good reasons, and not as a result of careful, prolonged and expensive propaganda, the same public opinion should be found in Scotland and Ireland. I maintain that this Bill is not backed by public opinion, and that public opinion in this country is entirely in favour of individual liberty and is not in favour of interference with sport, recreation, or amusement, unless the rights of the community are aggressively endangered by some notorious breach of the law. If this kind of legislation were to pass we should have to close public houses, and all sorts of things, to try to make people virtuous by Act of Parliament. There is no public opinion behind this Bill except that which is the result of propaganda.
Lord HUNTINGFIELD: I feel that Scotland must be very sad about the position in which we find ourselves. If it is a good Bill, as the promoters no doubt suggest it is, then some means ought to be found to apply it to Scotland 488 as well. I have no authority to speak for the Scottish Members behind me, but I assume that they must be very sorry that this Bill cannot apply to this country. As the last speaker said, if this Bill has public opinion behind it, as he seems to suggest it has not, and I am not at all sure that it has, I feel that, something ought to be done to include North Britain in this Bill. I do not see why we should be the only people not to have this rare and refreshing fruit given to us.
Mr. ROBERTSON: I cannot speak for the Scottish Members, but evidently the usual process is being reserved in this case. It is usual to try a thing on Scotland and then apply it to England. In this case they are trying the thing on England, and I suppose, will then apply it to Scotland. I do not know what the procedure may be, but I do not think that we in Scotland will rest content until we have for Scotland the same kind of a Bill as for England, provided, of course, that we do not become a spineless people under the operation of the present administration.
Captain MOREING: Are we considering the second part of the Amendment to Clause 4, as well as the first part?
The CHAIRMAN: We are considering the whole of the Amendment.
Captain MOREING: Why is the promoter of the Bill proposing to insert the words in the second part of the Amendment? Is that due to bad draftsmanship in the original Bill?
Mr. WILLIAMS: It is a sheer omission, bad draftsmanship, if you like to call it so, which was due to inexperience.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 4, as amended, added to the Bill.
"This Act shall not apply to the bona fide pursuit of any animal which has escaped from confinement for the purpose of recapturing it or to the destruction of rats and mice under the provisions of the Rats and Mice (Destruction) Act, 1919."—[Mr. H. Williams.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Mr. WILLIAMS: I beg to move "That the Clause be read a Second time.' I am now moving as a new Clause the 489 words which stand on the Paper in the form of an Amendment to Clause 3, with the exception of the word "and." Certain arguments were advanced at the last meeting of the Committee which showed that people might involve themselves quite innocently in prosecutions, and this new Clause is brought forward in order to deal with the arguments which were then presented. For instance, we had the case of the man who might be punished and sent to prison for three months because he endeavoured to recapture a lion which had escaped from the Zoo, and we also had the case of the man who got into trouble because he trapped some rats and released them afterwards in order that a terrier might destroy them. I trust this new Clause will meet the great bulk of the objections which were advanced against Clause 2 at our last meeting.
Captain MOREING: I can see what the intention of the hon. Member is, but I have some doubt as to whether the wording of the new Clause as proposed expresses that purpose. The new Clause refers to the pursuit of: "any animal which has escaped from confinement for the purpose of recapturing it." If the animal has not escaped for the purpose of recapture, then the other provisions of the Bill become operative. At any rate, I am not at all sure that the present wording of the new Clause does not mean that the Act is to apply unless the animal has "escaped for the purpose of recapture."
Mr. WILLIAMS: This point illustrates the difficulty which those of us who are experienced in writing language in which we use commas, find when we are faced with the problem of writing the language of Acts of Parliament where commas are prohibited. I think myself the wording would be improved if we put it in this way: "The bona fide pursuit for the purpose of recapturing it of any animal which has escaped from confinement." If the Chairman will permit me I would suggest that the wording of the proposed new Clause should be altered in that way. It only means an alteration in the order of the words.
Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.490
"This Act shall not apply to the bona fide pursuit for the purpose of recapturing it of any animal which has escaped from confinement or to the destruction of rats and mice under the provisions of the Rats and Mice (Destruction) Act, 1919."—[Mr. H. Williams.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Mr. WILLIAMS: I beg to move "That the Clause be read a Second time." With the leave of the Committee, I move the new Clause in this altered form, because I think it will make it more grammatical English.
Sir G. STRICKLAND: As a matter of drafting, I should like the hon. Member to inform the Committee if the word "pursuit" means destruction. Pursuit for the purpose of destruction is a different matter, and are we to understand that it is not to be allowed whether the animal is a tiger or an elephant or no matter what it is?
Mr. EVERARD: This is, to my mind, another instance which illustrates the ridiculous way in which this Bill is being drafted. I think I have used those words before and, as far as I can see, they apply now with as much force as they did when we started on the consideration of this Bill. The position is now that, having brought in this Bill to prevent the hunting of stags, we now provide that, if a carted stag escapes from the conveyance in which it is being removed, it can be hunted in order to get it back again into the conveyance which is bringing it along. Therefore it seems to me quite obvious that anybody who wants to hunt a carted stag need only take that stag along and arrange that somebody should inadvertently leave the door of the conveyance open so that the stag may get out, and then everybody can hunt it without coming under the provisions of this Measure. Having pointed out that circumstance, I do not detain the Committee further, because the Bill is so ridiculous that I really think the Home Office ought to bring some pressure to bear on hon. Members who are supporting the Bill and try to induce them not to allow it to go down to the House in a condition like this. I do not like the idea that the Committee to which I have the honour to belong should be laughed at for having allowed the Bill to go through in this form.491
Mr. ROBERTSON: I am not an authority on language. I only know Scottish language and bad language, but I think there is a difference between the word "hunt" and the word "pursuit," and I would also call the attention of hon. Members of the Committee to the fact that the proposed new Clause includes the term "bona fide." Hon. Members who are opposing the new Clause and finding fault with it should look into the difference between "hunt" and "pursuit." I may be wrong, but certainly if I were asked to decide the point I would say there was a difference.
Captain ARTHUR EVANS: As a supporter of the Bill I hope the promoters will not press this proposed new Clause at this stage, because I think there is some force in the arguments which have been advanced in opposition to it. Personally, I feel that by this new Clause you will do away with all the good effects of the previous Clauses of the Bill. This is a point which requires very careful consideration, and I think the promoters of the Bill would be better advised to consider this matter carefully, and to put down a reasoned Amendment embodying the intention of the new Clause, to be moved on the Report stage.
Mr. H. WILLIAMS: May I point out to the Committee that there is after all a great difference between "release" and "escape." I do not know whether any hon. Members have ever been in gaol, but if they had been, they would fully appreciate the difference which exists between being released from gaol andSCHEDULE.
|Session and Chapter.||Short Title.||Extent of Repeal.|
|1 & 2 Geo. 5. c. 27.||Protection of Animals Act. 1911 … … …||Paragraph (b) of Sub-section (3) of Section one.|
|11 & 12 Geo. 5. c. 14.||Protection of Animals Act (1911) Amendment Act, 1921.||The whole Act.|
Ordered that the Schedule be the Schedule to the Bill.
Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill, with Amendments, be reported to the House."
Sir G. STRICKLAND: On this Motion I beg leave to assure the Committee that I have always consistently opposed and492
escaping from gaol, and no one would have any doubt as to the difference who contrasted the action of the police in the case of a man who had been released from gaol, with the action of the police in the case of a man who had escaped from gaol. I think the meaning is perfectly clear and can be understood by everybody. If people try to arrange a release, it is perfectly obvious that their guilt would be clearly established by the evidence, and they would suffer the penalties provided for in the Bill.
Mr. GREENALL: I do not think hon. Members on the opposite side of the Committee need have any qualms with regard to this matter. If they choose, I think hon. Members on this side are prepared to leave out this proposed new Clause. If it is the opinion of hon. Members that the Bill will be strengthened by the omission of this Clause, I think I can say for hon. Members supporting the Bill that we will agree to dropping this Clause and allowing the Bill to stand in its present form.
Sir G. STRICKLAND: I hope the Committee will not allow my hon. Friend who is in charge of the Bill to escape from answering the question put to him as to whether his proposal would not punish those who pursue the animal, but would punish those who in the pursuit might kill the animal. We should have an answer to this very important question.
Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
New Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
have been brought up to oppose the hunting of the carted stag, and I am by no means a fanatical fox hunter or anything of that sort. I am very much in the position of my hon. Friend opposite who yesterday proposed an Amendment but afterwards found out that he was in the wrong. When I came to live in Westmorland where the hunting of the stag is a 493 necessary adjunct to agriculture I realised that it was a sport which was legitimate both in Northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and that to interfere with it in regard to details, was pushing the attempt to educate public opinion too far. But when it is sought to do this by means of drastic penalties, so harsh that they would be a disgrace to the Inquisition in Spain or to the tortures applied in Tudor days in England, I think it is positively against our civilisation. It would be absolutely iniquitous that the servant who kept a gate open or the servant who harnessed the horses in a deer cart or the gamekeeper who in any other way assisted at such a hunt, should be made liable to imprisonment and to be thrown out of work and to have his wife and children suffer simply because he has obeyed the orders of other people. I appeal to the leaders of hon. Members opposite and to those who represent working-class constituencies to think of the rights of man as contrasted with the exaggerated rights of the animal which have been brought before the public by an expensive and systematic propaganda for years and years. Finally let us remember that if we take this step in the restriction of personal liberty, the next step would be to stop all fox hunting and the stopping of all fox hunting is behind all that has been said for this Bill in every argument and in every aspect. That is the hidden objective of many of the promoters of the Bill.
Captain A. EVANS: On a point of Order. Is the hon. Gentleman in order 494 in discussing the whole principle and objects of the Bill on the Motion which is before the Committee?
The CHAIRMAN: I think I should ask the hon. Gentleman to confine his remarks as far as possible to Amendments made in the Bill by the Committee.
Sir G. STRICKLAND: I will confine my remarks as the Chairman desires to the Amendmente. The Amendments have not altered the character of the Bill as they purported to do, and the Bill, as it stands, with the Amendments will have the effect of putting an end to fox hunting where it is a legitimate sport. You cannot organise a hunt to put an end to stags which are destroying crops, unless when you organise a meet, and you cannot find a stag, you are allowed to release a fox occasionally. This is a Bill which involves more cruelty to men and their wives and children than the occasional cruelty to the stag of which we have heard. We have been told of stags being impaled, but how many horses are impaled on fences in other forms of hunting, and it would be more logical to do away with all hunting where horses meet with more harsh treatment than any stag meets with, than to adopt this Measure. I therefore hope that in the interests of British liberty and in defence of personal liberty against grandmotherly legislation and against propaganda of this kind, that the Bill will not be proceeded with any further.
Bill, with Amendments, ordered to be reported to the House.
The Committee rose at Ten Minutes before Twelve o'Clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:—
Hamilton, Sir Robert (Chairman).
Bird, Sir Robert
Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George
Evans, Captain Arthur
Locker-Lampson, Mr. Godfrey
Robertson, Mr. John
Strickland, Sir Gerald
Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan
Williams, Mr. Herbert
Williams, Mr. Thomas