Clause 9. — (Saving for Acts Done for Scientific, &C., Purposes.)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th January 1951.

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Mr. McNeil:

I beg to move, in page 3, line 25, after "of," to insert "protecting."

This is a simple Amendment which I think is understandable at sight. It will be remembered that this Clause is inserted so that acts apparently in conflict with the Bill but clearly designed for scientific purposes, such as the improvement or development of stock for which permission had been obtained from the Secretary of State or from a district board, would not be a contravention. When we looked at the matter again, it seemed to us that the provision of the Clause should apply for the purposes of the protection as well as the development of stock and, as this might be doubtful under the Clause as drafted, it was decided to move this Amendment.

Photo of Sir Robert Perkins Sir Robert Perkins , Stroud

I do not fully understand what the Secretary of State for Scotland means by protection. Does he mean the protection of stock and, if so, against what? Is it protection against pike? In that case will it be in order for a person to apply to the Secretary of State for permission to destroy pike with a gaff, with explosives, by shooting or by snaring?

Mr. McNeil:

I suppose that, broadly speaking, the answer would be "Yes." However, I should like to say to the hon. Gentleman whose preoccupation with this subject I well understand—because pike in every walk of life are most unattractive creatures—that if I happened to be the Secretary of State to whom he applied, I should look with a little hesitation upon a proposal to license him to wander about with a gun along rivers looking for pike. I should not do that because I have any doubt about the hon. Gentleman's intentions, but I have explained that it is the practice for some attractive diversions to be employed by wrongdoers. I should not like to see this as a general occupation.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I beg to move, in page 3, line 29, at the end, to add: Provided that the Secretary of State or the district board shall not give permission in writing under this section to any person to enter on any land without the consent of the owner thereof. This Amendment would make the operation of Clause 9 more simple. Our object is to prevent any possibility of friction. If these scientific experts have the authority of the Secretary of State to enter upon land for these purposes, to which we have no objection, it would be wise for the owner to be informed and his consent obtained. Otherwise, it might be unfortunate if scientific work was misunderstood and a little friction of a different sort arose on the river bank or even in the river.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not feel disposed to press this Amendment. I should like to convince him that it is not necessary. This Clause does not give power to the Secretary of State to authorise entry on private land. The only effect of the permission given by the Secretary of State is to secure that the permitted operations do not constitute a contravention of the law.

If we did not have Clause 9, there are many actions which might reasonably and properly be taken to protect and improve stocks of fish in the rivers which would constitute offences under this Bill. We must avoid that and we do it by enabling the Secretary of State to give permission to secure that operations may be carried out which otherwise would be an offence. If he gives permission no offence will be committed; but no person given permission by the Secretary of State to do these things will have any right of entry on any private land against the wishes of the owner of the land. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Amendment is unnecessary and that no powers of entry are given under the Clause as drafted.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Lanark

I do not fully appreciate the point. The Secretary of State appoints someone to do this and the Joint Under-Secretary says that he cannot go on to a person's property against the owner's wish. What is to prevent it? Does the owner have to charge the man with trespass?

7.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

The noble Lord will appreciate that this Clause says that a person shall not be guilty of any contravention in respect of any act if he does the act for a scientific purpose and if he has the permission of the Secretary of State for so doing. It may very well be the owner of the land himself, or it may be the lessee of the land; or it may be a bailiff or a gamekeeper. It is the person who asks the Secretary of State for permission to do something which is otherwise not permitted under the terms of the Statute. He is given permission by the Secretary of State to do it, and he can then do it, always providing that he has asked the permission of the owner of the land or some other person who can give him power of entry. No authority is given in this Clause for anyone to enter upon land against the wishes of the owner of the land.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

In view of what has been said, and of the fact that the Government are quite satisfied that that is the case, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.