HC Deb 07 December 1830 vol 1 cc810-4

On the second reading of the Game Bill being moved,

Mr. Fyler

complained of the cumbrous form in which this Bill was submitted to the House. In his opinion, it would be quite sufficient to make every man a trespasser who came on another man's land with a gun in his hand. With respect to qualifications, he thought the whole system was bad: a man with 100,000l. in the funds could not shoot, while a captain, because the King had signed his commission, had a right to shoot. He maintained that the whole system was founded in error, and led to crime. Let him not be told that, without the Game-laws, country gentlemen would not live in the country: they had now something better to do there than to look after the preservation of pheasants. He was glad that we had got a Government which would revise these and other objectionable laws; and he hoped the Government would take up the subject. If it did not, and if this Bill were got rid of, he would, after the recess bring in a measure to do away with the objectionable points, and render the offence a simple trespass.

Colonel Wood

thought, that the hon. Gentleman had contented himself with merely counting the clauses, without reading them; for, if he had done so, he would have found that almost all the provisions he spoke of were introduced. He meant to support the second reading of the Bill. At the same time, he thought that the details were too much loaded. The two great points that were required were the legalizing the sale of game, so that the public should be supplied; and the equalizing the law for the poor and the rich. At present there was one law for an opulent man, and another for those who were not wealthy. He wished also that every owner of land should have the power to give permission to sport over it to whomever he pleased.

Mr. Curteis

supported the second reading of the Bill, on the understanding that more alterations would take place in the committee. The fundamental principle that he would lay down was, that it was the first right of every individual to do what he would with the game on his own property, whether that property consisted of one acre or a thousand. He wished the sale of game to be permitted, and he would abolish all manorial rights.

Lord J. Russell

thought, that the present Bill was a great improvement on any previous one, though he did not think that it reached that point of simplicity and justice which was necessary. For himself, he had always thought that the system of the Game-laws had been most pernicious to the interests of the country. With respect to qualifications, he thought that this Bill did not go far enough; besides, there was every reason to expect that the law would be evaded on this head; and the point they ought to look to was, to make a law that should so agree with the pervading spirit of the times as not to make people desirous of evading it. He hoped the Bill might be so amended in the committee as to make it a great improvement of the present law, and enable the Parliament to say that it had done something to clear out this blot on the country, and something to reconcile the people of England to the landed aristocracy of the country.

Mr. Warburton

congratulated the House and the country that the time had at length arrived when they had a prospect of getting rid of the Game-laws—laws the most disgraceful and odious that ever existed. He certainly did not think the Bill perfect in its present shape, but he hoped that it might be so modified in the committee as to be made acceptable to the country. He thought the Government could on no account neglect to take the measure into its own hands, or at least give it such support as to ensure its success. The Game-laws filled our gaols with men guilty of no crime worthy of such a punishment; and though he did not wholly approve of the present Bill, he would cheerfully assent to it, on the principle of entering the small end of the wedge, and hereafter driving it home. He knew of no such laws as our Game-laws in any other country, unless, indeed, it was in some of the Islands of the Pacific Ocean. He had read in Mariner's account of the Tonga Islands, that there the rats were preserved as game; and though everybody might eat rats, nobody was allowed to kill them, but somebody descended from their gods or their kings. That was the only country and the only case he knew of, which furnished anything like a parallel to our Game-laws. He was satisfied that the time was at length come when these laws would be abolished; and he hoped the House would now read the Bill a second time, resolved to amend it in the committee.

Lord Althorp

agreed in all the observations which had been made by his noble friend, and in those made by the noble Lord who had introduced the Bill; and he could assure the noble Lord, that the Government would be very happy to cooperate with him in making any improvements which might be requisite in the committee, and it would give the Bill every attention. He was happy that the Bill had been brought in; and he could assure the House, that the Government would readily support any measures that could improve the present system. Certainly, that system which filled our gaols with hardy men, with the roost active and intelligent of our population, and educated them in vice, associated them with criminals, and then turned them loose on the country, prepared for all kinds of crimes—certainly, such a system could not be too soon altered. He should support the Bill, though he hoped it might be so altered in the committee as to make the measure satisfactory to the House and the country.

Mr. C. Tennant

would be happy to support a measure for abolishing the Game-laws; but he could not support this measure, because it did not go far enough. He wished, indeed, that there should be no amendment of these laws, in order that their enormities might the sooner bring about their total abolition. The Bill did not go far enough, and Members would be disposed to go further if they only remembered that those laws were the remains of a barbarous age, and of an odious and barbarous system of tyranny. It would only be necessary to keep the laws unaltered a little longer to get rid of them altogether. The hon. Member had spoken of this Bill as a boon; he did not so consider it, for he thought the law of trespass was all that was required to protect game. He had not read the Bill, but he knew what it was, and he should oppose the Bill at every stage. He was not known to the House, but he would divide it on this question, in order that the country might see how many Members would commit themselves to the principle of the Bill, and how many would support the total abolition. The hon. Member concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Mr. Warburton

explained, that he was no more friendly, to those laws than the hon. Member, and he did not think that he gave his approbation to them by supporting a Bill to amend them.

Mr. William Duncombe

expressed his astonishment at the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down. He was astonished that the hon. Gentleman should have taken such an extraordinary method of making himself known to the House, as to oppose a Bill which he acknowledged he had not read. The principle of the Bill was, to render game saleable, which it had never yet been in this country, and that would be a great boon. Everybody agreed that the time was come when an alteration should be made in the Game-Jaws, and nobody supposed that that re- form ought to be delayed. If the hon. Member's Amendment were carried, it would at least delay the reform till another year. He would cordially support the Bill.

Mr. John Wood

thought the hon. Member who opposed the Bill, and who, he knew, had paid much attention to this subject out of doors, had mistaken its operation, and the effect of rejecting it. The hon. Member was probably not aware that, by rejecting the Bill at that stage, he implied that he was hostile to its principle, or hostile to the improvement of the Game-laws. He recommended that the Bill should be made as perfect as possible in the committee. In his own opinion, the owner of land should be the owner of the game on it; and a man with a single rood of ground should be as well entitled to kill game on it as the owner of many acres. As to tenants, their right to kill game should be settled, like their other rights, by contract. On these principles —principles which he considered just—he would amend the Bill; and if it were not passed this year, many months would not elapse before it would be found as expedient to pass a bill so amended, as the Bill itself would be just in principle.

Sir Robert Bateson

hoped that the Bill might be extended to Ireland, as it would confer great benefits on that country.

The Marquis of Chandos

said, that the hon. member for Coventry had not treated him fairly, in describing his Bill as a provocative to crime: he meant it to prevent crime. His own preserves, which had been alluded to, were not kept, as had been insinuated, by an army, but by the good will of the farmers; and he relied on that much more than an armed keeper for the security of his game. As to what had been said by the hon. Member who had not read the Bill, he could assure him that he was not to be deterred by any sneers from proceeding with the Bill, or from proceeding with any measure which would give relief to the labourers, to whom he was as friendly as the hon. Member, or any other hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Fyler

explained, that he said the Game-laws, and not the noble Lord's Bill, were a provocative to crime.

Mr. C. Tennant

withdrew his Amendment. Bill read a second time.