HC Deb 25 June 1860 vol 159 cc947-54

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Mr. MASSEY in the Chair.

MR. LAING moved the following Resolutions:—

(In the Committee.)

"1. That, in lieu of the Duties now payable on Game Certificates in Great Britain and Ireland respectively, there shall be charged the following Duties of Excise:—

For a Licence in Great Britain, or a Certificate in Ireland, to be taken out by every person who shall use any dog, gun, net, or other engine for the purpose of taking or killing any game whatever, or any woodcock, snipe, quail, or landrail, or any conies, or any deer, or shall take or kill by any means whatever, or shall assist in any manner in the taking, by any means whatever, of any game, or any woodcock, snipe, quail, or landrail, or any coney, or any deer:—

£. s. d.
If such Licence or Certificate shall be taken out after the 5th day of April and before the 1st day of November,
To expire on the 5th day of April in the following year 3 0 0
To expire on the 31st day of October in the same year in which the Licence or Certificate shall be taken out 2 0 0
If such Licence or Certificate shall be taken out on or after the 1st day of November,
To expire on the 5th day of April following 2 0 0
"2. That any person having the right to kill game on any lands in England or Scotland shall be entitled to take out a Licence to authorise any servant, for whom he shall be chargeable to the Duty of Assessed Taxes, as a Gamekeeper, to kill game upon the same lands, upon payment of the Duty of 2 0 0
"3. That it is expedient to amend the Laws relating to Game Certificates and Licences to deal in Game."


said, he should propose that the word "coney" be omitted from the Resolution, as he was of opinion that, according to the present wording of the clause, a certificate would have to be taken out to kill rabbits. Rabbits were most destructive vermin on a farm—more so than bats or rooks—and, therefore it was desirable that farmers should be allowed to kill them on their own land without a licence.


said, the only object proposed was to alter the amount of money to be paid for a licence, but not in any other way to affect the existing law. The words of the Resolution were a literal transcript of the words of the Act. None of the exceptions provided under the present Act would be interfered with.


said, that if the words were left in it would be imperative on every person killing rabbits to take out a game certificate. Now, it was well known to agriculturists that there was no nuisance to which the farmer was subjected equal to rabbits, and in many dis- tricts it was necessary to employ men to keep them down; but this clause would render all persons so employed liable to a tax.


said, he understood the hon. Secretary to the Treasury to say that the only change proposed by the Government was an amended scale of duties. He supposed, therefore, that the Act of Parliament to be founded on these Resolutions would contain all the exemptions and exceptions contained in the existing statute. If that were so the Resolution appeared to him to be right enough, and it was not necessary to have these words left out, so that people might go into other people's land to shoot rabbits. The exemption would enable farmers and others to shoot rabbits on their own grounds, and there was nothing in the Act to render keepers liable. If the Secretary of the Treasury would undertake to bring the Bill in in that form, he thought it safer to let the words stand as they now did.


said, he objected to importing words of dubious meaning into the Resolution, when by a slight alteration they could make it perfectly plain to the commonest understanding. He was also sorry to find that the Resolution was to be carried without discussing its principle, because he confessed that he saw no reason for altering the scale of certificates at all. He did not suppose it would bring in a larger revenue, and therefore he wanted to know what was the object of this Resolution. It was not very clearly drawn, because the hon. Gentleman opposite had found it necessary to explain that the words in the Resolution did not mean what they appeared to mean. The present style of legislation was not very easy to understand, and he trusted that the hon. Gentleman or some supporter of the Government would explain why this alteration was proposed, and why, if it were actually necessary, it could not be put in a plainer and more intelligible shape.


explained that an Act of Parliament to carry out these Resolutions would be necessary, so that the effect of passing the Resolution would not be to give validity to the alterations in the scale of licences. When the Bill was before the House it would be for hon. Gentlemen, who considered the existing exemptions did not go far enough, to move such Amendments as they might think proper. With regard to the objects of the measure, the Government had been advised by the offi- cers of Inland Revenue that by making the proposed reduction in the charge facilities would be afforded to many persons to take out game licences, which they would be likely to avail themselves of, and that consequently a considerable increase in the revenue derived from game certificates might be expected, while the constant evasions of the duty which now took place, owing to the high rate imposed, would be to a great extent avoided.


said, he had known persons fond of sporting who ran serious risks rather than pay £4. Many such would doubtless take out certificates under the new system. In his opinion the reduction might be carried further with advantage.


said, he understood it was intended that it would still be competent for persons to shoot rabbits on their own farms, and therefore he would advise the withdrawal of the Amendment. It was said there was to be no alteration in the existing law, but there appeared to be some, because for the killing deer a licence was to be required for the first time.


remarked that under the existing law no game certificate was necessary for destroying rabbits by the owner or occupier, or by his servants; but it was necessary to guard against persons going upon enclosed land, and, under the pretence of shooting rabbits, beating up for game, for which purpose persons so trespassing were liable to be proceeded against under the game laws. The owner of any enclosed land could give leave to as many persons as he pleased to kill rabbits, and no game certificates would be requisite, and he did not see, therefore, that it would make any difference if the word "coney" were struck out.


said, he held that it was essential owners and occupiers should have the right to kill rabbits either by themselves or their servants, on their own lands, but he was satisfied with the assurance that the exemptions in the existing law would be continued.


observed that he did not understand that any alteration in the existing Game Laws was proposed. The only question was, whether it was politic or not to reduce the rate of game licences. He thought it was; for there were many persons, as commercial men, clerks, and others, of unquestionable respectability, who were able, perhaps, to take only a short holiday in the year, and who would gladly take out licences to kill game during that holiday, if they could do so at a moderate cost. He looked upon the proposal as a great boon to those classes, and should support it. If the word "coney" were omitted, it would, he feared, invite people of improper character from neighbouring towns to enter and trespass upon enclosed lands, under the pretence of shooting rabbits, knowing that they could only be proceeded against for the trespass.


said, that after the declaration which had been made on both sides, that there was no intention to afford any protection to rabbits, he thought the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Caird) would do well not to press his Amendment; because it might lead to misconception out of doors as to the feeling which actuated hon. Gentlemen in voting upon the question. He apprehended that the same facilities would be given for the destruction of rabbits, so far as they were considered noxious to agriculture, as under the existing law; and he hoped the hon. Member for Stirling would rest satisfied with that assurance on the part of the Government. With respect to the financial part of the question, the only fault he had to find with the Resolutions was, that they did not go far enough. He believed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have derived a great financial advantage from reducing the certificates to one guinea, or, at all events, to two guineas. At present, a considerable number of gentlemen, who were in the habit of shooting every year, never dreamt of taking out a licence. The sum was very large, and, in the case of a gentleman with a numerous family of sons, it became a serious tax. He was satisfied, therefore, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would gain by making a uniform charge of one guinea.


said, after the explanations which had been given, he felt constrained to join in the advice to his hon. Friend to withdraw his Amendment.


said, he could not accede to the recommendation which had been made to him. As a practical agriculturist, he had seen so much damage done by rabbits, that he thought the Government would do well to offer a premium for their destruction.


said, he considered the wisest course to be to leave the law in the exact state in which it was. No change whatever was proposed. The only effect, so far as he could see, of carrying the Amendment, would be to make it necessary for parties to take out separate 4l. certificates to kill rabbits. It was true that rabbits were destructive; but he thought that proper persons only should be permitted to destroy them.


said, that under the third Resolution the laws relating to Game certificates might be so altered as to obviate the result stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Nor could he agree in the opinion that no change was proposed, because it was "a Bill to Amend the Law," and the word "deer" was introduced.

Amendment negatived.


said, he wished to call attention to the fact, that the names of all persons who took out certificates at present were advertised at a very heavy expense in the newspapers, and to ask whether they would continue to be so advertised when certificates were taken out two or three times in the season, and when it was expected that a much larger number of persons would take them out than at present.


said, he had mentioned, at an early period of the Session, that a remission to the amount of nearly £50,000 would take place in the price of the certificates; but by the increase in their number, it was expected that there would be a gain to the revenue of perhaps £10,000 a year. He was not able to give any answer as to the publication of the names of the holders; but he quite agreed with the hon. Baronet that it was a matter which required consideration: especially as the certificate might be for part of a season; and thus the question might arise whether the process of advertising should be repeated. There was always more or less of petty jobbing connected with the whole system of Government advertisements, and it was not easy to discover how this could best be remedied. It was obviously desirable that advertisements should not be inserted on behalf of the Government, for which there was no real necessity; but he was not able to say to what extent, under the new system, the Treasury would be able to dispense with the assistance which those publications were supposed to give. It was proposed to effect an important change with regard to Game certificates, which had hitherto belonged to the class of assessed taxes, and were under the jurisdiction, not of the magistrates, but of the Commissioners of Taxes. By the Bill which he was about to introduce, they would be removed into the class of Excise duties, and from the much larger body of officers connected with that department, a more efficient and powerful supervision would be exercised; and he was informed that they would likewise be brought under the jurisdiction of the magistrates, and possibly in that way the system of advertising might be dispensed with. Another change which he had been led to propose, at the suggestion of a high authority, whose opinion was much respected in that House, was that, in the event of a person trespassing in pursuit of game, his certificate should become absolutely void. This would go far to counteract any injurious effects that might follow from reducing the price of certificates, which some persons urged would give increased encouragement to poaching of a certain description.



said, his impression was that the existing Game certificates did not expire till early in July. Care would be taken to have the new certificates ready before the expiration of those at present in force.


said, a person might trespass in pursuit of game unintentionally, and it would be too bad to deprive him of his certificate under such circumstances.


The hon. Member is not called upon to pledge himself by this Resolution.


said, the forfeiture of the licence, in addition to the penalty to which persons were liable for trespassing, would be viewed in Ireland with much disfavour.


expressed his approval of the plan of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The present mode of issuing certificates was inconvenient and clumsy.


said, he apprehended the licence would only be forfeited in cases where persons were convicted of trespassing. He wished to know whether the privilege of selling game would be extended to persons taking out licences for the limited period.


asked whether it was proposed to empower the county police in England and the constabulary in Ireland to superintend the new licences?


said, he had communicated with the Irish Government, who were opposed to the employment of the constabulary in that manner. He did not propose to make any alteration in the law with respect to the sale of game.


asked whether it would be requisite for a landowner to take out separate certificates for each of the manors of which he might happen to be possessed, or whether, as at present, a general certificate would suffice?


said, he apprehended that one certificate would be sufficient.

Resolutions agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.