HC Deb 13 April 1864 vol 174 cc954-7

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. W. Ormsby Gore.)


, in moving that the House will resolve itself into the said Committee on that day six months, alluded to the evidence taken before the Select Committee of 1846, as showing the demoralizing tendency of the Game Laws. This Bill was to repeal a section of the old Irish Game Act of Geo. III., whereby the prosecutor in the case of trespassers upon land must he the occupier, and it was now proposed to give this power to the landowner. He was surprised that the Chief Secretary for Ireland should have given his support to such a Bill; but from the right hon. Baronet he appealed to the Attorney General for Ireland, who might one day be a Judge in the country, and who, if this law passed, would have to deal with a frightful increase of crime in that capacity.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day six months, resolve itself into the said Committee," — (Mr. Bagwell,) —instead thereof.


said, that his object in bringing forward this Bill was not to make the existing law at all more stringent than it was before.


said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was under a complete misapprehension as to the effect of the Bill, which he might say he had brought forward, not for the sake of the landlords of Ireland, but for the sake of tenants. All the Bill did was to enable the landlords who had reserved the right to the game to prosecute trespassers, instead of placing the onus on the occupier as was the law at present. The Bill did not introduce any increased stringency into the Game Laws.


said, the Bill was a harmless one, of purely a defensive character. If game preservation was to be permitted in Ireland at all, why circumscribe the only means by which the destruction of game could be prevented and punished? If the occupier of land was disinclined to become a public prosecutor, he ought to be rejoiced that under this Bill the property of his landlord would be protected without risk or injury to himself.


said, that if it was a good argument in favour of the Game Laws, that game was property produced at the expense of the landlord, woodcocks, quails, and landrails were certainly not in the category. He complained that the Bill extended to those birds, and said that under its provisions a person killing wild ducks or teal on a part of the seashore claimed as private property might be imprisoned for two months. The English law did not extend to these birds, and as he believed that game was very well protected in Ireland by the existing law, he should support the Amendment.


I wish to make a few observations on this Bill. I will not go into the general question of the Game Laws, though it is one to which I have paid a good deal of attention. Every English Member will recollect with surprise, and every Irish Member with pleasure, that in Ireland there have been far fewer of contests and bloody adventures in connection with the Game Laws than in England. I suppose every Irish Member will congratulate himself and his country on that fact. Now, as far as I understand this Bill, the object of it is to give additional powers to the proprietors of land for the preservation of game. It gives them additional powers for the prosecution of poachers, and, in point of fact, removes the obstacles to their prosecution that now exist in the present state of the law, by which it is necessary that the prosecution shall be carried on by the tenant and not by the proprietor. The Bill also includes several definitions of birds as game which have not hitherto been admitted to be of the nature of game. I put it to the Irish Gentlemen—I do not know whether they are past listening to any appeal—but I remember that it is stated, in a book written under the direction of an Irish Lord Chancellor, that 200 Acts of Parliament had been made for the landowners, and not one for the tenant. I call on Irish Gentlemen to recollect, that at this moment there is not in any country of Europe so great a state of suffering as in Ireland. The people are fleeing from that country—from every port from which a ship sails to the West. And not the poorest only, but the class of persons which, in my opinion, it is for the interest of the landed proprietors especially to retain. If there be any Irish proprietors here who think it is for their interest and for the interest of their country to introduce into Ireland such an approximation to the law of England with regard to game, as shall induce a greater preservation of game, and add to the elements of discord in that country —if there be such a man in this House from my heart I pity him—I pity his heart as well as his head, and I pity the country that is represented by such men in the Imperial Parliament.


said, he was afraid that the hon. Member for Birmingham, in consequence of not having spoken in favour of Parliamentary Reform, was indemnifying himself by taking this opportunity of venting his indignation upon something connected with Ireland. This was really a most innocent Bill. There were, and always had been, different opinions as to the principle of the Game Laws; but if the objections urged with regard to the particular game which should be included in the Bill were well founded, they would form a subject for consideration in Committee. The Bill was in no way likely to increase those bloody adventures which the fervid imagination of the hon. Member had conjured up as likely to occur if the measure were adopted. It merely provided that where a tenant took land, and agreed that the exclusive right to the game should be vested in his landlord, in that case, and in none other, if some friend of hu- manity in the shape of a poacher took game on the land, the landowner might take him before the magistrate and get a penalty inflicted. The tenant was relieved from all annoyance and vexation. The landlord must make out his case as well as he could; and he would not be able to proceed at all against the person who had illegally trespassed unless, by express bargain with the tenant, the exclusive right to the game on the farm was rested in him. If he (Mr. Whiteside) thought that this Bill would create unpleasantness in Ireland he would not support it. But, under the operation of laws to which the hon. Member for Birmingham had given his cordial assent, a great part of the West of Ireland had been deserted by the people and been made fit for game; and he hoped that the hon. Member would give his aid to counteract the effect of those laws, and to remedy the evils which he was able so eloquently to point out.


said, that he had agreed to the second reading of the Bill on the understanding that he should propose Amendments in Committee, and he had now an Amendment on the paper, to reduce the penalties imposed by the Bill to the maximum penalties enforced in England. He saw no objection to the proposal to go into Committee on the Bill, if it was clearly understood that full opportunity would be given for the discussion of the Amendments which it would be necessary to propose when the Bill got into Committee.


said there was a great deal of poaching in Ireland, but the class of poachers was quite different from the English poachers. Very often the sub-Inspector of police was a poacher.


said that, under the Bill, a farmer's child who on his father's land took a landrail's nest would be liable to a penalty. The measure would create a great deal of ill-blood, and he hoped it would not be persevered with.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 158; Noes 45: Majority 113.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again on Wednesday, 27th April.