§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE,
in rising to move that the question of the Game Laws in Scotland be referred to a Royal Commission, said: Sir, it is well known that of late years the question of the Game Laws has excited very considerable agitation in Scotland, and there is an earnest desire for some change in the law. That being so, it is exceedingly desirable that some means should be taken to consider a state of things which had become very disagreeable to the owners of land, who had hitherto lived on terms of friendship and confidence with their tenants, but who now found that these relations had become embittered by the feeling that had arisen. Last Session two Bills on the subject of the Game Laws in Scotland were introduced; they were referred to a Select Committee, by whom they were thoroughly examined; but they came to nothing. In the present Session three Bills on the same subject had been introduced and read a first time; but before the second reading a Motion had been agreed to to refer the whole question to a Select Committee. Now, he wished to submit to the consideration of the House that no inquiry into this subject by a Select Committee of this House could have that exhaustive and satisfying quality which an investigation into the subject, conducted by a Royal Commission on the spot, would undoubtedly possess. He was perfectly certain that that method of dealing with this question would be more satisfactory to the people of Scotland. Whenever, upon previous occasions, questions relating to Scotland had been investigated by means of a Royal Commission, they had been dealt with in a far more satisfactory manner than if the inquiry had been conducted by a Select Committee. For these reasons he begged to move that the Order for the Select Committee be discharged, and that an Address be agreed to praying for the issue of a Royal Commission to inquire into the subject of the Game Laws in Scotland.
§ MR. M'LAGAN,
in seconding the Motion, said, that when the Motion for a Select Committee was made, he expressed an opinion to which he still adhered—that no inquiry on the subject was necessary; but that if any inquiry 2066 were to take place, it would be much more satisfactory if undertaken by a Royal Commission than by a Select Committee. His reasons for saying so were, in the first place, that there was not time to prosecute a satisfactory inquiry by means of a Select Committee this Session. The time of all hon. Members available for such inquiries was already fully occupied, and their duties were about to be increased by the Morning Sittings. Moreover, the constitution of the Committee was a matter of primary importance. It was customary to place on the Committee those Members who had already attempted to introduce legislation on the subject of inquiry, and these Gentlemen must necessarily be committed to their opinion on the question; and again hon. Members were selected who were known to entertain conflicting views; and the result would be that the subject was approached not with judicial impartiality, but with a considerable amount of prejudice. In a Royal Commission, on the other hand, all parties would be represented, and the Commission would be enabled to elicit the views, not only of proprietors and tenants, but those of the general public. Then as regards the taking of evidence, it would be far more easily taken by a Royal Commission on the spot in Scotland than it could be before a Select Committee sitting in London.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the question of the Game Laws in Scotland be referred to a Royal Commission,"—(Sir James Elphinstone,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. ROBERTSON
said, that foreseeing that the House was likely to be landed in a long discussion, to which he entertained a strong objection at that late hour, he begged to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. Robertson.)
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, ''That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. CRAUFURD
Sir, I trusted the House would not agree to the adjourn- 2067 ment of the debate. What was required was inquiry without delay, and that was what the Select Committee would be able to effect. The Committee would present their Report this Session, and the subject would be ripe for legislation at the commencement of the next. A Royal Commission would only shelve the matter for two or three years, besides adding very seriously to the cost.
§ MR. LOCH
said, that as it was at his instance that the House agreed to the appointment of the Select Committee, he desired to say one or two words on the question before the House. His object in proposing the appointment of a Select Committee was that the question might receive the earliest and most satisfactory solution possible, through information being obtained and laid before the House that might enable legislation to take place next year. He thought so still; but if it was the opinion of the Government that a Royal Commission was the readiest way of accomplishing the end in view, he would be ready to waive his own opinion, though for his own part he could not but think that a Committee would afford the best and speediest means of contributing to the settlement of a question that creates much disturbance and much ill feeling throughout Scotland. The hon. Baronet (Sir James Elphinstone) had alluded to the uncomfortable feelings that now existed, and he would seek to remove the causes of it by the appointment of a Royal Commission; but he (Mr. Loch) must say that he viewed the motives of the hon. Baronet with some suspicion. This was a question of questions in Scotland; and it was the feeling which prevailed with reference to it that had driven the hon. Gentleman from Aberdeenshire to take refuge in Portsmouth, to enable him to find a footing in this House. He suspected therefore that the Motion of the hon. Member, after the subject had been referred bonâfide to a Select Committee, was not so much to speed a conclusion as to shelve the question, and he therefore saw no reason why the House should agree to the Resolution proposed by the hon. Baronet.
§ MR. FORDYCE
said, he seldom found his views in accord with those of the hon. Baronet (Sir James Elphinstone), but on this occasion he agreed with him, that if a Royal Commission were issued it would be far more likely to accom- 2068 plish the object in view satisfactorily than would a Select Committee. On a Select Committee, there would be a certain number of gentlemen pledged to give reform, and a certain number pledged to give no reform, and the result would be that whatever Resolutions might be agreed to they would only be carried by a very narrow majority, and have little weight with the House. If, however, a Royal Commission were appointed, it would or might, and ought to be, composed of a few impartial men; it would go down to Scotland and there elicit the opinion of all parties who had anything to say upon the matter. He would therefore support the Motion of his hon. Friend.
THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, that having the other night discussed, considered, and decided the question whether a Committee should be appointed on this subject, he thought it rather early to re-open the question. But at any rate, at this late hour he had no desire to do so, and would suggest to the hon. Baronet that he should withdraw his Motion for the present, and move it again when the names of the Members to constitute the Select Committee were moved.
§ Amendment and Original Question, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Committee deferred till Monday next.