§ Order for Second Reading read.
MR. P. A. TAYLOR*
Mr. Speaker, the Bill which I have the honour now to ask the House to read a second time is, in all essential particulars, precisely the same as the Bill which I had the honour to introduce last year, with the exception of the addition of one Bill to the schedule of measures to be abolished—namely, the Gun Tax Bill, which was passed last Session. With this exception the alterations are merely verbal. The House will not be surprised that I should have added the Gun Tax Bill to the schedule of Bills to be abolished. Of the many extraordinary things which Her Majesty's Government have lately done, the passing of that Bill was one of the most extraordinary. Her Majesty's Government, as I will show directly, are deeply pledged to introduce some reform into the game laws. Now, there 1350 are two ways in which that Gun Tax Bill may be considered; one would be as a new Game Law Bill, and the other as a Popular Disarmament Bill. That the Government, when bound by all their antecedents to assist in passing a reform in the game laws, should add to the already sufficiently large number of those laws, was sufficiently extraordinary; but that, when the existing condition of the country's defence has led all parties to join in asking for an increased Reserved Force, so as to ensure the largest number of people who know at least how to look along a barrel and to draw a trigger—for Her Majesty's Government to choose such a time for passing a law for the disarmament of the people, was, I think, a strange inconsistency. The Bill, therefore, that I have now the honour to ask the House to read a second time, is in all essential respects the same as the Bill I introduced last year. It goes no further in regard to the question of game than did that Bill. I have been remonstrated with on several occasions by farmers, who have said that my Bill does not go far enough, and that if the game laws were abolished there would even then be too great a head of game unless I introduced a clause forbidding all contracts between occupiers and landlords for the preservation of game, and that I should even go further, and adopt the plan which used to be followed in this country with regard to wolves, and give a reward for their destruction. The Lord Advocate stated, in a speech he delivered at Whithorn, that my Bill was calculated to lead to the entire extermination of game; but he was not justified in saying that it had that for its aim, for, as I have repeatedly stated, in my opinion it would have no such result whatever. When I introduced it in the last Session of Parliament, I expressed the opinion which I still hold; that the carrying of my Bill would injure no parties but the extreme ones on each side; that it would put an end to battue shooting on the one hand, and destroy the profession of the poacher on the other; and that it would, in short, introduce all over the country that condition of things which exists now in those parts where the over-preservation of game does not go on. It is amusing to observe how in their zeal against my proposition, objectors bring forward argu- 1351 ments that contradict each other. Thus it has frequently been declared that under my Bill all game would be extirpated; and in the next sentence, that the lands of farmers would be overrun by poachers. But my moderate Bill, of course, is placed in the unfortunate condition of all moderate measures—it is equally disliked by both parties—by the preservers and by the poachers. My opinion as to the moderate effects to be expected from abolition is largely held by farmers themselves; and in illustration of this I will just read two or three lines from a gentleman well known in the agricultural world, because he expresses their feeling. The gentleman I refer to is Mr. Ransome, of the Hertfordshire Chamber of Agriculture, and he says—If the game laws were repealed to-morrow, he did not think it would interfere in the least between good tenants and good landlords. The landlords would have just as much legitimate sport as ever they had.But I may also appeal to the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Sturt), who I am sorry to see is not in his place, but whose brilliant and amusing speech last year will be remembered by the House. Perhaps the most amusing part of that speech was the way in which it was cheered by the game preservers, who seemed entirely unaware, until after the speech was over, that the heaviest broadside had been poured into them from one among themselves, and on their own side. That hon. Gentleman said that which entirely justified my views of the results of this Bill. He said that by amicable arrangements with his tenants and people he had no need of the game laws at all; that he took care that his tenants and labourers were not injured; that he allowed them to destroy, and did himself destroy, the hares and rabbits, which did most mischief; and that with regard to other game he had established such good relations with the people around him that he did not know what it was to have poachers on his estates, or to have disagreements with his tenants; thus showing most distinctly that he owed nothing to the game laws, and that his position would in no degree be affected by their abolition. Now that, I maintain, is the result that would be produced all over the country by the operation of this Bill, and nothing would be changed but the over-preservation of game. I know it is a favourite cant 1352 phrase among some people to say that this is not a matter for legislation, but that there should be an amicable understanding between the landlords and tenants. No doubt, without an amicable understanding nothing goes on well; but it should be an amicable understanding with the foundation of a just law for it to be based upon, to the end that any landlord not disposed to do justice to his tenants might be called to order by the law, and compelled to do it. That is the proper basis to go upon, and not an amicable understanding which leaves the farmer completely at the mercy of the landlord. In a word, it is a very desirable thing that the giant and the dwarf should enter into an amicable understanding that the giant should not swallow the dwarf; but it is extremely desirable that there should be a law for the dwarf to appeal to if the giant should change his mind on further consideration. The question of the game laws is altogether one of over-preserving. The head of game must be diminished before the great evil of the game laws can be remedied, or even touched. All the schemes for altering the game laws; whether their object be to reform them, or whatever it may be, are mere shams and delusions if they have not this diminution of the head of game as their great object and aim. Those schemes which propose to protect game under the name of property are mere shams, and so also are those which desire to protect it under the sanction of a new law of trespass, thus maintaining the present head of game. I say that all such plans are a mere pretence and sham. It is said all game, and even all wild animals, in the absence of the protection of the game laws, would be swept away and exterminated. If that were likely to be the case, neither I, nor anyone who supports my views, would have any objection to the passing of any Bill necessary for the preservation of the species to any extent that might be thought desirable by the country generally, as was done in the case of the Sea Birds' Bill, though I give no opinion whatever upon that measure. Let that necessity be proved, and we should have the same law here as in America, where the sparrows, and robins, and birds and animals of all sorts are preserved in sufficient quantities for the purposes of natural history, or for the balance of natural life. But let that 1353 necessity be proved, and not the assertion be made as a cover for the protection of artificial quantities of game for mere sport. It is said that a new law of trespass is desired; let us have a new law then, but let us have it for that object, and not as a means of fencing round the obnoxious game laws. It is said that the law of trespass is insufficient at present; that a man may go into your garden, and walk up to and look through your windows, and that unless you can prove him to have a felonious intent, or show special damage, you cannot prevent him from doing all this. That may be so, and in that case a new trespass law might be passed; but it should be a trespass law, and not a law passed under false pretences for the protection of game. I am rejoiced at the improved feeling which has taken place in the way in which this question is considered. The whole tone of public feeling is changed, and the subject is put upon a sounder and plainer issue. No Member of that House, except, perhaps, the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone), would now venture to say that the preservation of game to its present extent was for the benefit of the community. It was recognized on all hands that it did a great amount of damage, and for no other object than the sport of the wealthier classes. It was not so long ago since Mr. Grantley Berkeley, one of the most ardent defenders of game preservation in this country, acknowledged that he could not uphold the right of landlords to have wild animals on the land, if it was proved to be an evil to the community, and he was therefore driven to the extraordinary assertion that game did more good than harm. The farmers also, I am glad to say, are beginning to speak out; and at agricultural meetings and farmers' meetings they speak out as to the evils of the game laws, and the landlords are no longer able to prevent the discussion of them. At the meeting of the Warwickshire Chamber of Agriculture last year two noblemen had actually threatened to withdraw, and he was not sure whether they had not actually done so, because the farmers thought proper to discuss the game laws. [The hon. Member read a letter from Mr. Bailey, tenant of a farm of 470 acres, near Selby. The writer said, that although he himself had 1354 the right of killing game, all the surrounding land was strictly preserved; the consequence was that the hares and rabbits came upon his land, and eat or destroyed all that the land would grow. He set traps and wires to catch rabbits; but in the morning traps, wires, and rabbits had all been taken away. The damage done on three fields had been valued at £85. He had claimed £50 from his neighbour, but could get neither answer nor redress by law, for he found that the game-preserving landlords had had the making of the laws; and he said that this was not a solitary case—there were hundreds of farmers who suffered in like manner.] In further evidence of the feeling of farmers, I will mention a resolution passed by the farmers of Leicestershire in December last, declaring that agriculture was no longer a remunerative business. I hope my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) will address the House to-day, when I am sure he will tell us that the game laws are regarded by his constituents as an important element in remuneration. I observe, too, that at South Molton, in Devonshire, a meeting of farmers has lately been held to express their sympathy with, and present a testimonial to, two farmers driven from their farms because, after many years of occupation, they refused to submit to the introduction of a clause in their lease retaining the rabbits for the landlord. They refused like men and Englishmen to submit to such a yoke, and I think it was stated that they were about to leave the country. In further illustration of the feeling of farmers in regard to the game laws, I quote the words of Mr. Ransome, at the meeting of the Herts Chamber of Agriculture—He would ask them how long such a state of things would be tolerated in Ireland? Why, the first thing the Irish farmer would do would be to shoot 10 gamekeepers and give 20 landlords notice to quit.Concurrently, with the altered tone I have noticed on the part of the farmers of England, I observe with satisfaction a not unnatural change in the language of hon. Members of this House, and I will venture to quote with especial satisfaction the strong and earnest language of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. H. R. Brand) at the meeting of the Herts Chamber of Agriculture. The 1355 Hertfordshire case is a very strong one. A Hertfordshire magistrate wrote to me the other day—We have had what may be called a Hertfordshire game assize, and it is due to the moderation of the Judge that it has not been a Hertfordshire bloody assize.The heaviest complaints against the game laws are, of course, those having reference to the influence which they exercise upon farmers and labourers. With regard to their influence upon farmers, the senior Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. F. Cowper), said, last year—He could not find words strong enough to condemn a landlord who allowed his tenants to be overrun by ground game. If it was without compensation it amounted to fraud, and even if with compensation, it was most demoralizing to the farmer. It took the heart out of his work; it made his work like the work of the old convicts in Norfolk Island, digging holes in the ground and filling them again.With regard to the effect upon labourers the same hon. Member said—You create a special crime for his behoof by means of this half-artificial offence; you entrap him into a career of real crime, from which, perhaps, he is unable to extricate himself; you give him every facility to commit it, for you hang the silver spoons, it is said, on a tree, which you punish him for stealing. Now, he saw in this argument matter for the gravest consideration to any man who thought of preserving game.I must say, however, that the conclusion from this seems to me somewhat lame and impotent. The hon. Member concludes by saying, he "could not see in this argument ground for the Legislature to interfere." We have made certain laws which have produced certain effects, which the hon. Member has powerfully described, upon the farmers and labourers of the country, and when he is asked to support a Bill for the repeal of those laws the hon. Gentleman says that the case is not one for legislative interference. I cannot, it is evident, reckon upon the hon. Member's vote this year; but I trust that he is on the road to conversion, and that next year I may have his vote. The junior Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. H. R. Brand) said in November last—The game laws were unequal, because they existed especially for the benefit of the richer and more powerful classes, while they were odious and irritating to the rest of the public.I am sorry to say that I fear I shall not have that hon. Gentleman's vote either, though that seems to be leading up to 1356 it; for he ended with the declaration, that the game is the "absolute property" of the owner of the soil, and that it would be "communistic, republican, and revolutionary to attempt to make it otherwise." I can only say that my hon. Friend seems to be labouring under what Blackstone calls "unreasonable notions as to property in wild animals." On this point I will also quote from the Lord Advocate, not the present Lord Advocate, but a former one, Mr. Moncrieff, a man of great intelligence and excellent judgment, and who could never be suspected of entertaining any notions adverse to the true interests of society. That Lord Advocate said, in 1869—Game was not property in any sense. … Therefore, being entirely the creation of statute, the Legislature would not interfere with property even if it abolished the Game Laws altogether to-morrow. … That consideration must be the foundation of all inquiries into these matters."—[3 Hansard, cxcv. 1727–8.]When my hon. Friend talks about any attempt to interfere with game as being communistic and revolutionary, we must inquire what he means by those terms. The word "communism" has two meanings. One meaning has reference to that property which all mankind have a right to enjoy in common, such as the air we breathe, the water we drink, as some think the land we inhabit, and certainly, accordingly to Blackstone, the wild animals that roam over the fields. But there is another sense in which communism is interpreted as a transference of property from some one to whom it might fully belong to some one else. Now, I maintain that to make game private property as my hon. Friend proposes would be communism, under this latter definition. As to the term revolutionary, the game laws are so infamous that I trust nothing of a revolutionary kind will be required to get rid of them. One thing, however, is quite certain, that revolutions and game laws have never agreed together. The French Revolution of 1799 swept away the game laws of France, and the German Revolution of 1848 abolished those of Germany. The idea of thinking any right can exist for animals to be grown upon the land irrespective of the good of the community is too monstrous to require argument or refutation. It has been stated that in 1869,311 tigers were killed in Bengal. 1357 We in this country at one time called hares lions, and these British lions have committed ten times as much ravage and desolation as the tigers of Bengal. The prevailing improvement in the tone of discussing the game laws would appear to be true everywhere except in regard to Her Majesty's Government. If ever there were a Government pledged to legislative reform with regard to the game laws the Government which now sits on the Treasury Bench is in that position. The most important Member of that Government, at the time when it was first formed, after the Premier was my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and what view he has always taken of the game laws the House and the country well know. Let me quote one or two sentences my right hon. Friend used in speaking on this subject two years ago. He said—I hold the opinion now which I held 20 years ago, and which strengthens every year in the country, that the practice of preserving game, as it exists in this country, is opposed to the true interests of the people. … The law I believe is a disgrace to our cultivation, and an evil to every class of the community.I say that the Government which had the honour of having that man as a Member and an ornament, was bound to do something for the repeal of the game laws. But there is another distinguished Member of the Government—a man as much respected, perhaps as any man in this country—who has expressed, his opinion very strongly on this question. I mean the Lord Chancellor of England. That noble Lord said—He did not believe that the great grievance arising from the game laws could be relieved by any palliatives, therefore they must be altogether got rid of.Again, Earl Granville, in speaking at a meeting of a Chamber of Agriculture, said—He was fond of shooting, but he must confess that even in the excitement of the sport it had always appeared to him perfectly unjustifiable that, for the sake of a few hours' amusement, the growth of an animal should be encouraged which destroyed so much of the tenant farmer's produce.[Mr. PERCY WYNDHAM: Earl Granville was speaking of rabbits.] But the principle surely applies to hares as well as rabbits. I will mention the names of two other Members of the Government, the right hon. Members for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) and Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld). In 1862 those hon. Gentlemen joined 1358 with me in offering active opposition to the Poaching Act, which was intended to protect game. But the opinions of all these important Members of the Government, as well as that of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, have been set at nought by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who went down to Paisley, and there uttered the dictum that to repeal the game laws was an impossibility. That right hon. Gentleman handed over the question to the Lord Advocate. And what does the Lord Advocate do? He makes a speech on the game laws which extorts the admiration of game preservers on both sides of the House, the only qualification of their eulogy being that of the hon. Member for Buteshire (Mr. C. Dalrymple), who declared it somewhat too Tory for the Conservative Benches, and then he introduces a Bill which is simply a Game Preservers' Bill, seeing that while it would do no practical good whatever, it would afford a plea for shelving further legislation for the time. Against these Members of the Government I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. I appeal to him in the words of the memorial addressed to him the other day, by some of the most distinguished advocates of game law repeal in Scotland, such men as Mr. Hope, of Fenton Barns, Mr. Goodlet, and others—a memorial in which they say that "the game laws are a chronic grievance," and that the Government Bill—Holds out to them only the alternative of ruinous litigation and interminable heartburning with their landlords.I have barely time to trouble the House with my opinion with regard to the temptation which is put in the way of poachers, and I have already enlarged upon the number of convictions from year to year so much that I have been called the "poachers friend." The poachers themselves, however, neither approve of me nor my Bill; they think it would undermine the profession. However that may be, I will not lay myself open to that charge to-day. I will say nothing about the poachers—those exceptions from the agricultural community—beyond this, I wish to inform the House that the Returns since those which I quoted last year are within a very small number precisely the same as they were then. There were 10,000 convictions under the game laws in the 1359 year succeeding that which I mentioned last year. In passing, I will simply allude to a remark made by the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Sturt) that it was a danger and a disgrace that such a state of things should exist; and I will appeal to the House to consider how much there is underlying these dry figures of sorrow and wrong, how much of people led into crime, and how much of family as well as individual suffering. I will now say a few words about the agricultural labourers; about those who, when we talk of the agricultural interest, should be taken into account as an important element; about those who do not fall under this temptation of poaching. I will not give you my own opinion, but I will prove to you, by authority which no one in this House will question, that the whole class are suffering under a condition of existence which is a disgrace to our civilization; and I will show by authority equally irrefragable that game laws have a very positive and practical effect upon that class. [The hon. Member then read numerous passages from the writings of Sir George Grey, late Governor of New Zealand, Sir Charles Trevelyan, and "S.G.O." showing, in the words of the latter—That in hundreds of our villages the social condition of man is below that of any country of which I have ever read;and also the opinions of Lord Hatherton, the Duke of Grafton, Sir Harry Verney, and Dr. Fraser, the present Bishop of Manchester, that the preservation prevented the farmer from employing capital and labour, and that incidentally great injury was inflicted on the agricultural labouring class in respect of their food and dwellings.] Lord Hatherley (the Lord Chancellor) once made use of the pregnant observation that he wished country gentlemen would give up gamekeepers and take to schoolmasters. Now, we have taken to schoolmasters; we have sent, or are going to send them all over the country to teach the people. I wish the House would bear in mind that schoolmasters and game preserving do not go well together. The clergymen of the Church of England are said, and no doubt with great truth, to have been attempting great things with regard to education in their districts; but the parson will not look so well upon the school board the day after he has sent a poacher to transportation. There 1360 is a species of game not much known in this part of the country, but well-known in the North of Scotland. The question was asked the other day by the hon. Member for Buteshire (Mr. C. Dalrymple), why nothing was said about deer in speeches in this House. With the permission of the House, I will say a few words about deer; and I will do so the more especially because I take the practice of making deer forests in Scotland to be the most striking, and I may say, terrific illustration which can be found anywhere of the sacrifice of the interests of the country by men of great wealth, to the love of sport. I have seen it asked in Scotch newspapers on agricultural subjects—"Why not have a Royal Commission on deer forests?" A gentleman known to many hon. Members, and whose name would be received with respect if I gave it, writes to me—A Royal Commission! He would be a bold man indeed who would dare to give evidence upon the subject; and he must make up his mind to be an outlaw or an exile from the country.The evil example of Sutherland—which the House will well remember—has been followed up in various other counties in the North of Scotland. Between 1811 and 1820, 750,000 acres were, to employ the euphemism of the time, "resumed" by the nominal proprietors, and in this way 3,000 families, that is to say, 15,000 inhabitants, were driven from the interior, their villages demolished or burnt. Those who have read the history of that time are well aware of the thrill of horror which ran through Europe when this was done. The result was well described by Sismondi, the great historian, when he said—No human voice resounds in the narrow passes of the mountains, formerly distinguished by the combats of an ancient race; no one recalls glorious recollections, the valleys have no hamlets; no accent of joy or grief disturbs those vast solitudes.The transition from farms to sheep is not more easy, nor so easy, as that from sheep to deer. I do not mean to say that all these 750,000 acres are now turned into deer forests; but I mean to say that a very considerable amount of them are. I have taken great pains to get the best and most authoritative information upon the subject; and I am told that if the Sutherland deer forests do not now exceed those in other counties in Scotland, they are likely to do so. 1361 I ask the House whether it is not recognized on all sides that the most alarming symptom of our civilized life, and that which affords the least security for the future, is the growing up, side by side, of enormous wealth with utter poverty—the gathering into the hands of comparatively a few an amount of wealth which makes the aggregate wealth of this country at the present time greater than was ever possessed by any other country on the face of the earth; while, at the same the masses of the community, so far from sharing in an equal, or, indeed, in any degree, in that national wealth and prosperity, are sunk in unutterable poverty. And pauperism, the worst phase of that poverty, as this House well knows, is bubbling up before our faces until all the expedients of philanthropists and statesmen have been exhausted in the endeavour to deal with this demoralizing evil. It is at such a time, when the industry of the country is desirous to have, above all things, fresh fields for labour, whether agricultural or otherwise; to have food, plentiful, and cheap as may be—it is at such a time that the enormous power of wealth, aggregated in particular hands, and, I regret to add, most recklessly used, is making whole districts—nay, whole counties of Scotland, depopulated and uncivilized; the people being sent away in order to provide for the sport of a narrow class. These men deal with the land in this little island as though they were dealing with the great valley of the Mississippi. Throughout Ross, Inverness, Aberdeen, and Perth, these deer forests are spreading far and wide. Mr. Buchanan, in his tribute to the marriage of the Princess Louise with the Marquess of Lorne, describes the condition of Argyll. He says that the population is much less than it was 70 years ago, and adds that every element which should mark the progress of civilization, except the increase of rent, has been diminishing within that period. It would seem that the "reign of law" is not altogether beneficent in Argyll. It is estimated by Professor Leone Levi that 2,000,000 acres are already devoted to deer forests in Scotland; that is to say, about one-tenth of the entire surface of the country. Baillie Ross, of Aberdeen, estimates the loss to the country through their deer forests at 370,000 sheep, or, as he 1362 thinks, 20,000,000 lbs of meat. Now, I ask the House to consider what is implied in this process of making deer forests? Certain large landed proprietors say—"We will turn our lands into deer forests;" and, accordingly, they turn out the inhabitants and turn in the deer. They neither wall nor fence it. They simply call it a deer forest; and I have it on authority which, I think, is quite unanswerable, that the mischief that is done to cottiers and small tenants, in winter especially, by these deer going down to their fields and into their rickyards is something very great. I could tell the House of a case of an unpenned forest, into which the neighbouring farmer is not allowed to enter in order to collect such of his sheep as may have strayed there; and the gentleman's deer-keeper returns the sheep to the farmer at a penalty of 6d. a-head. It can matter but little to these people whether they are subject to these grievous wrongs at the hands of their hereditary chieftains, who should have protected them, or whether they are made over to the tender mercies of the Southern stranger, who, having amassed a large fortune at the counter or on the Stock Exchange, makes no better use of it, than to ape the habits and vices of the patrician. Let me mention one result of this system—namely, the bringing into very few hands vast tracts of territory. The statement I am about to make I make with hesitation, as it would appear to be too inconceivable to be correct; but I do so upon the authority of a periodical, long-established, and of high reputation—The Westminster Review—and the statement, so far as I have been able to observe, has never been gainsaid. It is to the effect that upwards of 19,000,000 acres, that is to say, something like 19–20ths of the whole surface of Scotland, belongs in fee-simple to 12 proprietors. If the number should be multiplied by 10 it is hardly less astounding. I will now descend from the general to a particular instance. In a beautiful glen in Scotland, which, I dare say, is known to many hon. Members, and which is named after the little river that flows through it—the Tanner—there were, at one time, some 300 or 400 of population, and with a nourishing school, church, and so forth. That has all been changed. My correspondent says— 1363I may state the case of another glen on Dee side, converted into a deer forest within the last 25 years. To accomplish this object 30 families were dispossessed. The glen formerly supported, on an average, 4,500 sheep, and 300 to 400 head of cattle. It yields now, I believe, 50 to 60 head of deer annually; so that we find to produce a pair of red deer costs the country 50 sheep and 4 cattle; and a human family has to be dispossessed to make way for them. Surely this is dear sport; and if there are individuals who can unfortunately afford to pay such an exorbitant price for it, the effects on our social system prove that the nation cannot.I venture to give this illustration relative to deer forests as an additional reason why this House should be pleased to pass the second reading of my Bill. It is really too bad that the national interests and rights of various important classes should be sacrificed to a morbid love of sport, which, if regard be had to the timid nature of the animals that are the object of the sport, can at best only be termed effeminate athleticism. I would say that while such a system as this prevails, there is no appeal to revolution that may echo from Hyde Park or Trafalgar Square but must hide its diminished head; and there is no form of communism, however bad, but must rise, in comparison, into the form of a moderate and well-considered scheme of political economy. I am quite aware that the mere abolition of game laws is insufficient to deal with so enormous an evil. Laws to be administered, presuppose an existing population, whereas in this case the population is made to disappear in order that then wild animals may take their place. But I say that the House is bound to take at least the first step, and no longer to give legislative sanction to wrongs so great as I have described. The more I think of this question of the game laws, the more convinced I am that my Bill, or something as thorough in its principle, is the only possible remedy that exists. There is no half-way house between the present game laws and absolute abolition. There is no modification of them which would essentially lessen the evils that they beget; and, certainly, there is no modification of them that would give security against change for the future. I am perfectly aware that it is ground game—namely, hares and rabbits, which principally engage the attention and excite the hatred of the farmer. I am aware that these destructive vermin do far more harm to the farmer than the 1364 winged game. Still it is beyond question that winged game maybe preserved to an extent to do very serious damage. But this is not only a question between the farmer and the proprietor. It is a national question. ["No, no!"] Yes; and I appeal to the Bishop of Manchester, who has said that if hares and rabbits do more damage to the farmers, it is the winged game that demoralizes the population. I venture, through this House, to say to the farmers of England that they will never get rid of this great evil; they will never remove this burdensome yoke from off their shoulders while they enter on the question in a class and partial way, thinking of nothing but their own interests. They must go into it as a national question, and appeal to the men in the great towns, and those who represent them; and when they do that, without pretending to the gift of prophecy, I venture to say that, whichever side of the House may be in power, the game laws will not be a year longer in existence. Again, much stress has been laid on the assertion that, in the event of my Bill becoming law, farmers will have their grounds trampled over and their hedges broken by trespassers in search of game. To this, of course, my answer is, that my Bill, by greatly diminishing the quantity of game, will consequently greatly diminish the temptation to trespass. But if you attempt to carry some modified scheme; such, for instance, as the one which seems to find most favour—namely, taking hares and rabbits out of the category of game, you do place the farmer in this danger, for you at once leave the greatest temptation to trespass while taking away the power now possessed of preventing it; for it would require something more than even the daring of a gamekeeper to swear by a man's face whether he was in search of the pheasant which remains game, or of the hares and rabbits which the law had ceased to protect.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. P. A. Taylor.)
§ MR. HARDCASTLE moved that the Bill be read a second time on that day six months. It was not because he was insensible to the evils of the present laws 1365 that he did so, or that he was a game preserver—on the contrary, he had a keen sense of the evils attaching to the present system—but because he thought his hon. Friend (Mr. P. A. Taylor), in his amusing speech, proposed a thing which was, in his judgment, utterly impossible. He could well understand that the present system had many objectionable features; but he thought they might be much better remedied than by the plan proposed. To attempt to destroy game by abolishing the game laws was both objectionable and absurd. The effect which the present game laws had on crime, which the hon. Member had passed over very lightly, was to him far more important than any other. He was afraid that thousands of the poorer classes owed their introduction into a life of crime to the fact that game was preserved. This was, no doubt, a very serious aspect of the question, and one which they must look into very narrowly—especially landowners and game preservers, the majority of whom, he believed, took a deep interest in the welfare of their poorer neighbours. If he thought that the evils of the present system could only be removed by the entire abolition of the game laws, he should feel bound to support the Motion of his hon. Friend; but he thought it extremely doubtful whether total abolition would be followed by the results anticipated. If they abolished the game laws they would diminish the interest which every proprietor took in being resident in the country. It would also cause considerable depreciation in the value of the land—but perhaps the hon. Member did not much mind that. It would also cause an alarming diminution in the amount of food supplied, for to withdraw the quantity of game that was now consumed must, of necessity, enhance the price of beef and mutton. And then he presumed that what happened in Germany, as to which the hon. Member did not inform the House, would happen in this country. It was true Germany at the revolution in 1848 abolished the game laws; but two years afterwards they reestablished them in a more stringent manner than they existed before. The abolition of the game laws would most assuredly lead to a more stringent law of trespass than that now existing in this country; for at present there was no punishment attached to it except in the 1366 case of persons trespassing in pursuit of game. The scheme he (Mr. Hardcastle) proposed in his Bill would meet many of the objections that existed to the present law. Many changes had already taken place in the game laws, and he suggested whether it was not possible to go one step further, and enact that game should be the property of the occupier. One result would be that game would be rated; whereas at present nobody paid rates in respect of game if the landlord reserved to himself the right of shooting. He hoped, sooner or later, his suggestion would be adopted, as the result of such a Bill as that which he (Mr. Hardcastle) proposed would be to punish poaching identically with thieving, and thereby deter the otherwise honest labourer from the commission of an act which he now does not regard as a crime. It appeared to him that the only way by which questions relating to the game laws could be satisfactorily settled was by making game the property of the occupier. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
MR. H. R. BRAND
, in seconding the Amendment, denied that there were any rights of property in game vested in the people. The people who would benefit by the passing of the measure would not be the hon. Member's law-abiding constituents, but the professional gangs of poachers from the large towns—organized bands of thieves. There was no doubt considerable agitation in reference to this Bill, and he was sorry to find language used by the leaders of this movement, which was calculated to produce the most mischievous consequence. For example, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester, who moved the second reading of a similar Bill last year, said that poaching was not a crime against morality, but only a law-made crime, and hon. Members might be sure that the same views were not expressed with any greater moderation outside the House. What were the consequences of such words? Why, at the last assizes of the county of Hertford, out of the 30 criminal cases tried, 13 were for poaching—some were mere ordinary poaching cases, others were of a more aggravated nature, combining assaults with the offence of poaching. Three of those men were sentenced to seven years' 1367 penal servitude, two to five years', and one to ten years'. He did not wish to excuse the acts of these men, nor did he aver that there were not some landlords who, by the systematic way in which they abused the game laws, were not in a measure responsible for the acts of these misguided men; but there were others who, in his opinion, were as guilty, morally speaking, as the men who committed these assaults, and those were they, who, agreeing with the hon. Member for Leicester did, by their words, palliate the crime of poaching—a crime which carried with it occasionally these terrible consequences. Now, he (Mr. Brand) wished to impress on the Government the necessity of meeting this state of things by proposing a remedy to remove the real grievance involved. The many Bills before the House proved that some remedy was absolutely necessary. There was one class of persons who were opposed to all legislation on the subject; there was a second class who were willing to consider this question as one affecting the relations between landlord and tenant; and there was a third class who took a wider view of this question. He need not say anything respecting the first of these classes; but in respect to the second, it appeared to him that they were represented in that House by the Government and many of the Members from Scotland. Neither the Bill of the Government nor the Bill of the hon. Member for Wick really offered a remedy for the evil, even as it affected the farming interest. Now, was a man who occupied his own freehold to get compensation for damage done to his crops by the ground game preserved by his neighbours on either side? How was he to prove that the game had come from out of a particular cover? The position of such a man was not affected by these Bills, but it was affected, he believed, by the Bill of the hon. Member for Linlithgow, which went upon the principle that hares and rabbits were mischievous vermin, and ought to be treated as such. It was not the game laws that occasioned the evils complained of by the hon. Member for Leicester, but the abuses of the game laws. The hon. Member said that the game laws were injurious to the morals of the people. That was intelligible ground; but if the game laws were to be abolished in order to remove temp- 1368 tation out of people's way, the same principle would extend to every other kind of property. There were two objects to be gained in any legislation upon this subject—the one, to impress upon the mind of the poacher and of the public generally that there was no difference or distinction—as far as the moral guilt of the act was concerned—between taking a man's pheasant and taking a man's purse; the other, to check the over-preservation of game. The Bill of the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. Hardcastle), which declared that game should be held to be the property of the occupier of the land on which it was found, proceeded in the right direction, and its justice would be admitted by the people themselves. Game was, however, too freely defined in this Bill; hares and rabbits ought to be excluded from the list of game, because they were mischievous and destructive, and did not possess the same quality of property as partridge or grouse. It was no doubt difficult to identify such kinds of property, but it was not necessary to identify a particular pheasant or partridges—all purposes will have been served if evidence is given to the effect that a man was seen to shoot at the game which will belong to the person in occupation of the land upon which it was shot. It had also been said that game wants all the qualities of property; that was true with regard to some animals, but not with regard to others. Pheasants and partridges were not migratory birds, and a good keeper ought to be able to tell the number of coveys on his land, and almost to give the family history of every pheasant. In respect to the great evil in this matter—namely, the over-preservation of game, a check would be put upon the practice by making game rateable, and a further check would be provided by making it expensive. He agreed with what had been put forward by Mr. Kebbel in his book, that landlords who sold their game should be required to take out a heavy licence. With such a provision in force, landlords would either preserve game for purposes of trade, or give up preserving and save the cost of the licence. Much of the evil resulting from the game law arose from the ignorance and intemperance of a minority of the people, whose poaching propensities were fostered by the injudicious proceed- 1369 ings of those who indulged in excessive preservation, and of those who palliated the crime of poaching. He trusted that the ignorance would in time be cured by the success of the Education Act, and that some legislative means would be found by which to check the excess of drinking. Legislation, too, might do something towards checking the poaching habits of some of the people in agricultural districts; but if the landlords would deprecate excess of preservation as an abuse of the game laws, they would secure proper respect for the law, and at the same time frustrate the object of the hon. Member for Leicester.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Hardcastle.)
said, it was a remarkable thing to him to find that some hon. Members were prone to take up subjects in that House with which they were but little conversant. He regretted that the hon. Member for Dorchester (Mr. Sturt) was not in his place to give to the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester as effective a reply as that he had given to it last year. He had listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester; but he had failed to hear a single sound argument adduced against the game laws. The single point of the hon. Member's speech seemed to be that the tenants in this respect were entirely at the mercy of the landlords; and, in order to set the matter right, he made a proposal that would place the landlords at the mercy of the tenants. Now, it was quite evident that the hon. Gentleman was utterly unacquainted with the condition of the tenants generally in reference to this matter. Every tenant of his (Mr. Bromley-Davenport) had permission to kill the rabbits upon his farm all the year round, and he knew that the tenants of many of his neighbours enjoyed a similar power. How, then, could the tenant be aggrieved with the number of rabbits upon the land? The hon. Member said that the agricultural labourers were driven to poaching in consequence of the evils to which they were exposed by our system of game laws. Now, upon the whole of his (Mr. Bromley-Davenport's) estate, he never recollected an instance of an agricultural labourer 1370 having been taken up for poaching. But he had seen gangs from large towns, composed of the worst characters—men well armed—who took away at night whatever game they could get; and on one occasion a gang of this kind evinced their impartiality as to the character of the property they were in quest of by shooting 14 of his tame ducks. The real remedy for the evils complained of was to avoid the excessive preservation of game. He had only one remark to make, which he hoped the hon. Member for Leicester would take in good part. The hon. Member reminded him of certain dogs, excellent animals in every respect, except that they had an incorrigible propensity to roll themselves in any dirt or carrion they happened to come across, and then to befoul everything with which they afterwards came in contact. Now, the hon. Gentleman had shown a remarkable facility for finding something that was disagreeable, and, having rolled himself in it, he would endeavour to rub it off against the landlords. He had smeared himself over the other day with the dowry matter, and did not improve his appearance by afterwards revelling in the case of the old woman who stole the faggots. He (Mr. Bromley-Davenport) hoped that he would take warning by the fate which his Bill was certain to have in that House, and that he would not trouble them any more by such utterly useless and mischievous Motions as the one now before them.
§ MR. CARNEGIE
said, although he was not prepared to go the whole length of the hon. Member for Leicester, nevertheless he thought that the abuses connected with the preservation of game were very great, and could scarcely be over-rated. In the Bills of the hon. Members for Wick (Mr. Loch) and Linlithgow (Mr. M'Lagan) there appeared to him to be something like a remedy for these evils. Had any right hon. Gentleman been present to represent the Government he would have appealed to him whether the time had not come for them to do something in the way of removing the grievances of the tenant-farmers, and not drive them to adopt the Bill of the hon. Member for Leicester, in the absence of anything better.
§ MR. CLARE READ
observed that the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor) persevered year after year with his Bill, thinking, no doubt, that 1371 moderate men would be ultimately driven to support him in his proposal for a total abolition of the game laws. Such a speculation was utterly hopeless. He (Mr. Read), however, was sorry to see that the leaders on either side of the House had taken no step to remedy and hardly to mitigate the evils consequent on the over-preservation of hares and rabbits. He contended that all the legislation required was in that direction, and that few evils arose from the comparatively harmless winged game. On the contrary, they afforded most excellent sport without doing much harm. As to the amount of food derivable from hares and rabbits, he did not doubt that rabbits on some soils might be remuerative when they were confined in one spot; but when they were allowed to roam at large they destroyed a vast deal more than they produced as food. When he spoke last on this subject he expressed the opinion that in all civilized countries they would find a game law. Since then inquiries had been addressed on the subject to our various Consuls abroad. Their Reports had not all been sent, but he had seen two of them. One related to the United States of America, where they had game laws containing some curious provisions, and which imposed heavy fines. For instance, in New Jersey, and the thickly-populated districts of America, the game laws were much more severe than ours. There was, to be sure, no licence there to kill game or to carry a gun, but there was a strict law against the transgression of shooting on Sundays; and from the 10th of January to the 1st of November no one was allowed to kill a rabbit, and no one could shoot at a pigeon within a quarter of a mile of its nest. In Prussia the game laws, which were abolished in 1848, were re-established in 1850; and no owner of property less than 200 acres had a right to kill game upon his land. In Germany the crime of poaching was punishable by a penalty of £15, or three months' imprisonment, if committed in the day-time; and if at night £30, or six months' imprisonment. The other day a debate took place in the House on the Scotch law of hypothec; he did not vote on that occasion, and he had been asked why, having previously spoken in favour of that law, he did not do so? It was only on account of these game laws. By the law of distress, and the 1372 power of a re-entry, a landlord might let a farm at a high rent, eat the tenant up with ground game, and ruin him, and yet be sure of every sixpence of his rent; or he might be a needy and not an unreasonable man, who would be compelled to let the right of sporting, and the farmer's crops might be devoured with hares and rabbits of the game tenant, yet the power of distress would secure the full rent to the landlord, whatever might become of the farmer's other creditors. The agricultural Chambers to which the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Brand) alluded came to the conclusion that hares and rabbits should cease to be deemed game within the meaning of the game laws, and that there ought to be an inalienable joint right in the owners and occupiers to the ground game upon the land. In agreements between landlord and tenant it was generally stated that "the landlord grants to the tenant the quiet and peaceable possession of the farm;" and he contended that there could be no quiet, peace, nor possession if the landlord stocked the farm with hares and rabbits. The Government had intimated that they did not mean to favour the suggestion of the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Loch) and interfere between landlord and tenant; but the measure of the Government, if it did not entirely override contracts, would literally be of no use whatever; because when a man, from damage being done by game, became desperate or was ruined, his creditors might sue the landlord and say, pointing to the Bill of the Government, "There has been an unreasonable increase and preservation of hares and rabbits during this tenancy." But Parliament constantly interferred with all sorts of contracts; railways had no more a monopoly of transit than landlords of the land, yet the Legislature protected passengers, the merchant, and the public against unreasonable railways. Workmen were more independent of their masters than tenants of their landlords, yet we had the law of master and servant, with the Truck and other Acts. Solicitors had no more power over clients than owners over occupiers, yet the law gave the client power to repudiate his contract with his solicitor. And lastly, the money-lender could not deprive the man who borrowed money on the security of land of his ordinary right of re- 1373 demption. If, therefore, it was proper to annul contracts which restricted trade, surely it was just to restrict contracts which injured agriculture. If for the sake of the revenue, certain contracts were made void for the sake of the public good, those which prevented the production of food might be forbidden; and if the equity of redemption was inseparable from a mortgage, why should not the right of the tenant to kill ground game be inseparable from all agricultural tenancies? In each case those for whose protection this interference was intended were as independent as were the tenants of game farms, and though he objected entirely to the proposal of the hon. Member for Leicester, any Bill introduced for the purpose of settling this question ought to override the exclusive reservation of the landlord to the ground game, or it would be ineffectual. This question had been made an election cry in Scotland, and appeared about to be made so in England. ["No!"] He could only say that it had been an election cry at a recent election for South Norfolk, where his hon. Colleague had only been returned by a narrow majority, because the first candidate selected by the Conservatives, though an excellent man, was supposed, rightly or wrongly, to be very fond of rabbits and hares. When his hon. Colleague appeared there was a cry of "Buxton and no hares!" It was not, however, to be supposed that there were no hares on the estate of his hon. Colleague, the fact being that his tenants had permission to course the hares and kill the rabbits as they pleased, and so all went comfortably. If before the next General Election the new law was passed for the payment of expenses out of the county rate, and also that for secret voting, by which falsehood and deceit might escape detection, then the House from this outcry against the game laws would lose—from both sides—a lot of good county Members, whom Parliament and the country could ill afford to spare.
§ MR. D. DALRYMPLE
said, that representing a town constituency unable to dispense with hares, rabbits, and pheasants, he was unable to follow the hon. Member for Leicester into the Lobby on this occasion; neither could he himself, when in August, worn out by the effects of Blue Books and late nights in the House of Commons, afford to dis- 1374 pense with the recreation afforded by country sports. He believed that the Government might bring forward some legislation quite sufficient to protect the country from over-preservation of game. He hoped that, without interfering with contract between landlord and tenant, by passing a detrimental measure such as that of the hon. Member, some via media would be found by which hares and rabbits might be made less destructive, and the present over-preservation of game much diminished. But even if this measure should be passed, he scarcely hoped that the poacher would be got rid of unless game was made property. His own experience as a magistrate convinced him that the poacher was generally a man who made a trade of this particular crime, and depended on it for a livelihood. There were organizations which provided the poacher with a solicitor to defend him on his trial, paid his fines, and got him more poaching to do when he gained his liberty. With regard to sporting, he believed the attendance of hon. Members in that House would be less numerous than it was at present had they not the occasional opportunity of pursuing that excellent means of recreation.
§ MR. GREENE
said, it was a great mistake to suppose that the tenant-farmers of England desired any measure of this kind, for nothing pleased the farmers more than to see their landlords among them in the winter season. The hon. Member for Leicester had taken a wide ground in his introduction of the measure, and had availed himself of the opportunity of enunciating some of his real, red-hot Radical principles; forgetting, however, that under large landed proprietors there had grown a middle class, who now formed the backbone of the country, and who would never have attained their present position but for that support. The hon. Member had also attacked the Government for their partiality to the game laws. It was not often that he (Mr. Greene) desired to defend the present Government; but in the present instance he thought the charge unjust, for a more unsporting lot of men he had never seen. The only man in the Government with any sport in him was their "first whip." He hoped this was the last occasion on which he should have the pleasure of opposing the Bill of the hon. Member for Leceister. 1375 Strong as the feeling might be in the minds of some few, he felt sure that the farmers desired nothing but a fair settlement, in which their own rights and those of their landlords would be properly considered.
§ MR. A. H. BROWN
, in supporting the Bill of the hon. Member for Leicester, said, the hon. Member for Hereford, in the speech they had just listened to, had divided the cases under the game laws into two parts—those which came under the head of gang poaching, and those of an ordinary kind. Now, what he wished to point out was that they had endeavoured by their legislation of late years to put down the first of these offences, and nothing more could be done to put down the evil, as they had finally added to the already severe Code an Act which gave a single policeman power to search any person simply on suspicion. Now, when they found that they had gone to such a length to protect game and had failed, they must begin at the other end, and direct their efforts to diminish the over-preservation of game. Reference having been made to the game laws of the United States, he was prepared to say that as to New Jersey though there might be game laws there was no game, nor had the game laws any practical effect in the State of New York; and all Americans considered our game laws as one of the greatest blots in our legislation. In Prussia, he believed, they were referable to feudal rights, and belonged only to the lords and the head barons. The question had been too much regarded as affecting only the relations between landlords and tenants. Some landlords allowed the tenants to take rabbits on their farms; but very few allowed them to enter the covers and woods to take them there, and that was one of the points which, caused the greatest hardship. In fact, it was a question of national importance, for it concerned the whole of the population, inasmuch as the game laws helped to fill our gaols and workhouses, and to reduce hundreds and thousands of families to the verge of starvation.
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
had no wish to interfere with the right of private property in land, but he saw a grievance to be removed and an abuse to be remedied; and because all the game Bills hitherto introduced had failed to meet the exigencies of the situation he should, 1376 by way of protest, vote for the second reading of the hon. Member's Bill. By dropping hares and rabbits out of the game list the occupier might be satisfied, and the temptations to poach removed from the agricultural labourer. As to the rating of game, he was at a loss to understand how that could be done, where the sporting rights applied generally to the game itself and not to so many acres of land. Until the Government brought forward a broad Bill to meet these difficulties, he should vote for the Bill of the hon. Member for Leicester.
§ MR. CORRANCE
said, that representing a game preserving county, it might cause some surprise that he had never, upon any occasion since he entered Parliament, either expressed any opinion or given a vote upon this question. He would frankly confess that he had never seen a Bill yet at all worthy the consideration of this House, and without disparagement to the hon. Member for Leicester, never heard a speech worthy of debate. In his present speech he had set forth reasons—criminal, statistical, social, and economic; but he felt convinced that the House at that hour would excuse him from elaborate debate. In one point only did he intend to follow him—namely, in the appeal he made to the farming classes to seek the aid offered by the representatives of great towns. Now, without doubting the simplicity of faith in which the offer was made, he would beg the hon. Member to call to mind how often upon other questions that aid had been sought, and with what result. Did he remember the malt tax? Did he remember the cattle plague? Upon the question of local taxation had they had their votes? Well, then, was it it surprising that they exercised some discrimination in their choice; was it surprising that if they sought assistance it would be from such men as the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmund's, or others of that stamp, whose advice they could trust? Hopes were expressed that it would not be made a hustings question, but it was a hustings question on that side of the House and nothing else. The social evils of it had been stated, and no one more regretted that social evil than himself; but he could scarcely admit that it was one of a distinct or exceptional class, nor had he heard the proof of this. He 1377 admitted the importance of the question to the agricultural class, and was only too anxious to see a remedy provided adequate to the case. Two Bills were now before them that day, to do this—and there was something in each Bill he could support—namely, the Bill of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. M'Lagan), and that of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmund's (Mr. Hardcastle). He saw few objections to the first. In the second case, the game laws were abolished as such, but game became property under certain conditions. Now, what else could it be? It might, when living, be called vermin by the hon. Member for Norfolk; but he would probably not object to purchase it when dead. Well, then it has a money value, and must be property as such; nothing could avert such a consequence as this. It could be parted with for valuabe consideration, and its abstraction was theft. Well, that was the principle of the Bill, and it was just, although the hon. Member for Leicester, who probably objected to all property, might take exception to this. [Mr. P. A. TAYLOR: I did not say so.] The hon. Member said that he preferred the wildest communism to such privileges as that. Well, next, whose property was it by this Bill? The property of the occupier, and he approved of that. The hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) has said so it was now, and he saw no distinction in that case. He differed with him upon that point. It made all the difference whether possession was implied or absolute. It made all the difference whether it could be reserved, or must be conveyed by the act of the tenant himself, as in that case. The hon. Member objected to such freedom of contract. He (Mr. Corrance) did not. He had quoted many instances of its violation in law—such as the Irish Land Act, Equities of Redemption, and such like; but there was one thing he had failed to do—prove their analogy to this case. Would he liken the Norfolk and Suffolk tenants to those under the Irish Acts? Would he liken the landlords to the usurers he quoted? He (Mr. Corrance) thought not, and holding the policy to be retrograde and reverting to the objectionable principles of the past, when justices set wages, and drapers' prices were fixed, he could not recognize it in this case. Well, then, he thought the 1378 principle of the Bill was so far good. In fact, it should please every class—the game itself lost its wild character and became partakers of the general 19th century advance. The poachers would attain the superior dignity of a thief, and the occupier would gain full power over it, through the reservation he could make. If his hon. Friend went to a Division he should give him his vote. And if the Bill should be re-introduced upon any future occasion he trusted that its principle would meet with due consideration upon the part of the House.
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM
said, he regretted that in the absence of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, it should have devolved upon him to state the intention of the Government; for he felt that while giving his vote against the Bill of the hon. Member for Leicester he, to some extent, approved of its object. That a grievance existed no one could doubt when they considered the Bills for its remedy which were introduced Session after Session, and that there were four Bills at this time before the House. It seemed to him that those who had defended the game laws seemed to be in a difficulty between the love of game and their fears of an election cry; and they might rely upon it there would always be an election cry until this matter was settled. Some hon. Members, like the hon. Member for South Norfolk, seemed to consider that this was a question between landlords and tenants, and that when their respective rights were adjusted the matter would be at rest. But if these parties could settle their differences between themselves the real grievance of the game laws would remain, for the real grievance was the influence and effect of these laws upon the population generally. It could not be disputed that the present state of the game laws was a fruitful source of crime; and when they considered the largely increased masses of the people, especially in our great towns, it could not be denied that, regarded in a moral point of view, the question was a problem, the solution of which became more imperative everyday. One of the remedies suggested was a very curious one. It was suggested that if game were made property the moral sense of the community in respect to game would be changed. But you could not change the moral sense of a people 1379 by changing laws—on the contrary, the laws had to be accommodated to the moral sense of the people. You could not by a law make that property which the moral sense of the people did not recognize as property. If the landlords did not recognize game as property as between themselves, how could they expect the people to recognize it as property between class and class? He was not in a position to say, on behalf of the Government, what they proposed to do with the question; but it involved an evil of such magnitude that it could not fail to be dealt with by them. The measure they had introduced on the subject was a step in the right direction, though he admitted that, so far as his own feeling was concerned, it did not go far enough. He should be very sorry to see this question made into a party cry; but he thought it would be a cry among the town populations and among those who had a right to be heard as representing the interests of the great mass of the people. He hoped that some mode would be found, short of this particular measure, for removing what was undoubtedly a great source of crime and danger to the community.
§ MR. LOCH
said, he intended voting with the hon. Member for Leicester, not because he agreed with the provisions of his Bill, but because he desired to protest against the game laws at every possible opportunity. Some remarks had been made as to the non-inclusion of deer in his own Bill, and statements put forward with regard to the vast extent of deer forests in Scotland; and he would therefore take the opportunity of saying that in no Highland county were the deer forests so small in extent as in Sutherland.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
remarked upon the extraordinary statement of the Under Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. Winterbotham), from which it was impossible to say to what lengths the Government would go. He had based his argument on the demoralizing influences of game laws, so that it was fair to presume nothing short of complete abolition would please him; because, however moderate those laws might be made, they would be, according to him, demoralizing to that extent.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."1380
§ The House divided:—Ayes 49; Noes 172: Majority 123.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to. Bill put off for six months.