§ MR. AUBERON HERBERT,
in rising to move that a Select Committee be appointed, with power to take evidence, to inquire into the advisability of extending the protection of a close season to certain Wild Birds not included in the Wild Birds' Preservation Act of 1872, said, last Session a Bill was brought in to protect a similar class of birds. It was enlarged so as to include all birds, and in the end a compromise took place, to the effect that hon. Members who opposed legislation would cease to do so provided certain birds were not included. He had received a great many letters from different parts of the country on the subject. One young lady wrote to inquire why the amiable and accomplished chaffinch had been left out of the Act? Another wrote—"What sort of a protection is this when you find no room for the thrush?" And a third wrote—"If the Members of your House of Commons are fond of pleasant sights and pleasant sounds, I cannot help thinking that the song of the blackbird will always be a reproach to them." All he asked for was an inquiry, and he had the fullest confidence that his clients would make out a case for including these and other birds in the Act of last Session.
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
said, he hoped the House would grant the Committee not only on the score of humanity, but because linnets, chaffinches, and birds of that description were interesting in themselves, and afforded pleasure to many persons amongst the humbler classes.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee be appointed, with power to take evidence, to inquire into the advisability of extending the protection of a close season to certain Wild Birds not included in the Wild Birds Preservation Act of 1872."—(Mr. Auberon Herbert.)
opposed the granting of a Select Committee, on the ground that many of the birds in whose interest the Committee was asked for did very considerable injury to the crops of farmers and market gardeners. The House devoted a large amount of time to the consideration of the subject last Session, and it would be well to wait and see what was the effect of the legislation which was then passed. He considered the present Motion altogether unnecessary.
§ MR. CLARE READ
also opposed the Motion. The hon. Member for Nottingham ought to be satisfied with the victory he achieved in this direction last year. He succeeded in changing a very useful Bill into a silly unworkable Act of Parliament. When the Wild Fowl Bill was introduced to the House by his hon. Friend the Member for South Essex (Mr. Johnston) it was a measure which, whether a Member was a sportsman, a naturalist, or a lover of a good dinner, could be understood and appreciated. But the Committee had introduced into the Schedule a number of birds that were quite capable of taking good care of themselves. The question was not whether blackbirds and thrushes could sing sweetly and eat snails—no one doubted that—but whether fruit could be protected from their ravages without shooting them. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Forfar-shire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) that the Game Laws were a great protection to small birds, not only, as he had mentioned by the destruction of birds and animals that preyed upon them, but also in the unmolested sanctuary they enjoyed during the breeding season in the plantations and woods were game was preserved. We should soon have a close season, not only for hares and rabbits, but also for rats and mice. The House of Commons was supposed to be a place for the transaction of business, and not for the discussion of ornithological questions, and he hoped the time of hon. Gentlemen would not be wasted any further upon such a matter, for however interest- 1189 ing the inquiry might be to the naturalists, the result would be the extension of legislation in a direction which he considered had already gone too far.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, he thought that much useful information with regard to the habits of birds would be obtained if this Committee were appointed. At the present moment hedge sparrows were condemned because they were sufficiently unfortunate to bear the name of sparrow, although they were as totally distinct in their habits and nature from those much-abused birds as the owls were from the pigeons, and he had heard a man, misled by the name, say that the wheatears came in the autumn to eat the ripe corn, whereas, in fact, they always came in the spring. As a practical observer of birds all his life, his conviction was that there was no bird that did not do more good than mischief. What was wanted was to prevent, the wholesale capture or destruction of these birds, for the purposes of sale, during the close season.
suggested for the interest of both parties that the Committee should be granted in order to ascertain whether the Bill of last year should be amended by enlarging the Schedule.
§ MR. ASSHETON
said, he thought the Act required amendment because it was founded on a wrong principle—namely, that birds should be destroyed unless it could be shown that they were harmless; whereas the true principle should be that no birds should be destroyed in the breeding season unless it could be shown that they were mischievous. This would throw the onus of proof on the destroyer.
moved, as an Amendment, that the Committee should be granted for the purpose of considering the advisability "of amending" the Act of last Session.
To leave out the words "extending the protection of a close season to certain Wild Birds not included in," in order to insert the word "amending,"—(Mr. Stuart Parker,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.1190
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 162; Noes 16: Majority 146.
§ Select Committee appointed, "with power to take evidence, to inquire into the advisability of extending the protection of a close season to certain Wild Birds not included in the Wild Birds Preservation Act of 1872."
§ And, on May 15, Committee nominated as follows:—Mr. STURT, Colonel PARKER, Mr. ROWLAND WINN, Colonel BERESFORD, Mr. SYKES, Mr. HAMBRO, Mr. DILLWYN, Mr. ANDREW JOHNSTON, Mr. H. B. SAMUELSON, Sir DAVID WEDDEREURN, Captain GREVILLE, Mr. HERON, Mr. JONES, Mr. PRICE, and Mr. AUBERON HERBERT:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.