HC Deb 21 June 1880 vol 253 cc522-8

Order for Committee read.


, in moving that Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, said, he might observe that there were some Amendments proposed to be made in the Bill, and he had arranged with his hon. Friends to report Progress directly the Chairman got into the Chair, in order to answer these Amendments, and then he hoped by Thursday they would be able to go on with the Bill.

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


observed that, if he read the Bill correctly, it proposed that all wild birds of whatever sort were to be preserved. He objected to that very much. He objected to magpies, hawks, and scorn-crows being preserved. He did not know af any other birds that he particularly objected to; but then he did not know much about them. He thought all birds which were considered to belong to the predacious classes ought not to be preserved. If these were omitted, he should be satisfied; but, otherwise he should be obliged to object to the Speaker leaving the Chair.


said, he thought his hon. Friends would be disposed to leave out the magpies; but he should like to say a word for hawks. They were a very interesting, and, in some cases, useful tribe of birds, and were being rapidly exterminated. Still, if it was wished to exclude them, their case might be considered in Committee. No doubt his hon. Friends would consent to do that. Therefore, he hoped the hon. and gallant Gentleman would allow them to get into Committee, as it was not proposed at present to go any further. The reason for protecting all wild birds was that it was found that when only certain classes were protected persons who destroyed them always pretended, when they were caught, that they were out for the purpose of destroying birds which were not protected by the Bill.


said, he was exceedingly anxious that this Bill should be allowed to pass, because, at the present time, he did not think the House was aware of the extent to which the existing laws were set at nought, and the amount of cruelty that was perpetrated on many birds. He was quite sure his hon. and gallant Friend opposite would not wish to see many birds which he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) could name left unprotected as they were by the existing law. This Bill really would only enable the old law for the protection of birds to be enforced, and would give some guarantee, at any rate, against the cruelties undoubtedly perpetrated under the existing law.


did not think the Bill would at all prevent cruelty from being committed, for this was the third Wild Birds' Protection Bill that he had known during the last half-dozen years, and the others were certainly inoperative. He objected to this Bill, because he thought it had the character of a Game Bill. ["Oh!"] Hon. Members might smile; but one effect of it would be to protect wood pigeons, which were a greater nuisance than all the game birds put together. It was required by the Bill that an occupier of land, to protect his crops by shooting birds, must either do it himself, or give a writing under his hand to somebody else. He thought that farmers and market gardeners, who principally kept wild birds, should have full liberty to kill them; whereas, if they had to give permission in writing to persons to do it, he thought they would be very much hampered. He was sorry to say that he felt he must oppose this Bill, and he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not press them to go into Committee that night, but would give them some opportunity to discuss the whole measure at a time when the speeches of hon. Members could be reported. Many persons had sentimental feelings in regard to birds; but such people usually knew nothing of the depredations of which market gardeners and farmers and others complained. Those persons certainly should be heard in this matter, for in Scotland, at any rate, wood pigeons had become such a nuisance that subscriptions had been entered into amongst the farmers for having them shot down and their nests destroyed. Under the present Bill he doubted very much whether that could be done. He objected very much to proposals of this kind to keep large stocks of birds at the expense of farmers and market gardeners.


understood that his hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dwillwyn) did not propose to go further than merely getting the House into Committee; and, therefore, he did not see that anyone could object to that. There was a good deal to be said against some points in the Bill, for he was afraid, for instance, one clause in it would prevent the importation of ortolans, quails, and other foreign game birds, which, of course, was not desirable. Then, with regard to what his hon. Friend (Mr. Barclay) had said, he was not at all sure whether this would not be a very good substitute for a Game Bill, if, instead of protecting particular birds, the House laid down the principle that all birds might be killed by anybody who had the permission of the tenant; it would be a very good provision, but, of course, he did not propose to discuss that subject then. There was a good deal in the Bill that required criticism; but he was quite sure before Committee was actually reached his hon. Friend would be quite ready to discuss all these questions.


remarked that this objection as to ortolans and quails had been already pointed out to him, and in consequence he had spoken to two very large game importers on the subject; and, from what he heard from them, he was quite sure that his hon. Friend would move to have them exempted. At the same time he did hope the Bill would be allowed to pass. With regard to hawks, he might remind the hon. Baronet that there was only one class which lived on game birds—namely, sparrow Lawks, and that the kestrel did not. Therefore, the only necessity was for the exclusion of one particular kind of hawk.


said, if the Home Secretary favoured the principle of the Bill, he hoped he was also in favour of Clause 4, which gave the legal owner of the land power to withdraw any authority to kill or destroy any wild bird, so that the principle would be established that the owner had absolute power to withdraw any authority to kill or destroy any wild birds, and had power to deal as he pleased, and reserve the right of killing and taking those birds, which were the subject of the Bill.


hoped the House would go at once into Committee; for he believed that wholesale destruction of wild birds was at present going on. In the particular part of the country from which he came he knew that insects had very largely increased in consequence of the small birds having been killed; and, therefore, he hoped that the House would do its best to secure some protection for the small birds.


thought the Bill ought to be sent to the Select Committee; for it could not be fairly discussed in that way. They had had Select Committees on this subject already, and the result was not eminently satisfactory; but the results would be still less so if the House were to discuss this Bill in Committee at such an hour of the night as that. If the House allowed the Speaker to leave the Chair, they would not be able to amend the Bill afterwards as it should be amended; and he, for one, though very unwilling to oppose the Bill, would therefore say "No" to the Motion.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)



said, no doubt this was a very good Bill; but he should like to have the views of some people upon it before it passed into law. Certainly the predacious class of birds ought to be removed from it altogether. ["Progress !"] Hon. Gentlemen might say "Progress." [Sir HENRY SELWIN-IB-BETSON: But Progress will be moved immediately.] He (Major Nolan) knew it would; but he wanted to talk about the Bill to show how it might be improved. Wood pigeons, for instance, had been mentioned; and there were many other birds which were very injurious. For instance, a man who shot rooks would be liable to all these penalties, unless he got a permission in writing. This was a very good Bill in its way, and he had no objection to it generally; but he ought to know whether his particular views would be met or not, as, if not, it would be tolerably easy to stop it at the present stage; while if it were allowed now to go on without any declaration on the part of the Members who had it in charge that they were ready to agree to his proposals, that subsequently would be very difficult. He should certainly oppose the Bill as much as he could unless he got an assurance to that effect.


replied, that he was not only willing, but anxious, to meet the wishes of the hon. and gallant Gen- tleman. All he desired was to make a reasonable Bill, which would prevent the capture of those birds which they desired to see increased. It was very difficult to frame a clause for that purpose which would really get hold of the bird-catchers, who destroyed all the birds near the large towns; because, unless it were very general, the bird-catchers would be sure to say that they were getting one kind of birds when really they were out after another. It might be, perhaps, enough if they prohibited the capture of birds during breeding season; but he would not at that moment particularly pledge himself to any special point, but would merely say that he was most anxious to meet hon. Members in making any Amendment, and that he should hope between that and Thursday to agree on some clauses which would meet everybody's views.


understood that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea intended to have a Schedule attached to the Bill. [Mr. DILLWYN: I did not say that.] The consequence would be that anyone going out to protect his crops would have to take the Act of Parliament with him in order to see what birds he could shoot and what he could not. That would be a difficulty, and at the same time an absurdity.


said, it seemed clear that in Scotland and Ireland there was a considerable difficulty in writing; but from what the hon. Member said there seemed to be in Scotland a difficulty even in reading. All that was necessary under this Bill was that the owner or occupier should give a licence to shoot. For his own part, he could not see what difficulty there could be about it.


said, the Bill provided that the owner must give a writing under his hand to any person whom he authorized to shoot birds upon his land to protect his crops; and that writing, according to the provisions of the Bill, must be given before the date on which the shooting took place. He apprehended that a very large number of people in Scotland and Ireland might have some difficulty in ascertaining the exact provisions of the measure.


observed, that in Committee they might alter that so as to make a mere verbal authority sufficient; and, for his part, he thought that would be enough.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.