HC Deb 02 August 1881 vol 264 cc689-92

Bill, as amended,considered.


said, he had a new clause to propose for the protection of bonâ fide naturalists and collectors of birds. He thought it only proper that some distinction should be drawn between these persons and the people who destroyed birds illegally out of season when they were helpless and easily destroyed. That part of the year in which birds were most worth preserving was the spring, and that was the period of the year when they were not allowed to be taken or killed. According to the existing law, a collector of birds, private amateur, or a representative of a museum, could not take birds as specimens without incurring serious penalties. What he proposed was that the Court, before whom a person was brought up and charged with destroying birds out of season, should have a discretionary power in a matter of conviction. If it could be shown that the birds had been taken for preservation in an ornithological collection or museum, the Court should be able to excuse them. In other countries where wild birds were protected the Minister of the Interior himself had power to exempt from the operation of the law persons taking birds for scientific purposes; but after what had just taken place in regard to the Petroleum (Hawking) Bill, he would not propose that method of dealing with the subject in this country.

New Clause to follow Clause 1—

(Reservation in case of birds killed for scientific purposes.)

"A person shall not be liable to be convicted under 'The Wild Birds Protection Act, 1880,' if he satisfies the Court before whom he is charged that any wild birds which he has killed and offered for sale are intended bonâ fide for preservation in an ornithological collection or museum."—(Sir David Wedderburn)

Clause brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."


said, that he had had every desire to meet the hon. Member for Haddington (Sir David Wedderburn), but he found it quite impossible to do so. If the clause were accepted, the whole Bill would be shattered, because it would be impossible to prove what the intention of a person was when he took birds when brought up before the magistrates. Nor was the clause necessary. A bonâ fide ornithologist, when taken before the magistrates, would be able to say that he was in pursuit of scientific knowledge, and, under the power of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, the magistrates would be able to dismiss the case if they believed him.


trusted that the Amendment would not be accepted.

Question put, and negatived


said, he rose to move the omission of Clause 2 from the Bill, and what he had to say on the matter he should say as shortly as possible. The clause proposed the insertion of the lark in the Schedule of the "Wild Birds Act, 1880," and he submitted that it was quite unnecessary to include that bird in the special protection provided by the Schedule. He was as much a friend of the lark as any Member of that House; but he thought it quite unnecessary to provide this special protection for it—a penalty of 5s. being, in his opinion, sufficient for the purpose. Everyone knew that it was difficult to find larks' nests in the spring of the year, the nature of the ground at that time providing ample cover; and if there was any diminution in the number of larks, he thought it was owing to the severe winters they had had during the last three years. They ought to endeavour to carry public opinion with them in this sort of legislation; and as it was a fact that at certain seasons of the year larks pulled up sprouting corn, if this bird were included in the Schedule, it would make the Bill more unpopular than it was now in the eyes of those people it would mostly concern. This was not the time to introduce new matter into the Schedule. As had been pointed out, the Act of last year gave protection to nearly all wild birds, including the lark, and the present was merely a Declaratory Bill, explaining the construction of a particular clause in the Act of last year which appeared to be of doubtful character; but this new matter, he submitted, ought not to be brought before the House. For those reasons he moved the omission of the clause.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, to leave out Clause 2.—(Mr. Round.)

Question proposed, "That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill."


said, he was as fond of larks as the hon. Member who had just spoken; but he had long felt that severe penalties were not the best way of preserving birds. He regretted that in "another place" several small birds had been added to the Schedule. Penalties should be imposed for valuable birds, and not for small birds, and he thought larks were far more likely to be protected under the Bill as it previously stood than by severe penalties. For that reason he hoped the alterations made in "another place" would be omitted.


said, he hoped the lark would not be omitted, for he had an affection for that bird, and he would not bow to the opinion of the hon. Member who made the Motion. With regard to larks' nests, in his opinion the lark's nest was very easy to find, and he had never failed to discover a lark's nest whenever he wanted one. It was only necessary to watch where the lark rose and to see where he settled, for the lark always settled within 20 yards of its nest. The lark was one of the most beautiful wild birds, and was becoming scarcer every year, and he hoped that the House would protect it.


confessed that he had no feeling one way or the other as to the lark, and whether it was included in the Schedule or omitted appeared to him a perfectly open question. But what he had heard privately or in the other House inclined him to adhere to the Act of last Session; and, although he would wish to be respectful to the other House, on the whole he thought it would be better to keep to the original form of this clause.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 29; Noes 25: Majority 4.—(Div. List, No. 350.)

Bill read the third time, and passed.