HC Deb 08 April 1891 vol 352 cc65-96


Order for Second Reading read.

(12.35.) COLONEL DAWNAY (York, N.R., Thirsk)

In rising to move the Second Reading of this Bill, I wish to say that it should have been unnecessary to give an assurance that the Bill has nothing whatever to do with the preservation of rabbits; but, unfortunately, a number of persons who ought to know better have insisted on calling it a Hares and Rabbits Bill, and have thus unjustly created a great deal of opposition to it that would not otherwise have been shown. The object of the Bill is to provide a close time for hares only during the breeding season; and so far from wishing to interfere with the principle of the Ground Game Act, 1880, in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) is interested, the object in bringing in this Bill is to confirm that principle and to secure to the farmers the benefits granted to them by that Act, benefits which are now endangered. The provisions of the present Bill differ in one important particular from previous Bills on the subject. Although there is, and always has been, a large majority in the House in favour of a close time for hares, yet there does exist a strong feeling among a certain section that there should not be one hard and fast close time in all England, Scotland, and Wales. There is considerable force in this objection, because what might be a reasonable close time in Sussex and Dorset would not be equally reasonable for the Counties of Sutherland and Caithness in Scotland. To meet this objection, the present Bill, instead of giving the same close time for England, Scotland, and Wales, gives the County Councils in those countries power to grant a close time in their own respective counties during the breeding season. The Bill also is on the same lines as that valuable measure, the Wild Birds Protection Act, but it substitutes County Councils for Justices of Quarter Sessions in fixing a close time. We do not ask the House to fix a particular close time, but that the occupiers of the land may, if they wish, through their representatives on the County Councils, have the power of fixing the close time during the breeding season. If the occupiers do not want the power they need not have it, and if, having obtained it, they find it injurious, the Bill will enable them to repeal it. I venture to say that a measure more free from possibility of abuse has never been submitted to Parliament, and I am not altogether without hope that we may secure the support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby himself for the Second Reading. I earnestly hope that this may be so, or I believe that soon there will be no hares left to protect. In many parts of England hares are becoming almost extinct through the barbarous and unnecessary slaughter that is made of them at improper times. The right hon. Gentleman did not agree with me last Session, and as a proof that hares were plentiful in this country he told the House that Lord Durham had in one particular day had 360 killed on his estate. But even supposing that Lord Durham is in the habit of shooting 300 or 400 hares on his estate in one day it would only prove that there are a few great landowners who are able to afford the expense of keeping up a large supply of game. I have taken pains to ascertain the views of the trade in this matter, and have consulted many of the leading salesmen of the London game markets. They have informed me that there has been a marked decrease in the number of English hares since the Act of 1880 was passed, and that also after the beginning of March a very large number of the hares that are killed are with young or in milk. Very few buck hares come into the market after the end of February, and the slaughter of doe hares is simply barbarous. Nor is there any excuse for it, because there is an ample supply of foreign hares brought frozen into the market that are killed before the breeding season, and are therefore in a fit and proper condition. All the game salesmen agree that if some steps are not taken to prevent the present destruction the utter extermination of our whole stock of English hares is only a matter of time. This is the fifth Session that this Bill has been brought forward, and until this day we have not had the opportunity of a Debate on the Second Reading. Last year we succeeded in getting the Bill into Committee, when the right hon. Member for Derby stated his objections to it, and it is in order to satisfy and to remove those objections that the present Bill has been brought forward to-day in its altered form. I wish briefly to refer to some of the objections urged by the right hon. Gentleman. The first was that the Bill contravenes the principle of the Ground Game Act. This, however, is not the case, and the Bill simply seeks to put a stop to the senseless and indiscriminate slaughter that is now going on. Hares have a habit of wandering from one farm to another, and a farmer naturally says, " What is the use of my preserving hares that they may be shot by my next neighbour? " The result is, that the wretched hares are shot both in season and out of season to prevent any chance of escape. This Bill will prevent anything of the kind, be cause, if the majority of the farmers wish to have a close time, they will, through their representatives on the County Councils, be able to secure it. Another objection of the right hon. Gentleman was that this is a sportsman's Bill, and is brought forward in the interests of sportsmen. Well, I admit that if there were no hares there would be no coursing, and tens of thousands of the working classes, among others, in Lancashire and Yorkshire would be deprived of a sport in which they now participate, and which they enjoy just as much as the right hon. Gentleman himself does the Goodwood and Ascot races. For my own part, I should be extremely sorry to see any of the old English sports abolished, although, if the right hon. Gentleman will bring in a Bill to put a stop to such coursing as takes place at Kempton Park, I will willingly support it; but I say emphatically that this is not a sporting Bill. Lastly, the right hon. Gentleman says that this is a Bill which would create a new Game Law, and that it would warrant the gamekeepers in being always on the land of the occupiers. But if the tenant does not like the arrangement he would be able to take effectual steps to put a stop to it, because up to the period at which close time begins he could kill every hare in his district. Whatever the result of the Bill may be, I do not think it will add to the game preserves of this country. It is a Bill for preventing the extermination of a valuable animal. I desire to point out that by inadvertence I have omitted to insert a clause—which, however, I will move in Committee— expressly providing that the Bill is not to apply in cases where a hare or leveret has been killed, wounded, or taken inside a nursery or other garden. There is an almost unanimous feeling in the country in favour of the measure. Almost every Farmers' Club and Chamber of Agriculture has passed resolutions in favour of the Bill. Two years ago 2,000 Petitions were presented, containing 30,000 signatures in favour of it, and only one against it; and Mr. Rowlandson, who contested the North Riding of York in 1883, spoke in the Central Chamber of Agriculture strongly in support of it. No. measure was ever more universally supported by all classes. Even the Society of Advocates at Aberdeen have petitioned in favour of it, and the names on the back of the Bill represent every single section of this House. Hon. Members for Ireland, besides having backed the Bill, have given a still more practical proof of their opinion upon the matter, because an Act fixing a close time for hares in Ireland was passed in 1879. Consequently, Irish hares already enjoy the blessing of Home Rule, and the present Bill will extend the blessing to their less fortunate fellow-creatures in England, Scotland, and Wales. I cannot think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby will refuse them this small mercy. On what principle of justice should a Donegal hare enjoy the blessing of paternal government, while the Derbyshire hare remains without the pale, an alien and an outcast? Before I sit down I must again emphatically repeat that we do not wish to curtail or interfere with the existing rights of anyone. If the farmers really wish to exterminate the hares, they will, under the present Bill, have ample opportunities of doing so. But the supporters of the measure protest against the hares being barbarously slaughtered at a time when they are unfit for human food, and I appeal to the House to grant this small, but necessary, amendment of the Ground Game Act of 1880. In conclusion, I beg to move the Second Reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, " That the Bill be now read a second time."—{Colonel Dawnay.)

(12.45.) MR. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)

In rising to oppose the Bill, I desire to express a certain amount of sympathy with the object the hon. Member has in view; and if he had confined the measure to the prevention of the selling of hares in close time, I do not think I should have opposed him. My main objection to the Bill as it stands is that it is a new and an additional Game Act. I think we have already too many Game Acts, and, for my part, I am resolved to oppose any new game legislation until there has been a revision of the Acts now in force. I think the hon. Member has over-stated his case in saying that this will not be an interference with the rights of the farmers under the Ground Game Law, because he must be aware that it would be impossible to fix snares for rabbits in close time without the chance of catching hares in them, and if that should happen the farmer would render himself liable to penalties under this Bill. That would certainly be an infraction of the rights conferred on farmers by the Ground Game Act. Let me remind the House that the Ground Game Act was a compromise. There was an anxious desire on the part of many hon. Members that there should be a close time for hares; but, on the other hand, there was a desire that the rights of the farmer should not be prejudiced, and that consideration prevailed. The hon. Member has said that the farmers are almost unanimously in favour of the Bill. I do not think the hon. Member has had much support from the Scotch . farmers. On the contrary, from everything I have heard, the Scotch farmers are opposed to the Bill. [An hon. MEMBER: No.] Is the hon. Member who dissents able to refer to any Petition from Scotch farmers in favour of the measure. For my part, I have not seen any; but even if it were the case, and a large number of sporting farmers were in favour of a close time for hares, I do not think that would be any justification for this Bill, or that a majority of the farmers should be allowed to preserve animals to eat up the crops of the minority. For it must be borne in mind that before the hares of the majority can eat the crops of the minority they must first trespass upon the land of the minority. It is not, however, a question between the majority and the minority, but a question whether a highly rented farmer is to be called upon to maintain in addition his neighbour's hares. This Bill proposes to disturb the compromise already arrived at, and to curtail the rights now enjoyed. If the hon. Member had brought forward a measure simply to prevent the selling of hares in close time, or if he had proposed that the farmers should have more liberty in dealing with hares and rabbits outside the close time, I should not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. But under the circumstances, although I sympathise to some extent with the views of the hon. Member, I feel called upon, in the performance of my duty to my constituents, to move that the Bill be read a second time on this day six months.

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. Barclay.)

Question proposed, "That the word ' now ' stand part of the Question."

(12.56.) MR. COBB Warwick, S.E., Rugby),

who seconded the Amendment, said: I have been in communication with a large number of tenant farmers in regard to this Bill, and it is obvious that it is a measure upon which a considerable diversity of interests arises. Indeed, it seems to me that in discussing any question of game it is impossible that a diversity of interests should not arise between the game preservers and the tenant farmers, whose crops feed the game. The present Bill is very largely a rich man's Bill. It is clearly a Bill in the interests of game preservers, and opposed to the interests of the tenant farmers. Tenant farmers did not always get their way, but after many years of fighting they obtained the boon which was con- ferred by the Act of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. There is no tenant farmer in the country who will say that that Act has not been of great service to him. There is not an argument which has been used to-day by the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Dawnay) in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill which was not used against the Second Reading of the Ground Game Act. I cannot understand on what principle the hon. and gallant Gentleman assumes that this Bill will not interfere with the Ground Game Act. This Bill is in direct opposition to the principle of that Act. The principle of the Ground Game Act is that a tenant farmer may do what he likes with the hares and rabbits on his land at all times. This Bill will prevent him doing what he likes with hares at a certain time of the year. It seems to me that tenant farmers would be foolish to give up the right which has been given them. Far too few rights have been granted to English tenant farmers; they are beginning to learn by experience, and they have not the same confidence in the landowning and game-preserving class they had 20 years ago. I imagine that no one wishes hares to become extinct, no one wishes to deprive those who enjoy sport with harriers and greyhounds of their sport; but as to the matter of food supply, I am satisfied that the damage done by hares in England vastly exceeds any amount of food which hares afford. The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of how very fairly tenant farmers had acted in carrying out the Ground Game Act. I ask him to trust them in the future. He says that he does, but his Bill seems to show that he does not. I am quite sure tenant farmers will not unnecessarily kill hares in close time. Of course, it may be absolutely necessary in the interest of his farming operations that a farmer should kill hares in the close time, but this Bill will prevent him doing so. It seems to me the people we really want to get at are the people who make a profit by the sale of hares in the close time. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Forfar (Mr. Barclay) that if the hon. and gallant Member would confine his Bill to prohibiting the sale of hares and the exposing hares for sale during certain times we might well withdraw our opposition. I understood the hon. and gallant Gentleman to-say he only knew of one solitary instance of a tenant farmer being against the Bill. I have the honour to represent an agricultural constituency, and I have made it my business to ascertain the opinions of the tenant farmers in regard to this measure. About a year ago I was present when this matter was discussed by four gentlemen in Warwickshire. Two of the gentlemen were well-known Conservative farmers and one was-a Radical doctor, who, I think, knew as much about hares as the Conservative farmers. The Radical doctor was at first strongly in favour of the Bill of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but at the end of the discussion I made a note of what was agreed. That the present rights of tenants under the Hares and Rabbits Act, as to killing hares and rabbits at any time, ought not in any way to be encroached upon, but that hares ought not to be sold or exposed for sale out of season, so that their wanton destruction for profit might be stopped, I firmly believe that represents the very general opinion amongst tenant farmers. Last Saturday there was a meeting of the Warwickshire Chamber of Agriculture. The Chamber discussed this Bill, and the Vice Chairman moved— That a close time for hares is not desirable in the interest of agriculture, and he pointed out that, so far as tenant farmers were concerned, this would be a retrograde movement. The motion was seconded by Mr. Macmillan, one of Lord Leigh's largest tenants, and a gentleman very well known in Warwickshire. He said the Bill would make the position of the tenant farmer worse than it now was. Another well-known tenant farmer said that all farmers seemed to be against killing hares during the close time, and he thought they might be trusted without an Act being passed. That is exactly my view. I second the rejection of the Bill, firstly, because I believe it to be an invasion upon the rights of the tenant farmers; and, secondly, because I believe the difficulty may be met in the very simple way I have already indicated.

(1.12.) MR. HERMON - HODGE (Lancashire, Accrington)

As having been a master of harriers in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, I may, perhaps, be allowed to say a few words. My experience of farmers, and it is naturally a very large one, is diametrically opposed to the experience of the hon. Member for the Rugby Division (Mr. Cobb). Warwickshire is not very far from Oxfordshire, and I venture to suggest as an explanation of the difference of opinion which apparently exists, that Chambers of Agriculture, when discussing questions of this sort, are very apt to catch a certain amount of colour from the Members of Parliament who attend the discussions. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will persevere with the Bill. There are no animals more easily exterminated than hares. There is no question more often asked than when this Bill is going to be passed. The hare provides the only means of sport for thousands of the poor farmers, and there is no better means of promoting good-fellowship than to prevent its extermination. We do not want a large number of hares, because that would ruin sport. We only want two or three hares in a parish, and it is because we think they are going to be exterminated that we ask the House to pass this Bill.

(1.15.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)

My chief objection to the Bill is that it will extend the Game Laws, and that I think in itself will be a great evil. I know that opinion is not held by everybody. There never yet has been a time when an owner of land could not kill hares on his own property for the protection of his crops. This Bill will for the first time restrict that right. In old days the right could not be exercised without a game licence; but about 20 years ago it was considered proper to remove that restriction. Then, in 1880, the occupier of lands was given an inalienable right to destroy hares for the protection of his property. The hon. and gallant Member opposite has said that everyone is in favour of a close time for hares; but that view is not borne out by the Debates of 1880, when the question was fully discussed. In that year a gentleman well known for his acquaintance with, and interest in, agriculture—Mr. Ruggles-Brise—and who sat on the Conservative Benches, moved an Amendment to the Ground Game Bill confirming the right of the occupier to kill hares in the months of February, March, and April; so that the time, according to Mr. Ruggles-Brise, when occupiers ought to be allowed to kill hares is exactly the time you would prevent them doing so. Mr. Ruggles-Brise said he agreed with the Home Secretary that a close time for hares was not necessary, and added that it would be an uncalled-for interference with the rights of farmers, who ought to be allowed to kill leverets as an article of food. Ultimately the Amendment was withdrawn. I remember that an objection I took at that time to a close time, was that it would have an injurious effect upon small holders. The present Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Chaplin) whom I am surprised not to see in his place to-day, took part in the discussion. It was in the days of the right hon. Gentleman's unregenerate condition, before he had sat at the feet of the Gamaliel of Bordesley; but even in those days he declared that, in connection with market gardens, there ought to be unlimited power to kill hares at all times. Mr. Hunter Rod well, a very considerable authority, both upon sport and the feelings of tenant farmers in Cambridgeshire, was opposed to a close time for hares. Eventually, a definite Amendment was moved on the subject. It ran as follows:— No person shall kill or take hares between April 1 and August 1 in England and Scotland, and between April 20 and August 20 in Ireland. That Amendment was rejected on a Division. Lord Wemyss, who sat in this House then as Lord Elcho, and who certainly was not an enemy of sport, said that, in the interests of sport, it would be reasonable to have a close time; but that if the intention was to promote good husbandry by keeping down game there ought to be no close time. Mr. Beresford Hope, among others, opposed the Amendment on the ground that hares injured plantations by eating the young shoots. The proposal is now made to establish a close time in spite of the decision arrived at in 1880. The promoters of the Bill urge in its favour that it provides for the intervention of the County Councils. For my part, I am not sure that this is a point to which much importance ought to be attached, for in some places the County Councils are very much what the old Quarter Sessions used to be. I hold, also, that it would be a great mistake to entrust the County Councils with game legislation. If there is anything that will certainly render them unpopular it will be to give them the power of making new Game Laws. It is urged as a reason for the introduction of this Bill, that hares are becoming extinct. I deny the truth of that statement; it is contrary to the evidence of my own senses. In the county in which I live, where there are no large estates and no special preservation, there certainly is no paucity of hares. The week before last a master of harriers in my neighbourhood found in one morning three or four hares, and a friend of mine in this House has told me that on an estate in Yorkshire 400 hares were recently killed in one day. For a moderate man surely that is enough. On another estate in the same county—not an estate of great dimensions — I understand that 250 hares were killed in a day. Therefore, there does not appear to be any paucity of hares in the county from which the hon. and gallant Member opposite comes. No doubt there are not as many hares now as there used to be, and I am glad of it. I remember the days when it was a common thing to see carts full of hares coming away from the coverts. The farmers all over the country very justly complained; and now, where there was great abuse in the preservation of hares, hares have been killed down. Then it is said the farmers universally desire this Bill, but I do not believe that. I have had a good many letters on the subject as well as my hon. Friend. I suppose we see the opposite sides of the shield, his correspondents approve of the Bill, mine disapprove of it. The hon. Member for Warwick has given us some valuable testimony as to the views of the farmers, in whom my hon. Friend believes. The argument of my hon. Friend is that farmers want protection against themselves, and against each other, and he used what seemed to me a rather amusing expression, that a man kills on his own land not only his own hares but other people's hares. But, how are they other people's hares when a man finds the animals on his own land eating his crops? Those are a man's hares which he finds on his own land. If I see a hare eating my carnations I do not ask whose hare it is, I destroy him, if I choose, because he is on my land eating my flowers; and the distinction my hon. Friend draws between a man's own hares and the hares of other people is one I do not understand. My hon. Friend seems to imagine that hares are domestic animals, forgetting, for the moment, his own remark that hares are great travellers. The rabbit may be considered a domestic animal, he does not go far from his burrow, his range is limited, but the hare travels far afield. This argument comes strangely from the Benches opposite. Whenever it is proposed to put down a public house, because it is unnecessary, and a temptation to the people around, then the remonstrance is raised that this is an interference with liberty and the right of property, but I wonder what the Property Defence Association say to a Bill of this kind, which undoubtedly is an interference with liberty and rights of property, for it declares that a man shall not kill his own hare—as I call it—on his own land when the animal is destroying his own property. But though gentlemen opposite are continually denouncing and attacking the principle of interference with the rights of property in reference to public houses, or Trades Unions, or anything else, because it may be an advantage to somebody else, all these fine principles disappear the moment you come to the question of game; then liberty and rights of property disappear, and there is no principle they are not ready to invade. If it were true that all farmers are in favour of the Bill, I, for one, should be extremely glad to hear it. I should be extremely glad to hear that farmers are so well off that the only thing they really need at the present time is more hares. That would relieve us from many terrible apprehensions of agricultural distress of which we have heard so much, and perhaps we shall have no more demands for Imperial subsidies in relief of local rates—especially after the admission by the Minister for Agriculture that the whole of such relief goes ultimately into the pockets of the landowners. This intimation that the farmers of England are in favour of more hares seems to me to indicate a sort of superabundance of wealth, a plethora of prosperity such as we hardly expected the class to possess. So far, no doubt, the statement is very satisfactory. But I confess to being a little sceptical on this subject, this unanimity in favour of the Bill. If it were only the big men I should care very little about it. I think the big farmers are quite able to take care of themselves, and will take care of themselves. But they will probably not be affected by the Bill, and I will say a word or two on another class of agriculturists directly. Then there is the great argument, the " food of the people," and this, I find, is put into the Preamble of this Bill. I hope my hon. Friend will not be offended if I say there is a slightly insincere Preamble to his Bill. I find there is another proposal for legislation before the House this Session, there is a " Possession of Game" Bill which is to prevent the importation of certain kinds of game from abroad, and that seems hardly consistent with this great anxiety about the "food of the people." But I do not find, nor does my hon. Friend even assert that there is any scarcity of hares in the market. I listened very carefully to what he said as to the evidence of salesmen, which entirely confirms the information I have. He said there was a diminution in the supply of English hares, and 1 am glad of it, but there is an increase in the importation of foreign hares, and, consequently, no decrease in this form of food for the people. There are hares which feed on the produce of English farms, and a very good thing for the food of the people that is. As I was driving from the station yesterday, I passed a poulterer's shop, in which was exhibited a placard " Hares are cheap to-day." That does not support the " food for the people " argument. But while on this point of food for the people I would ask, what are you going to do about leverets. We most of us know that in the " gameous months " of June and July the only game to be had is leverets. Is no leveret to be allowed to be killed during the months of May, June, and July? Really, I must again say that this argument of food for the people is insincere. Food for the people! Why, how much food do hares destroy? What do you think is the effect of half a dozen hares in a field of turnips in such a winter as we have had? We know when pieces are bitten out of the sides of turnips, and we have such frosts as we have had this winter, that these turnips are destroyed. How much food for sheep is in this way destroyed? To increase the number of hares on the ground of increasing the supply of food for the people is all nonsense; indeed, it tends to diminish the supply of food for the people. Then there is another favourite argument in favour of this Bill, which I may call the cruelty argument. Now, I confess I cannot help calling that with all respect to those who use it a hypocritical argument. I should like to know whether those tender-hearted gentlemen who are so indisposed to kill hares during the breeding season are going to cherish them as the poet Cowper did his hare when he watched the animal's gambols in his orchard. I do not think there is any such object in the preservation. No, these hares about which hon. Gentleman are so solicitous, are intended to perish by the mouth of chokebore or greyhound. The argument on the ground of humanity is carried almost to the limit of absurdity. I have in my time been fond of shooting, but I have always thought that it is a great drawback to hare shooting and extremely painful to a man of sensitive feelings to hear the scream of the wounded hare in the cover when the dog seizes it. I have never thought hare shooting the highest form of sport. I think we had better get rid of cant in these " food of the people " and " humanity " arguments, for these arguments do not concern the real object of this Bill. My hon. Friend objects to my calling it a Bill for the promotion of sport. Now in a legitimate way I am as little against sport as my hon. Friend is, but I am against that old abuse of game preserving which, I hope, has been put an end to by the Act of 1880. We have got rid of that enormous stock of hares kept up at that time, and I hope we shall not be allowed to return to that state of things under this or any other measure. I am extremely glad to hear what my hon. Friend has said in regard to coursing, and certainly not f6r such a purpose should we keep up the stock of hares in the country. I have no hostility whatever to keeping up a fair head of game, either of hares or any other kind of game, so long as this is done under conditions not injurious to the farming interest on small holdings, but I do object to a man being deprived of the rights—of what was made an inalienable right by the Act of 1880—of doing what he likes on his own land for the protection of his own crops. It is because this Bill invades that principle that I am hostile to it. Now, I will say a word or two upon the operation of the Bill as affecting small landholders. I do not care about the large farmers, though I am glad to hear they are so prosperous that they do not care how many hares there are on their land. I am not concerned about such farmers as he in the story who, having had three days' hunting and two days' coursing, did not know how to occupy the sixth day. Not for the large farmers am I at all solicitous. We live in days when everybody is or professes to be in favour of the increase of the number of small holdings, even the Minister for Agriculture is now in favour of this principle. And how is this Bill going to operate as regards small holdings? I do not see the hon. Member for the Bordesley division present, who should be ready to protect the right of the small holder to protect his crops. We all hope or profess to hope that there will be a large increase in the class of petit cultivateurs, who will rear little crops of cabbages, carrots, cauliflowers, peas, and other produce by which they will turn a few shillings to aid them in the struggle for existence. Suppose a hare or two should get among these crops in the night just now when it is proposed to create a close time, and when after a dismal winter we are waiting to see the first blades shoot from the ground. There is no living creature that will discover the first appearance of crops sooner than the vagrant hare, and you are actually going at the very time when hopes of agriculturists are rising with the early growth, to prevent a man from killing the animal who is ready to commence its depredations. A more monstrous and absurd proposal it is impossible to conceive. If this Bill passes its Second Reading I shall propose an Amendment that every holder of 20 acres or under shall have the right to protect his crops; it is not a question of gardens, but of small holdings; and another Amendment I shall again propose, that no man shall be sent to prison for killing a hare on his own land for the protection of his own crops. A greater scandal on the administration of justice was never exhibited than the sending a man to prison for an offence of that character. I look at this matter from the point of view of the small holder—pro aris et focis—and not from the view of the country squire educated at Eton who rendered the phrase " for his hares and foxes," which perhaps to some country gentlemen have the importance the ancient Roman attached to aris et focis. But depend upon it, there is a very strong feeling on this subject among small holders. 1 regard myself as a law-abiding man, yet I should certainly form a sinking fund to provide for the fines for my right to kill hares in defence of my own crops. There are others who may not be able to pay the pecuniary penalty, and are they to be sent to prison because in defending their crops against the depredations of hares they infringe a regulation of a County Council? I learn from this Bill that it is proposed to impose a penalty of 20s., and I am sure a magistrate's clerk must have suggested the words " and costs." Somehow they always manage to make the costs considerably exceed the fine. It is a practice against which, while I was at the Home Office, I laboured almost in vain. A fine of 2s. 6d. or 3s. may carry with it costs of 15s. or 20s.; therefore, it comes to this: that a man who destroys a hare devouring his crops may be fined 40s. or sent to prison, under this Bill. That is a sort of legislation you think will commend itself to small holders throughout the country? The Parliament of 1880 would not have it, and it will be a measure of the distinction between the Parliament of 1880 and the present, if this Bill is passed now. My hon. Friend has referred again to what I have said as to the operation of the Game Laws, and I attach great importance to that. I do believe that the Act of 1880 had no better effect than what it achieved in this—that it kept the gamekeeper a great deal off the land of the occupier. Formerly he was always there, and was regarded very much as a spy, and very often as a tyrant. I remember once in Yorkshire —a county to which, with my hon. Friend, I belong—talking with a farmer soon after the passing of the Act of 1880, and the farmer said— It is a very good thing in the Bill, Sir, that the keeper will now have to consoolt us instead of insoolt us. That is a very favourable change in the relations between them, that the keeper has to pay some consideration to the occupier if he wants to preserve his game. Now my hon. Friend says, how will this Bill interfere with a keeper going on a man's land? Well, there are many lands on which there are no partridges or pheasants, and these can take care of themselves; but the gamekeeper in looking after hares in close time will be brought back on the land in a manner that I believe will be very objectionable. I do not know what is going to be the fortune of this Bill, and I must say that having a Minister for Agriculture, I think he ought to be here during a discussion of this kind. My hon. Friend has referred to the " Wild Birds " Act by which the decision of Quarter Sessions requires the sanction of the Executive Government through the Home Secretary, and that is a very proper provision, and I do not think that in a matter of this kind affecting the agricultural interests and the conditions of social life in the country, we should be without the opinion of the Minister for Agriculture. For my part I retain my opinion and am as strongly opposed to the Bill as ever I was. There is nothing I have seen during the last ten years with so much satisfaction as the marked diminution of crime throughout the country. Look at our criminal statistics and our prison returns. There are fewer people in prison and this is due to many causes, and is a satisfactory feature of our time. Well, it should be a warning to us not to create artificial offences. Conceive what happens to a man if he comes under the operation of a Bill such as this which creates what I call an artificial offence. He gets sent to prison, and his wife and children are ruined by it. He is a marked man ever after, for he has been imprisoned. But will you persuade that man or can you convince anybody that it is an offence in the sight of God or man deserving imprisonment, that a man has killed a hare on his own land? You cannot—it is not in the nature of things that you can. My hon. Friend, and those who support this Bill, cannot have given sufficient consideration to these things. Conceive the possible effects of this Bill. If one man is sent to prison for killing a hare in close time, do you think that all the sport you can have can compensate for the evil done in that way, for the evil spirit you will have raised through the consciousness of injustice suffered, by the creation into an offence of an act which is not an offence, and for the purpose of promoting an amusement which, in itself, I do not condemn? You ought to be extremely careful of the consequences of legislation of this kind. One of the great causes of the diminution in crime is that there are not now those convictions for poaching offences which some 10 or 20 years ago were a reproach to the country. The Game Laws produced evils of the gravest character. I do not envy the feelings of that man on whose estate, and owing to over preservation, a murder has taken place in a poaching affray. The change that has taken place in this direction, I am happy to think, is due to the Act of 1880. Other causes have operated, no doubt, but do not let us, while we are talking of improving the conditions of life for small holders in the country, do anything by inconsiderate, not to say selfish, legislation of this kind, which may tend to restore a state of things we are all glad has ceased to exist. If people want to preserve hares they can do so, but if they do not want to preserve hares any penal legislation to compel that preservation will bring with it greater evils than any advantage that can possibly be gained. I entreat the House to consider this matter most carefully, and to reflect whether it is worth while to pass a Bill of this character, the benefits of which must, in any case, be comparatively small, but the social evils of which may be of the gravest kind. (2.0.)

(2.15.) COLONEL GUNTER (Yorkshire, W.R., Barkstone Ash)

I am somewhat diffident in following the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) in his discursive speech, much of which had nothing to do with this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the measure as a rich man's Bill. My view of it is just the opposite. It is, in my opinion, a poor man's Bill—a tenant farmer's Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said it would be very hard if the occupiers of small holdings, where carrots and cauliflowers and so forth are grown, could not kill hares. But such holdings would come naturally under the head of small gardens, which are exempted from the Bill. He also talked about a man doing what he likes with his own. I would remind him, however, of the Wild Birds Protection Act, under which a farmer near the sea would be prohibited from shooting at a flock of birds settling on his crops. The right hon. Gentleman is very anxious to protect men with small holdings. On Friday last, before I came up from Yorkshire, a yeoman of the old school, who owns about 50 or 60 acres, came to me and asked me to do what I could for this Bill. He told me that on the previous day he had seen the shepherd of a neighbouring farmer shoot two hares which came on to his ground and died there, and they were both does full of young. I myself farm nearly 1,000 acres in Yorkshire, and so I know pretty well what damage is done by hares, and it amounts to very little. Rabbits do a great deal of damage. Hares sometimes stand on their hind legs and eat off the shoots of young trees, but, with this exception, I consider them very harmless animals. One hon. Member said he would not oppose the Bill if it were directed against selling alone. He must bear in mind that the sale of young animals which are not fit for food takes place usually in public houses, and they are generally paid for in drink. No poulterer would buy a hare that is heavy with young or giving suck. The small holders in Yorkshire are among the men who are most anxious for the passage of this Bill, and I shall certainly go into the Lobby in its favour.

(2.20.) MR. H. T. KNATCH-BULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)

As a representative of an agricultural constituency, I shall give this Bill my vote. I hav listened to the very long and somewhat discursive speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. I suppose that, inasmuch as certain public matters do not appear to him to be of such vital importance as they used to be, he has spent the Recess in studying the provisions of this Bill, and I cannot help thinking he has discovered a great deal more in it than its promoters imagine to be there. He has declared that the Bill is an indication of an opinion on our part that Colonel Gunter what we regard as the agricultural depression is a mere myth, and that all the farmers want is more hares. He said that under this Bill, if passed, farmers would see their turnip crops gradually disappearing. He forgot, however, that under the Bill the farmer, or anyone else, could snare, or kill, or trap a hare during the month in which the turnip crop exists; unless, indeed, in Hampshire, agriculture is conducted differently from what it is in the rest of England. The two points on which the Division will shortly be taken are these: Is it true that under the existing legislation hares are, in many parts of the country, nearly extinct, and do the people who will be most affected by this Bill desire it? The right hon. Gentleman denies that in many parts of the country hares are nearly extinct. Respecting my own district, I can assert positively that a hare is now a very rare animal. Where formerly there were 50 there is now one. In the Island of Sheppey, which forms part of my constituency, the farmers combine to preserve hares for coursing purposes, and to shoot a hare there would be considered as great a crime as to shoot a fox in hunting counties. I believe that the reason why farmers do not generally preserve hares is that they find it difficult to combine, and they shoot those they find on their land because they think if they 'do not someone else will. I shall vote for the Second Reading, believing that the Measure is desired by the agricultural population and that it will be beneficial and useful.

(2.26.) MR. H. J. WILSON (York, W.R., Holmfirth)

I understood the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Second Reading to say that a large number of Petitions, numerously signed, have been presented in favour of the Bill, as contrasted with only one signature against it. I do not know when those Petitions were presented, but I find that during the present Session there have been only two presented in its favour, with 94 signatures.


I said when the Bill was first brought in five years ago.


I wonder the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not see what conclusion should be drawn from that. In past time there was a degree of feeling in favour of this Bill, but now that feeling has passed away, and during the present Session there have been only-two small Petitions in support of it. Surely if it had been thought that hares were becoming extinct there would have been a general outcry. Farmers find that hares which have been preserved on their neighbours' lands descend upon them and devour their crops, doing enormous mischief. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that Lord Durham had no difficulty in the mining district in Durham in preserving hares. Of course, if the population is unanimously in favour of preserving hares there would be no difficulty, bat if not why should you pass a Bill which would enable hares to feed on the crops of those who do not desire it? The hon. and gallant Gentleman said he had received a communication from the Society of -Advocates in Aberdeen in favour of the Bill, but I do not think he has shown that there is much popular sympathy with it. Statements are made upon this point which vary considerably. I remember that it used to be said that two hares would eat as much as one sheep, and nowadays when we hear so much about the absolute necessity of avoiding any interference with the food of the people, we find that hon. Gentlemen opposite have no hesitation in supporting a Bill which will have the injurious effect on the food of the country which has already been described. In my opinion the time of day for this sort of thing is past, and that if people owning or occupying land in any particular district desire to preserve hares for any purpose there is no difficulty in the way of their doing so, as has been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. We, however, object to the passage of a Bill which will have the effect of producing an additional number of ground game at the cost of a far more than proportionate value of the people's food.


I wish to speak in the interests of those who may be designated as the moor-edge farmers, who will be specially affected by the passage of this Bill. A very large portion of my constituency extends up to the moor-edge in a large agricultural and pastoral district, and I may say that, speaking solely in my individual capacity, and as the mouthpiece of my own constituency, but not in any sense as representing the Government, 1 shall support the Bill in compliance with the urgent representations I have received. 1 wish to emphasise the fact that I do so in the interests of the humbler classes —the small moor edge formers and the working men in the adjoining town, who follow the ancient, wholesome English practice of hunting the hare with harriers, following them on foot. The records of the organisation of packs of hounds for this purpose goes back for centuries, and the sport is regarded as ancient, honourable, and wholesome. Having regard to the urgent representations that have been made to myself, I cannot believe that the farmers in the constituency of the last speaker, which adjoins my own, wish to see the Bill defeated. These farmers think that a close time for hares is the only thing that will save their sport. There are two things which they s y—first, that the sale of immature hares goes on in consequence of the absence of the close time, a fact which I recommend to the appreciative attention of the House in view of the circumstance that the Bill contains no clause dealing with the sale of hares. In the second place, they say that though the farmer has the fullest right to spare hares during the proposed close season, an unfortunate effect of the Act of 1880 is the production of a belief that hares are common property, and that any one may go anywhere and kill them as freely as he pleases. It was not foreseen that this would lead to the gradual extinction of the females during the proposed close season, and that this would involve the extinction of the sport. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has very properly invited the attention of the House to the case of the small men. It is on behalf of the small men that I now speak, and I cannot think the resources of draftsmanship would be unable to amend the Bill so as to meet the cases of farmers whose crops are being destroyed by the over-preservation of hares. If that objection were got rid of, there does not seem to be any other objection to the Bill which could not be dealt with in Committee. It may be right to give to County Councils such a discretion as was given to a Government Department with respect to wild birds; but the absence of a controlling authority in a State Department is no reason for objecting to the principle of the Bill. The right hon. Member for Derby asked whether masters of harriers had any difficulty in finding hares. It may be they have no such difficulty in the neighbourhood of the New Forest; but the smaller and humbler classes on the moor edge have sent me here to say that they do have great difficulty in finding hares. The House may judge from the absence of Ministers from the Treasury Bench that the Government will view the passing of the Bill in a philosophic spirit; and for myself I hope the House will give a Second Reading to a Bill the principle of which is that a tenant shall have the same rights as a landlord in ground game, and neither more nor less.

(2.36.) MR. C. WILSON (Kingston-on-Hull)

I desire to say a few words for the purpose of explaining why I regard this Bill as a measure of a reactionary character. It has been said that the measure has the almost unanimous approval of the farmers of this country; but, for my part, I can hardly believe that you could get a meeting of the farming interest in any large agricultural district at which, if the question were put as to whether those present were in favour of this Bill or not, the unanimous vote of the farming interest would not be raised against it. [Several hon. MEMBERS: No, no.] Hon. Members say "No," but I have had a considerable amount of experience, and possess a certain amount of knowledge of what are the opinions of the farmers on this game question, and I maintain that my opinion is correct. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has made a somewhat lengthened speech on the subject, and has gone into almost every detail connected with the question. To my mind, at any rate, the arguments he has adduced against the Bill are such as it is absolutely impossible to confute. Perhaps the arguments which of all others would have most weight with me is that this Bill in reality proposes to create a new sort of crime or offence that will tend to bring the agricultural population under the ban of the law. To my mind, even if one man in a village should be convicted and punished for an offence under this Bill, that would be almost in itself a sufficient argument against the Bill. If it be true that a larger number of hares is wanted in different parts of the country, that is a matter which depends very largely on the good feeling of the farmers. If the farmers consider it to their advantage that hares should be preserved they have the means of keeping them up, the hardship resulting from the increase of ground game is one which is undoubtedly felt more keenly by those occupying the small holdings than by the occupiers of the larger and wealthier farms. If the farmers are to be deprived of the means of guarding themselves against the heavy damage which may otherwise be done to their crops at such a season as this, the result may be almost the entire ruin of the poorer class of agriculturists. We see, however, now that the question is being fully argued, that' hon. Members on the opposite side of the House are ready almost as a solid body to support this measure, though I trust that on this side we shall find very few who are willing to vote for it. I think I have seen it stated in the public Press that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has introduced this Bill does not propose to stand again for a seat in Parliament. Therefore his action in this matter may be of little moment with regard to his constituency, but I very much doubt whether several hon. Members who are supporting this Bill will not find when they go before their constituencies in the agricultural districts that those electors will take a very different view of what is for the benefit of the agricultural interests from that which is taken on the other side of the House. There can be little doubt that any good landlord who is desirous of preserving ground game can easily obtain the good will of his tenants, and thus obtain as many hares as he may desire. My own experience is that such, as a rule, is the good nature of the tenant farmers that they would rather suffer from an excess of game than willingly disoblige their landlords. One of the difficulties which has to be faced in dealing with this question is that of selling hares out of season. We know that there is a large and constant importation of foreign hares from Russia, Hungary, and Germany. They are brought here in considerable quantities, and sold at very reasonable rates. Only last week the question was brought before the Hull Chamber of Commerce, and a serious complaint was made against the passing of a Bill making it illegal to sell game at this season, because such a measure would have the effect of depriving a portion of the population of a cheap article of food. It must be remembered that times have greatly changed in regard to the means of furnishing food for the people. Communication between this country and the Continent is now so rapid that we can obtain game from Norway, Sweden, Russia, and other countries by steam vessels which bring that game to us at the cheapest rates. This sort of thing did not exist in former years. One of the arguments in favour of this Bill is that it will increase the food of the people. The tendency of legislation of this kind is in the opposite direction. It imposes restrictions on the importation of food, and is a Protectionist measure which operates against the commoner. Foreign game is extremely cheap. At the Hull Chamber of Commerce, two or three days since, one of the members made a long statement on the subject. He said in the Port of Hull alone he had imported 89,000 head of game—partridges, ptarmigans, hares, and black game. Ptarmigans cost 1s. 8d. a brace; partridges, 2s. and 2s. 6d.; hares, 1s. 3d. to 3s. All this game was distributed in a perfectly sound condition. The tendency of all legislation of this sort is to interfere with the natural course of trade, and it is a false argument to say that it would increase the source of food, because the Bill would prohibit the sale of hares during the close season, and in consequence would prohibit the sale of foreign game at the same time. I am of opinion that we have a great deal too much legislation of this kind. I believe that this is altogether a retrograde measure; and if the farmers were canvassed, I have not the slightest doubt that the enormous majority of them would be found opposed to the Bill.

(2.50.) SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)

I was one of those responsible for the Ground Game Act of 1880, and I should like now to explain why I am going to vote for this Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, as the author of that Act, was entitled to object to this measure passing into law. But I think we ought to take into consideration this fact, that we have now had 11 years' experience of the Act of 1880, and have had an opportunity of seeing the effect of its provisions. I believe my right hon. Friend has opposed this Bill mainly in the interests of the tenant farmer, and in that view I entirely concur. I do not think this is a question in which the interests of the landlord ought at all to be considered. I do not think that objeetionable person, the shooting tenant, ought at all to be considered. The only persons who I think are entitled to any consideration are the tenant farmers directly, and the public in a minor degree. In that view we have to determine whether this Bill should become law or not. With that object I have endeavoured to ascertain the opinion of the persons chiefly concerned, and I declare that of the scores of farmers whose opinion I asked, I found not one but would, if he had the opportunity, vote in favour of this Bill. [Sir W. HARCOURT: No.] The right hon. Gentleman must have seen a different class of tenant farmers to those I saw. In 1880 the tenant farmer had no interest whatever in the hares; they belonged to the landowner except under very peculiar conditions, and never belonged to the tenant farmer. For 11 years the hares have belonged as much to the tenants as to the owners. The object of the Act of 1880 was to prevent the evil of excessive ground game, and under that measure the tenant farmers have had the right to destroy it, and certainly, so far as hares are concerned, the tenant farmer has the remedy in his own hands. Having that right he is perfectly satisfied. It is said by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull that he can preserve if he likes. He cannot do so, because no tenant farmer could exercise the right of preserving without affecting the whole district. And I would say that this taking of the female hare is a brutal act, besides which the hares are in such a condition that they are not fit for human food in many instances.


Why should not the buyer distinguish?


How many buyers could decide which hare among a large consignment is or is not fit for human food? But, apart from the right to shoot, given by the Act of 1880, many tenant farmers by a good understanding with their landlords, and all owners, have the right to take, and for the purpose of coursing in closed grounds—a sport which I do not assume is commendable—is worth 15s., a sum which is constantly realised. I know what would be said to hon. Members opposite at any farmers' ordinary or agricultural meeting if they voted against this Bill. Not one of them but knows there is a strong feeling in the agricultural districts in favour of this Bill. It seems to be the Borough Members and not the County Members who are against the measure, and the constituencies of the Borough Members have no opportunity of knowing what has been the effect of the Act of 1880. I am very glad to see that my right hon. Friend's position did not meet with a complete echo from his usual supporters. I find the name of that veteran sportsman the Member for Swansea on the back of the Bill, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Durham and the hon. Member for St. Pancras, the latter of whom generally shows strong Liberal tendencies, are also responsible for this Bill, by the success of which I feel sure the tenant farmers would be gratified.

(2.59.) MR. A. PEASE (York)

The hon. Member for Hull said that if the farmers were canvassed their votes would be found unanimously against this measure. In the district of Cleveland a tenant farmer who neither shot, hunted with harriers, or coursed, undertook to ascertain the opinion of the tenant farmers there, and in only one instance was there any opposition to a close time. I regard this Bill entirely as a farmer's Bill. Large landowners will always have an opportunity of preserving hares on their estate, but many a small farmer who desires to have a few hares on his holding may be deprived of them through the conduct of one ill-natured than. There was one portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby with which I sympathised warmly, and that was the part in which he pointed out the tendency in the Bill to bring the gamekeeper on the land of the tenant farmer. I believe that the gamekeeper is often a nuisance to the tenant farmer, and I should, if I thought the Bill would lead to the intervention of the gamekeeper, vote against it. But I do not believe it will have that effect. I look on the Bill as placing in the hands of the County Council a very desirable power. If we have any confidence in that body we have sufficient to justify us in entrusting it with a matter of this sort. For my part, I am quite content to place this matter in the hands of the people, feeling confident that they will deal justly with all classes of the community.

(3.3.) SIR F. T. MAPPIN (York, W.R., Hallamshire)

This is a matter in which the general public are said to have a deep interest. Now I have had no communication from any of my constituents on the subject, and I feel satisfied that had they entertained any strong opinions on it they would have applied to their Parliamentary Representative. Gentlemen who support this Bill desire to have the state of things renewed which existed before the Bill of 1880 was passed. If they succeed in their object there will be a great outcry not only from the tenant farmers, but from all the landed classes except those who enjoy the sport of killing hares. Anyone who has had large experience in preserving game knows well it is not merely the corn and turnips consumed which constitute the great loss; they know that hares do an immense amount of damage by treading down the barley field. Again, as we have been told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, since 1880 the tenant farmers have experienced much less trouble and annoyance from the gamekeepers, and we certainly ought not to desire to reintroduce the friction which existed before 1880. I therefore hope that the House will not assent to this Bill being read a second time.

(3.5.) MR. ANGUS SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)

I do not think that any justification has been shown for this Bill. Has it been proved that a decrease has occurred in the number of hares since the Bill of 1880 was passed? There is, in fact, a total absence of statistics on the point. This is an attempt by a side wind to do away with the benefits arising under the Act of 1880, and it is not an honest, straightforward endeavour to repeal that Act. The Bill itself is full of anomalies. Are we to understand that one County Council may fix one close time for hares, and the adjoining County Council a different close time? May one County Council adopt this Act and another refuse to enforce it? Is there to be a close time for hares and not for leverets? This Bill will create new offences; it will make that an offence not only to kill hares, but to do anything with the intention of killing a hare. I say that all these anomalies arise from the fact that this is an attempt by a side wind to do away with the benefits which have undoubtedly accrued to the tenant farmer from the Game Act of 1880.

(3.9.) SIR J. KINLOCH (Perth, E.)

I wish to know if allotments and nursery gardens are. to be excluded from the operation of the Bill? The answer to that question will influence the votes of a good many hon. Members.


, interposing, said: I intend in Committee to move a new clause expressly providing that the Bill is not to apply in cases where a hare or leveret has been killed, wounded, or taken inside a nursery or other garden.


How about allotments and small holdings?


I will consider that point.


I should like that point to be clearly explained. There are many small holdings and allotments in the country, and the occupiers of them ought to have some means of protecting themselves. I have known cases in which hares have in the course of one night destroyed half an acre of cabbages, and, unless the Bill provides for such cases, it cannot be satisfactory.

(3.10.) MR. HOYLE (Lancashire, S.E., Heywood)

I wish to draw attention to the Preamble of the Bill, which says that hares form an important article of food, and that owing to their marketable value it is important to provide for their protection during the breeding season. There is no question more important than that of the supply of food to our ever-increasing population; but the evidence adduced before two Select Committees of this House on the Game Laws conclusively proved that there is great loss in the production of this kind of food; and Mr. Clare Sewell Bead, who will, I suppose, be accepted as an authority on the subject, told the second Committee that hares cost from two to three times as much as they are worth when they are killed, so that to produce hares worth 10s. costs £1 or 30s. On that ground, and on that ground alone, I think this Bill ought to be opposed. I represent a constituency 75 per cent. of whose food is imported, and it is a matter of vast moment to them that nothing shall be done to hinder a free supply of food. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury said that one farmer would destroy all the game in a district. But surely he would only destroy that on his own farm.


Hares travel.


True, they travel to where the food is best; so that if a farmer is more skilful than his neighbours —if he grows a better and more nutritious kind of food he will be the sufferer, for he will provide the food for the hares. The fact that hares do travel will make against the successful enforcement of the Bill by the County Councils: one County Council may order a close time for hares and another may not. It was proved in evidence before the Select Committee that hares will travel four miles in one night to their food and then go back to their seat. One witness, a farmer, told the Committee that one severe winter hares had travelled that distance to a field in which his turnips were stacked, and the result was that the whole of his crop was destroyed. What I wish to point out is, that instead of this Bill tending to increase the food supply of this country it will have the contrary effect. Every vote given in favour of the Bill will, in the large cities and boroughs, be interpreted as a vote for destroying food which should be devoted to the support of the people.

(3.15.) MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)

I have no wish to delay the Division, but I desire to press the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Perth, as the answer to that will determine our attitude towards the Bill. The big farmers can look after themselves, and, as far as I have been able to discover, they are in favour of the Bill, rightly or wrongly. But I am one of those who believe in the growth of small holdings. We know that hares are very destructive to cottager's gardens and allotments, and I want to know what the hon. and gallant Member opposite means by the vague term "garden." If he merely means nurseries, then in the interests of those who cannot defend themselves I shall vote against the Bill. The large farmer is able to defend and protect himself; it is the small holder who requires to be protected in this matter, and if the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill will say frankly and plainly that he will exclude from the Measure all holdings not exceeding five acres, I will vote for it. Otherwise I shall vote against the Bill, and I would urge hon. Members who are in favour of small holdings to consider the enormous damage that may be done to this small class of people if the Bill is passed without some such protection as that to which I have referred.

(3.17.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)

I shall oppose the Bill, for as far as I can gather there is no demand whatever for it except on the part of sporting men. The statement in the Preamble of the Bill as to the Measure being in favour of the food supply of the country is, I believe, absolutely incorrect. The food supply has nothing at all to do with the Bill, and I have the means of knowing this. I represent in the London Common Council one of the largest wards in the Metropolis, and a ward in which many of the great markets are situated, and directly any question arises affecting the food supply of the people the representatives of the ward are at once approached by those who conduct the markets. But neither last Session nor this have I received from these people any inquiry about, or demand for, this Bill, though, when the Possession of Game Bill was before Parliament, they immediately called on their representatives to oppose the Measure because it was prejudicial to the food supply of the country. Therefore, if this Bill were in favour of the food supply, as it purports to be, those connected with the largest markets of the country would have immediately requested hon. Members to support it on that ground alone. In the absence of such evidence I am justified in repeating that the Bill has really nothing to do with the food supply of the nation. All the arguments that have been urged in favour of the Bill have been more or less on sporting grounds, especially that form of sporting known as coursing. I know of no more cruel sport than coursing, which is kept up simply for purposes of betting and gambling, and if for no other reason than this I shall consider it to be my duty to oppose the Bill. We have been told that farmers want the Bill, but as far as my experience goes—and I have been about the country to some extent—I have found that the farmers have always opposed the keeping of hares altogether, because they are against the agricultural interest. It is all very well to say that the county Members are all in favour of the Bill. We know that they do not always have regard for the interests of the tenant farmers as was proved by their action on the Tithes Bill. I trust that after the able speech of the right hon. Gentleman the member for Derby, those who desire to promote agricultural interests will feel it their duty to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. At any rate on the grounds I have mentioned I shall vote against the Bill, and I am sure that in doing so I shall be acting in the best interests of the farmers of the three Kingdoms.

(3.22.) The House divided:—Ayes 124; Noes 63.—(Div. List, No. 118.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for to-morrow.

Original Question put, and agreed to.