HC Deb 08 July 1914 vol 64 cc1088-95

I beg to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to give farmers, small holders, allotment holders, and other poultry keepers a right to compensation for loss of poultry by the depredations of foxes, and for other damage caused by fox hunting."

This is a Bill promoted by the Poultry Keepers' Protection Society, and it provides that each hunt shall be required to define its country, and that hunts may be sued in the County Court for any loss shown to have been caused by foxes within the area of that country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The proposal has behind it the support of practically all the important poultry raisers in this country. I am a little surprised at hearing ironical cheers coming from the party which is supposed to have at heart the interest of the farmers of the country. Abour four years ago a conference was held between the Masters of Foxhounds Associations, and the representations of the poultry industry, and as a result, at their annual meeting in November, 1910, the Association of Masters of Foxhounds passed a resolution which is likely to be a landmark in this controversy. They decided that— We unanimously recommend that fair compensation should be promptly paid for all losses of poultry by foxes, but that same can only be dealt with by each individual huntsman. The case that the Poultry Keepers' Protection Society make is that that resolution has proved to be really an expression of pious opinion, and that to a great and growing extent there is entire failure on the part of hunts to recognise the moral obligation which they themselves say rests upon them.


Name the hunt.


I hope hon. Members will relieve me from the necessity of going into details now. I have details here, and I shall be quite prepared to show them to anyone who desires to see them, but in introducing a Bill under the Ten Minutes' Rule it is obviously impossible to go into a great deal of detail. The fact that there is widespread and growing dissatisfaction has been shown by the extent to which during the past three years hostility has been shown between the farmers and the hunts, and the situation was summed up by a well-known hunting authority writing in the "Sporting Life" last year, who said:— A discomforting drawback has been the unusual number of incidents caused by farmers who nourish a grievance against fox hunting. In all my experience of the sport I never remember a time in which so much trouble existed in this direction. Coming from an authority like Rally-wood, who wrote that article, it will be admitted that there is a case to be met by those who try to make out that all claims are being fairly met by the hunt. There is overwhelming evidence from practically every hunt in this country that the resolution of the Masters of Foxhounds Association has become a dead letter. There are certain hunts which possess no poultry fund. There are others which possess a poultry fund without any money in it. It may interest hunting men to know that more than one secret society exists which has no other purpose than to support one another in destroying foxes by shooting. The prevailing discontent amongst those who follow the poultry industry—a great and growing, although a struggling industry—found expression in a petition which I presented some time ago. It was signed by some hundreds of poultry keepers and owners, and it proposed the heroic remedy of requiring hunts to keep their foxes within confinement. Anyhow, I think those who know the country will admit that there must have been an abiding sense of grievance in these men to make them put their signatures to a proposal which brought them into opposition to the hunts, with all the great social, political, and economic influence that these bodies are able to exercise. I think that the Poultry Keepers' Protection Association have shown practical wisdom in deciding to concentrate their efforts on the present Bill, which proposes to convert the moral obligation which the masters of foxhounds recognise as resting upon them into a legal obligation. Hon. Members who deride the proposal will have the chance of giving their attention to one or two instances which I could multiply throughout the length and breadth of England. At a meeting of the South Herefordshire Farmers' Union, reported in "Hearth and Home" of 4th June, 1913, Mr. Wiltshire said he had applied for compensation to the secretary of the South Hunt Poultry Fund, who replied that the rules at present did not allow of compensation to farmers. He calculated his losses at not less than £5 a year for fifteen years. Mr. Murdock stated that in the Ross branch the hunt did not pay claims. The other day he had twenty-seven fowls killed within thirty yards of his barn. He sent for a member of the poultry committee, who was satisfied that the fox killed them but said, "We do not pay farmers." Mr. Rees said his wife had had a letter from the poultry committee saying that in future all claims must be made through the landlord. I have seen a letter regarding another case in which the writer says:— I am an elderly woman and keep high-class fowls for profit. Last year I had fifty-eight of them destroyed by foxes. I got compensation after a lot of trouble, and it worked out at 8½d. per bird. I valued my lost stock at £16. Perhaps hon. Members will cheer that. Mr. Silver, of the Stone Cross Poultry Farm, Ashurst, Kent, is offering 10s. 6d. a head for dead foxes. He says:— We have been compelled to this course. The hunts have refused to compensate us for our losses. Their only reply is that we should shift our establishment out of the hunting area. It may surprise the House to know that the best authorities estimate the destruction by foxes per annum at a million head of poultry. [An HON. MEMBER: "Rot!"] The hon. Member indicates dissent in the way characteristic of the gentlemanly party. There is one hunt alone which pays £1,600 a year in compensation. At 2s. a head that means 16,000 head for that hunt alone, and if you multiply that by the number of hunts in this country you will see that the figure I have given, so far from being an exaggeration, is certainly a moderate estimate. I think that the satirist of our time will dwell on the fact that while the country is rich enough to allow a million head of poultry to be destroyed every year by foxes it cannot afford to pay labourers a decent living wage. Last year we bought £9,500,000 worth of eggs from abroad and about £1,000,000 worth of poultry. Practically every pennyworth of that produce could be raised in this country, and the reason it is not raised is because the British poultry keeper has got placed upon him by the hunts what is the equivalent of a tariff of 20 per cent. I think I have given sufficient evidence that there is a case here for Parliament to protect an industry which has made its demand in a legitimate way. The grievance is widespread, and I hope the House will allow me to introduce the Bill.


In the absence of the champions of legitimate sport, it falls to me to oppose this Bill. The fowls in which I am interested do not suffer from the depredations of foxes. [An HON. MEMBER: "Cats!"] The fowls competing in the beautiful races in which I am interested run greater risk from guns, and I am afraid that if my hon. Friend's Bill were carried people might become more expert in the art of shooting homing pigeons. So strong was my hon. Friend's case that not a single Member who is a fox hunter dared to reply. But the stronger the case, the less need there is for legislation. I have always taken the position in this House that it is not necessary to pass Bills in support of every good idea we have. I do not think that it is the proper function of this House, and I therefore claim that the hon. Member, in putting forward the powerful arguments he used—arguments which were sneered at by hon. Gentlemen opposite—showed that there was no necessity for new legislation. If the facts be as he states, I am perfectly certain that remedies can be found under the present law. Bills brought in from time to time are opposed by the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) and myself not always because we are hostile to the objects of the measures, but because we do not see the necessity for legislation. In this case, if you wish to accomplish my hon. Friend's purpose, it is no use bringing in a Bill like this, which will not be enforced by the Tory magistrates in the country. If he thinks he will get law of this kind properly administered, he must be sanguine indeed.


The action would be taken, not before the benches of magistrates, but in the County Courts.


That may be my hon. friend's intention, but I am sure if the Bill goes to a Grand Committee there will be a large attendance of Members opposed to my hon. Friend's proposal, and they will carry an Amendment to put the administration into the hands of the county magistrates. My hon. Friend and those who want to preserve the poor growers of poultry will be coming along to the Committee in the ordinary routine way which one sees in the conduct of Grand Committee work, but one day, to their great surprise, there will appear a whole phalanx of strangers whom they cannot recognise, hon. Members who never come by any chance at that time of the day, and they will carry Amendments such as I have indicated. I submit that you can get rid of all the trouble in one way and in one way only, and that is a good Radical way, too—that is to give security of tenure to these people. If you once convince farmers that they are no longer at the mercy of the whim or caprice of some landlord who is interested in this sport, if you once give them security of tenure, they will protect themselves against any form of injustice. I quite agree that fox hunting at different times may be regarded in different ways. When the country was sparsely populated there was a totally different problem, but now the population is increasing, and towns are extending their boundaries. Where is the town that does not claim to be a county borough and to take in portions of the country round about? In that state of things fox hunting cannot possibly prosper in the way it did formerly.

I have been going very carefully into this question, and I have taken the trouble to consult a sportsman who has just come back from Australia as to this very point. He was a great supporter of fox hunting when he was in Yorkshire, and, of course, Yorkshire is the county for sport. Places like those mentioned by my hon. Friend are not to be mentioned in the same breath with Yorkshire, which leads in every form of sport. This man was a thorough Yorkshireman. He had often been in the hunting field. He now finds himself in possession of a large estate to the south of Melbourne. What is he doing there? He is shooting or poisoning every fox. They are compelled there to treat rabbits as vermin, and they have to treat foxes in the same way. This man has actually put down poisoned sheep to attract the foxes, yet he is as great a sportsman now as he was then. Living in different times, we shall have to adapt ourselves in reference to any form of sport to the requirements of these times. I have no sympathy whatever with people who are not concerned with those who suffer a loss of poultry. I dare say that hon Gentlemen opposite would have every sympathy if they saw what I have seen, a poor poultry keeper going out in the morning and finding thirty—[An HON. MEMBER: "Eggs?"]—no, fowls—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] Hon. Members want a Division and I shall give them one, but, as I was saying, finding thirty head of poultry destroyed in one night.

There is a great deal of dissatisfaction all over the country in reference to the hunt, but the remedy is not to be found in a Bill. I have no faith whatever in passing these Bills. We cannot remedy it in that way. I do not think that the House of Commons need try. We want a determined spirit. Where are our village Hampden's nowadays? In Cheshire there is a man who has given notice to the hunt that he would shoot, not any fox, but any foxhound that would come within his boundary. I think that that gentleman, Tory as he was, was going too far. He was a sort of fox-hunting diehard. He was going to extremes in order that fox hunting should die. What I suggest to the House—and I hope that hon. Members on both sides will support me in the Division Lobby—is that there should be a proper spirit of independence fostered and with this object, that security of tenure should be given to all these farmers. If this is done

we do not need legislation, and then there will be no more of these complaints which my hon. Friend has so ably and so properly brought before the House. I ask the House to reject the Bill.


put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 11, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to give farmers, small holders, allotment holders, and other poultry keepers a right to compensation for loss of poultry by the depredations of foxes, and for other damage caused by fox hunting."

The House divided: Ayes, 277; Noes, 9.

Division No. 156.] AYES. [3.57 p.m.
Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour) Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Howard, Hon. Geoffrey
Acland, Francis Dyke Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Hughes, Spencer Leigh
Adamson, William De Forest, Baron Hunt, Rowland
Addison, Dr. Christopher Delany, William Illingworth, Percy H.
Agnew, Sir George William Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)
Ainsworth, John Stirling Denniss, E. R. B. John, Edward Thomas
Alden, Percy Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H. Johnson, W.
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Dillon, John Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Dorls, Wiiliam Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)
Armitage, R. Duffy, William J. Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)
Arnold, Sydney Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley) Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)
Baker, Harold T. (Accrington) Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor) Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)
Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.) Elverston, Sir Harold Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)
Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.) Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)
Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset) Essex, Sir Richard Walter Jowett, Frederick William
Barnes, George N. Falconer, James Joyce, Michael
Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs) Farrell, James Patrick Kennedy, Vincent Paul
Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.) Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles Kenyon, Barnet
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Ffrench, Peter Kilbride, Denis
Beck, Arthur Cecil Field, William King, Joseph
Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George) Fitzgibbon, John Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)
Bennett-Goldney, Francis Flavin, Michael Joseph Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)
Bentham, G. J. Furness, Sir Stephen Wilson Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)
Bethell, Sir John Henry Gelder, Sir William Alfred Leach, Charles
Bird, Alfred George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd Levy, Sir Maurice
Black, Arthur W. Gladstone, W. G. C. Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert
Boland, John Pius Glanville, Harold James Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Lundon, Thomas
Brady, Patrick Joseph Goldsmith, Frank Lyell, Charles Henry
Bridgeman, William Clive Goldstone, Frank Lynch, Arthur Alfred
Brunner, John F. L. Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough) Lyttelton, Hon. J. C.
Buckmaster, Sir Stanley O. Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland) Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Greig, Colonel James William Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones Maclean, Donald
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke) Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.
Byles, Sir William Pollard Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.) MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)
Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.) Gulland, John William M'Curdy, Charles A.
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W. Hackett, John M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)
Chambers, James Hall, Frederick (Yorks, Normanton) Manfield, Harry
Chancellor, Henry George Hancock, John George Marks, Sir George Croydon
Chapple, Dr. William Allen Hardie, J. Keir Marshall, Arthur Harold
Clancy, John Joseph Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Martin, J.
Clough, William Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) Mason, David M. (Coventry)
Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock) Hayden, John Patrick Mason, James F. (Windsor)
Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth) Helme, Sir Norval Watson Meagher, Michael
Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.) Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)
Cotton, William Francis Hibbert, Sir Henry F. Middlebrook, William
Cowan, W. H. Higham, John Sharp Molloy, Michael
Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth) Hill-Wood, Samuel Molteno, Percy Alport
Crean, Eugene Hinds, John Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred
Crooks, William Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Money, L. G. Chiozza
Crumley, Patrick Hodge, John Montagu, Hon. E. S.
Cullinan, John Hogge, James Myles Morgan, George Hay
Dalrymple, Viscount Holmes, Daniel Turner Morrell, Philip
Dalziel, Davison (Brixton) Holt, Richard Durning Morison, Hector
Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy) Hope, Harry (Bute) Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Hope, John Deans (Haddington) Muldoon, John
Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert Pringle, William M. R. Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John
Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C. Radford, G. H. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Needham, Christopher Thomas Raffan, Peter Wilson Toulmin, Sir George
Newton, Harry Kottingham Reddy, Michael Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster) Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Verney, Sir Harry
Nolan, Joseph Redmond, William (Clare, E.) Walrond, Hon. Lionel
Norton, Captain Cecil W. Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.) Walton, Sir Joseph
Nugent, Sir Walter Richard Rendall, Athelstan Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Nuttall, Harry Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Wardle, George J.
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Roberts, George H. (Norwich) Waring, Walter
O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford) Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Robertson, John M. (Tyneside) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
O'Doherty, Philip Robinson, Sidney Webb, H.
O'Donnell, Thomas Roche, Augustine (Louth) White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)
O'Dowd, John Roe, Sir Thomas White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Ogden, Fred Rowntree, Arnold Whitehouse, John Howard
O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.) Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W. Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)
O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.) Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees) Wiles, Thomas
O'Malley, William Sanderson, Lancelot Wilkie, Alexander
O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Scanlan, Thomas Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)
O'Shee, James John Sheeny, David Williams, J. (Glamorgan)
O'Sullivan, Timothy Sherwell, Arthur James Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Outhwaite, R. L. Shortt, Edward Wills, Sir Gilbert
Palmer, Godfrey Mark Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Parker, James (Halifax) Smith, Harold (Warrington) Wing, Thomas Edward
Pearce, William (Limehouse) Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton) Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)
Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham) Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.) Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
Phillips, John (Longford, S.) Spames, Arthur Wellesley Yeo, Alfred William
Pirie, Duncan Vernon Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert Young, William (Perthshire, East)
Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Sutherland, John E. Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Pratt, J. W. Sutton, John E.
Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central) Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.
Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.) Taylor, John W. (Durham) Kellaway and Sir A. Markham.
Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.) Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Primrose, Hon. Neil James Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West) Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.
Carr-Gomm, H. W. MacVeagh, Jeremiah
Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.) Murphy, Martin J. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.
Kelly, Edward Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.) Booth and Mr. Robert Harcourt.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Kellaway, Dr. Addison, Mr. Hinds, Sir Arthur Markham, Mr. Morison, Mr. Rendall, and Mr. Snowden. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time To-morrow, and to be printed. [Bill 313.]

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