§ Lord Wharncliffe,
before he moved the second reading of the Game-bill, wished to allude to the way in which the powers of that House had been curtailed by the other House of parliament. Their lordships, early in the session, had passed a bill on this subject, that went to the House of Commons. When it arrived there, that House discovered, that the bill levied a tax upon the subject. On that ground they thought fit to throw it out, and bring in another, which was the bill under their lordships' consideration. Now he must say that in their notion of what was levying a tax on the subject, the ideas of the House of Commons were somewhat strained, when they maintained that the House of Lords must not pass a bill containing a pecuniary penalty, or repeal a bill containing one. If that really was their claim, it was time that it should be understood; for if such were the case, their lordships were there merely to register the bills of the House of Commons. This, he contended, would be an encroachment on their lordships' privileges; and it was the opinion of many that this claim of the Commons ought not to be admitted, and that some understanding should be come to on the subject. He trusted, whatever decision their lordships 1691 might come to with respect to the bill, that this might be made the occasion of coining to a better understanding with the other House on this most important question. With respect to the bill itself, great pains had been taken to defeat it, and it was probable the attempt would be successful; but he would put it to those noble lords who were opposed to the bill, to consider what would be gained by that course, beyond that of additional labour to those who were favourable to it; for no doubt it was their intention to introduce the measure again and again, from a firm conviction of the necessity that something should be done by parliament on the subject. He was aware that the objection of many noble lords to the bill, arose from the opinion, that any extension of the right of sporting would destroy their sport altogether. This he thought was a very mistaken view of the case. He now moved that the bill be read a second time.
The Earl of Westmorland
said, he was opposed to the principle of the bill, because he believed it would be most oppressive in its operation. It was an invasion of the rights of others, and would have a tendency to encourage poaching. It also tended to change the character of landowners to that of huxters and poulterers. On these grounds, he should move as an amendment, that it be read a second time that clay six months.
The Earl of Falmouth
said, that the bill was supported on the ground, that it would tend to diminish poaching. It would not, he contended, have that effect. The evidence taken before the committee did not justify the opinions of those who supported it. Most of the persons examined stated, that it was doubtful whether legalizing the sale of game would diminish poaching, and the case of Scotland was adduced, where the sale of game was permitted, and where it was proved that the number of poachers had recently increased. As an experiment, he would have no objection to the bill; neither would he object to an alteration of the laws with respect to qualification, some of which were absurd. But this bill went further than he was disposed to go. It allowed persons holding copyhold lands to qualify others; and whether such land was twenty-five acres or one hundred acres, it was the same thing to him, it was to the principle that he objected; which, instead of considering the value of 1692 the land, had reference only to the quantity of it.
The Marquis of Salisbury
observed, that his noble friend had said, that he was ready to give his support to a bill which should legalize the sale of game. Now this bill went very little further. Besides, I his noble friend had only been able to find one objectionable clause in the bill. He had therefore a right to calculate on the support of his noble friend in other parts of the bill. For the objection able clause, his noble friend might urge his arguments against it when the bill was committed. He put it to their lordships, whether they would now act in contradiction to what they had themselves resolved upon, and sent down for the consent of another branch of the legislature.
The Earl of Carnarvon
, while he supported the present bill, was ready to admit that he did not suppose it would put a stop to poaching altogether. He doubted whether any bill would have such an effect. What he wished to put a stop to was, that permitting the poacher to have an exclusive monopoly of the sale of game. All the poulterers had declared, that they could procure a sufficient supply of game to answer the present demand, or any demand which was likely to arise. This they could now only procure through those who were guilty of crimes against the law. If they passed the present bill, a supply could be procured through a legal channel; but what was of much greater importance, they would give a better character to the laws of the country.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
said, that one of the objects of the bill, was to bring gentlemen into the market, in order to drive out the poacher. This experiment had never yet been made; and he was satisfied, that, if made, the result would be much better than the present state of things. With respect to the mode of qualification in the bill, he would only observe, that that qualification had been brought as near as possible to the law of Scotland. If their lordships threw out the bill, what would be the effect of such a course upon the country, after a committee had proved that, in spite of the laws, game was supplied to the public; that from the highest to the lowest, their tables were supplied with game by poaching? In all the great markets of the metropolis, game was sold; and, would their lordships say, that they would not make that legal, which, in spite of all 1693 their laws, would be done with impunity? Let their lordships ask themselves, if they had the power of stopping the sale of game, while the public demanded that it should be sold? They had no such power. Their lordships were learning a terrible lesson. They were learning that there were certain things that they could not stop; and the time was not far distant when they would be sorry that they had ever resisted such things. Here was one case brought home to their own doors. They were supporting laws which were set at nought and laughed at. But, let their lordships be assured, that the subject would force itself upon them every session. Even at that advanced state of the session, if he thought there were any chance of passing such a measure, he would try the effect of a bill which should legalize the sale of game; though he was firmly persuaded that such a bill, unaccompanied by other alterations in the game laws, would be infinitely inferior to this. Could it be endured that proprietors of extensive lands should be allowed to make a profit of the sale of their game, while the same privilege was denied to the small landholders? He left the matter in their lordships' hands; declaring at the same time, that he would renew the subject, session after session.
§ Their lordships divided upon the motion, "that the bill be now read a second time." Content—Present 37; Proxies 27–64. Not-Content—Present 36; Proxies 58–94. Majority against the second reading 30.