HL Deb 04 August 1862 vol 168 cc1175-7

On Order for Consideration of the Commons' Amendment to this Bill,


thought that the alterations which had been made in the Bill in the Commons were objectionable, but considering the late period of the Session, he would advise their Lordships to agree to them.


said, he must confess that this Bill was one of the most confused and bungling pieces of legislation that had ever passed through Parliament. The Bill, as sent to the Commons, was founded upon a sound principle—namely, to put a stop to persons going about the country at night in pursuit of game. It was a Night Poaching Prevention Bill; but it had had three new titles and four new shapes. As it had come back to their Lordships it was highly objectionable, and would lead to more murders than had yet arisen under the old law relating to poaching and game preserving. The Amendment which empowered the police to seize any "gun or guns" was certain to lead to constant collisions, which would end in murder. He defied any one to understand the provisions of the Bill. If they were to make game property, they would be adopting at least an intelligible principle of legislation; although there must always be a great distinction between property in game and property in other things. He was inclined to deny that game could be regarded as property in the same manner as fowls, and the attempt to establish analogy between them totally failed. But he would infinitely prefer to have game made property than to pass such a Bill as this. They did not venture to call game property, but they called in the police to protect that which they disclaimed being property. The police, who in many country districts were regarded as unnecessary, and were therefore unpopular with the ratepayers, would be made still more unpopular by this Bill, which would be in- effective to accomplish the objects professedly aimed at by its promoters. He believed that the Bill would make the constabulary unpopular, and would not have the effect of preventing poaching.


said, he could not agree to the Amendments which had been made in the Bill. He was opposed to the police obtaining the additional powers proposed to be given to them.


thought that the remedy for many of the evils connected with poaching would be to make game property.


remarked, that the Bill was originally a Night Poaching Bill, in which shape, he thought, it was unobjectionable. It was not intended to interfere with the Game Laws as now existing, but was intended simply to prevent night poaching. When it left their Lordships' House, he had deemed it incapable of improvement, and he did not imagine that any alteration was to be made in it. Now, however, it was a totally different Bill, and he was afraid that it would not answer the purpose for which it had been intended. Game stood in a very different position now to what it did under the old feudal laws. Formerly the land was almost all waste; now it was almost all enclosed, and game was preserved and fed as carefully as domestic fowls, and was as much an article of sale in our markets. In fact game, whatever was the case once, was now property; and it ought to be declared to be so by law.


said, he was disposed greatly to regret the existing state of the Game Laws, but was sorry to find that such a measure as that before the House was the fruit of the wish of Parliament to legislate on the subject. The Bill, as it originally stood, was intended to prevent night poaching—an object which he admitted it was, in consequence of the bloodshed and lawless habits which the pursuit occasioned, most desirable to effect. The House of Commons, however, had made it quite a different measure, and had turned it into a Bill to prevent poaching generally; but at the same time the Commons had introduced a considerable improvement in the principle. When the Bill left their Lordships' House, it proposed to enact that any person found in possession of game, or implements for taking it, between sunset and eight o'clock in the morning, should be fined £5, unless he proved that the possession was lawful. This was contrary to the principles of English law and jurisprudence; and the Commons modified the clause, throwing the onus probandi on the party prosecuting. But while they improved the principle of the Bill, he was afraid that they had destroyed its efficiency as a remedy for the evils against which it was directed; because it would, he thought, be found very difficult to prove that the man who was found on the high road with game in his possession, was the same person who unlawfully entered upon any land in search of it. For his own part, he should be glad to hear the question discussed, whether game ought not to be made private property; but, at the same time, it was difficult to say how far such a principle ought to be extended. Pheasants, which were regularly fed in particular places, and were sent to market as regularly as ordinary poultry; partridges which eat the grain of the farmer, and were generally to be found in the same localities—might very easily be brought within the category of private property; but as much could not, perhaps, be with equal justice said of grouse, which were in the habit of flying from one hill to another. There seemed to be no ground for taking them out of the category of feræ naturæ. The question was one which certainly admitted of discussion, but the present was not, he thought, the period of the Session to enter upon its consideration.

Commons' Amendments considered, and agreed to.

[Royal Assent, August 7; 25 & 26 Vict., c. 114.]