HL Deb 13 March 1862 vol 165 cc1413-5

rose, according to notice, to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to a circular sent to those persons who hold licences to shoot in the New Forest, as it is said, with the approval of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. It might be within the knowledge of some at least of their Lordships, that a certain number of gentlemen—between forty and fifty—by the indulgence of the Crown, received licences, on payment of certain fees, to sport and shoot game in the New Forest. During the last few days a circular had been sent by some of these gentlemen to others enjoying the same privilege, expressing dissatisfaction with the present arrangements with respect to preservation of the grime, and proposing a subscription for the purpose of encouraging the Queen's keepers or foresters to do their duty more efficiently. The writers stated truly that the New Forest was a preserve far more for vermin than game, and that it abounded with every kind of destructive animals, which were not only a nuisance to those who cared about sport, but to the neighbouring tenant farmers, who suffered from their depredations. They alleged that since the abolition of the office of Lord Warden, ten years ago, the foresters had received no positive orders to destroy the vermin, and with reduced salaries were naturally indisposed to expend money on powder and shot for the purpose. They stated, also, that poaching was very prevalent, and a great many head of game were stolen. They went on to propose a subscription for prizes to be given to the keepers who killed the greatest number of vermin, and to those who detected poachers. He submitted that this plan was not in accordance with the dignity of the Crown, that the Queen's servants ought not to receive directions from different masters; and that if they did not do their duty when fairly paid, they should be discharged. The circular stated that the permission of Mr. Howard, the Chief Commissioner, for the adoption of some such mode to remedy the grievance, had been asked and obtained. He believed that Mr. Howard had no cognizance of this circular; but he supposed that Mr. Howard had given permission for the keepers to be thus paid. The remedy was in Mr. Howard's own hands, and if the principle of rewards was a good one, it would be infinitely better to take £1 a year more for each of the licences and to distribute the money himself. It would be derogatory to the Crown, or even to any private gentleman, to have his keepers or servants paid in the way proposed. The Forest was not managed as well as it might be. The keepers were very inferior to the keepers whom their Lordships would appoint, and he did not think their orders were sufficiently definite. The matter was of more consequence than might at first appear. He had naturally a strong feeling in favour of preserving the last of our ancient forests, and one which had not its equal in the United Kingdom. But, with many advantages, there were certain disadvantages attending a forest of 60,000 acres in the middle of a civilized country. Surrounding property was deteriorated in value, and unless the Forest was strictly kept, it naturally became the resort of bad characters of every kind. He should be the last to wish to see it disforested and enclosed. He could not help having a certain affection for it, and he thought it was the duty of those who had the management of the Forest to lessen, if possible, the evils and inconveniences of which complaints were made.


said, Mr. Howard had not seen the circular and was not responsible for any statement which it contained. Mr. Howard entirely denied that the men did not do their duty or were not sufficiently well paid. They were not keepers, but foresters. Their orders were definite, and those orders were obeyed. They were respectable persons, and respectable and competent men were ready to fill these situations at any time for the same pay. No orders were given with regard to the preservation of game, because their duties related entirely to the care and preservation of the timber. With regard to the preservation of the game, Mr. Howard had always said that the foresters had nothing to do with it, and he could not ask the Government to impose taxes upon the public in order to increase the amusement of a few gentlemen who lived in the district. Mr. Howard said that they might destroy the vermin, but they must meet the expenditure which would be necessary. If the men could assist without neglect of their proper duties, they might; but, if the experiment failed, it would be stopped. With regard to the alternative suggested by the noble Earl, of an extra payment for licences, the money would go into the Exchequer, and would therefore fail to effect the desired object.


pointed out that this was a subject of great importance. He deprecated the want of care of the game, and pointed out that there was nothing more injurious than that the game should be half protected; it tempted the labouring population to trespass in search of game, and they filled the courts and petty sessions with cases.