HL Deb 12 August 1867 vol 189 cc1304-6

presented seven Petitions from the owners and occupiers of land in the New Forest for inquiry into the Operation of the Deer Removal Act, and praying that, pending inquiry, further enclosure may be arrested, and said, that an Act was passed in the reign of William III., empowering the Crown to enclose 6,000 acres of the Forest for the purpose of planting, it being provided that whenever it might appear to the Lords of the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the trees on the land thus enclosed had attained such a growth as not to be liable to be injured by the admission of cattle to graze upon it it might be what is termed "thrown out," and other portions of the Forest enclosed in lieu of it. In 1851, however, another Act was passed, called the Deer Removal Act, which empowered the Crown to take in 10,000 acres more for planting purposes—making, with, the 6,000 he had just mentioned, 16,000 acres. Now, from a Return which had been laid before the House he found that the number of acres enclosed was 8,000, and the number proposed to be enclosed upwards of 7,000, making in all nearly 16,000 acres; but if to these 16,000 acres the whole of the enclosures "thrown out" were added it would be found that in reality 20,000 acres had been enclosed by the Crown to the injury of the commoners, who had rights of pasturage for their cattle. It was assumed by everybody, when the Bill was under discussion, that the rights of the commoners would be held sacred, and that they would not be infringed in the way in which they had been by the enclosures being left in such a state that it was impossible for them to enjoy their common rights. All he asked was that the matter should be inquired into during the winter, and that the planting should not be extended over 16,000 acres. It might be well, he might add, that a Committee should, next Session, be granted to investigate the subject.


replied that as far as he had been able to ascertain the enclosures had been "thrown out" as soon as the timber in them was sufficiently grown to be safe from the injury which might be done to them by cattle, and the real question was whether the land so "thrown out" was made available for pasturage by persons having common rights in the Forest. It was, he admitted, perfectly right that the commoners should be satisfied that the powers of the Crown under the Deer Removal Act should be fairly exercised, and not in any way stretched to their prejudice. That was a question which might be fairly looked into; and the course proposed to be taken by the First Commissioner of Works was that during the winter a Report should be called for as to the exact state of the Forest and the portions of it which had been "thrown out" since the Deer Removal Act was passed. That Report would be laid before Parliament, and then it would be open to the noble Viscount to take any further steps in the matter which he might deem fit.


said, that in the course of years, if the causes to which the noble Viscount had referred continued in operation, the rights of the commoners in the New Forest would be all but extinguished. What his noble Friend proposed to do, however, would go far to remove the feeling which existed on the part of the commoners in this matter. It was very desirable that some arrangement should be made both for the in-rests of the Crown and of the commoners.


said, the enclosure of the New Forest was carried out in a reckless manner, and the commoners had no opportunity of representing their case or of remonstrating against these proceedings. The first notice of them they had was by seeing the fences erected. What he would urge on his noble Friend was that, at all events, for this year, and until the Report had been made, the Commissioners should hold their hands, and not continue enclosing in the manner they had been doing. The commoners' rights were becoming of less and less value every year, not through any fault of their own, but from the action of the authorities of the Crown. He was not, however, surprised at what had occurred. It was only what he had anticipated when the Deer Removal Act was brought in.

Petition to lie on the table.