HL Deb 30 August 1880 vol 256 cc608-36

Order of the Day for the Second Beading, read.


in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, he was aware that it was a measure which had excited considerable interest in the country, and was looked upon with no very kindly feeling by most of those who were interested in sport. For his own part, he was sure he was not one of those who wished to see anything done which would put an end to one of the most harmless and healthy of recreations, or which would deprive them of one of those enjoyments which could be taken part in by large numbers of persons of different classes, one which had this very good effect incidentally—that it caused a considerable number to pass their time in the country among their friends and neighbours, who would, perhaps, be otherwise induced to pass most of that time in town. He had this advantage —that he was addressing an assemblage all the Members of which were well acquainted with the subject. What were called in the Bill ground game, hares and rabbits, were familiar to them all; and he had this further advantage—that almost all their Lordships were well acquainted with the class whose grievances the Bill proposed to relieve—he meant the tenant farmers. He was sure that after the unfavourable seasons the tenant farmers had had to contend with they would all be ready, if a grievance of theirs was established, to remedy it in a fair and generous spirit. The grievance which the Bill proposed to remedy was the serious injury which the tenant farmers in certain parts of the country sustained from the over- preservation of hares and rabbits; and he had no doubt that there were very few of their Lordships who had not had opportunities of becoming acquainted with the nature and extent of that injury. The evidence taken before the Committee of 1872 had given many facts on the subject. It had been plainly proved that the farmers, at all events, thought that they suffered considerable damage from ground game in different parts of the country, and declared that the grievance ought to be removed. No one, however unfriendly to the Bill, asserted that there was no grievance. Before proceeding to explain the remedy the Bill proposed to apply, he would explain the state of the law with regard to game in this country and in Scotland. In England and Ireland the right to kill game belonged primâ facie to the occupier of the land; in Scotland it belonged primâ facie to the landlord, unless it was expressly intended otherwise. The Legislature, therefore, as a general principle, clearly intended that the right to kill game should belong to the man that occupied the land. But, at the same time, it was enacted by the Act of 1831 that the owner of the land might reserve the right to kill game. Hence the present grievance arose. It was tolerably clear that the only mode of applying a satisfactory remedy to the grievance as it existed was to deal with that particular reservation, and to attach to it some new condition. The condition they proposed to apply was that, in future, the tenant should possess a concurrent right inseparable from the possession of the land to kill ground game. The objection raised to this was, that it was an interference with freedom of contract. In the first place, he wished to observe that the question was one of degree; and though every one would admit it would not be right to interfere with freedom of contract unnecessarily, it was perfectly clear that Parliament considered that it might be interfered with, for on more than one question such interference had taken place. He might mention the well-known Truck Act, according to which wages were not allowed to be paid except in a particular mode prescribed by the Legislature. Then there was the law regulating the relations between shipowners and sailors. There was also the Hosiery Act passed by the late Government—by which masters were not allowed to let out frames. These were all cases of interference with freedom of contract. The whole subject of those Game Laws was of a peculiar character. Their Lordships were not dealing with property in the ordinary sense of the word. Game until it had been killed was not property. His noble Friend at the Table (the Earl of Redesdale) proposed to move, as an Amendment to the second reading— That as this Bill is an imperfect measure for securing occupiers from loss through injury done to their crops by ground game, which is its professed object, and as it necessarily interferes with the important principle of freedom of contract between landlord and tenant, and requires therefore in these and other respects carefully prepared amendments, which cannot now be properly discussed and agreed upon by both Houses of Parliament during the few days remaining before the Prorogation, it is desirable that further time should be allowed for its consideration, and that it be read a second time this day three months. This Amendment raised several questions. First, the question of freedom of contract; next, the question of there being some better mode by which the object in view could be attained; and, lastly, the question of its being late in the Session. He had spoken of freedom of contract. As to some better alternative, the Bill founded itself on a proposition which would be found in the important Report of the Committee on the Game Laws of 1872. The Report stated— There can be no question that the existence of a large number of hares and rabbits upon an arable farm is most prejudicial to its profitable occupation, and your Committee cannot too strongly reprobate the practice of some landlords and their shooting tenants of keeping up a largo stock of those animals on cultivated lands to the injury of the crops of the farming tenants. They consider that no landlord should object to the insertion of such engagements in his leases or agreements as will insure the keeping down of ground game within moderate limits, and that no tenant should enter upon a farm without securing protection from loss by such engagements on the part of the landlord, and they are satisfied that no means so efficient for the purpose can be devised as the concession to the tenant of the power to kill the ground game upon his farm either exclusively or concurrently with his landlord. Then it was proposed to add— But the evidence before your Committee does not lead them to believe that landlords generally are willing to make such concessions. Upon that there was a Division, when the "Ayes" were nine, including Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Sir Henry Sel-win-Ibbetson, Mr. Pell, and Mr. Clare Read. The "Noes" were also nine, and the Chairman then voted "No." Notwithstanding that, the Committee did not proceed on the principle they had laid down. They added that such a provision might be evaded. That was the reason, he supposed, why they did not recommend it. His noble Friend stated that there was some better method. But if their Lordships were prepared to admit that there was a grievance he would ask whether any better mode, or one less distasteful to their Lordships than that which was proposed in the Bill, could be found? There were three possible modes. They might enact stringent methods of compensation, they might strike hares and rabbits altogether out of the Game Laws, or they might adopt the measure proposed. The first alternative would not probably be found efficient for the object in view. He believed that no kind of arrangement could be made more likely to produce bad feeling, cause more quarrels throughout the country, or make the very names of hares and rabbits more detestable. Mr. M 'Lagan's Act for Scotland had been taken advantage of in several cases, but it had not prevented agitation against ground game in the North. On the contrary, everybody knew that there was a feeling in Scotland far greater than even in England, where there was no law of compensation. The next proposal was the heroic remedy of striking hares and rabbits out of the Game Laws. If they did, hares would soon disappear, and rabbits would follow. But until hares and rabbits disappeared it would be perfectly impossible to dispense with some severe trespass law; because numbers of persons would trespass on the land, great damage would be done to the crops of the tenants, and much mischief to the whole population. A stringent trespass law would be one of the most unpopular measures that could be brought forward. Their Lordships, therefore, would not wish to see either a very stringent compensation law, or to have hares and rabbits struck out of the Game Laws. Then, by a process of elimination, they came back to the proposition in the Bill. It was for their Lordships to consider whether it was not better to accept a measure of this kind than to leave the matter open and have a more extreme measure carried out at a future time. The advantage of this measure was that it met the grievance which was complained of; it gave that which was asked for. When it was said that it would promote disagreement between landlord and tenant, it must be remembered that disagreement, unfortunately, existed now; and it was the object of the Bill to remove that disagreement. It would not prevent friendly relations between landlords and tenants, and he had no doubt that, in many instances, there would be friendly understandings that would be honourably kept by both parties, while at present it was practically impossible for them to come to agreement through the conflict of their interests. There ought to be a certain amount of forbearance and of give and take as between them, and he did not see that the possibility of such good understanding would be in any way diminished by this Bill. The disagreements which had arisen in the past had been mostly with, or on account of, those who hired the right of shooting; and, however carefully the provisions as to game letting might be drawn, the tenant naturally felt for a stranger less consideration than he would for the landlord himself. Misunderstandings had arisen chiefly with proprietors on whose land there was an over-preservation of game. The person who hired the shooting thought only of obtaining the greatest amount of game; but the owner had to take a wider view, to consider the profits to be made from his estate as a whole, and the advantage of maintaining good terms with the tenants. There was, therefore, no special reason why this Bill should promote disagreement as between landlord and tenant. It was not proposed to give the concurrent right of killing ground game without some limitation as to the persons authorised to kill it, and the times and places for its exercise; and, having cited the provisions referred to, the noble Lord said that the other parts of the Bill were designed to prevent agreements which would render the Bill null and void. Its object was to provide that the right to kill ground game should be inseparable from the occupation of the land. He had shown that the alternatives that had been suggested would be less acceptable to those who wished for a reasonable preservation of game. It was an acknowledged fact that there was a grievance on the part of the tenant farmers which should be met in a graceful and generous way. He was not prepared to say the grievance was a large one; but it was made by a large body of men; it was one for which they were bound to find a remedy; and he believed that provided by the Bill was the least objectionable that could be proposed.

Moved,"That the Bill be now read2a."—(The Earl of Kimberley.)


in rising to move, as an Amendment, That as this Bill is an imperfect measure for securing occupiers from loss through injury done to their crops by ground game, which is its professed object, and as it unnecessarily interferes with the important principle of freedom of contract between landlord and tenant, and requires, therefore, in these and other respects carefully prepared amendments which cannot now be properly discussed and agreed upon by both Houses of Parliament during the few days remaining before the Prorogation, it is desirable that further time should be allowed for its consideration, and that it be read a second time this day three months, said, he believed the effect of the Bill had not been sufficiently thought of by those who were deeply interested in its operation. The effect would be to create an entire revolution in the relations of landlords and tenants by terminating the freedom of contract between them, and the effect of passing the Bill would be to create a dangerous precedent for similar interference between landlord and tenant in matters not connected with game. The restriction on the right of agreement was one of the most extraordinary proposals ever made, because the tenant would be prohibited from entering into any arrangement, even although it might be to him much more advantageous than the provisions of this Bill. This was a wrong way of dealing with such a matter. It was a very serious interference with the rights of property, and it would lead to disputes and to ill-feeling. The Bill was not introduced solely for the advantage of the occupiers and with the object of getting rid of the injury they suffered from ground game. The object of the Bill was to create disagreements between landlords and tenants. It had been found that a good understanding existed between them, and that it was very advantageous to the Conservative interest; and it had been found desirable, in the interests of what was called Liberalism or Radicalism, to create a difference between those two classes, in order that they might not work together with the same harmony they had done hitherto. He regretted that the matter was not to be left open to an agreement which might be of advantage to the tenant. It was ridiculously absurd to say that the tenant was incapable of protecting himself in the making of an agreement. Therefore, the 3rd clause ought to be struck out of the Bill. There would be no great objection to saying that they wished the question of ground game discussed as between landlord and tenant, and that, therefore, every lease should be liable to review, provided that they did not say that landlord and tenant should be precluded from coming to some arrangement with each other. It would be better in most cases that the landlord and tenant should work jointly for that object. The proposed arrangements would be altogether unsatisfactory. The man employed by a tenant to snare or net game, if able to do the work well, would probably have learnt it as a poacher, and might loiter about a wood belonging to a person other than his employer, and during the night might set his traps close to the landlord's or another proprietor's cover, so that he would require vigilant watching on the part of the proprietor in order to prevent interference with other game. As he had said, it would be far better for both parties to come to an agreement with respect to the necessary keeping down of rabbits. It was to be remembered that the over-preservation of hares and rabbits was by no means common; on the contrary, it was a very exceptional practice, and the few cases in which it occurred supplied no reason for bringing in a Bill such as that before the House. He wished to urge upon their Lordships that more time was wanted for the consideration of so important a measure; and he might remind them that the objection he had taken on that ground was no new thing, but was consistent with the view he had always held of the proper method of conducting the Business of the House. No doubt, the Bill had been some time before Parliament, but it had not been read a second time in the other House till the end of July; and now that the Prorogation was so near they might fairly say that it was impossible for them to debate the measure in all its details as it ought to be debated. They would be only acting within their rights in demanding a more adequate period of deliberation. The noble Earl concluded by moving his Amendment.

Amendment moved, To leave out all the words after ("That") and insert ("That as this Bill is an imperfect measure for securing occupiers from loss through injury done to their crops by ground game, which is its professed object, and as it unnecessarily interferes with the important principle of freedom of contract between landlord and tenant, and requires therefore in these and other respects carefully prepared amendments which cannot now be properly discussed and agreed upon by both Houses of Parliament during the few days remaining before the Prorogation, it is desirable that further time should be allowed for its consideration, and that it be read a second time this day three months.")— (The Earl of Redesdale.)


A Motion made by my noble Friend must always command the attention of your Lordships. His character is so high, the truth of his convictions so undoubted, and the earnestness of his manner so commanding, that I know well that any view he takes will be one which must influence your Lordships. Independently, however, of the regard that I share with your Lordships for my noble Friend, I frankly admit that on the present occasion I agree with many of the remarks he has made. I agree with him in his three points, and think, as he does, that there is an inconsistency between the Preamble of the Bill and the clause intended to carry that Preamble into effect. I agree with him that it is much to be regretted that in legislating the object desired cannot be obtained without violation of the freedom of contract. I agree with him, also, that the manner in which the Legislative Business of the country is conducted, so that on the verge of the month of September your Lordships are called upon to consider matters of gravity is a deplorable state of affairs. It is one which it is impossible can long be endured, carried this Session to the extent it has been; and I myself, with the assistance of your Lordships, the other day, in self-defence of your Lordships' privileges in this matter, did not unsuccessfully make an effort to induce your Lordships to come to a Resolution that when measures of magnitude are brought forward in this precipitate manner for your consideration, some check should be offered to that course. Independently of these views, I quite agree with my noble Friend in disapproving of this Bill generally. My main reason for disapprobation is not the subject of the Bill, upon which, perhaps, I will venture in a moment to make one or two remarks; but its animus. I have looked through the subsection of the clause to which my noble Friend referred, and am amazed at the spirit in which it is drawn up. It is a matter to be treated in a spirit of conciliation, and, if possible, of compromise. Your Lordships may judge for yourselves whether there is any spirit of conciliation in the language or framework of this Bill; and as for compromise, that course seems never for a moment to have been considered. That sub-section to which my noble Friend has referred levies war upon the landed proprietors of the country. It calls upon the tenant to arm himself—upon his sons to arm themselves—upon his servants to arm themselves; and if that is not sufficient, an expert is to be called upon for assistance. We know what is the character of that expert. His position, if this Bill is carried, will be one of the most remarkable; his transformation will be extraordinary. At present a subject of the Queen, viewed always with suspicion, he will forthwith become a member of a profession—of an honourable profession; and instead of finding himself pursuing his delightful pastime on moonlight nights, on the contrary, he will, in the language of a great statesman, "stand now in the sunshine of the Constitution," and flourish his weapon in the very eyes of the lord of the manor. I ventured to say that the subject itself of this Bill appears to be one by no means unworthy of treatment, the consideration of which I have myself for some time supposed was inevitable; but the manner in which it has been submitted to Parliament is very different from what I had anticipated. We sometimes hear that the principle of the Bill is one which is novel in our legislation; but I do not concur in that charge. I should say that there is a principle in regard to dealing with the Game Laws, generally speaking, that has been observed in this country from time immemorial to our own days and it has been this—no doubt, gradually, and with every due consideration—to extend and expand the sphere which includes those who enjoy the privilege of using the gun in the pursuit of game. From the very earliest period, even if you went to the time when there were grants of free warren, we know that the Sovereign, who was virtually the proprietor of the country, made grants of free warren to his Barons, and those grants never once involved any grant of the freehold of the territory. But as times advanced all free warren disappeared, and as the estates of the Barons were formed, the right of sporting went with the tenantry. Look at of your early Inclosure Acts. In these the rights of the lord of the manor to the game is always asserted as a matter of course; but as the Inclosure Acts went on, whether it was by law or custom—which was often stronger than law —all these assertions of right to the game by the lord of the manor disappeared, and the right to the game was given to the new freeholders. So that in all those innumerable Inclosure Acts, which have been introduced in our generation and the generation before us, you do not find the slightest allusion to the subject; but, as a matter of course, it was understood that a right to the game should belong to the proprietors of the soil. Well, after the Committee to which reference has been made reported, I never myself doubted but that some legislation on the subject was necessary; and if that legislation consisted of the concession to the British farmer of the right of sporting by gun, I must say that, acting in the spirit of our experience in this country for centuries, that right could not be intrusted to safer or more worthy hands. So far, therefore, as the principle of modifying our Game Laws in that sense is concerned, I should never oppose such legislation; but it would be in a spirit that would rather increase the bonds of sympathy and union between the owner and the occupier of the land. So far as the general principle is concerned, with regard to any restriction of the freedom of contract, I entirely agree with my noble Friend that that is a course of which we should never avail ourselves, except in cases of extreme necessity. I am not at all persuaded that it is impossible in Committee to modify that clause as my noble Friend suggests, but that clearly is a case for Committee. At the same time, we must not lay down, as a law of the Medes and Persians, that freedom of contract is never by our legislation to be in any way interfered with. That would not only be an absurd proposition, but it would be one entirely contrary to the legislation of this country for many years. There have necessarily been restrictions of freedom of contract both with reference to the labour and the food of the people. One of the most recent cases relates to a subject quite akin to that before us. It is only a few years ago that your Lordships interfered with freedom of contract by passing a law which secured compensation to tenants for the injury done to their property through the preserving of game by the landlords, although they were cultivating the soil under leases in which that privilege was secured to the landlords, and unlimited. That is an Act of recent date, which your Lordships agreed to, and which was an invasion of the freedom of contract. I object very much to the legislation now proprosed, as I have intimated, on account of its hostile character. At the same time I hesitate very much to resist the introduction of this Bill, and I will endeavour very briefly to state to your Lordships my reasons for that course. I mentioned to your Lordships some little time ago my conviction—and it is a profound conviction—that the politics of this country, so far as internal affairs are concerned, would probably, for the next few years, mainly consist in an assault upon the Constitutional position of the landed interest in the system of government that now prevails in this country. That is a matter which your Lordships should deeply consider. It is impossible, if I am correct in my view, that affairs should go on between the two Houses of Parliament without their occasionally, and, perhaps, even frequently, arriving at different conclusions on such a subject. What is called collision with the other House is a frightful term; but if your Lordships come to that state of affairs with the other House of Parliament, it seems to me that you will have nothing to fear if the question on which difference occurs be one of importance, and in which the country he deeply interested, and if you are clear and just in your conclusions, and firm in their maintenance, I think that, in these circumstances, what is called collision may be looked upon without apprehension. It is very difficult to say what are the questions that deeply interest this country at the present moment. The country is somewhat perplexed; but if I were asked to mention the two subjects which most occupy the thought of the country at the present moment, I should say one was the government of Ireland, and the other the principles upon which the landed property of this country should continue to be established. The other day a Bill was introduced into this House in which both those subjects were dealt with—a Bill which, if it had been passed, would have made a very great change in the condition and government of Ireland, and would have shaken to its centre the principle upon which landed property is now established. And what did your Lordships do? On that occasion your Lordships behaved in a manner which might have been expected from your character. You disembarrassed yourselves at once from all Party feeling and all Party organization. from all claims of political connection, and by a commanding majority you at once gave your veto to a policy which you believed to be injurious and even perilous to the State. That Bill was sent to your Lordships—I will not say introduced, and, of course, I make no reference to the part taken by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) and his Colleagues in this House—that Bill was sent to your Lordships in a spirit of menace and arrogance. ["No, no!"] Yes; I repeat the words, which are founded on expressions used by those who were the authoritative supporters of the Bill. And what was the result of your Lordships' action? It met with the approbation and the confidence of the country. I may say it gained your Lordships the respect even of Europe. Well, my Lords, I cannot say it is my opinion that if there is any difference of opinion between the two Houses of Parliament upon the character of our Game Laws, your Lordships would occupy a similar position to that your Lordships did the other day on the Compensation for Disturbance (Ireland) Bill. Those who know your Lordships are aware that they are vile calumnies that would for a moment represent that you are influenced in your conduct even upon this subject by unworthy sentiments. But I must express my opinion that if your Lordships oppose this Bill—if your Lordships say at once that you will not endeavour in Committee to make it a fairly practicable piece of legislation, your Lordships will be liable to much misapprehension and much misrepresentation— misapprehension by honest men, and misrepresentation by wicked men. I would most earnestly hope, if there are to be differences between the two Houses of Parliament, that, so far as your Lordships' House is concerned, those differences should be upon subjects of great national interest. I impress this upon your Lordships. I have no object whatever, except to maintain your Lordships' honour and authority. I am not a candidate for power. I neither seek to form nor to disturb Ministries. But I have this ambition—that I wish, with you, however humbly on my part, to defend the Constitution of our country. Of that Constitution, my Lords, you are the peculiar guardians; and I feel confident that if you exerciseyour great authority with becoming firmness and discretion, you may defy Democrat and Demagogue, because you will be supported by the sympathy of the great body of the people. You will not have that support if you choose this occasion to try the relative strength of the two Houses of Parliament. It is not, in my opinion, an instance in which you would wisely exercise the authority which no one denies that you possess. This Bill is not a Bill such as I could have wished; but I should not be tempted by any considerations of that kind to blind myself from what may be, perhaps, a trap to induce your Lordships to take up a feeble position when you may be on the eve of a Constitutional struggle. The occasion is not a wise or a worthy one for your Lordships to resist the opinion of the House of Commons; and I would recommend you to allow this Bill—which I am not prepared to support—to go into Committee; and in Committee, by putting an end to or greatly modifying that clause which I have attempted to describe, and making other Amendments, may bring about a piece of legislation adapted and adequate to the circumstances and requirements of the country —legislation which will at least show that, while your Lordships are prepared to make all reasonable sacrifices for the general welfare, you are not disposed to enter into a contest with the other House of Parliament except upon a subject becoming the importance of both those great Assemblies.


believed that the measure was a sham. It professed in its Preamble to be for the improvement of husbandry; whereas, in reality, it struck at the root of all liberty and freedom of contract. Those affected by the Bill were yearly tenants and tenants at will, both of whom might make terms with their landlords for the proper protection of their crops. Instead of being for the destruction of hares and rabbits only it would give the tenant a right of sporting which he did not possess before. Nevertheless, he would support the second reading, because it was now looked forward to by a large number of that class of agriculturists who had the greatest claim on their Lordships' consideration; but he trusted that they would not allow the Bill to pass in such a shape as to alienate the two great classes whose interests must always be identical —the owners and occupiers of the soil.


said, although he had listened to the noble Earl at the Table (the Earl of Redesdale) with much attention, he had not been persuaded that his arguments against the Bill were such as to induce him to vote against it. The noble Earl said it was an imperfect Bill; and although he did not, in the course of his speech, attempt to deny the existence of a grievance, the only remedy he proposed was that the farmer and the landlord should kill the game together, or that both should depute some one else to do so. If that was the better plan why had it not been tried before? As to what fell from the noble Earl, the Leader of the Opposition, his words could not but have a practical effect. He gathered from his speech that if it was thought desirable to extend the privilege of shooting, there was no one to whom that privilege could be extended with better placed confidence than to the agricultural tenant. That was a fair summary of the advice which they received from the noble Earl; but, unfortunately, that advice had not been given hitherto—the right had not been extended to the agricultural tenant; and it was precisely because he had not the power of killing ground game that he had, through such means as were open to him, made a very loud complaint to the two Houses of Parliament. Then his noble Friend went on to say that the Bill constituted an unnecessary interference with the freedom of contract, and he had been completely answered by the noble Earl below him (the Earl of Kimberley) and the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Beaconsfield), to the effect that it was necessary to interfere at times with the freedom of contract; and that in this instance, in which it was not a question of property, but of amusement, the occasion was not sufficient for them to come to the conclusion that their Lordships should reverse the decision arrived at by the House of Commons in reference to the measure. It had been said that the cases of excessive preservation of ground game were exceptional, and he believed that to be so; but it was the existence of those exceptional cases that made this Bill, or something like it, necessary. At the same time, it would not preclude private understandings between the landlord and tenant; and no doubt in many instances, they would enter, into such agreements behind the Bill. Then the noble Earl further, in criticising the Bill, said it had come up to the House too late for fair discussion. That was a fault that he had alleged against the other Bills; but that was not an objection which had very great weight in the present case. The provisions of the Bill had been very carefully considered in the other House; and it would appear that the way in which many of the Amendments were brought forward indicated a desire to defeat the Bill. The object of the Bill was contained in the Preamble. It was to protect the capital of the tenant and the best interests of agriculture, and not to give sporting rights to tenants. When they were told that there was no demand for the Bill they should not forget that at the recent Election, candidates on both sides who stood for county constituencies joined in making lavish promises to the tenant farmers on the subject; and if the Government had not brought in the Bill the tenant farmers would have had the same right to find fault with them as they had with the late Government on the subject of the Agricultural Holdings Bill. He hoped their Lordships would not reject the measure; he did not say that it require no amendment; hut he believed that the Government would consider in a fair spirit whatever Amendments might be proposed.


said, the noble Earl who had just spoken had expressed the opinion that if the Bill passed landlords and tenants would make agreements behind the back of the Act. He, for one, demurred to that proposition. A Bill brought in by Her Majesty's Government, which received the assent of both Houses of Parliament, would, if it became law, be carried out; and it was, he thought, an ignoble proposition to hold that the landowers and tenant farmers of the country would not stick to and abide by the meaning and tenour of the Act. The Bill was avowedly brought in for the benefit of the agricultural tenants, and he thought it dealt not solely with ground game, but with territorial rights. In fact, all the legislation of the present Government was class legislation. The Employers' Liability Bill was admittedly brought in for the benefit of the labouring classes. The Compensation for Disturbance (Ireland) Bill was of a like character for the benefit of one class, and the present Bill dealt with property of a very valuable character. He was in a position to state that in the opinion of those who were best qualified to judge— namely, the land agents of England— landed property which might come into the market for sale would, if the Bill passed, be enormously depreciated in value. A paternal and affectionate Government, however, had become interested in the welfare of the agricultural tenants, and were anxious to give them a return for favours received, and make them a gift for something indefinite which they hoped hereafter to receive from them. They said to the tenant farmers of the country—"A Liberal Government has determined to consider your condition; they are deeply touched by the position in which the act of God has placed you. You have had the advantage of six years of the Government of your friends, but no Malt Tax was repealed by them; you have suffered great calamities, but no remedial measures were proposed in your behalf by them. We come forward now, we repeal the Malt Tax, and we give you a territorial right upon your farms." If anything was likely to prolong the sway of the Government, it was the bountiful way in which they had treated the tenant farmer class. But there would be a hereafter. The Malt Tax might not prove to be a valuable concession; this Bill, from the description given, was not likely to be of the slightest good. It was said the tenant was to have the right of shooting over the landlord's property, and to employ any number of people, respectable or degraded, in shooting ground game, which was to be prolific enough for amusement, but not for the destruction of the crops. But if the Preamble of the Bill was to be consistently carried out, the occupier would not be tempted to preserve game enough to afford amusement. If he had had to propose a measure in the interests of good husbandry, he would have said that the tenant might snare hares at certain times, and kill rabbits in any way at all times, but not by guns; and a Bill of that kind would have been perfectly innocent, and would not have contravened the wishes of their Lordships, most of whom now carried out on their estates the principle which he advocated. Where was all the alleged injury done by ground game? He never heard of any complaints in the county of Cambridge, because the landlords invariably fell in with the wishes of the tenants, who, therefore, did not feel the need for any legislation. And did not the landlords in other game counties act in a similar manner? A cry and an agitation had been got up, and the tenants would hail with acclamation a Bill of this kind; but if it had not been brought in they would not have asked for it. If it was to work mischief between landlords and themselves, they had the good sense to know that instead of being beneficial it would be quite the contrary. With good tenants and good landlords, estates were invariably well managed, and would continue to be; a bad tenant might remain under a good landlord, but a bad landlord would say to a tenant who proposed to act on the principles of this Bill—"You won't stop here." It was admitted that a good understanding was favourable to good husbandry, which was promoted by leases; but this Bill would prevent leases. He warned their Lordships that the country gentry would not live on their property if they were deprived of their sporting rights. The President of the Council was a good hunting man; and he asked the noble Earl whether, if he could not enjoy the foxhunting at Pytchley, he would not say—"The climate of this country in the winter is detestable; I shall go abroad." But they were going by this Bill to deprive the small country gentry, who lived upon their property 10 or 11 months in the year, of the only sport that they could enjoy. It was one of those measures which would be followed by others of a more severe character. The late Prime Minister had advised the House not to vote against the second reading of the Bill, and he (the Earl of Hardwicke) would follow the noble Earl's advice, reserving his vote to aid in the amendment of the Bill in Committee; because he believed it would, as it stood at present, break up the good feeling which had hitherto existed between landlord and tenant, without in any sense promoting good husbandry.


said, that if it had not been for some observations which fell from the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees (The Earl of Redesdale) he would have been content to leave the advocacy of the Bill to the very clear, temperate, and business-like speech of his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies. With regard to the speech of the noble Earl opposite, who led the Conservative Party, he had little or nothing to say. The noble Earl had treated the House to some of that brilliant "chaff," which with him was sometimes merely the decoration of very weighty and sagacious counsels, and he would not spend the time of the House by making any carping observations on a speech with much of which he himself agreed, and the wisdom of which he thought would be recognized in the country. He wished to say, however, with regard to the Chairman of Committees, that he understood it was one of the Rules of Debate in their Lordships' House not to impute unworthy motives to their opponents; and he very much regretted that the noble Lord should have committed a breach of that Rule which was not more due to good sense than it was to courtesy. The noble Earl said, among other things, that the real motive of the Government was not to protect agricultural interests, but to give a blow to the landed interest. He (the Duke of Argyll) protested against that accusation as entirely unjust and unfounded. He was not surprised at it, however, as coming from the noble Earl, who at one time made a charge against his own Party, when they brought in a Bill for the abolition of the Law of Hypothec. The abolition of hypothec was for many years objected to by Conservatives; but the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Beaconsfield), in that magnificent course of educating his Party, which was productive of such eminent advantages to the country, ultimately induced them to believe that the measure would not be injurious to the nation. In that he agreed with the late Prime Minister; but the noble Earl (the Earl of Redesdale) adhered to his antiquated opinions with the utmost good faith, and accused the late Government of bringing in the Bill just before the General Election for electioneering purposes. He reminded their Lordships of this, for the purpose of showing the fairness that was to be expected from the noble Earl when the present Government brought in a measure of which he happened to disapprove. On this subject his own conviction was that some measure was inevitable under the circumstances in which they were placed. It was now rather more than 30 years since the farming interest of this country was first subjected to what the noble Earl, the Leader of the Conservative Party, would call unrestricted competition. During that time he did not know that Free Trade had acted injuriously to agricultural interests. It gave an enormous impetus to trade, and that reacted upon agriculture; so that in the history of the country there had been no such rapid increase in the value of land as in the last 34 or 35 years. But it would now almost appear as if the results of unlimited competition in foreign food were beginning for the first time to be felt in this country. This might be attributable to many causes. First, stood the enormous development of the carrying trade in America and between us and in America. When he visited that country last year he observed from some heights around Niagara the magnificent extent of corn-bearing country far as the eye could reach; and when he was told by some Canadian friends that far beyond the horizon there were hundreds and hundreds of miles even still more adapted for corn growing than the country round Niagara and Ontario, he became for the first time impressed with the reality of the risks which would unquestionably beset British agriculture unless every unnecessary impediment to good husbandry were removed. Coincident with the first cause he had mentioned there had been three or four most disastrous years, and no one would deny that those causes combined had had a most depressing effect on the spirits of agriculturists. There were some districts, no doubt, where the rental had hardly been affected; but there were others where a farm would hardly be taken, and where there was no prospect of a fair rental. He was not at all despairing of British agriculture, and he did not mean to increase what he believed was, to some extent, a panic with regard to future prospects; but this he would say—that if British agriculture was to recover the prosperity which it once had, it must depend upon more careful and thrifty cultivation, and, above all, upon the removal of all unnecessary elements of uncertainty in the cultivation of the soil. No one could deny that the unlimited increase of ground game was, in many cases, an insuperable element of uncertainty in the management of farms. His noble Friend (the Earl of Kimberley) was better acquainted with the game counties than he was, and he had stated that he knew cases in which the game had destroyed the crops. No one could deny that the unlimited increase of hares and rabbits was at all times injurious to agriculture, and might be carried to such an extent as to be absolutely incompatible with success. It might be perfectly true that the great majority of their Lordships did not over-preserve game; but the matter was undeniably an element of uncertainty. One man might preserve more, his successor less. One man might preserve more one year, and less another; but there was always the element of uncertainty. The noble Earl opposite evidently referred to an Act passed by their Lordships, he believed, unanimously, three or four years ago, with respect to game in Scotland. It was called M 'Lagan's Act. The history of that Act was curious, as an illustration of the difficulty of dealing with this subject. By the Common Law of Scotland, the tenant had always an absolute right of compensation for any damage done to his crops beyond that which he contemplated at the beginning of the lease. But the power to prove the damage hardly existed. Nothing was more difficult. A great number of witnesses might be examined, and very different opinions might be given. One man would say there had been a great increase, another that the increase had not been great. It was always argued by the landlords that the damage done had been considered in the rent; but the answer of the farmers was that they did not anticipate, and could not safely calculate, the amount of game which might be preserved upon the farm. Mr. M'Lagan's Act was introduced as an answer to those arguments. The Legislature stepped in and said that landlords and tenants must make a bargain at the beginning of their leases, tenants specifying the damage on which they calculated, and it being the absolute law of Scotland that they had a right to compensation for the amount of damage that was done beyond that specified in the lease. He was afraid that although the Act was very fair in theory, the whole of the machinery for the assessment of damage was so complicated that it was quite probable ill-will and ill-feeling were occasioned between landlord and tenant in consequence; and certain it was that the passing of Mr. M 'Lagan's Act had not reconciled farmers to the uncertainty which existed with regard to the preservation of game. To remedy the evils which were universally deplored various proposals had been made. At one time he was rather disposed to withdraw hares and rabbits from the game list; but on further consideration he thought that would involve a greater invasion of the rights of property, and that the measure now proposed was the better one. In the speech of the noble Earl (the Earl of Beaconsfield) there was pretty fair evidence that, in his opinion, some such solution was desirable. The noble Earl did not throw over altogether the principle of freedom of contract; but he declared he did not consider himself bound by that principle with regard to this question, and he quoted M'Lagan's Act as an instance of its invasion. He (the Duke of Argyll) was quite ready to admit that a great many of the measures which had been passed limiting freedom of contract did not stand on all-fours with this particular Bill. For instance, the Factory Acts, on which the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Shaftesbury) took so distinguished a part, stood upon a principle essentially different—they were Acts for the preservation of the lives or health of millions and had not been passed for commercial purposes. But there was an Act quoted by his noble Friend which involved the principle contained in this Bill, and that was the Truck Act. In that case, when two men contracted for wages those wages were not allowed to be paid in kind. Why, because there was such an element of uncertainty in the bargain that a man would not know whether he got his wages or not. It was strictly within the functions of Parliament to provide that in any bargain made between two persons they should understand what they were about. Let them apply that principle to agricultural leases. All that this Bill said to the landlord was—"If you let your land for agricultural purposes you must let it with all those incidents which are absolutely necessary for successful agriculture." He could not see that that was unreasonable. He thought it as defensible an interference with the principle of freedom of contract as any which had preceded it. Their Lordships had recently consented to interference with that principle. Was the majority of the House aware of the nature of a clause which, on the recommendation of the noble and learned Earl (Earl Cairns)—whose absence on the present occasion was very significant— had been introduced into a Bill during the present Session of Parliament? The Bill had been passed and had gone down to the House of Commons, and the clause to which he referred would strike much at the continuance of the territorial aristocracy. The clause was passed without one word of opposition, except from the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Bath), so that the noble Earl (the Earl of Redesdale), in objecting to the present Bill, while he did not object to that clause, was straining at a gnat while he had swallowed a camel. He might now say a word or two as to the probable consequences of the Bill, one of which, he held, would be an increase in the value of land. Game had a definite value, and in that respect partook of the nature of property. If a farmer paid less rent because the right of shoot- ing was reserved, it was clear that when he had a certain right of protecting his crops from destruction he would not only be disposed to pay, but would also be able to pay a better rent. In the interests of all parties concerned, and of the agriculture of the country, the best plan was to divide the game between the landlord and the tenant. To do that was the whole object of the Bill. With regard to the understandings as to which the noble Earl opposite had uttered some very severe sentences, although under the Bill they would not be enforceable at law, the Bill would not prevent arrangements that rested on mutual interest. His noble Friend had rightly stated that the effect of the Bill would be to leave landlords and tenants to to come to such mutual agreements. Indeed, considering how much injury the two parties were capable of inflicting on one another, it would be seen that considerable pressure was put upon them by the Bill to make agreements based on the interests of both. He confidently expected that, while the over-preservation of game would be done away with, a sufficient and moderate stock would always be maintained, and that the farmers would in future feel that the safety of their crops was assured. He repudiated the motive that had been attributed to the Government in bringing in the Bill, and justified their conduct on the ground that, to use a well-known Parliamentary phrase, something had to be done. In the opinion of the Government, the best policy was to give to both landlord and tenant a joint interest in the ground game.


said, that this Bill had been very fortunate in having been brought before the House by his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies. His noble Friend, however, laboured under the disadvantage of knowing too much on the subject; and he was too candid and unable to resort to that misrepresentation without which this Bill could not be advocated. The misrepresentation by which the Bill had been supported "elsewhere" was not necessarily wilful misrepresentation; indeed, good and effective misrepresentation was only possible where it was the result of ignorance— such as the statement that had been made that taking a rabbit was punished by seven years penal servitude; and that two hares ate as much as a sheep. With this exaggeration they would be told in another Session that one hare ate as much as two sheep. On the other hand, his noble Friend had the advantage of being a Norfolk man, and was better able to support this Bill from knowing how his neighbours had been guilty of over-preservation of game. But this excessive preservation was a reason for having brought the penalty not on the whole country, but on those who had offended, by a Bill giving heavy compensation for damages. He, for his part, and all the Peers with whom he had had private conversation on the subject, were quite independent on this subject, and were not speaking as interested persons; but if they spoke warmly, it was because they were better acquainted with the subject than others who had supported the Bill. And he thought that the Peers were rather more open to the complaint that they did not sufficiently bear in mind the case and the requirements of country gentlemen with small estates. Her Majesty's Government had adopted an objectionable method in the case of this Bill, and also of the Burials Bill, of introducing them, and then pausing and hesitating with them, leading people—as with this Bill early in July—to suppose it was to be dropped. The consequence was that Petitions were not prepared against it, as might have been easily done. This Bill, he knew, had already affected and diminished the value of land, and it was of the nature of confiscation. Not long since some complaint had been made about the appointment of M. Challemel-Lacour as French Ambassador; but as the rule was to select a person most acceptable to the Government to which he was accredited, what was called a grata persona, M. Blanqui would have been the most suitable person for the French Government to have chosen.


said, that he should not have ventured to address their Lordships' House did he not feel it his duty, as Vice Chairman of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, to express the approval of the Bill by that important Body, and its satisfaction that this measure had been brought forward. At the same time, great alarm had been shown by country gentlemen as to the results if this Bill became law; and, as an illustration, he might quote a portion of the speech made by Mr. Lane-Fox, of Bramham, which seemed to convey their unreasonable fears. Mr. Fox was reported to have said— The Hares and Rabbits Bill ought to be called the Hares, Rabbits, and Landlords Bill, because it was intended to destroy all three. The effect would be that all young men would take to the gun, become poachers and trespassers, ending in brandy and water and ruin. The landlord was left without any amusement —no fox-hunting, no shooting. What was he to do? He turned away his gamekeepers, shut up his house, and went to London or Paris. It was not necessary to repudiate the idea that, even if English country gentlemen lost the whole of their sporting rights, they would be induced to shrink from their duties and responsibilities; and, besides, in answer to the argument that this Bill would effectually destroy the national sport of fox-hunting, did not an absentee landlord who let his shooting to a stranger destroy more sport in a hunting county than any number of farmers who kept down hares and rabbits? Ground game had enormously increased within the last 40 years, as might be seen by looking back to January, 1843, in which year the Queen honoured the Duke of Buckingham with a visit at Stowe. The Duke, who was celebrated for his princely munificence, might presumably be supposed to have wished to afford the Consort of his Queen a good day's sport. The result of a battue was a total of 200 hares, 100 pheasants, and a snipe. His Royal Highness shot 29 pheasants and the snipe—leaving to the other guns 86 hares and 71 pheasants. So extraordinary was this shooting considered, only 35 years ago, that it formed the centre cartoon of the next week's Punch. He believed this Bill would give confidence to farmers. It would do away with the possibility of keepers preserving rabbits for their own benefit; it would put an end to the agitation for the abolition of the Game Laws; and as this measure was generally considered by the country as a just one, in the interest of hundreds upon hundreds of occupiers of land, he most earnestly hoped their Lordships would agree to its being read a second time.


said, this Bill was unquestionably a very disagreeable Bill, and he, for one, thought that it was, in principle, a very perilous Bill. At the same time he was not dis- posed to refuse it a second reading. On the contrary, he thought it desirable that it should go into Committee in order, if possible, to receive amendment. It was an undoubted infringement of freedom of contract, and he could not but observe the reckless and wanton way in which the Government took up, and threw broadcast over the country, principles which, if carried to their full issue, must subvert the order of things under which we lived. The noble Duke mentioned the Truck Act as a violation of the principle of freedom of contract; but between that measure and the present one there was really no analogy whatever. The poor people whom the Truck Act was designed to benefit were unable to help themselves; but no one could pretend that the farmers were in that position. Whatever might have been their condition some years ago, they were now men of education, position, and capital. In the present state of things, and for some time to come, the tenant farmers would stand in a better position to make bargains than landlords themselves. But since this Bill had been introduced, matters had assumed a more serious character. At that time there was no great demand for such a measure. Government had rather forced the measure on the farmers than the farmers on the Government, and in taking that step they should have well weighed the consequences of setting afloat ideas and principles which might have the effect of breaking up the foundations of society. But Government having then taken upon itself the responsibility of the measure sanctioned by Parliament, the farmers had drank it in like mother's milk; and they who were before indifferent, had now come to regard this Bill as a panacea for all their evils. It behoved their Lordships to take that circumstance into consideration, as also the fact that the course which the Government proposed to take to remedy the undoubted grievances of farmers was, if not the wisest course, at all events, the only one before the House. On the whole, landlords and tenants, he believed, had been on fairly good terms with each other. During the 30 years he had been a landed proprietor there had never been a shadow of difference between him and his tenants, as he, following the example of his father, left to them the ground game, but reserved the winged game in the fields to himself, giving, however, after the first fortnight, an equal privilege to the tenant It was, however, a different thing to act voluntarily in the matter and to be compelled to it by Act of Parliament. With regard to a remark which had been made by the noble Earl near him (the Earl of Hardwicke), he should shrink with horror from having it announced to the country at large, to the tenant farmers and labourers, that the landed gentry were to be kept on their estates solely for amusement, and not for the great and crying duties intrusted to them in the improvement of their property, and in the elevation of those who lived upon it. There were only a few landowners who were guilty of over-preservation; but it had entailed serious evils on the country, and criminals they might be called, if the expression were founded on the criminal Returns of the country. The practice, too, of letting the shooting to strangers over the lands of the occupying tenants, had given much, and well-founded, offence. These matters bad gone deeply into the hearts of the farmers, and required being dealt with. He was quite satisfied that the measure was not a good one; but it was the only one before them, and it had, moreover, passed through the other House without a Division on the second reading. They were left the choice of two evils—that of rejecting the Bill or of accepting it, imperfect as it was; and, as he firmly believed that the worst of the two evils would be to reject it, he would support the second reading of the Bill.


said, in regard to the point of freedom of contract, that when the Legislature passed a measure upon grounds of public policy which it thought it important to secure from being defeated, then it had been the constant course of the Legislature to provide, that no contracts or private agreements, which might militate against that policy should have any force or effect in law. The Bill before the House was founded upon a particular view of public policy. That view was either sound, or it was not. The policy was, that the occupier of land should always have it in his power to prevent the mischief of an excessive increase of ground game. The demand for such a Bill from Scotland, at all events, was most general and urgent. From England it was not slight. There was an admitted evil. The Government had come to the conclusion that an excessive increase of ground game, to the injury of the cultivators of the soil, was an evil which public policy ought to prevent, and the Leader of the Opposition had admitted that some legislation on this subject was inevitable; but no such legislation was possible without an interference with freedom of contract. To pass a measure on this subject, and allow it to be set aside by all sorts of arrangements, would be mere child's play, and would leave the law, in effect, exactly as it now stood. If there was any occasion for any such legislation at all, it must be of a compulsory character.


amid continuous cries of "Divide," said, that this Bill would put it into the power of any tenant of a small patch of land to destroy even the few hares that were required for the health of the grinders of Sheffield who ran on foot with harriers. [Interruption.'] He declared that this clamour was an insult to the people of Sheffield —namely, such of the people of Sheffield who ran on foot with harriers over the hills of the High Peak. Turning to the Liberal Benches, he said—"When you passed the Irish Church Bill I told you I would fight any one of you, and I say so now." If the noble Lord will divide, I will "tell" with him even though we have besides us no one to "tell."

On Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Motion?" Their Lordships divided: — Contents 68; Not-Contents 20: Majority 48.

Selborne, L. (L. Chancellor.) Shaftesbury, E.
Spencer, E,
Stanhope, E.
Richmond, D. Suffolk and Berkshire, E.
Saint Albans, D.
Somerset, D. Sydney, E.
Westminster, D. Verulam, E.
Camperdown, E, Sherbrooke, V.
Chichester, E.
Derby, E. Aberdare, L.
Devon, E. Airey, L.
Fortescue, E. Auckland, L.
Granville, E. Aveland, L.
Kimberley, E. Helper, L.
Lucan, E. Blachford, L.
Morley, E. Boyle, L. {E. Cork and Orrery.) [Teller.]
Mount Edgcumbe, E.
Northbrook, E. Brabourne, L.
Onslow, E. Braye, L.
Breadalbane, L. (E. Breadalbane.) Lismore, L. (Y. Lismore.)
Carew, L. Methuen, L.
Carrington, L. Moncreiff, L.
Clermont, L. Monson, L. [Teller.]
Coleridge, L. O'Hagan, L.
Congleton, L. Sandhurst, L.
Dormer, L. Saye and Sele, L.
Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.) Skene, L. (E. Fife.)
Emly, L. Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)
Ettrick, L. (L. Napier.) Sudeley, L.
Gwydir, L. Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)
Hanmer, L.
Hare, L. (E. Listowel.) Templemore, L.
Hatherley, L. Tyrone, L.(M. Water-ford.)
Kenmare, L. (E. Ken-mare.) Vernon, L.
Lawrence, L. Waveney, L.
Leconfield, L. Wolverton, L.
Leigh, L. Wrottesley, L.
Bristol, M. Fitzhardinge, L.
Foley, L.
Feversham, E. Forester, L.
Mount Cashell, E. Lilford, L.
Poulett, E. Oranmore and Browne, L.
Redesdale, E. [Teller.]
Tankerville, E. Saltoun, L.
Bolingbroke and St. John, V. Stanley of Alderley, L. [Teller.]
Strathnairn, L.
Strathspey, L. (E. Sea-field.)
Byron, L.
Carleton, L. {E. Shannon.) Willough by de Broke, L.
Denman, L.

Resolved in the Affirmative.

Bill read 2a accordingly; and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.