HL Deb 08 May 1896 vol 40 cc841-3

*THE EARL OF JERSEY moved the Second Reading of the Wild Birds Protection Acts Amendment (No. 2) Bill, and said that every one would agree that it was desirable to give as much protection as possible to those wild birds which add so much to the charm of the country. But they must, of course, always take care not to take any steps which would infringe unduly on the rights and privileges of individuals. In a detailed explanation of the provisions of the Bill, the noble Lord said that the first clause gave power to the Secretary of State to give protection to particular kinds of birds either for a whole year or a portion of the year, or to give protection to all wild birds in particular places and at particular times—that was to say, either for a whole county or parts of a county as would seem desirable. Clause 3 had been inserted in order to meet a difficulty which had often occurred, namely, that when a man had been caught infringing the Act of 1880, he pleaded that it was a first offence and got off with nominal costs. That Act and this Bill did not interfere in any way with the owner or occupier of lands or person authorised by the owner or occupier; it only dealt with unauthorised persons. Clause 5 imposed a penalty on any one who was caught trespassing upon land while in pursuit of wild birds or any person aiding and abetting such person. This was a very necessary clause. Clause 6 give power to seize and retain the nets, snares and traps of any person infringing the Act. Up to 1894, he believed that in the Metropolitan district there was not a single case brought up under the Act of 1880, and yet he knew full well that that Act was constantly being infringed in a portion of the County of Middlesex; but it had been so difficult to get convictions that the attempt to take up persons breaking the law had almost been given up. Legislation should not make enactments easily evaded; it should do everything to make the law as stringent as public opinion would allow. He believed the trend of public opinion was in the direction of the better protection of wild birds and he hoped their Lordships would give the Bill a Second Reading.


said that when this Bill was formerly before the House this year, he expressed, on behalf of the Secretary of State, his wish to meet any reasonable objections to the present Act, because he believed it had not been so efficacious as it was thought it would be when passed. He saw no objection, therefore, to the first part of the Bill, because it would make the Bill more operative. With regard to part 2, though several of the objections to the drafting had been removed by the alterations introduced, there still remained the point whether it was desirable to alter the law of trespass in the novel way proposed and to make trespass in pursuit of small birds an offence in itself. Also whether it was necessary to give the stringent, powers of Clause 6 for the seizure of nets with any other implements used in pursuit of small birds, and to confiscate such implements upon a conviction. However desirable some of their Lordships might think it to be to give this power, it was a somewhat strong thing to seize and confiscate an implement like a gun simply because it had been used for shooting at a small bird. A wide power was given, not only to the owner or occupier, but to his servants to seize any of the aforesaid articles. He thought their Lordships would hesitate to give a power of this sort to an irresponsible person like a farm labourer, not used to the administration of the law. Even if they were to limit this power it was difficult to see how they could define any person who should be authorised to exercise this power. Of course the police officers could only act on the road, and could not follow people across the fields where they would be pursuing those wild birds. Under those circumstances the Home Secretary did not see his way to accepting the second part of the Bill. There was one consideration which he should like to submit to those who desired to see the law made more stringent. Was it wise for them to load the Bill with contentious clauses which would undoubtedly delay its progress through the other House. There was, however, no objection to the Second Reading being taken, but in Committee the Home Secretary, as at present advised, would not assent to the second part of the Bill.

Read 2a (according to Order), and committed to a Committee of the whole House.