HL Deb 24 February 1846 vol 84 cc11-4

moved the Second Reading of a Bill for the further amendment of the laws in England relative to Game. His Lordship observed, that for these thirty years it had been to him a matter of deep interest and regret to perceive the condition in which the lower orders—particularly the agricultural body—had been placed by the mode in which the Game Laws were executed. Thirty years since, however, the absurdities and incongruities were more prominent than at present; an individual who had personal property to the extent of millions was not allowed to possess himself of a head of game except by present, and a man could not appoint a gamekeeper on his own land except in certain cases of manorial right. Absurdities of that kind had been removed, he might take the liberty of saying, subsequently to the Report of the Committee for which he moved, which Committee investigated the law upon the subject, and particularly with reference to the question whether game did not belong to the possessor of the land, ratione soli. The Committee to which he had referred sat in 1816; and, in 1819, he (Lord Dacre) introduced a Bill into the other House founded on the principle that game was the property of the possessor of the land. If the possession of land gave the property in the game taken on the land, and no one but the possessor of the land could sell that game, surely they ought not, by fiscal regulations, to admit a simple li- cense as authority for selling game, without its being accompanied by some other regulation proving the game to have come from the possessor of some land. The object of the present Bill was to cut off, if possible, the poacher from any intercourse with the licensed dealer, and therefore the first clause proposed that it should not be lawful for any person, except a licensed dealer in game, to sell game to any licensed dealer in game, unless such person should be the lord or lessee of a manor or reputed manor, or should be the gamekeeper of such lord or lessee acting on the account and with the written authority of such lord or lessee, or should be the owner or occupier of, say, ten or fifteen acres, as it was not his (Lord Dacre's) wish to require for this purpose any extensive possession of land. The Bill would also require the dealer in game to keep a book, in which he should be required to enter the day and month of the year on which he should purchase any game, together with the number and description of such game, and the name and residence of the person of whom he should so purchase it. This was the principal provision of the Bill, for the purpose of putting an end to the practice of poaching, so injurious to the rural population of the country. Having thus taken means to secure this species of property in the possessor or occupier of the soil, he thought it incumbent to introduce some arrangement to reimburse, as far as possible, any damage done to property by the game belonging to a neighbouring occupier. One of the clauses of the Bill, therefore, contained a provision enabling magistrates at petty sessions to order, on complaint being made, an investigation into the amount of damage done by game to the complainant's property, and to make award of compensation. These were the principal points of the measure, which might more properly be called an amendment of the 1st and 2d William IV. He could not but entertain a sanguine expectation—provided the difficulties which he proposed were interposed between the poacher and the licensed dealer, and provided the remedy which he recommended for giving damages, where injury had been done by the excessive quantity of game should be agreed to—that those enactments would smooth the irritation, and remove much of the practical evil by which the country continued to be injured, little less than it was before the introduction of the 1st and 2d William IV.


objected strongly to the whole of the Bill. He thought that it would be extremely bad policy to make the Game Laws more restrictive than they were at present. By the present law no person could sell game who had not a certificate; but the Bill of the noble Lord proposed to confine the limits still more, by insisting upon the possession of a certain number of acres. The 7th Clause, relative to reimbursement for damage done by game, he strongly objected to, as calculated to lead to great confusion and acrimony among neighbouring landowners. The 9th Clause of the Bill repealed that portion of the 1st and 2d William IV., which gave half the penalty to informers. That he regarded as a useful part of the existing law, which ought not to be repealed. He, therefore, objected to that clause, and must repeat his opposition to the Bill altogether.


would support the second reading, on the ground that the existing law was certainly capable of amendment—an observation which, in his opinion, also applied to the Bill of his noble Friend.


said his object in rising was simply to contradict a statement which he understood had been made with regard to himself—that he had paid large sums of money by way of compensation for damage done by his game. He could only say that he had never paid one single farthing for any such purpose; because, since he had been in the possession of landed property, he had invariably destroyed every hare and rabbit upon it, regarding them as real vermin, which, whilst they prevented the farmer from properly cultivating his land, inflicted at the same time a serious injury upon the landowner, inasmuch as they barked many of his most valuable trees.


said, that he also, in consequence of the recommendation of the noble Duke who had just sat down, had commenced the destruction of hares and rabbits, and that he had succeeded almost in exterminating them. He could scarcely exaggerate the satisfaction which had resulted from that course, both to himself and to his tenants.


recommended that hares should be taken entirely out of the class of game. If that were done, he thought that they would get rid of all the complaints which were now made against the Game Laws; and he should take the liberty at some future stage of the Bill to submit a clause with that particular object in view. At present he should support the second reading.

Bill read 2a.

House adjourned.