My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government how many estates sold under the Land Purchase Act of 1903 have had the sporting rights vested in the Land Commission; what steps have been taken by the Commissioners for the preservation of game on such estates and for letting the shootings; and will the Government place on the Table of the House a copy of the regulations made by the Lord-Lieutenant to enable the Land Commission to deal with the sporting rights vested in them in accordance with Section 13, Sub-section 1, of the Land Purchase Act, 1903.
I have put these Questions on the Paper in the interest of the general preservation of game in Ireland. I have been for some years connected with an association which was formed in that country for the protection of game. That association has done excellent work, but we have had a very hard task with the Estates Commissioners. Instead of assisting us the Estates Commissioners have opposed us in every way. On one estate they absolutely refused to allow us to put up notices to prevent trespass in pursuit of game on those lands. It is quite a mistake 884 to suppose that the tenants of Ireland do not care about the preservation of game, for in several cases where large estates have been sold to the tenants they have themselves combined to preserve the game on their several holdings.
My Lords, in view of the important debate which awaits us, I hope I shall not be expected to give more than a very brief reply to the Questions of the noble Lord. The noble Lord asks how many estates sold under the Land Purchase Act of 1903 have had the sporting rights vested in the Land Commission. I am informed that twelve estates have been so treated, and that in six more estates the rights have been vested concurrently in the superior landlord. The noble Lord then inquires what steps have been taken by the Commissioners for the preservation of game on such estates and for letting the shootings. Up to the present the Land Commission have not taken any steps for the preservation of game on these estates. I agree with the noble Lord that there is a certain amount of hardship in this matter, but I must ask him to remember that many questions of urgency have arisen in connection with the working of the Irish Land Act more important than this particular one, and which have engaged the attention of the Government. The question of shooting rights cannot be one of such great importance, because only in eighteen estates out of a total of 1,006 sold has it been necessary to deal with sporting rights in this manner. Finally, the noble Lord asks whether His Majesty's Government will place on the Table of the House a copy of the regulations made by the Lord-Lieutenant. The regulations are not definitely decided upon, but a draft of them is now under consideration. If the noble Lord will put this Question to me at a later period of the session I hope I shall then be in a position to lay a copy of the regulations, on the Table.