HC Deb 21 February 1844 vol 72 cc1313-31

On the Question that the Speaker do now leave the Chair, for the House to go into a Committee on the Horse Racing Penalties Bill,

Mr. Christie

rose to move as an amendment, "That it be an instruction to the Committee to extend the provisions of the Bill to all proceedings of common informers, under the authority of any penal statute." He said his object was to turn the Bill—which as it stood was a Bill to protect a few individuals, who, by violating a law, have incurred unreasonably high penalties, which were sued for by common informers, actuated, very probably, by malice, and a desire to put money into their pockets, but still the very motives on which the Legislature relied for the execution of the law that had been violated—into a Bill applying broadly and impartially the only principles which afforded a shadow of support, to all cases where the Legislature had apportioned penalties on the same plan, and provided the same means of recovering them, and trusted to the same motives, and to all cases, whether of rich or poor, where individuals were at the mercy of common informers, actuated by similar vexatious and mercenary motives. He could not recognise the distinction between high betting on horse racing and other species of gaming, nor any difference, in respect of operation on the morality of the poorer classes, between their smaller bets on horse races and boat races, and on the humbler games of chance, such as pitch and toss, for which they are every day liable to summary conviction by Justices. Nor could he see any difference between the unreasonableness in the penalties imposed by this statute on betting on horse racing, and the unreasonableness of the same penalties as regards gaming at cards or rouge et noir, so that public opinion would naturally lead to a general non-enforcement of the statute, but which, being unrepealed, might be unexpectedly revived any day to the ruin of some individual who had presumed upon the sleeping law. And there were many other penal statutes as absurd as these, to which the present Bill related; for instance, a statute against lotteries, passed in the reign of William and Mary, which subjected every one keeping a lottery, to a fine of 500l., and every one drawing in a lottery to a fine of 20l., at the suit of any common informer. And there was no difference between the vexatious and mercenary motives imputed to the parties bringing those actions, and the motives which might lead any common informer, during the time this Bill was in operation, to revive the old statute against lotteries, against a far greater number of persons, or the motives which were at the time alleged, and which there was just as muck reason to believe, actuated the person who brought the actions, in the case mentioned the other day by his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, against Mr. Bond, and which almost ruined that individual. If the House passed this Bill on account of the characters and motives of the common informers who had brought the actions, they must, to be just, stop all proceedings of common informers in every case. An information might be brought for summary conviction by Justices, from a grudge against some poorer neighbour, as well as a qui tam action, because the informer had been turned out of the park at Good wood. There was no pretence for saying that there had been any doubts, as was said in the preamble of the Bill, as to horse racing being included within the statute of Anne. There had been a series of decisions, from an early time after the passing of the statute up to the latest time, in which judge followed judge in deciding that horse races, foot races, cock fights, and dog matches, some of which were specifically mentioned in the Act, were included in its operation. In giving judgment in the case of Applegarth v. Colley, in December 1842, Baron Rolfe said,— According to the construction which a great variety of cases have put on these acts, it must be taken, first, that horse racing is a game within the meaning of the statute of Charles II.; and, secondly, that the games contemplated in the statute of Anne, though not there enumerated, are the same as those referred to in the statute of Charles II. There was a case even more recent than this—Bentinck v. Connop—in which judgment had been given by Lord Denman on the 10th or the present month, which was an action for the recovery of a portion of the Grand Duke Michael Stakes, run for at Newmarket, in the October meeting in 1842. The case turned on the Act of Charles II., and Lord Denman said, "that the object of the statute was to restrain gambling, and that betting on horse racing was included." The plaintiff in this case was the noble Lord the Member for Lynn; and as it had been stated for the noble Lord that he was ignorant of the law, though the noble Lord had not made that statement himself, he hoped the noble Lord would give some explanation on the point. It seemed strange that the noble Lord should be ignorant of the law which he was violating, when he was at the very time plaintiff in an action turning on one of these acts, and his attention must have been directed to the law, and if so to the recent case of Applegarth v. Colley, and the judgment of Baron Rolfe. If the House passed the Bill as it stood, they would encourage high betting and horse racing. The hon. and learned Member who had charge of the Bill (Mr. J. S. Wortley) had said the other night, that though there had been many high bets, there might be still very little risk; for persons "hedged," and that one of the persons sued for one of the largest amounts of penalties, had so hedged as to reduce his risk to 97l. But this practice of hedging only went to increase betting, for every man who hedged must bet with two persons instead of one, so that this was a very extraordinary argument to urge on behalf of the persons interested in this Bill. The cases relied on as precedents to justify this piece of ex post facto legislation differed essentially from the present. The Act to protect Clergymen, in 1814, was to stop actions brought for penalties incurred, not by non-residence, but by neglecting to make the required returns of the grounds of exemption for non-residence, so that that was a mere matter of regulation, and did not involve a public principle. So with the Act of 1835 to protect newspaper proprietors from the consequences of a neglect of a provision for registry at the Stamp-office. But the present bill involved important moral considerations. He could mention a case which, if ever ex post facto legislation was called for, had most justly required it; he alluded to the wager of battle in the well-known case of Ashford v. Thornton, in 1817. There every principle of decency and humanity, as well as common sense, was outraged. The person accused of the murder demanded his right of wager of battle, under au obsolete and most barbarous law, and the Judges decided that he had the right. Only an accident prevented these two men from going out, under the sanction of the law, to embrue their hands in each other's blood. Ashford felt that he would have no chance against Thornton's superior strength, and declined to prosecute the appeal. But this was not to be foreseen; and while the matter was pending before the Judges, there was an attempt made at ex post facto legislation. The two persons were poor and humble; one was a village labourer and the other a bricklayer, and the Legislature held out no hand to save them from the sacrifice of their lives. He asked the House to extend this Bill so as to include all proceedings of common informers. When the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Wortley) attacked the characters and motives of these informers, he attacked the informer system; let no qui tam actions whatever be brought while this Bill was in operation; let all informations in the Superior Courts be brought by the Attorney General, and all informations before justices by some public officer, the clerk of the peace for the county, or town clerk of the borough. If this general principle were applied, he should be glad that the few individuals interested in this Bill were saved from absurdly high penalties, but otherwise, he repeated, the Legislature would be encouraging high betting on horse racing; and to a Bill proceeding on that principle he would offer every opposition in his power.

Mr. C. Berkeley

said, if they legalised horse-racing without legalising the sports of the poorer classes, that would be class legislation. He proposed to the hon. mover that this Bill should extend to the sports and amusements of the poor, but the hon. Gentleman refused to comply with that suggestion. He would move a clause to that effect.

Mr. Hutt

, who upon rising was greeted with loud cries of "Divide," said a great deal of pains had been taken by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) to describe this Bill as a measure of class legislation—a proposition which would not have been brought forward and sanctioned by that House if it had not had some relation to persons of station within its walls. He repelled the insinuation in toto. Since the hon. Member for Manchester had been a Member of that House, no less than five or six Bills of a similar character had passed both Houses without any opposition. The hon. Member had scarcely taken his seat in that House when the Solicitor General, in 1825, brought in a Bill for the purpose of relieving certain printers who had unconsciously offended against the law, and who were sued for penalties of an enormous amount; and it was worthy of attention that one of the Gentlemen who showed himself anxious for the passing of the Bill was the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Captain Peellell), who was a strenuous opponent of the present Bill. That hill had relation entirely to persons in the humbler walks of life. In 1838, again, he (Mr. Hutt) himself introduced a Bill for the purpose of indemnifying a number of persons who had been engaged in the manufacture of turpentine, and who had unwittingly broken the law. That Bill was carried, and not a single voice was raised against it. If the hon. Member for Manchester were so shocked at ex post facto legislation why did he not oppose those measures.

Colonel Wyndham

said, the hon. and learned Member for Weymouth (Mr. Christie) and the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Hutt) had both made long speeches, and had travelled over a good deal of ground which had already been fully discussed. What was the plain state of the case? This was a Bill of expediency to relieve certain individuals from certain penalties, which were no doubt, a matter of great importance to those Gentlemen whoever they were. A committee however was to be appointed. Let them inquire into the whole case and introduce to the House what seemed best to them; but don't let them interrupt the business of the House and of the country by these puerile and foolish motions.

Captain Pechell

said, the House would be led away by those who represented the laws in question to be obsolete laws The plaintiffs in these actions had been denounced as scoundrels and blackguards, and all sorts of coarse language had been applied to them, and it was natural for them to turn round upon their assailants and say, "show that you do not let your lands for gambling booths." The noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire might be able to enlighten the House on this point, whether land was ever let for the construction of gambling booths.

Mr. Wakley

considered this Bill a credit to those who brought it forward, and he wished that all the measures of the Government party were equally creditable to them. The arguments of the hon. Member for Weymouth were wholly inapplicable to the present Bill. He should give his cordial and hearty support to the motion for going into committee, but that support should be still more cordial and hearty if the Bill had gone a great deal further. It seemed to be considered by some Gentlemen that there was no immorality in the clergy being non-resident. Now, the proceedings adopted by Mr. Wright in 1814 were popular, but here the object was to make money by those who themselves had cheated others. ["Cries of name, name."] The fact was perfectly notorious—he should not and he would not mention names—but it was notorious that these actions were brought from base, wicked, and malicious motives; and the Blouse ought to adopt a masculine spirit in resisting them. He wished to call the attention of the Secretary of State for the Home Department to some circumstances not unconnected with this subject, which took place in this town. A number of little boys were in the habit of amusing themselves by playing at pitch and toss—which some persons considered a highly immoral and injurious practice, while others regarded it as innocent and one to which no punishment ought to be attached, but he regretted to say that there were Magistrates in this town—Stipendiary Magistiates—who were in the habit of sending little boys to prison and to the treadmill for indulging in that practice. In the course of the present week, only two days ago, three boys were committed for having been guilty, as was stated in the warrants of the enormous crime of playing at "pitch and toss." He should be happy to relieve persons, whether in high or low stations, from vexatious penalties, and if this Bill was for the relief of the wealthy and independent, he was sure it was only necessary to remind the right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department, of the practice of the Magistrates to which he had referred, and he hoped that if the Bill were passed into law care would be taken, at the same time, that all these innocent children should be liberated from their confinement.

Mr. Gibson

protested against the practice of making vague and indefinite charges, and accusing persons of gross dishonesty and perfidy without any means of substantiating the charges. Now, as it was stated that the actions in question had been brought by parties who had themselves cheated others, he claimed the right of stating what those parties said on their own behalf, that the proceedings were instituted in consequence of their being themselves defrauded by the unfair practices of Gentlemen of the Turf in withdrawing their horses. He thought there was great force in what had been remarked by the hon. Member for Finsbury. It would have been better that this should have been a private Bill, and that it should have been left to a Committee up stairs to decide whether it were a case for indemnity or not. He agreed with the hon. Member for Gateshead, that there had been an understanding on a former evening that there was to be no further opposition to the Bill on the condition of the word "suspended" being substituted for "discontinued," in reference to the actions, and he should not feel that he was acting with good faith if he now offered any direct opposition to the Measure. He should therefore ask his hon. Friend not to press his amendment to a division. But he must beg to call the attention of the House to the peculiar position in which it stood on this subject in reference to the House of Lords. The House had agreed that it would not consent at once to discontinue the actions—to kill them, but to suspend them, and now a new Bill was sent down from the Lords to indemnify any witnesses who should have given evidence before the House of Lords, which provided that upon the production of a certificate from the Chairman of the Lords' Committee, not only should any pending action against such witnesses be staid, but the Court should award them costs. If the House agreed to this second Bill, it would be to allow the other House to obtain a decision of the House of Commons in an indirect manner, for it would then be only for a man to go before the Committee of the House of Lords and disclose bets, and he would thus not only put a stop to pending actions, but receive his costs. The Secretary for the Home Department had said, on a former occasion, that the informer was entitled to the whole of his expenses; that the payment of the mere costs out of pocket would be a hardship on account of the inducements which had been held out to him to incur the odium of bringing such actions; but this second Bill not only deprived the informer of costs, but enabled the defendants to receive costs from him.

Question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question, put and agreed to.

House in Committee.

On the first Clause being proposed,

Viscount Howick

fully concurred in the object of relieving parties against whom these actions were brought, but he hoped it was not the intention of the House to encourage the continuance of the system of betting on horses. If the Bill did not go to repress that system, he was bound to say that he must require some change in it, because otherwise, betting clubs might go on to-morrow without check, and the system be continued, which was very injurious to the country. This Bill was intended for the protection of persons who were taken by surprise, having acted in ignorance of the law. Let it, then, be confined to that. He proposed, for that purpose, the introduction of the words "such playing or betting being alleged to have taken place previous to the 21st of February, 1844," so that no betting taking place after this day, should have any protection.

Mr. Wortley

entirely concurred with the noble Lord in his anxiety to limit, if it were not possible entirely to repress, the practice of betting; but he thought there was no necessity for the amendment proposed by the noble Lord. The Act was to last only for a limited period, in the expectation of an alteration of the law, and if no such alteration took place, after the expiration of the Session, or three months, or whatever time the House should assign for its limitation, all persons concerned in such transactions would be liable.

Viscount Howick

said, that the necessity for his amendment was proved by this circumstance, that if the inquiry to be instituted should be found longer and more difficult than was expected—if they should fail to obtain the assent of the other House to their endeavours to put an end to gaming—at the end of the Session the House would be obliged to renew the Bill, and practically all bets made after this day, would be protected. This was what he wished to guard against. He admitted, that his Amendment might be inconve- nient to persons extensively engaged in betting, but he looked upon their occupation with so little favour, that he did not much regret the inconvenience which they might sustain.

Sir J. Graham

entirely concurred in the principles laid down by the noble Lord. He was anxious that the whole subject of gaming should be examined by the Committee, and that a total check should be put to gaming, and especially to making books upon horses on the terms, "play or pay." But at the same time he was bound to say, that the proposition of the noble Lord appeared to him objectionable, inasmuch as it partook of the character of a surprise. It was probable that, up to the very moment when they were speaking, bets to a large amount were being made against various horses for coming events, upon the terms of "play or pay;" and a great many of these bets, were, no doubt, made under the expectation of what was called "hedging" them at some future period. The consequence of adopting the Amendment of the noble Lord, would be to saddle these parties with great danger, and probable loss, which they did not contemplate incurring. Upon these grounds he should vote against the amendment of the noble Lord if he persisted in dividing the House upon it.

Mr. Hume

said, that the only ground upon which these parties came to the House for relief, was their plea of ignorance of the penalties they were incurring by the operation of the existing law. The noble Lord, by his Amendment, proposed to allow them protection for the past, but to guard against the repetition of the practice of betting for the future. He thought this was a perfectly fair proposition. He should vote for it; and if it were not agreed to, he hoped that every means would be taken to reject the Bill in its future steps.

Mr. Darby

did not think the Amendment at all necessary, even to meet the object of the noble Lord who proposed it, for if the law were not altered before the present Bill expired, or a renewed one expired, all parties making bets in the interim would be liable to be sued after the expiration of the Bill for the penalties under the existing law.

Viscount Ebrington

concurred in the object of the noble Lord's Amendment, but with a view to avoid the charge of taking parties by surprise, he would suggest that the date fixed should be the first of March, or the date of the passing the Act.

Mr. James S. Wortley

said, that the understanding come to the other night, was, that the operation of the existing law should be altogether suspended for the space of three months, in order to leave parties altogether unprejudiced by it until the Committee which was to sit upoa the subject had come to some decision in regard to it.

Viscount Howick

could not admit the argument of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, against his amendment. Was it not reasonable to expect that one "hedging bet" would give occasion to other parties to make other "hedging bets." The effect would be entirely to suspend the operation of the law against betting for a time, and when the Act expired, there would be found little difficulty in getting it renewed, and thus the practice of betting would be effectually legalised in a way which no one now dared to oppose.

Captain Rous

observed, that there were a great many Gentlemen now making books upon the Derby, and if they were to be prevented from betting after the 1st of March, a great injury would be done them. For many of them who had only "got on," or bet against, perhaps twenty horses, would not to be able to get round by betting against others; and would thus have to stand to be shot at. He would state another case of very great hardship in these laws against betting. He stood, for instance, to lose 100l. upon a match between two horses: when the horse came to the post, he did not like the appearance of the one he had backed, and employed another party to bet off the 100l. in the ring, so as to stand neither winner nor loser a shilling by the race. He would thus be saved harmless; but any informer who chose might attack the agent who had made the bet for him, and recover a penalty of treble the amount. The fact was, there was a great deal of absurdity about this state of the law. In a recent case, a noble Friend of his, having won a certain stake, brought an action against a party who refused to pay his stakes for those horses which he had entered. The amount claimed was 150l., being three stakes of 50l. each; but the learned Judge held that the engagement upon which the stakes were run for, having been made more than a twelvemonth anterior to the event, and the amount sued for, being more than 100l. it could not be recovered. So that if Mr. Connop had only entered two horses, and lost two stakes of 50l. each, his noble Friend would have recovered, but because he had lost three, his noble Friend did not get paid at all. If he made a bet as to whether one honourable Member would go out of the House before any other named, it was a perfectly legal bet, and he would recover, but if he made a bet between Ugly Buck and Rattan, it was illegal. He thought the House ought to leave betting and betters to take care of themselves. They were doing so now; the extravagant rate at which betting had been carried on being found to be one of the reasons of the decline of the turf. There were three classes of persons who made bets upon horse races—the first paid every shilling of their losses, the second paid as much as they could, and the third would make all sorts of bets with everybody they could meet with to bet with them, without any intention of paying a sixpence if they lost. He knew an instance of a father and son, one of whom backed the favourite very heavily, the other backed the field; when the race was over, one of the parties levanted, the other received his winnings and divided the spoil with his relative and confederate. These, surely, are discouragements sufficient for the turf to labour under—this was surely punishment enough for those who bet upon horse races. Really, when gentlemen talked in this House about making one law for the rich and another for the poor, it should be borne in mind that the amusement of racing was enjoyed quite as much by the poor as the rich. The rich were obliged to keep horses for the amusement of those who could not keep them themselves. As to any harm that was done to the morals by mixing in horse racing, it was all humbug. On the contrary, it did a great deal of good, in making friends, and concentrating interests, and comparing opinions as to which horse would win.

Viscount Palmerston

confessed he preferred the clause as it stood, to the amendment proposed by the noble Lord near him. He thought it more consistent with the general understanding which the House came to the other night, and also with the usual course of proceedings in such mat- ters. A Committee was about to be appointed to inquire into the whole subject of gaming, and he thought it most expedient, that if in the mean time the existing law was to be suspended at all, it should be suspended altogether, till some course was resolved upon.

Mr. James S. Wortley

said, that it did not appear to him that the amendment could have any really practical effect; for by the existing law, the party who lost money had three months to sue the winner, before the common informer could interfere.

Viscount Howick

might have been induced to withdraw his amendment, if it had not been for the argument which the Secretary of State for the Home Department had used against it. The right hon. Baronet said it would be unjust to stop betting at the present moment, as it would prevent people from "hedging" their bets. It seemed, then, that what people were really afraid of was, a stop being put to the system of betting carried on at the present day; and that was precisely what he (Viscount Howick) wished to see accomplished. He would agree to fix the 1st of March instead of the 21st of February; indeed, he would cheerfully agree as to any reasonable date which might be proposed, but he was decidedly anxious to have some date fixed.

Lord George Bentinck

said, that no bets which were made upon the coming "Derby" could possibly be made the subject of any qui tam actions before the 1st of September next, the settling day being the 18th of June, and three months being allowed for the loser to bring his action before the common informer could come in. It appeared, therefore, that the Bill could not prejudice the right of any person to penalties hereafter to be incurred; it being presumed that the whole merits of the matter would be decided upon by Parliament before the 1st of September.

Viscount Howick

had no objection to name the 1st of June as the limit of the protection.

The Amendment so altered was agreed to.

Clause agreed to.

The other clauses were agreed to.

On the preamble being put—

Mr. Christie

said, that the parties who had incurred penalties had acted with the full knowledge of the law as it existed, and he proposed to leave out of the Pre- amble, "not intending to offend nor being aware that they were offending against the said recited provisions of the said act."

Lord George Bentinck

contended that the 9th of Anne, the law to which the hon. Gentleman had referred, did not apply to bets made upon horse races. And whatever might be the construction put upon that law by the Court, he was quite sure that if Lord Eglingtoun were sued for penalties under that act, no Yorkshire jury would give a verdict against him. If the parties who had been proceeded against were obnoxious to the operation of the Act, they had erred through ignorance of the law.

Mr. Roebuck

objected to the admission of the principle, that ignorance of the law was a good idea against the liabilities of its infringement. He wished to see those words struck out of the Preamble which, by recognising that principle, introduced a dangerous precedent, which might be turned against them. If they relieved the rich man from the penalties to which he was liable, on the plea of ignorance, how could they refuse to do so in the case of a poor man who broke the law, and offered the same plea?

Mr. M. Gibson

hoped his hon. Friend would insist upon the omission of the words. The parties could not plead ignorance of the law. He held in his hand a book which had been published on the law of gaming, by a barrister named Edwards, in which it was clearly shown, and cases were cited, in which it had been ruled by the Court that a bet for more than 10l. made upon a horse race was gaming under the statute of Anne.

Mr. James S. Wortley

contended that the law of Anne was never intended to apply to horse racing. In this case the actions which had been brought against the parties for penalties were vexatious and extortionate, and that was the only ground for calling for the interference of Parliament. The parties, if they had erred, had done so through ignorance, and as there were doubts as to the true meaning of the law, it was necessary that they should be removed.

Mr. Roebuck

would put the case of a countryman coming to London and found begging in the streets. The excuse of ignorance of the law would not avail him if brought up before his hon. Friend near him (Mr. Alderman Humphery), or any other Magistrate, but he would be committed to prison probably for two months, for infringing an Act of Parliament. If rich men broke the law the plea of ignorance ought to be equally unavailing with them.

Mr. Hawes

objected to the Bill altogether. The Bill was, in fact, a Private Bill, the object being to relieve certain private individuals from liabilities they had incurred. The preamble of the Bill had not been proved.

Sir R. Peel

thought that the principle involved in the Bill was one of considerable difficulty. He would vote in favour of the Bill, although he thought that those cases in which Parliament interfered to intercept the operation of the law were attended with great difficulty, and open to many objections. It was the peculiar circumstances of the present case which made him ready to grant the relief asked for. He apprehended that there was a general impression through the community that the law in reference to Horse Racing could not bear the construction which was sought to be put upon it. He did not believe that any one thought that betting on Horse Racing subjected those who did bet to enormous penalties, and he thought that the enforcement of these enormous penalties would be extremely unjust and objectionable. On these grounds there was sufficient reason for the House to interfere in the present case. At the same time he considered that it would be better to omit the words from the Preamble which involved the principle that ignorance of the law entitled a party to exemption from the penalties attached to a breach of the law. He was quite aware that there had been general ignorance upon the point in question, but he did not think that the insertion of the words referring to it would aid the case. His vote would be upon the grounds of the peculiar nature of the case. There was a very general impression abroad as to the enormity of the penalty; but if the principle were broadly stated that ignorance of the law warranted impunity in the breach of the law—such a plan of procedure, so far from aiding, would prejudice the case, and he would strongly advise those hon. Gentlemen who were concerned in introducing the Bill, not to subject the Measure to the prejudice which it would excite were the Preamble allowed to remain as it was. There were other classes in the community who were more unprotected than that class in whose favour indemnity was at present sought, and if the principle in question were once introduced they would be bound to carry it out.

Mr. James S. Wortley

saw the objection to the words in question. They had not been originally inserted by him, and he would readily consent to their being struck out.

Mr. Watson

did not understand the argument of the right hon. Baronet. He did not know on what grounds relief was claimed, if not upon the ground of ignorance of the law.

The Attorney-General

advised that all the Preamble should be omitted, excepting the words relative to the doubtful state of the law upon the point in dispute. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Bath as to the impropriety of introducing the words relative to the ignorance of the law, and he thought that the hon. Gentlemen concerned in the Bill ought to take it as it was offered, and be glad to get it.

Mr. T. Duncombe

objected to the striking out of the words in question. He thought that had they not been in the Preamble the Bill would never have been brought to the stage at which it now stood. Why, the excuse and the reason for the Bill had been the ignorance which prevailed upon the subject. He could understand, however, why striking out the words referring to ignorance of the law, might be a favourite scheme on the other side of the House. They might create or put in force some law in Ireland which nobody knew any thing about, and then, when some other parties came down to ask for a Bill of Indemnity, pleading that the people proceeded against did not know that they were committing an offence in attending, say meetings, monster meetings— the opposite party could say, "Oh, ignorance of the law does not excuse you." He should certainly divide the House against the proposition for the omission of the words.

The Committee divided on the question, that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Preamble:—Ayes 27; Noes: 81 Majority 54.

List of the AYES.
Barnard, E. G. Brotherton, J.
Bellew, R. M, Busfield, W.
Bernal, Capt. Butler, hon. Col.
Butler, P. S. Peel, J.
Colvile, C. R. Phillpots, J.
Easthope, Sir J. Powell, C.
Fielden, J. Rous, hon. Capt.
Hindley, C. Tancred, H. W.
Hume, J. Thorneley, T.
Kemble, H. Wall, C. B.
Langston, J. H. Williams, W.
Maher, N. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Muntz, G. F. TELLERS.
O'Connell, M. Duncombe, T.
Pechell, Capt. Watson, W. H.
List of the NOES.
Arundell and Surrey, Earl of Howard, hn. E. G. G.
Humphery, Mr. Ald.
Baillie, Col. Hussey, A.
Baring, hon. W. B. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Jones, Capt.
Barrington, Visct. Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E
Bernal, R. Lincoln, Earl of
Blackburne, J. I. Lockhart, W.
Borthwick, P. Manners, Lord J.
Bruce, C. L. C. Marjoribanks, S.
Buckley, E. Marsland, H.
Chetwode, Sir J. Martin, C. W.
Christie, W. D. Morris, D.
Darby, G. O'Brien, A. S.
Davies, D. A. S. O'Connell, M. J.
Denison, J. E. Packe, C. W.
Dickinson, F. H. Pakington, J. S.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Duncombe, hon. A. Pollock, Sir F.
Dundas, F. Pringle, A.
Ebrington, Visct. Rice, E. R.
Eliot, Lord Richards, R.
Elphinstone, H. Roebuck, J. A.
Evans, W. Round, J.
Flower, Sir J. Rumbold, C. E.
Follett, Sir W. W. Rushbrooke, Col.
Forester, hon. G. C. W. Russell, Lord J.
Fremantle, Sir T. Seymour, Lord
Fuller, A. E. Smith, B.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.
Gisborne, T. Somers, J. P.
Gill, T. Staunton, Sir G. T.
Gibson, T. Stuart, W. V.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Trotter, J.
Grimsditch, T. Walker, R.
Hawes, B. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Hayter, W. G. Wellesley, Lord C.
Hinde, J. H. Wood, Col.
Hodgson, R.
Hope, hon. C. TELLERS.
Horsman, E. Mackenzie, W. F.
Houldsworth, T. Wortley, hon. J. S.

On the question that the Preamble with the omission of those words be agreed to.

Lord John Russell

said, that if the words were omitted, they would be in fact passing a Bill without any reason for it being assigned on the face of the document at all. Now, with respect to common informers, it had been the policy of the Legislature—perhaps a good policy, perhaps a bad one, but as he himself thought a bad one—in effect to say there were crimes the punishment of which was not easily enforced, except by means of common informers. They had, therefore, given the informer an interest in the conviction. It certainly did appear somewhat extraordinary after that to turn round and say that because an action had been brought by a common informer that therefore such an action should be stopped. He would not take upon himself to suggest any course to the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill; but he would say, that he quite agreed with the principle, that when a law had not been acted upon for a great many years, and when people had gradually come into the belief that no such law existed, it was quite right to stop proceedings instituted for penalties under such a law. But with respect to the informer, he might read the Statute by which it was provided that upon a conviction he should obtain certain advantages, and then was he to be told that Parliament was immediately to step in, and stay the proceedings which a Statute of Parliament provided should, under certain circumstances, result in an advantage to himself? He should be glad to hear some better reason for the Bill.

Mr. James S. Wortley

said, he was placed in a difficult position between the advices and suggestions which were tendered to him. There could be no doubt, however, that the real reason why the Bill was introduced was because the actions had been brought by common informers for penalties totally disproportionate to the offence, even had the parties charged been conscious that in acting as they had done they had been committing any. He must insist on retaining the words in the Preamble.

Mr. Hawes

thought that the Preamble was imperfect as it stood, and that some words should be introduced, to the effect that as the penalties were so utterly disproportionate to the offence, that therefore they should not be allowed to be levied—that would be an intelligible reason for the Bill. However, if the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill wished for some time for consideration, he conceived there would be no objection to postpone the Preamble.

The Attorney General

said, perhaps this alteration would answer all purposes" Whereas several proceedings have been instituted at common law at the suit of informers or others than actual losers, and whereas no similar proceedings have been instituted at law for about 100 years, it is expedient that they should be stayed."

Mr. T. Duncombe

If the hon, and learned Mover of this Bill had not taken the counsel of the right hon. Baronet opposite, (Sir B. Peel), we should never have heard of this innovation, and have gone on smoothly in the good old Conservative way. There was no proof that the persons prosecuting these actions were not actual losers. It had been said that some of them had actually lost money. It would have been much better to have allowed the word suspension instead of discontinuance to have stood in the Bill. If this change had been effected, we should have been delighted and edified at this hour by the Attorney General for Ireland.

Mr. Brotherton

said, that he thought the people of England had just cause to complain of the conduct of this House in wasting so much time in an attempt to screen certain noble Lords and Gentlemen who had been guilty of committing a breach of the law. It is said they were ignorant of the law; but would any man say, that in betting such large sums on horse-racing, they were not aware that they were committing a great offence against society? How can you expect the poor to be moral and orderly, when the rich set such examples? It was said that the penalties were disproportioned to the offence. These penalties were large in consequence of the enormous sums of money which were betted. He considered that all the arguments which had been urged in favour of the Bill were but intended to shield an extensive system of gambling. He regarded the Bill as tending to encourage gambling rather than to suppress it. Ignorance of the law was not regarded as an excuse for the Dorchester labourers, who were transported; and yet because the parties implicated in the present case had incurred penalties to the amount of half a million of money, they were to be protected. He should protest altogether against the Bill, as he thought the rich should be made amenable to the law as well as the poor.

Sir R. Peel

said, the hon. Member for Finsbury had shown good reasons for his objecting to make ignorance of the law a ground for staying those actions, because he said it was probable that he should bring forward a Motion exempting other parties from punishment on the same ground. As it was very probable that he should oppose any such motion if made, he certainly had objected to make ignorance of the law a ground of indemnity for offence. But here parties were exempted, not on account of ignorance of the law, but because the penalties were considered enormous, and laws were found in force which were never supposed to apply to horse-racing.

Preamble, as altered by the Attorney General, was agreed to.

House resumed. Bill reported.