HC Deb 26 February 1844 vol 73 cc321-4

The Report on the Horse Racing Penalties Bill was further considered.

Mr. Craven Berkeley

moved the addition of a Clause, to the effect, "that it shall not he lawful for the space of three Calendar Months from the passing of this Act, to lay any information for the recovery of penalties against parties engaged in certain popular sports mentioned in the Acts of 5 and 6 Will. III. c. 59, s. 3, and 2 and 3 Vict. c. 47, s. 47." He thought that persons subject to informations under these Acts, might claim the protection of the House with quite as much justice as the Noblemen and Gentlemen for whose benefit the Bill now under consideration had been introduced. By the expiration of the time for which he proposed to suspend these penalties, the Committee now inquiring into the subject of Gaining would have delivered their report, and it would then be for the House to determine whether the sports to which his clause referred, should be prohibited or allowed. In his opinion no Legislation was so had as that which they were unable to enforce. There was a weekly publication in this metropolis, issued every Sunday, which contained allusions to no less than between forty and fifty games and sports, which were rendered illegal by the Acts mentioned in the Clause he now proposed. Why, he asked, did not they re-erect the turnpike gates which had been destroyed in South Wales? Why did they not endeavour to put in force the Clauses of these Acts in the Counties of Cumberland, Northumberland, and Durham? Because they knew they would be unable to do so without the aid of their Metropolitan Police Force. He must say, that if they did not suspend the informations which might be laid under the Acts of Parliament mentioned in this Clause, they would show, in agreeing to the Bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, that they were legislating for a particular class of persons, and for that class only; and, whatever might be the sentiments of the majority of Members of that House, he could assure them, that that opinion was very generally entertained out of doors.

Question put that the Clause be brought up.

Dr. Bowring

seconded the Motion. They offered a premium to persons who assisted in giving effect to the laws which they made, and then, when persons availed themselves of the inducements held out, they turned round and loaded them with opprobrium, merely because they put the law in force against opulent and influential men. If they could find other means of giving effect to their Legislation, they ought not to encourage men in this course; but, if they acknowledged such co-operation, certainly they ought not to repudiate it when it was exerted against the noble and the great. Informers had been acting against the poor and the feeble for years, and that House had not interfered to restrain their proceedings; but now, as they had selected the rich as their prey, hon. Gentlemen were ready to make them the objects of public opprobrium, Though he disapproved of the Bill of the hon. Gentleman opposite, as well as of the Amendment of the hon. Member near him, he felt bound to show that he was desirous of protecting the weak as well as the strong, by supporting the Clause of his hon. Friend.

Clause brought up on the Question that it he read a second time.

Mr. James Stuart Wortley

said, the hon. Gentleman had not informed the House what was the nature of the Games to which his Amendment referred. He believed the hon. Gentleman would find that his Clause would afford protection to sports which had received the highest aristocratic protection, as cock-fighting, and other similar games. He objected that this Clause had nothing whatever to do with the present Bill. The object of the Bill was to suspend, for a certain time, actions which had been brought against individuals for penalties to a very large amount—to an extent far greater than was commensurate with the nature of the offence; while the Games to which the Clause of the hon. Member referred, were punishable by criminal proceedings. He protested against the ground which had been taken by the hon. Member for Bolton (Dr. Bowring). He was perfectly satisfied that if the persons to whom this Bill was designed to afford protection, had not been Gentlemen of rank and aristocratic connections, this outcry and opposition would not have been raised against it. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side were jealous, and properly jealous, of the rights and privileges of the people; and they imagined, because there were some aristocratic names among the persons whom this Bill was intended to protect, that it was owing to that circumstance the Measure had been proposed. He begged to remind the House, that, within a few years past, similar protection had been afforded to printers; and, very recently, the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe) obtained the same protection for poor players. Last Session, also, an Act of a similar nature had been passed. Persons had been in the habit of sending coal from the North of England, which were sold under the beet market names, while they had not been obtained at the Collieries from which it was professed they came. An Act of Parliament was passed, requiring a specification of the names of the Collieries from which coals were obtained. In some cases the requirements of this Act were not observed; actions were brought against offenders for penalties to a large amount, and a Bill was passed to suspend, not to stop, those actions. The law was considered so beneficial that it remained unaltered; and he (Mr. Wortley) had since conducted a Prosecution against parties for the recovery of penalties under the Act. All they asked for by the Bill now before the House was the suspension of the pending Actions until an inquiry had been instituted on the subject by a Committee upstairs.

Captain Pechell

said, that he had been referred to as having supported the Solicitor General, in 1835, in protecting the Printers of Newspapers from Actions brought against them; but he could not agree that that case was analogous to the present. Several Country Newspaper Proprietors, as well as some Metropolitan Printers, had omitted to state their places of residence in the Newspapers, and they had become liable to penalties. That, however, was an affair of regulation with the Stamp Office; they had not omitted their names, but merely their places of residence. On the Plaintiffs in the Actions sought to be affected by this Bill the utmost opprobrium had been cast—they had been called the foulest names. Whether hon. Gentlemen opposite had associated with these scoundrels, as they had been designated, he did not know, but at all events, they must have made bets with them or others, or they could not have been brought into contact. With, however, the array of the Members of the Jockey Club on the other side, backed by two Secretaries of State and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he supposed the Bill would pass. He must protest against the Measure, and deny that it bore any analogy to the Bill relating to Newspapers which had received his support, as stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite.

Mr. C. Berkeley

said, he would not give the House the trouble of dividing, as, with such a formidable array as he saw assembled on the opposite side of the House, he knew it would be useless; but he would ask his hon. and learned Friend opposite, as he had talked of cockfighting, whether he thought cockfighting more cruel than stag-hunting or fishing, or any of those sports which were legalized, and which had received the sanction of the highest persons in the realm? He was sure the hon. and learned Member would not give way to such cant.

Motion that the clause be read a second time negatived without a division, Report received, Bill to be read a third time.

House adjourned at a quarter to 1 o'clock.