HC Deb 27 February 1844 vol 73 cc387-91

The Order of the Day for the third reading of the Horseracing Bill having been moved,

Mr. Christie

rose to move that the Bill be read a third time that day six months. Notwithstanding the alterations which had been made in the Bill, it was still most objectionable. It was an ex post facto interference of the Legislature in favour of certain rich individuals who had violated a law, upon the interpretation of which there was no doubt among the Judges. In fact, there had been a series of decisions, bringing horseracing and betting on horseracing within the operation of the Statute. The plea of ignorance of the law on the part of those who had violated it was given up; and with regard to the vexatious motives which had been attributed to those who had brought the actions which had called forth this Bill, that charge was equally unworthy of attention. As to the unreasonableness of the penalties sought under the Statute, that was an objection which would apply equally to the penalties recovered in a qai tam action from Mr. Bond for winning money at rouge et noir. If Parliament wished to act justly and impartially, they ought to indemnify Mr. Bond for the penalties exacted from him three years ago, as well as to indemnify the parties for whose benefit this Measure was intended. There was another case of great public importance, in which it appeared to him every reason was presented for a special interference of the Legislature that could be urged in favour of these proceedings. He would anticipate the cry of "Question" from the other side of the House, by saying at once that he was going to allude to a subject which was unpalatable to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but for the bonâ fide purpose of illustrating the present question: he meant certain criminal proceedings which had been lately instituted in the Arches Court of Canterbury against certain Dissenters of the City of Norwich, not for refusing to pay a Church-rate agreed upon in vestry, but for refusing in vestry to vote for a Church-rate. That was a proceeding entirely without precedent; it was the first attempt to use the criminal jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Court for such a purpose. In the parish of St. George Cole, in Norwich, the majority of the inhabitants were Dissenters, but they had, year after year, conic forward to raise, by voluntary subscription, half of the money necessary for the repair of the Church, if the Churchmen would raise the other half. They, the Dissenters, had actually raised the subscription, and paid the money into the hands of the Churchwarden, but the Churchmen refused to do their part, and the Churchwarden was compelled to return the money to the Dissenters. Well, in 1842 the Archdeacon of Norwich determined to have a rate, and to proceed against the Dissenters of the parish who would not agree to the Church-rate, and he called upon the Church-party to raise a subscription to defray the legal expenses. ["Question."] He knew he should be interrupted by that cry, but he contended that the case of the Norwich Dissenters was a much stronger case for legislative interference than that of die betters on horse-races. If the House would legislate in behalf of certain noble Lords and hon. Gentleman who had implicated themselves in losses by gaining and violating the law, they must legislate for these persons. If this Bill were passed, as no doubt it would be, he should take on himself to bring in a Bill to discontinue the proceedings against the Norwich Dissenters in the Ecclesiastical Courts.

Mr. B. Escott

thought this Bill defective, because it allowed persons making bets and losing to run away without paying them. In his opinion, the only satisfactory foundation on which to leave the question would be to declare that all bets should be illegal so far as this, that they should not be recoverable at law. They should be a mere debt of honour, nothing else; but, at the same time, all penalties for betting should be done away with entirely.

Mr. Hawes

admitted, that the penalties sought to be enforced in this case were unreasonable, and that they had been incurred in ignorance of the law; but if this Bill passed, all parties who found themselves oppressed under similar circumstances by heavy penalties, at the suit of common informers, would have an equal claim to relief. He thought the case of the Norwich Dissenters a parallel one, because they had been involved in expensive litigation, not in consequence of factious opposition to Church-rates, but in consequence of a law very obscure in itself, which was altogether unknown until declared by Chief Justice Tindal. The House was now establishing a very serious precedent, and they could not afterwards refuse relief to other parties who had not the same influence as those Gentlemen whom he saw opposite, for whose benefit this Bill was intended, and who, he hoped, would not vote on the present occasion.

Lord G. Bentinck.—

I never have voted for the Bill.

Sir John Easthope

said, he felt it necessary to explain the vote that he must give in favour of this Motion, and more especially in consequence of the observations of his hon. Friends, the Member for Weymouth, and the Member for Lambeth. His hon. Friend, the Member for Weymouth, stated that injustice would he dune to Mr. Bond, and that injustice might be done to the Dissenters of Norwich. Surely it was no ground, that injustice should be done to strong parties, because it but been dune or might be done to weaker parties? He was most anxious, if injustice had been done to a weak party, that the law which inflicted it should be amended; and he was doubly anxious that injustice should not be done to the Dissenters of Norwich, and he should be most ready to co-operate with his hon. Friends in any measure that they might bring forward, in order amply to do justice to those parties; but he must submit to his hon. Friends, that refusing to do justice to these influential and powerful individuals, and making them the victims of common informers, was not likely to advance the claims to just treatment on the part of those who might be weaker and less influential. With these feelings he could not do otherwise than give a cordial support to the present measure.

Mr. M. Gibson

said, after the alterations which had been made in the Bill, he could not support the Amendment moved by his hon. Friend.

Colonel Peel

begged to state, in explanation of what had fallen from him on a former occasion, that although in November last he had received a letter from the attorney intimating that he had been directed to commence proceedings against him, the writ had not been served upon him, and he was unaware till he saw by the return made to the order of that House, that proceedings had been commenced against him.

The House divided on the question, that the word "now" stand part of the question. Ayes 87; Noes 21;—Majority 66.

List of the AYES.
Ainsworth, P. Duff, J.
Antrobus, E. Duncannon, Vist.
Baillie, Col. Duncombe, T.
Blackstone, W. S. Duncombe, hon. A.
Boldero, H. G. Easthope, Sir J.
Bradshaw, J. Eliot, Lord
Broadley, H. Evans, W.
Bruce, Lord E. Farnham, E. B.
Bruges, W. H. L. Fitzmaurice, hon. W.
Byng, right hon. G. S. Flower, Sir J.
Clayton, R. R. Forster, M.
Clerk, Sir G. Fremantle, Sir T.
Colborne, hn. W.N.R. Fuller, A. E.
Collett, W. R. Gaskell J. Milnes
Copeland, Ald. Gill, T.
Corry, right hon. H. Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E.
Cripps, W. Gladstone, Capt.
Denison, E. B. Goulburn, rt. hon. H
Dick, Q. Graham, rt. Hn. Sir J.
Dickinson, F. H. Greenall, P.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Greene, T.
Hamilton, W. J. Murray, A.
Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H. Neville, R.
Henley, J. W. Nicholl, right hon. J.
Herbert, hon. S. O'Brien, A. S.
Hodgson, R. Packe, C. W.
Hughes, W. B. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Jermyn, Earl Pringle, A.
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H. Rashleigh, W.
Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E Round, J.
Knight, H. G. Rous, hon. Capt.
Leveson, Lord Scott, hon. F.
Lincoln, Earl of Smith, rt. hon. T.B.C.
Lockhart. W. Stanley, Lord
Lowther, hon. Col. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Lygon, hon. Gen. Trollope, Sir J.
McGeachy, F. A. Tufnell, H.
Mackenzie, W. F. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
M'Neill, D. Vane, Lord H.
March, Earl of Wakley, T.
Masterman, J. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Milnes, R. M. Young, J.
Morgan, O. TELLERS.
Morris, D. Palmerston, Visct.
Mundy, E. M. Hutt, W.
List of the NOES.
Aglionby, H. A. Marshall, W.
Blewitt, R. J. Pechell, Capt.
Bright, J. Plumridge, Capt.
Brocklehurst, J. Scott, R.
Brotherton, J. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Browne, hon. W. Strutt, E.
Busfeild, W. Thornely, T.
Colvile, C. R. Trelawny, J. S.
Duncan, G. Wawn, J. T.
Ellis, W. TELLERS.
Ewart, W. Christie, W. D.
Hatton, Capt. V. Hawes, B.

Bill read a third time and passed.

House adjourned to Thursday.