HC Deb 31 March 1870 vol 200 cc989-90

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to the introduction of so-called Spanish Bull-Fights into the Metropolis; and, if so, whether it is not in the power of the Executive Government to prevent exhibitions of so demoralizing a tendency?


Sir, I perceive that my hon. Friend has varied his Question. In the Notice Paper it runs "whether it is not the duty" of the Government to prevent these exhibitions; he now asks whether it is not "in their power" to prevent them. The fact is, that the powers of the Executive in this respect are very limited. With certain theatrical exhibitions the Lord Chamberlain can interfere; in the present instance it is very doubtful whether he can interfere. The power of the Secretary of State is very limited, and, in fact, has always hitherto been indirectly exercised. In the case of dangerous exhibitions, such as that of Blondin, and the exhibition which was mentioned here the other day, the Secretary of State may request that the exhibition may be discontinued, and may warn the parties that if an accident occurs they will beheld responsible, and. that the Secretary of State will institute a prosecution against them. In the present case the interference of the Secretary of State has necessarily been equally indirect. When this exhibition was announced the Commissioner of Police sent a policeman in order to report whether it involved any cruelty to animals, which would bring the case within 12 & 13 Vic., and the police reported that there was no such cruelty to animals as would justify the prosecution. The attendance, I believe, then fell off, and the exhibition, was suspended. After a time it was renewed, and cruelty was said to be practised on the animals for the purpose of rendering them more ferocious and combative. Consequently the police attended at the Hall, with the Secretary to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; the instruments of torture were seized; the performance was closed; the performers have been arrested under a warrant, and the case is now pending at the Clerkenwell Police Court.