HC Deb 29 January 1878 vol 237 cc638-51

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it would not be necessary to make any lengthened statement. The Bill was before the House the whole of last Session; but he had not the opportunity of bringing it forward for discussion, though he was aware from private sources that it was generally approved of, and had the support of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary and the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary for the Home Department. The Government, it appeared, therefore, were conscious of the necessity of giving to the magistrates increased powers over certain racecourses. It had been stated that the Bill had been framed with the view of doing damage to a particular class of sport, and he believed those who opposed it opposed it chiefly on those grounds. But what were in reality the objections to the Bill? The racing papers had written very strongly about himself and about his Bill, and had described him as a "sour Sabbatarian Scotchman who had no sympathy with sport, and who knew nothing whatever about it." Nothing, however, could be more contrary to the fact than that. He had not only been all his time devoted to more than one sport, but he knew a great deal about most sports, and a good deal about the sport now under discussion. He should be very sorry to do anything which was calculated to injure so noble a sport as horse-racing; but these so-called racing meetings were unworthy of the name, and therefore the existing regulations required further supervision. There was no sport at all at these meetings—they were mostly what were called gate-money meetings, and were held for the purpose of selling tickets, of nefarious betting, and of swindling transactions in many shapes—very many of them far indeed from the spirit of genuine horse-racing. The Bill he introduced did not attempt to put down these meetings, but only to put them under magisterial control. It simply required that those who desired to hold these meetings within 10 miles of the metropolis should get the magistrates' licence for them. In that way the applicant would come before the magistrates, and they would have the opportunity of judging whether in former years a particular race meeting had been respectably conducted, or whether it was in hands which would ensure its respectable conduct in the future. If these licences were required, the managers would be much more likely to conduct their race-meetings respectably than if there were no such licences. The only strong objection raised against the Bill was that it applied only to the small district around the metropolis, and was not a general measure. That might be a defect, but although it applied only to the metropolitan district, that was, he believed, the district in which the greatest evils had arisen, and it was considered a sufficient argument in its favour that those evils ought to be checked at once. There could be little doubt that if the House declared that these racecourses ought to be put under wholesome restrictions, the moral effect of the passing of the Bill would be to make managers of racecourses in all parts of the country look more to the respectability and good conduct of those places; because they would feel that Parliament having once passed a Bill in this direction would be very likely to extend the provisions of that Bill, if racecourses continued to be conducted as many of them undoubtedly now were. He should not trespass further on the time of the House, but should simply move the second reading of the Bill, and hoped the House would support it, as the Government had signified their approval of it, and expressed thereby a belief that it would be productive of some good in the neighbourhood of the metropolis.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Anderson.)


in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) had told the House that he was a lover of sport, but he had carefully abstained from telling them what description of sport it was that he loved—whether rabbit-shooting, rat-catching, or dog-fighting. What the opponents of the Bill contended was that if licences for holding a race were considered necessary the power of granting them should be in the hands of the Jockey Club or the Committee of the Grand National Hunt. This Bill, however, professed to take it out of the hands of the Jockey Club and place it in the hands of the magistrates. He had listened with pleasure to the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, because, in the first place, it was a very brief statement, and he was certain that if the House was satisfied with the hon. Member for Glasgow, the hon. Member for Glasgow ought to be satisfied with himself. The hon. Member had discharged a duty towards society, and he now appeared before the House as one of those great moral reformers who were so fashionable at the present day. During the Recess the hon. Member appeared to have accumulated mountains of immaterial facts. He had gone to some trouble in examining the political history of the hon. Member, and he found he described himself as an advanced Liberal. Now he (Mr. Power) had never been able to find out what an advanced Liberal was. It was a happy and a curious term, and he supposed that the hon. Member for Glasgow meant that he was more enlightened than the ordinary run of Liberals, and less advanced than the Radicals. In fact, it appeared to him that an advanced Liberal was a man who was neither fish, nor flesh, nor good salt herring. If the hon. Member could comprehend for a moment the many pleasures and advantages arising from the ancient pastime of horse-racing —if he could shake himself free from all the false ideas that he associated with horse-racing—then he was certain the hon. Member for Glasgow might become a warm patron of the sport, and a more advanced advocate of the free enjoyment of that noble pastime. Englishmen were naturally proud of the perfection to which they had brought horse-racing, and the hon. Member for Glasgow proposed that the London tradesmen and artizans must be prevented from witnessing any racing unless they went to the trouble or expense of travelling a long distance. What were the reasons, if reasons they might be called, for interfering with this national sport? He had expected to have heard something about riots, disturbances, or annoyances caused to the inhabitants of the district; but the hon. Member had carefully avoided alluding to rioting or disturbances, for he knew very well that he (Mr. R. Power) held in his hand a report from the police court that would immediately contradict such a charge; but even if the hon. Member had done so, he could not believe that the hon. Member had no compassion for people suffering similarly outside the radius of 10 miles from Charing Cross. Under this Bill races might be held just outside the enchanted circle of 10 miles, and he could not but believe that the tender heart of the hon. Member beat acutely for the whole human race; so that if he succeeded in carrying this Bill he would bring in another Bill next year extending the present scale to 15 miles. He knew that the hon. Member for Glasgow had an expansive mind, and no doubt he would go on expanding the circle until it included Punchestown and the Curragh. The hon. Member for Glasgow had told his constituents during the Recess that if he succeeded in carrying this Bill he would go on expanding the magic circle. Now, if the scenes alleged existed, and he did not believe they did, for he had attended one or. two of the meetings in question, there was the common law of the land amply sufficient to cope with any nuisance that might exist; and if the hon. Member for Glasgow doubted him upon that subject—and he knew that Scotchmen always required proof— he could quote the opinions of Lord Ten-derden and Lord Justice Campbell. He objected to the principle of the Bill, which was most dangerous and pernicious; for if once the principle was admitted then the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, and all such aquatic contests must become things of the past, because a few people might suffer temporary annoyance. He had looked over the list of stewards who generally patronized the meeting, and he found the names of men highly and honourably connected with the Turf—the names, amongst others, of the Duke of Montrose, the Duke of Hamilton, and Lord Marcus Beresford. Would those Noblemen give their names if they thought that the gatherings in question tended to lower horse-racing in any respect? The stakes that were run for were by no means small. Was it because the man who paid his half-crown had as good a view of the racing as those in the betting-ring that this Bill was introduced to deprive the London tradesman and the artizan of his amusement? This Bill would do no harm to the rich man, who could go all over England and the Continent in search of amusement; but it was intended for the poor man, who was singled out as the victim of officious zeal. If this Bill was passed for London, it ought also to be put in force as regarded Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, and other large towns where the best races in the world were held. He called upon the House to reject this "advanced Liberal" idea of interfering with the rights of the people. That the meetings in question were an annoyance to some he did not deny; but there wore, indeed, few of the occupations or pleasures of life that did not disturb somebody's equanimity. Why, what an annoyance and what a nuisance a political demonstration must be to nervous people. What a nuisance a procession must be to some persons. Aye, even an organ grinder or an itinerant street preacher caused annoyance. Yet those annoyances existed, and were properly ranked as some of the evils that all mortals had to bear. He was sure that the hon. Member for Glasgow had his annoyance, but did he think of coming to Parliament for redress? Why, there was no greater annoyance than a bore, be he a Parliamentary or a social bore; and they all knew how difficult it was to find a remedy for a nuisance of that description, and they also knew that Parliamentary resignation was their only resource. Let those outside Parliament learn the same lesson, and instead of coming to this House for redress, let them go to their clergymen for consolation. Their best hope lay in the Millenium, and he would advise them to wait with all good patience for the arrival of that happy time. In every country there existed a class, and a most respectable class, who, although they might possess every pleasure, every comfort of life, were never satisfied—they must always have something to complain about, something to grumble about, always have a grievance; and he thought that class was represented in the House, and was ably represented, by the hon. Member for Glasgow. The most extraordinary part of the proceeding was that the supporters of the Bill should have to go to Scotland for an advocate of their grievances. He did not think they wore wrong in doing so, for the people of Scotland, not being lovers of horse-racing, were little adapted for the noble pastime. Nature had, unfortunately, bereft them of almost all sporting tastes. Their country was not suited to the sport. Their dispositions were too tame and their tempers too even, and they were a people better adapted for agricultural pursuits and statistical societies. In saying that he did not wish to cast any aspersion on the character of the Scotch people. They were, no doubt, a great people, not easily disturbed by the frivolities of life. They were accustomed to an air of melancholy, and their great productions were snuff, whiskey, and thistles. If anyone doubted the excessive patriotism of the hon. Member for Glasgow, let them be made aware of this fact, that when he left his own great country, fearing that he might forget the land of cakes and ale, he came to reside at 36, Thistle Grove, in London. He (Mr. P. Power) did not know if any of the other Scotch Members lived there, nor what might be the attractions of that romantic spot; but without being in any way personal, he might observe that they had all heard of a certain quadruped which preferred thistles to oats. If fantastical notions of this description became the law of the land, he should not be surprised that the hon. Member proposed on some future occasion to extend legislation of a similar description to the city he represented. He talked about the charac- ter of these meetings, but he (Mr. Power) had in his hand a letter describing a meeting at Glasgow, of which he would read a few lines. The writer said— I have attended a Magna Charta meeting in London; I have seen the Member for Stoke address his constituents; I once saw a prize-fight near Birmingham; hut the people were aristocrats compared with those I saw yesterday. I did not think such a horrible-looking crowd could be collected together. A Glasgow mob is par excellence the worst mob in the world. It did not talk much, but when it did it swore. Swearing in English is very bad, but in Scotch it is awful. Only one respectable man lived in Rutherglen, and he was hanged for murder. If the object of the Bill was to deliver them from such people, there might be something in it; but everyone know that an English race-meeting or an English mob was proverbial for its good humour. If the Bill was to become the law of the land, let the Scotch try it themselves first. The object of the Bill was to take away from the people a popular sport which they had long enjoyed. It appeared some persons were so constituted that it annoyed them to see others amused, while conversely some people took pleasure in the annoyance of others. The Puritans hated bull-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bull, but because it gave pleasure to the spectator. Let them take the case of fox-hunting. Every Irish Member was a fox-hunter, or at least ought to be. Fox-hunting might annoy a few farmers whose fields were ridden over, but he should like to know what would be the case if the hon. Member for Glasgow proposed that nobody should hunt without a magistrate's licence. The philanthropic spirit of the hon. Member for Glasgow might find better occupation than in introducing Bills of this coercive character. He might turn his attention to some Scotch grievance, or framing some vexatious Question for Her Majesty's Government—an occupation which seemed to suit the hon. Member extremely well. The hon. Member had begun at the wrong end. There was ample scope for the clergymen and the philanthropists in this great city. Instead of putting down the poor man's amusement, let him be educated to refrain from vice, to learn self-restraint, and to enjoy rational amusement free from excess. He asked the House not to raise up a feeling of bitterness be- tween the aristocracy and democracy, but to show their liberality and sense of justice by voting against a Bill which was tyrannical in principle, vicious in its nature, and opposed to every doctrine of progress and good government.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. R. Power.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, he did not intend to follow the hon. Member who had just sat down through the observations which he had made in a manner that did credit to himself, and had been appreciated by the House; but he wished to direct his remarks to another branch of the subject. The hon. Member for Glasgow had included in this Bill a small area in the vicinity of the metropolis, and he thought the House had a right to ask why, if the principle of the measure was good, it should be adopted within this area, and not extended to Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, and to other large towns? He should be the last man to say a word against the "great unpaid." Justices' justice would compare favourably with stipendiary injustice, at least in some cases; but if the power proposed to be given were conferred upon magistrates in the neighbourhood of London, how could it be refused to the magistrates of other great cities? He must, moreover, remind the House that it was not only county magistrates—amongst whom they were occasionally told there existed clerical and other somewhat crotchetty elements— who were involved in this question; but that, in the case of the vast majority of racing fixtures, it would be the borough bench to whom application must be made, the result of which might be that the oldest and most popular gatherings in the Kingdom would be annually dependent upon a chance majority upon the local borough bench. The House would remember that during the last year very considerable alterations had taken place with regard to the rules of racing, and the powers of the Jockey Club with regard to the regulation of races had been materially increased. They could deal with abuses in regard to racing, and under the powers which they now possessed, they could virtually prohibit any racing against which reasonable objection could be taken. They had power to prohibit in the Official Calendar any meetings which they chose to place under their ban, and the effect of their doing so would be to prevent any horse or individual who took part in such a meeting from appearing on any racecourse where the rules of the Jockey Club were enforced; which, he need not say, amounted to an absolute prohibition. It might be urged against his view that the Jockey Club was an irresponsible body, self-elected, and not amenable to control; but in practice it left full authority in the hands of the stewards. The stewards of the Jockey Club at this moment were the hon. Baronet the Member for North Lincoln (Sir John Astloy), a noble Lord a Member of Her Majesty's Government (Lord Hardwicko), and the noble Lord who led Her Majesty's Opposition (the Marquess of Hartington). He thought that the conduct of racing affairs might be more satisfactorily allowed to remain in the hands of such a tribunal than transferred to a body of magistrates varying in different localities, of whom the House had no knowledge. It was right he should mention that the powers possessed under the rules of the Jockey Club had not been allowed to remain a dead letter; for, in the case of one of the very meetings comprehended within the present Bill— West Drayton—the Jockey Club had recently taken steps which had put a stop to the meeting in a summary manner, in consequence of irregularities which had been brought to their notice. He might be told that many of those meetings were not under the jurisdiction of the Jockey Club, because the sports were steeple chasing and hurdle-racing. Those races, however, were under the jurisdiction of an analogous body, the Grand National Hunt Committee, and they had rules in the same direction as the Jockey Club. The meetings at West Drayton, Streatham, and Enfield, referred to by the hon. Member, had been put down because the payment of the stakes had not been made in the manner proscribed by the rules. The magistrates already possessed considerable power in regard to racing. They could refuse to issue occasional licences for the supply of refreshments, and he thought that the hon. Member should get the magistrates to exercise the power they already possessed before he asked the House to confer new powers on them. He had not been to any of these meetings for years, and probably should never go again—not that that constituted any reason why such gatherings ought to be summarily abolished—but he did not think that this measure would be the best way of remedying the evil complained of. He should therefore oppose the second reading of the Bill.


said, he was not an ardent supporter of suburban race meetings. They were undoubtedly at times a considerable nuisance to their neighbours, and not conducive to the best interests of the Turf. At the same time, they could not forget that these meetings afforded considerable amusement to a large number of people, and that fact should not be disregarded. The Turf was an institution which, like all other institutions, was open to abuse, but it possessed many advantages, and he had its interests warmly at heart. Whatever abuses might exist, he did not think that the best way to remove them was to make the holding of those meetings depend upon the magistrates. The hon. Member proposed to limit the Bill to within 10 miles of London and to meetings established within the past 20 years; but it must be obvious that they could not impose any limits of mileage to such a principle, and if it were extended to 15 miles Epsom would be included. Did anyone think that Parliament or the country would place the Derby under the control of the magistrates of the county? The thing was preposterous; and he thought, therefore, that the subject should be left to the racing authorities.


said, his sympathies ran with the hon. Member for Glasgow. He thought the hon. Member had proved the Preamble of his Bill out of the mouths of his opponents. He believed the suburban meetings were looked upon with much disfavour by the Jockey Club. They had heard, however, that the attention of the racing authorities had been called to the evil, and he would suggest that the Bill should not be pressed to a division, in order that time might be given to the racing authorities to reform the abuses which existed.


said, there was no question that at these suburban meetings there had been scenes which the Jockey Club disapproved, and the Department with which he was connected had received incessant complaints of the disturbances created at the races and of the abuses which had occurred. It certainly had been a source of disquietude that these abuses should be allowed to continue. Not being so much mixed up with racing matters as the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lowther), he was not aware of the powers which had been given to the racing authorities, and he was glad to hear that those authorities had at last woke up to the fact that they should put a stop to the abuses. He would rather leave the matter to the proper racing authorities than create a fresh authority for the purpose. He knew that these meetings tended immensely to degrade racing, and that they did an immense injury in the neighbourhood of the metropolis—an amount of injury which was almost incalculable. We could not be certain that the object aimed at could not be attained in a better way than that proposed by this Bill. He should therefore wish the hon. Member for Glasgow to allow his Bill to drop for the time, in order to see what the action of the existing authorities might be; and if that should prove insufficient, then something in the nature of this Bill would be necessary in order to protect the neighbourhood of the metropolis from scenes such as had very much disgraced them on the occasions under consideration.


said, as far as he could understand the matter, the Jockey Club really exercised no control whatever over these suburban meetings. The object of them was simply to get the gate-money. At other race-meetings that plan was not so extensively acted upon, and that was one of the reasons he presumed, why this Bill should be limited to the proposed area. The system of local meetings was not practised elsewhere as it was in the suburban area. These meetings, together with some persons fond of sport, brought together large crowds of others, who came distinctly with the intention of committing crime in the neighbourhood, and these persons interfered materially with the value of property in those neighbourhoods. When they found that as many as eight race-meetings were held close to the metropolis, they would see that it had grown into a nuisance that did not exist in other places. He knew that this Bill would be opposed by many of the supporters of legitimate sport; but he would ask them to reflect upon the fact that not one horse ever went to these meetings that could be sold for more than about £20, and that the meetings were principally promoted by publicans to serve their own interests. It was, therefore, idle to pretend that these meetings promoted the love of sport, or the improvement of the breed of horses. No one who wanted a good horse would dream of attending these meetings for the purpose of purchasing one. If these races were advocated on the score that they administered to the amusement of the poor, he would say that he doubted whether any poor man ever resorted to them in order to enjoy fair honest sport; but they were rather resorted to by the dregs of the population for a very different purpose from that of amusement. He feared the Jockey Club could do nothing in the matter, and he should therefore support the Bill, though he feared his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow would stand a poor chance of success.


in reply, said, that he had spoken briefly in making the Motion, because he could not anticipate what objections would be urged to it, so he would now enter a little into the proposals of the Bill and answer the objections. The hon. Member below him (Mr. R. Power) had made a very irrelevant speech, as the largest part of what he said had little to do with the Bill at all. He treated it as a Bill to put down and discourage horse - racing, whereas it merely sought to regulate it, and to put down abuses. It was in no sense a Bill to stop the amusements of the poorer class. The hon. Member had spoken in strong condemnation of the mobs that gathered in the neighbourhood of Glasgow; but he might tell the hon. Member that if there was a meeting at Glasgow at which there were large crowds of roughs, they were entirely composed of the Irish element. He had limited the area to which his Bill applied because the evils so far only extended over a limited area. He had been asked what facts he had laid before the Government to justify his Bill. It was entirely unnecessary to lay any facts before them, for they knew the facts perfectly well, and last year they cordially approved of this Bill, and the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Home Department had told them that still he would approve of such a Bill if it was impossible for the Jockey Club to deal with these race-meetings. He believed he could show that the Jockey Club would be unable to deal with them, for these new rules had been in existence more than a year without effect. He was glad to hear that the Jockey Club, through his Bill of last year, had been driven into attempting to cheek the abuses which had become so notorious; but that Club had no real power in the matter. It was said they could take steps which would prevent horses which had run at the suburban race-meetings going to more respectable meetings; but the owners of such horses did not want them to go to more respect-ablemeetings, and plenty of jockeys could be found of the class that was wanted. There was a class of horses that never could go to respectable meetings. The winner at Eltham races was sold for £25, and that being so, he left the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies to conjecture what could have been the price of the losers. It was not regular racing men that attended these races, and nearly all the stops taken by the Jockey Club had been failures. The most recent races had been characterized by the same abuses as before. They were not fair races, because the winning horses and the losing ones were known beforehand. The horse that was to win was an arranged matter. They were a great nuisance in the neighbourhood. A detective officer from Scotland Yard had been engaged to attend four days' racing at Kingsbury, and his report was a melancholy picture of the kind of racing they had to deal with. He said that the roulette table was busy, and so were some 50 betting men in and about the ring; the betting for the most part was as unfair as the racing, and card-sharping was carried on with the greatest of ease. With all his —the officer's—experience he had never seen a greater number of scoundrels and blackguards collected together before in his life. The promoters of such meetings did not care a jot for the Jockey Club, and simply laughed at it. He, there- fore, claimed the vote of the Under Home Secretary, because the Jockey Club was utterly powerless to remedy the evil.

Question put.

The House divided: —Ayes 84; Noes 82: Majority 2.—(Div. List, No. 6.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill road a second time, and committed for Friday.