HC Deb 13 June 1878 vol 240 cc1483-9

Order for Committee read.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Definitions).


said, he thought it was too late to go on with the Bill, and therefore he would move that the Chairman should now leave the Chair.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Isaac.)


observed, that the Bill passed the second reading by a narrow majority of only two votes. He himself had taken part in the discussion on the second reading, in the same capacity in which he now appeared—namely, as a private individual, and not as in any respect representing the Government. On the former occasion he stated that the subject of race meetings within the Metropolitan district was about to be brought under the notice of the Jockey Club. To make sure that that course would be adopted, he himself took the earliest opportunity of laying the matter before the Club. At that meeting, a resolution was passed to the effect that the stewards should be requested to take steps to oppose the Bill. The question was mooted at the meeting as to whether a Petition against the Bill should be adopted; but as some of the members of the Jockey Club were persons who occupied high positions in the political world—one steward being the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, and another steward being also a Member of the House of Commons—it was thought that it would be more decorous to leave the matter in the hands of the stewards. The noble Lord undertook at that meeting to oppose this Bill, and his hon. Friend the Member for North Lincolnshire (Sir John Astley), at that time a steward, also undertook to adopt a similar course. The Jockey Club were not content with merely opposing this Bill; but, on a subsequent occasion, their attention was again drawn to the subject. He was not himself present at the meeting; but it appeared, from the records of the proceedings, that an assurance was given on that occasion that the Jockey Club would take cognizance of abuses which were brought to their knowledge with reference to race meetings. The complaints to which the hon. Member who introduced the Bill referred, had not been submitted to the Jockey Club in a tangible form. If, instead of being communicated anonymously or otherwise to the newspapers, they were brought before the Club, notice would be taken of them. The magistrates, at the present moment, had considerable power with regard to the licensing of refreshment booths. By declining to grant occasional licences, disturbances and nuisances could be put down by the magistrates. Other evils could be dealt with by the Jockey Club. It was sometimes said that the Jockey Club had no absolute power over these race meetings. He ventured to say, however, that it had complete power. If the publication of the programme of a meeting in the official Calendar were prevented by the Jockey Club, the meeting would ipso facto come to an end. As a body existed which possessed this power, and had signified its intention of exercising it with a view to checking abuses at race meetings, he hoped the Committee would hesitate before it took jurisdiction from that body and put it in hands which, in his judgment, were unfit to exercise it. It would be impossible to confine the operation of the principle established by this Bill to the narrow limits proposed by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson). How would it be possible, for example, to limit its operation to the Metropolis, and not to extend it to Provincial towns? He thought it would be most unwise for the Committee to adopt this measure, and he believed it would best suit the convenience of hon. Members to take the sense of the Committee on the Question, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair?" This was what was called an "open question;" and whichever way the matter was determined, the existence of Her Majesty's Government would not be affected. On the previous occasion, Members on both sides of the House voted in accordance with their individual views, and he felt sure they would do so now.


said, this question occupied for some time the attention of the Office to which he lately belonged. Whilst he was at the Home Office, numerous complaints were received from the Metropolitan Police Force as to these race meetings. Indeed, the complaints were of so grave a character that it was seriously considered whether a Bill ought not to be brought in by the Government to do very much what the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) proposed to do by this Bill. When this measure came on before in the House, he abstained from supporting it in consequence of the assurance of his right hon. Friend that the Jockey Club had the power, and that they were prepared to deal with this particular question. Since that discussion took place, the matter had been under the consideration of the Jockey Club, and one hon. Member belonging to that Club had since withdrawn his opposition to this Bill, and had stated that the Jockey Club would not do what they were thought to be able to do. Under these circumstances, he thought the Committee would see that it was placed in a position very different to that which it occupied when his right hon. Friend last opposed the measure. On that occasion his right hon. Friend had induced him not to vote against it by stating that there was another remedy for the evil complained of. That remedy had failed, the nuisance of these race meetings in the neighbourhood of the Metropolis was as great as ever, and he thought the House should itself take some step, instead of leaving the matter to a body which was wholly inadequate to deal with it.


had nothing to say in addition to what had fallen from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury.


thought that if this Bill were so extremely desirable, it ought to have been introduced by the Government. The definition of races in the Bill was of the widest possible character. He scarcely thought the Committee could pass a definition of this kind merely on the responsibility of a private Member. He hoped his hon. Friend would persist in the Motion that the Chairman should leave the Chair. This was a Bill of a most tyrannical character, and, if introduced at all, it ought to have been brought forward on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government.


desired to correct his hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) in one point. His hon. Friend, who had, of course, as much right to his opinion as he (Mr. J. Lowther) had to his, and with whom he cheerfully could agree to differ, said an assurance was given on the last occasion when this question was under discussion that the Jockey Club would do something. He was one of those who gave that assurance, and he wished to inform the Committee that the Jockey Club had done something. As the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition had stated at a recent meeting of the Club, the Jockey Club had published a notification requesting gentlemen who might be asked to act as stewards at race meetings not to do so until they had assured themselves that such meetings would be conducted on a proper footing. This notification had been published in the official Calendar during the last few weeks. His hon. Friend appeared not to be aware of that fact. In the event of this notification not being found sufficient, further measures would, he had no doubt, be adopted by the Jockey Club. It was sometimes said that the persons who took part in these race meetings did not care for the opinion of the Jockey Club; but he maintained that they did, and that the Jockey Club could stop them by simply putting a veto on the publication of the programme. If complaints were addressed to the Jockey Club instead of being sent, anonymously or otherwise, to the newspapers, they would be much more efficiently dealt with.


observed, that the Grand National Hunt Committee had done exactly the same thing as the Jockey Club. They also had requested their members not to act as stewards at these meetings, but actually two members of the very Committee which had made this request went down to Streatham and acted as stewards within three months. The Jockey Club had not even carried out their own rules, which had now been in existence for a year and a-half, and they knew it would be inexpedient for them to do so. The hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) was well aware of that, and, consequently, he had withdrawn his opposition. The hon. Member was satisfied that the Jockey Club could not deal with the matter, and that it would be better for some other parties to undertake the task. For that reason, the hon. Member's opposition to the Bill had been withdrawn, and there was no longer any bonâ fide opposition to it. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) had objected to the wording of the Bill. To that he would only remark that the Bill had been four months before the House, since it gained second reading, and that during that time not a single Amendment relating to the wording of the Preamble or the clauses had been placed on the Paper. The measure was not intended to put down any racing, but only to cause certain race meetings to be conducted in a better style than they had been in time past. Those who opposed the Bill were fighting the battle of the "welshers," the blackguards, and the swindlers who attended those race-meetings. In doing all he could to fight the battle of the "welshers,'' the right hon. Gentleman opposite had placed himself in a most unenviable position.

Question put, and negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 5, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 6 (Penalty on owners and occupiers of ground where unlicensed horse-races take place).

SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF moved to report Progress, as it was too late now to discuss properly the amount of the fines.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir H. Drummond Wolff.)


said, the amounts of the fines were adjusted in consultation with the Government last year. They were made rather heavier than was originally proposed, in order to please the Government; and, therefore, he could not consent to change them without the consent of the Government.


said, the hon. Member for Glasgow was correct in saying that the fines, as they appeared in the Bill, were agreed upon by the Home Office and the hon. Gentleman last year. Still, he now thought that smaller fines would be sufficient to meet the object in view.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF moved to leave out "ten pounds," in order to insert "five pounds."

Amendment agreed to.

SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF moved to insert "twenty-five pounds" instead of "fifty pounds."

Amendment agreed to.


thought, that as the amount of the fine had been diminished, he would propose that the term of imprisonment should be reduced. He moved to reduce it from "three months" to "three weeks."


hoped his hon. Friend would not press tins Amendment. A fine of £5 would carry three months' imprisonment, and a week's imprisonment would be no penalty at all in a case of this kind.


thought the punishment should be sufficiently severe.

Amendment negatived.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

On Question, "That the Preamble stand part of the Bill?"


said, he should like to ask his hon. Friend (Mr. Anderson), whether his definition of a horse-race was sufficient? The Preamble made the Bill apply to horse-races, and in the 1st clause a horse-race was defined as a race in which a horse ran against a horse or against time. There were, however, various other forms of horse-racing. For example, there was the racing of horses against bicycles; and he doubted very much whether the definition would apply to races of that kind. He objected to the Bill altogether; but if it were to pass at all, it ought to be in proper form.


promised to consider the point. He thought, however, that the definition did cover every reasonable thing in the shape of a horse-race. If there were any kind of swindling transactions going on in bicycle-racing, the Bill, of course, ought to be extended to that also.


asked when his hon. Friend proposed to take the Consideration?




objected to this arrangement.


said, he had intended to fix the Consideration for tomorrow; but he would not persist in that resolution, if any objection was raised.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next.