HC Deb 14 February 1879 vol 243 cc1265-73

Order for Second Reading read.

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


observed that the Bill was before the House last Session, when the second reading was passed by the narrow majority of 2. If it had been supposed that the Bill would be discussed that night, he thought more hon. Members would have stayed in their places to have voted against it. He believed that last Session but for the Bill being overshadowed by the discussions of the Dunkeld Tolls Bill, the narrow majority of 2 in favour of the second reading would have been turned into a large majority against. In the Preamble of the Bill it was stated that racing in the vicinity of the Metropolis was inconvenient and prejudicial to the interests of the public. That assertion he denied, in the belief that the grievance was entirely sentimental. It appeared to him that if racing were to be suppressed in the Metropolis it must also be suppressed in every other part of the Empire. If that were to be done, and the hon. Member would bring in a Bill to that effect, the question could be discussed on its merits. But he failed to see what earthly good could possibly be effected by putting a stop to racing within a certain number of miles round the Metropolis. They would thereby put an end to the amusement of a great number of people, and that without any practical benefit whatever. He failed to see how the Metropolis would be benefited by this Bill, nor why such a provision as the suppression of races within 10 miles from Charing Cross should not be equally applied to Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool. Why should London alone be deprived of its race-meetings? At the present time, they had only a very few racecourses within 10 miles of the Metropolis; there were Kingsbury, Streatham, the Alexandra Palace, and, perhaps, Croydon. By the suppression of those meetings they would deprive the people of the Metropolis of a legitimate amusement, which so many thousands of them were in the habit of enjoying, simply because a small number had misbehaved themselves. He felt confident of this—that if the police did their duty there would be no disorderly conduct, and it was only where the police had been conspicuous by their absence that any "scenes" had taken place. The hon. Member had said that he did not wish to do away with race-meetings, but only to bring them under the jurisdiction of the magistrates. He apprehended that if brought under the jurisdiction of the magistrates for the purpose of being licensed, in a very short time all the meetings would be done away with. If there were abuses in those race-meetings, there were also abuses on the racecourses in other parts of the country. It was invidious to single out London alone and suppress race-meetings in its vicinity, and yet permit them to go on in every other part of England. Why had that Bill been brought in? There had been an agitation got up by certain Metropolitan builders, who found that they could not let their houses well nor sell their land; and they thought if these race-meetings were abolished it would much improve their property. In his opinion, the agitation against these race-meetings had been got up solely by these building speculators. These men had been over-speculating in the purchase of land and in the building of houses, and they imagined that there was just a chance of letting these houses if these races were done away with. At all events, they thought that whatever happened they could not be worse off than they were at present. If the hon. Gentleman would bring forward some measure to prevent fraudulent transactions on the part of Directors of public Companies in this country, he would give him his hearty support; but he hoped the second reading of this Bill would not be passed, as he believed it one that would do no good whatever, while it would put restrictions upon a legitimate amusement of the people of this country, and was an egregious example of piecemeal legislation. He moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.


cordially seconded the Motion. He was at a loss to know why the hon. Member for Glasgow should have put this Notice upon the Paper. He had never seen the hon. Gentleman at a racecourse, and he had very frequently attended race-meetings; and he rather fancied that the hon. Gentleman had never been at a race-meeting in his life. Under these circumstances, in his opinion, he was not the sort of man to point out to the House how race-meetings should be conducted. The population of London was very large, and needed a good many outlets for enjoyment; and he could not understand why they should not be permitted to have races within a 10 miles' radius, when it only interfered with the enjoyment of one or two cantankerous individuals. If the hon. Member understood more of the matter, he would see that magistrates, although a very intelligent sort of men, were not exactly fit persons to judge as to whether race-meetings should be held. The Jockey Club, of which he was a member, was, in his opinion, much better qualified to order race-meetings than the magistrates. He hoped the House would not pass the second reading of the Bill.

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. Onslow.)

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


supported the second reading of Bill, which he considered was an attempt not to interfere with legitimate racing, but to put a stop to the ruffianism of suburban meetings. Last year they had had speeches from the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) and from the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in which they stated that this was a legitimate matter for the Jockey Club to deal with, and if left to that body they said the evil would be met. But had anything been done? The hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire, in speaking against the Bill, said that if the Jockey Club did not interfere then he would assist in putting down these meetings. He could not help thinking that the absence of the hon. Member was not quite accidental; but if he were there they would probably hear that the Jockey Club had done nothing. If the Jockey Club would, by any indirect rule, show the House that they were putting down these meetings perhaps that would be sufficient. Hon. Gentlemen who opposed the Bill had said that this was a sentimental grievance; but the fact was that persons attending these meetings in the neighbourhood of the Metropolis took to destroying the peace of the district, and these meetings were held six or eight times a year. It had also been asked why the magistrates should interfere in these matters? It was a principle well known to the Common Law that if persons wished to meet in any great numbers, even for the purpose of a fair, they could not do so without the sanction of the Justices. All they sought by this Bill was to put that law into effect, and stop meetings which were only held to bring together people not for fair racing, but for the collection of gate money, and to increase the trade of public-houses.


said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had made some reflections on his observations last year. It was true that he had told the House that the races of England were more properly left in the hands of the Jockey Club than in those of the magistrates; and he still entertained the opinion that while the licensing of refreshment-booths and so forth was under the existing law very properly confided to the magistrates, the other arrangements relating to race-meetings should be intrusted rather to the Jockey Club than to the magistracy. The hon. and learned Gentleman had further asked what had been done by the Jockey Club since the last year? He seemed to answer that question to his own satisfaction by saying that nothing had been done. Of course, he (Mr. J. Lowther) was only speaking his own opinion on this subject, and not that of Her Majesty's Government, and he would therefore venture to answer the question. He would affirm that the Jockey Club had done a great deal. First of all they had, by a notice issued last year, requested that no gentleman should act as a steward of any of these race-meetings unless satisfied, upon proper inquiry, that such meetings would be well conducted. It was pointed out that such a notice as that would be scarcely sufficient to answer the object. He had been twitted with the inadequacy of that notice, and the attention of the Jockey Club had been called to the subject. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, who he was sorry to see had left the House, acting as steward of the Jockey Club, had caused notice to be issued with regard to race-meetings to the effect that the stake-holders should be prohibited from inserting advertisements until the persons conducting the meeting had made every arrangement for the due maintenance of order. The Jockey Club had thus taken all steps in their power to place matters upon a proper footing, and he would ask, what more could the Jockey Club do? What more could they do to redeem the undertaking made by him on their behalf last year? The effect of the notice to which he had referred prohibited the publication of the advertisements in the official calendar, which acted in this way—that if a horse, in defiance of the refusal of the Jockey Club to advertise, was run, it was from henceforth debarred from ever taking part in any races held under the auspices of the Jockey Club.


Has one meeting been discontinued in consequence?


The meeting of West Drayton has been discontinued.


That was before the notice.


said, he had also reason to believe that the meeting had been discontinued at Kingsbury; that was to say, would be discontinued for the future. Perhaps some hon. Members were not aware that flat racing did not take place at this period of the year; and therefore he was perfectly correct, from a grammatical point of view, not- withstanding the criticisms of one or two hon. Members opposite, in saying that the meeting at Kingsbury would for the future be discontinued. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also referred to another meeting—that at Streatham; and he might say it was more than probable, from what he had heard, that no meeting would henceforth take place there. The result was this—that the existing state of the law was fully sufficient to put down any nuisance that prevailed, and what was asked by the promoters of the Bill was that they should force an open door, and that a law should be passed to effect a purpose already accomplished without it.


thought the object of the Bill should be fully before the House. They were asked to put down an universally admitted unmitigated nuisance. The best authorities in the House on matters of racing did not venture to utter one syllable in favour of the meetings sought to be suppressed. There must be some good arguments in favour of the great race-meetings of this country. But all they wanted to do by the present Bill was to put down an unmitigated nuisance. The mischief produced by these suburban meetings was absolutely indescribable, and by passing the Bill the Jockey Club would be saved the trouble of suppressing them. It must also be admitted that up to the present time the Jockey Club had not made much progress in their suppression.


could not allow what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to pass without some observation. He ventured to think, notwithstanding the strong assertions that had been made as to the active part taken by the Jockey Club, and the results which had happened in consequence of their action, that that action had had no practical effect. It was from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman himself that they would find one of the strongest arguments for the passing of this Bill. He had admitted to the House that in the neighbourhood where these races were held it was impossible to let houses. [Mr. J. LOWTHER: I never said anything of the sort.] He took down the words which he was under the impression were uttered by the right hon. Gentleman; but they must have fallen, as the right hon. Gentleman repudiated them, from the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow), to the effect that builders in the districts where these meetings were held could not let their houses or sell their land, and that they had got up the Bill in consequence. That proved that there was an injury caused by these race-meetings, and he could not divest himself of the recollection of the truth of the nuisance as brought before him when he occupied another Office. Whilst Under Secretary at the Home Office he received constant reports of the objectionable nature of these meetings; and it was from information furnished by the police, and from other sources that came into his hands, that he became, and still was, an earnest supporter of this Bill. He believed that the nuisance as described by the hon. and learned Member (Sir Henry James) was a substantial one, and that the Jockey Club, however willing to put it down, were not able to do so. They had no power by means of restrictions to insist upon order, and it was for the interests of everyone and in the cause of order that the Bill should be passed.


said, that as one of the members of the Jockey Club he had attended most of the race-meetings within the vicinity of London, and he had never seen more disorderly conduct there than at the meetings held 200 or 300 miles away from the Metropolis. He objected to piecemeal legislation, and considered that if race-meetings within 10 miles of London were done away with the House ought also to deal with the races at York, Liverpool, Shrewsbury and elsewhere. Why were not the races near those places as detrimental to those towns as those held in the neighbourhood of the Metropolis were said to be to it? He could not understand that public morals were less likely to be corrupted from suburban race-meetings than from those held near other towns; and he might add that he failed to see that there was very much more rowdyism at the surburban meetings than there was at Shrewsbury last autumn, when a lot of people from Birmingham broke into the Grand Stand. For this reason, he objected to such a ridiculous piece of legislation.


observed, that last year the Bill not only passed a second reading, but went through Committee, and certain Amendments were then made which had now been introduced into the Bill. In his opinion, the Jockey Club were powerless to meet this evil. Even if they tried to do so they would be unable. The Drayton meeting was not stopped by the Jockey Club, but chiefly because the grand stand had been burnt down. There were two bodies exercising some influence in racing matters—they were the Jockey Club and the Grand National Hunt Committee. Immediately after the passing of the rules of the Grand National Hunt Committee two of the members, actually of the Committee itself, became the stewards of a prohibited meeting. He had no doubt the Jockey Club would do something similar. The subject had been so well discussed by other hon. Members that he would not trouble the House with any further observations on the Bill.


said, that during the short time he had been in Office he had become aware of the objectionable character of these meetings in the neighbourhood of the Metropolis. The Jockey Club having failed to apply any remedy, he should individually support this Bill.


said, that if the Jockey Club had really done their duty by these meetings there would have been no chance of this Bill being brought before the House. But the Jockey Club, while looking well after the great race-meetings, had ignored its duties as regarded the smaller ones. No one would suffer more from the passing of this Bill than himself. The racecourse at Streatham was his property, and the passing of the Bill would probably abolish the meeting. Within his knowledge numerous complaints had been made as to the property damaged by persons visiting the Streatham racecourse. Last year 13,000 people went to the Streatham races; one-third of these paid for their admission, but the rest broke in to the course and trampled down neighbouring property, without caring in the slightest degree for anyone. No one could appreciate honest racing more than himself, and he should always support it; but the suburban meetings were got up by publicans for their own benefit, and were supported by the lowest riff-raff of the Metropolis. In his opinion, it was time they were put down, and he warmly supported the Bill.


remarked that Her Majesty's Ministers were not so unani- mous upon this measure as they were upon the last question before the House. He did not see why, if race-meetings should be suppressed near London, they should not be suppressed everywhere. He was opposed to the Bill, which had been got up by a few Sabbatarians and bucolic magistrates.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 102; Noes 53: Majority 49.—(Div. List, No. 5.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.