§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ 4. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £50,100, be granted to His 1102 Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1916, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, and of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, including certain Grants-in-Aid."
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Acland)
I do not know if I can disarm wrath to come by explaining that this sum has not yet been paid and that it will not be paid unless and until the sanction of the House has been given and all the necessary proceedings have gone before Parliament, or by anticipating criticism by rising to make a statement of exactly what this Supplementary Estimate means. It covers one thing only, and that is the purchase of what in the public mind has been termed the Hall Walker stud—the stud of horses of Colonel Walker and the two estates owned by the hon. and gallant Member for the Widnes Division. In October last that gentleman offered to sell to the Government these two' properties, first the breeding establishment in Ireland called the Tully Estate, and second the training establishment in Wiltshire known as Russley Park. He offered to sell those properties at the price of £75,000, or any less sum as would be found to be a right sum by an independent valuation, and to make a free gift of his horses, which were two stallions, thirty brood mares, ten yearling fillies, twenty foals, and eight horses in training, together with cattle, fodder, utensils, furniture, etc., so that the Government might be placed in a position of having as a going concern a first-class breeding establishment, namely, the Tully Estate in the County Kildare and the stallion depôt named Russley with a nucleus of stallions, which were considered suitable for dealing with half-bred mares for the production of horses suitable for the Army.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I am sorry that I cannot say everything at once, but I am going to cover that and give all the information that I possibly can. The Government decided in December last, after very full consideration by the Government and the War Office, to accept the offer. The purchase price was to be fixed by a valuer. The gift was accepted principally on military considerations, and the Army Council were very definite in putting forward the 1103 fact that it was essential for the future efficiency of their system of horsing our Cavalry that both in quality and in number the horses available for military purposes in the United Kingdom should be increased. They believe and, in fact, know that the foundation of the stock of horses suitable for military purposes is the thoroughbred, and the intention is to utilise the estate at Tully for breeding thoroughbred stock, and they hope to use the estate at Russley as a stallion depôt for a class needed for the production of horses suitable for military requirements, and that the Tully stud also will be very helpful in providing horses of the right stamp. The estates have been purchased. The money has not been paid pending the decision of the House. It is to be regarded as a national institution, and on that account it has been vested in the War Office on behalf of the Government, and the decision has been taken that it shall be administered and managed during the War, when the War Office has got a great deal to do without anything else being imposed upon it, by the Board of Agriculture; and that is why I have the duty of presenting this Estimate to-day.
The President of the Board of Agriculture asked Captain Greer, who, I believe, is Senior Steward of the Jockey Club, to value the horses, and they had an independent valuation of the properties made by Mr. Eve. Mr. Eve's valuation of the property was £65,625, and Captain Greer's valuation of the horses at pre-war value was £74,000. I would like to say a word more about the properties which have been purchased. There is the valuation that Mr. Eve placed upon them, and there are certain other incidental expenses which are being incurred between the time of purchase and the 31st of March, and it is for that sum for the purchase of the properties that we are asking to-day. The properties are not subject to tithe or land tax, and Mr. Eve in making the valuation was satisfied that the hon. and gallant Member for Widnes had spent on the purchase of the properties and expenditure upon it a sum exceeding £102,000. These properties are, first the Tully Estate in the County of Kildare, near the Curragh, which is over 980 acres in extent, and consists of very good and richly pastured land, and contains a very good house, farm buildings, cottages, and ample stud accommodation. The Russley estate in England consists of 114½ acres of freehold, 10 miles south-east 1104 of Swindon. The land is in grass, and there are upon it a very fine block of stables and a house and cottages, and a new and very efficient water supply.
With regard to the stud itself, I know nothing about horse-racing, but I am informed that there are two very high-class valuable stallions there, White Eagle and Royal Realm, which Captain Greer values at £15,000 and £10,000, respectively. The mares in the stud are also very valuable for breeding purposes, and they include several animals which Captain Greer values at over £l,000. With regard to horses in training at Russley two of them, Great Sport and Night Hawk were kept, and were sent to Tully, and will be used there as sires for the service of thoroughbred mares. I do not know the fees that are attached to the use of these stallions, but anyone writing to the director of the stud at Tully will be able to find that out. In normal times it is expected that a stud of that kind containing horses as valuable as these would be worked at a profit; but, of course, at the present time racing is, to a very large extent suspended, and prices which are obtained for service are so greatly reduced that it is not possible at the present time to run any breeding establishment of that sort at a profit. Therefore there will be a figure during the War which will be placed on the annual Estimates in due course for the upkeep of the breeding establishment at Tully.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I cannot say; I am not sure that it has been absolutely finally decided. Recalling the figure to my mind, though I do not guarantee it to be accurate, the Estimate for the financial year 1916–17 will be about £4,000. The sum would have been larger were it not that Captain Greer has been good enough to undertake the post of director of the stud without any remuneration during the course of the War, as a war service, and I think that his service as director offers a considerable guarantee that the stud will be managed in the best possible way. It is apparently important that horses bred in a stud of this kind shall be tested on a racecourse, and therefore arrangements have had to be made whereby some of the horses that the Government now own shall be tested in this way. That will be done by leasing them to persons who are willing to test them in this way, and 1105 who, in the opinion of the director, can be relied on to do it on the best lines. This year seven of the two-year-olds have been leased to Lord Lonsdale on condition that he pays the expenses connected with the training and racing, and that if he makes any winnings he will return half the winnings after paying expenses.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I do not think when one owns property and leases it to someone else that one becomes a partner in use which he makes of it.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Lord Lonsdale's colours for the purpose of racing. But there is very small chance of winning now compared with normal times, because there is so little racing at present, and with the same number of horses there is obviously less chance of winning big prizes. That being so, we think that the terms are as advantageous as can reasonably be expected, and I doubt very much whether anyone, except a person who is known to be such a thorough good sportsman as Lord Lonsdale, would take them on the terms which he has done. I understand that the intention is gradually to transform the training stud which is not primarily suited for the purpose of crossing with half-bred mares for the purpose of producing cavalry horses into a stud which will be primarily suitable for that purpose. It will be utter waste of the best stallions to send them to cross with half-bred mares. Nobody would think of that, and of course some of them, though they may be very valuable as racehorses, are not valuable for the special purpose of producing Army horses by being crossed with half-bred mares; but the object is gradually to transform the stud into one of which the primary duty will be the production of Army horses.
Suppose that horses which are bred are not suitable for that purpose, they will be sold off. What we gain from the gift is having as a going concern two estates which are eminently suitable for the purpose which the War Office will require, and the nucleus of a stud which can be built up to the sort of stud they require for the purpose of producing Cavalry horses. They have decided that it is absolutely necessary, in the interests of the 1106 Army, that we shall start, as every other Continental country has to do, a system of breeding the horses we require, and the gift of the hon. and gallant Member will take us a long way on that path, and make things very much easier than they would otherwise be. Of course, this whole business can be objected to by persons who dislike the Government having any connection, direct or indirect, with racing. I do not know the view of the hon. Members here present, but, personally, I regard racing as a very low form of sport. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, Oh!"] I think I can justify that statement. Sport ought to combine physical skill with some element both of danger and uncertainty, and with regard to horse racing the physical skill and the danger are exercised purely vicariously, which I do not think is made up for by the uncertainty, which exists in it to a very plentiful amount. In regard to persons who value racing simply from the point of view of betting, I submit that this is not to regard it as as a sport at all, but something which is entirely useless to the country, if looked at from that point of view.
If you are to have Government studs of horses that must be trained and tried as race horses are—although a great many race horses are of no good from the Government point of view—namely, to breed Cavalry horses, yet a stallion, in order to be proved and tested as the right type to be sire to Cavalry horses, ought to have had a racing career, and its stamina thoroughly tested in that way. Really, if you are to have the best stallion for the purpose of breeding these Army horses, we must, by leasing them for use at race meetings or in some other way, connect ourselves with racing. There is another objection which comes to my mind—and I see a certain number of Irish Members in the House—that the maintenance by the Government of a breeding establishment in Ireland might be suspected as showing an intention in some way to interfere with the scheme of development of horse breeding in Ireland already established. That is not so. It is practically an accident that the breeding establishment is in Ireland, and it is there, no doubt, because in Ireland there is the best grazing land for the purpose. So I have always understood, and I think nobody will contradict that. There is no intention that this Government establishment for breeding horses for Army purposes shall in any way supersede 1107 the existing scheme. There will be co-ordination between the different Departments responsible, and, whatever may be intended from another point of view, there will be no chance, from our point of view, of interference with the breeding of valuable horses in Ireland. The Irish scheme will no doubt be run on its own, and there is no intention, I say, to interfere with that scheme. I have tried to give as many facts as I could in a short time, and I hope to be able to answer any questions any Member may like to raise.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I think the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down would have done very well if he had deputed the task which he has just discharged to the right hon. Gentleman beside him, for I think the Chief Secretary would have been very much better qualified to have introduced this Vote to the House. He certainly could not have known less about the subject than the hon. Member, and certainly might have made it more amusing. We have had to listen to a very moral and extremely solemn homily by the hon. Member. We have always been accustomed to look upon him as a great authority on many subjects, but we now learn that he is an authority on what is and what is not sport, and, on account of his dogmatic expression of opinion, he will be recognised in the House and the country at least as a competitor of Lord Lonsdale with the stallion whose name has been referred to. One thing in the hon. Gentleman's speech filled me with a good deal of surprise. In the transaction which the hon. Gentleman has stated to the House I think the Government have made a very good bargain, and done very wise and useful service to the country. Considering the nature of the transaction and listening as closely as I could to the hon. Member, I was unable to detect the slightest trace of appreciation on his part of the benefit conferred upon the nation by my hon. and gallant Friend, who has transferred to the Government this property.
§ Mr. ACLAND
If I left out any mention of that it is absolutely an unpardonable omission, and I take this opportunity to say, if I have not already said so, that I think the House and the country owe a very great debt of gratitude to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I had it on my notes to make that reference to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's gift to the coun- 1108 try, and if I did omit all mention of it in my speech, I certainly apologise most humbly for having done so.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I entirely accept the handsome amend which the hon. Member has made. [HON. MEMRERS: "It is not an amend!"] I think it was a very serious omission, and I am glad to have given him the opportunity to supply that omission. I would like, if I may, to emphasise—the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—the nature of the benefits which have been provided by my hon. and gallant Friend, and which were not gathered from the hon. Gentleman's speech. He told us, to begin with, that the landed property which had been purchased by the Government was valued by my hon. and gallant Friend at £75,000, but my hon. and gallant Friend showed his public spirit, in a not too usual fashion, by saying that if he had in any way overestimated the value of his own property he was quite ready to let the Government have an independent valuation. That valuation was taken, and it was put at £65,000, about £10,000 lower than the property had been valued at by its owner. These questions of valuation come up in all sorts of connections, and there is far too general an opinion that when you get some impartial and disinterested person to put a value on land, then, lo and behold, that is its value; but, of course, as a mere matter of valuing, there is no reason to suppose that in this particular case the valuation put upon the land by the gentleman employed by the Government was—where there are local considerations—in any way more correct than that of the owner. I only mention that to show in how very generous a spirit my hon. and gallant Friend acted, because he immediately accepted the lower valuation and he allowed the land to go for that lower sum, although the Government told us to-day that the owner of the property, who valued it at £75,000, had himself spent on improvements a sum exceeding, £100,000. My hon. and gallant Friend has transferred to the Government valuable horses and other stock valued at over £70,000, so that the total value of the property he transferred to the nation comes to close upon £140,000, out of which he only gets, by the way of purchase money, the sum of £67,000.
Under these circumstances I do not think the acknowledgment which the hon. Member addressed to us was at all over-estimated or overdrawn, and was not more 1109 than adequate. I do hope that the House and the country will recognise the value of this transaction from the public point of view, and will appreciate the extremely and unusually generous treatment which the country has received at the hands of the late owner of the property. There is one point in connection with the proposed treatment of this property by the Government which I was not quite able to follow. The hon. Gentleman said, I think, that the stud at Tully was to be used by the Government for breeding thoroughbred stock. I did not quite gather from him whether that stud farm is to be permanently employed for that purpose or, at all events, as long as it is worked by the Government for breeding thoroughbred stock. If so, I do not know how the business is going to be managed in the future. The proposal is that the thoroughbred stock is to be bred at Tully, and that the stud there is to be leased to sportsmen. I do not suppose they will be debarred from racing in order to manage these horses. What is going to happen to the thoroughbred colts and fillies in order to make them qualified for their business in producing Army horses. I did not quite follow what the hon. Gentleman said. I hope some Member of the Government will tell us what the procedure is going to be. I am not sure that there is any one, unless it be the Chief Secretary, who can do so. Probably the Chief Secretary and my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board are the only two sportsmen in the Government. The President of the Local Government Board will be able to supervise the Wiltshire part of the property, and the Chief Secretary no doubt will look after Tully; but he may not be in Ireland in perpetuity, and I want to know what is to happen when the right hon. Gentleman leaves Ireland?
§ Mr. McNEILL
There is another proposition to which I wish to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. He has told us that Tully will be the breeding place for thoroughbred stock, and he has explained to us, with what appeared to me a good deal of obscurity, that certain sires which he mentioned were not suitable for producing Army horses. Probably—I do not know, of course—the hon. Gentleman may have got information 1110 from some expert on the subject, but I am inclined to think that in that part of his speech he has got hold of the wrong end of the stick. I think probably he has not been well informed about that. What I want to know is how this racing is to be carried on? The Government are now entering upon the production of thoroughbred stock, and they have a rearing farm and a racing establishment. For the present they are going to lease horses in training to very well-known sportsmen, who will race them in their own colours, and therefore qualify them for their use in the stud. Is that to be a permanent arrangement? There is some sort of partnership between the Government and Lord Lonsdale. The Exchequer apparently is to benefit to the extent of one-half of the winnings. I do not know whether that is confined to the actual prize money that is won or extends to the bets that may be made on the races. Is the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this Vote going to be the Minister responsible in Parliament for questions with regard to these establishments?
§ Mr. ACLAND
Perhaps the Committee will permit me to make that clear. The arrangement was that the estates should be looked after by the President of the Board of Agriculture during the continuance of the War, but they are vested in the War Office, and immediately after the War is over they will be War Office establishments pure and simple.
§ Mr. McNEILL
During the War there is practically no racing, but after the War is over, if the Ministry remains as it is at present, the right hon. Gentleman who will be responsible for answering questions on this subject will be the Under-Secretary of State for War. I suppose it is to him, when these Government horses are in training and are entered for the Derby and Oaks, and Gold Cup, and Cesarewitch, and Cambridgeshire that we shall have to ask questions as to the prospects of those horses winning those races? Until the War is over, fortunately, there is not a great deal of racing, because we should have to get our tips from the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board, and the right hon. Gentleman, with that modesty which always distinguishes him, has intimated to us that he would not be able to give us very valuable information on this point. It is a matter of some concern not merely that we should have answers as to the 1111 particular questions to which I have alluded, but as to the management of the two branches of these estates, part of the property of the country, and that from time to time we should know how they are going on. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who is at present responsible, or the Chief Secretary, will give us a little further information as to how those two branches are to be worked—one as an auxiliary to the other, and both of them for the advantage of the country, which owes so much to the generosity and public spirit of my hon. and gallant Friend Colonel Hall Walker.
§ Mr. JOHN O'CONNOR
I have listened with very great interest to the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture. I desire to associate myself with the last speaker in his words of appreciation of the gift that has been made to the country by Colonel Hall Walker. I can assure him that it is appreciated in the county of Kildare in which the Tully Farm is situated. We all, in that county value the splendid animals that have been transferred by this generous gentleman to the nation. I have seen them, and I have been delighted with their appearance. I know their story, and I can assure the House that it is a very brilliant story indeed. Not only that, but the place itself is beautiful, and it is beautifully situated in the beautiful county that I have the honour to represent in this House. I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary that it is no matter of accident whatever that this county and farm was selected by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He selected it wilfully and deliberately, because he could get no better in any part of the three Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland. It is well known, not only in Ireland that this particular county is the home of what may be said to be a national industry. The people of that county are all true sportsmen and sportswomen, and it would ill become a Member for Kildare to offer any apology for being a sportsman himself. I trust, in future, when the Government go into this business, because we regard it as a business in Ireland, that they will reward their supporters by giving them the straight tip. This is a very important affair. Hon Members from other parts of the three Kingdoms may consider that the question is a small one, involving only an expenditure of £50,000, so far as regards Ireland. But in Ireland it is a most important matter, because there the 1112 raising and production of racehorses as well as others is a national industry. If there is any doubt about that in the mind of any person, let me invite him over to the Dublin Horse Show, and there he will meet visitors from all parts of the world who are interested in horse breeding. Go to any fair, or any race meeting, or any market in Ireland where horses are bought and sold, and there you will find the representatives of every Government in Europe purchasing horses—unparalleled horses, not only for Cavalry but for hunting. It is well known, without the Tully Farm at all, that Ireland is famous for its hunters as well as for its Cavalry horses. You might also find in those places to which I have referred the representatives of almost every crowned head of Europe buying suitable horses.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the information he has vouchsafed to us, but I have a few questions still to ask him. There is, according to his speech, a new policy with regard to horse breeding. What, may I ask, are the reasons for this new policy? There is already in Ireland a policy with regard to this particular subject which may be said to be a national policy. It is presided over by a Government Department—that is, the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction in Ireland. Grants are made by that Department for the purpose of maintaining sires in every county in Ireland. The county councils consider the subject from time to time and make local grants for similar purposes. The proceedings with regard to this national industry are presided over in every county by local county committees, and the Grants are made by the Department under the supervision of the elected agricultural council of Ireland. With regard to this national policy, is hunting to be maintained? With regard to this question of horse breeding in Ireland, have we not seen already that you have abandoned competition with regard to the production and purchase of aeroplanes? Have you not had two Departments, the Army and the Navy competing in this regard? Has it not been found mischievous and harmful for the best interests of the country and of the War? Will you still, with this example before your eyes set up in this country, and in Ireland, which is a country of importance with regard to the production of horses, two authorities also? I say that if you do you will find it to be mischievous and harmful in a great degree. Before this 1113 is done, have you consulted anybody in Ireland about it? Have you consulted the heads of the Agricultural Department of Ireland, who preside over this national institution which I have described to the House? I do not see the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture in his place, and I am sorry to find that the Chief Secretary has deserted the House the moment the voice of Ireland is raised in this respect. That is not, indeed, generally the case with regard to Irish subjects, for his attention to which we are all very grateful indeed.
I am told on the best authority that no such consultation has taken place, and I assert, and I do it upon the very best information, that this policy that is about to be introduced will have disastrous results. There are men in Ireland, like the Earl of Dunraven, and many others I could name, who have devoted their best attention to this subject, as Lord Lonsdale has in this country, and as has the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin), who if he were in his place to-day would support the suggestions I am about to make, because I am not going to oppose the Vote. I suggest that there ought to be co-ordination between the authority that is about to be set up and the authority that already exists, and to which the nation is much indebted for the production of horses that are maintaining the credit and character of the country in the hunting fields and on the battlefields of Europe. If the right hon. Gentleman were in his place he would, I am sure, support the suggestion that I am making that nothing ought to be done that would interfere or diminish the interests of those who have done so much in the past in this matter, namely, the private owners. There is one private owner at least in the House at the present moment listening to me, and I trust he will support what I am suggesting. I wish the House to understand that the national institution to which I have referred, and which has been in existence for the past fifteen or sixteen years in Ireland, in the Agricultural Department, apart from private owners, has done so much, and has been so regarded as a useful system, and the best system, that it is about to be introduced into this country also. I am told that in the case of these horses and the others on Tully Farm that will take their place, though I hope that will be long, as I wish the horses that are there now a long life and a happy one, that their services are to be given at cheap 1114 rates. The right hon. Gentleman has not told us anything about that. I would ask him to consult Captain Greer, whom I know well. I have good reason to know him, as he declared me returned to this House some two or three times as Sheriff of the County, and I am very grateful to him for it. He will have in his possession White Eagle, Royal Realm, and Great Sport, and those horses go to the stud after all because of their victories and with all the glory of their achievements upon their heads. They will be put into competition at cheaper rates with the private owners in Ireland who have maintained the credit and the character of the nation for the animals they have produced. They have produced platers, hunters, horses for Cavalry, and even farmers' horses, and occasionally you might find a thoroughbred between the shafts of a Dublin jaunting car. I want to know whether or not the Grant of the Agricultural Department in Ireland is going to be diminished. I want to know whether or not the policy they have established and followed with so much advantage is to be interfered with. Above all, I want to know whether these horses at the Tully Farm, or their successors, are to be confined exclusively to thoroughbred purposes, and whether the policy that has been productive of so much good in Ireland is to be departed from. From the moment this proposition was made we took the greatest possible note of it in Ireland. We are grateful to the man who made the gift. He was popular in Ireland, especially in county Kildare. He made the part over which he presided, beautiful as it was, still more beautiful by his generosity and good taste. Therefore I do not wish to oppose the gift. But what we are all concerned with is that the gift shall be well used for the best interests of the country, and that it shall not be mismanaged as many other Government Departments, I fear, have been occasionally. We hope that the natural fears of the people of Ireland will, by the good management of this estate, be proved to be without foundation. I trust the hon. Gentleman will be able to satisfy me on the points I have indicated.
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
I quite understand the hon. Gentleman opposite being in favour of the expenditure of public money in his own constituency. We are all in favour of such expenditure. But even he is not altogether satisfied, because he 1115 sees before him a certain amount of Government competition, and that some of his constituents may suffer as much as they will gain by the transaction. The Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs said that he was against any experiments that would cost money being made during the War. What is the Vote that we are asked to pass? The scheme is to spend £67,000 of capital with a probably annual expenditure of £4,000, and possibly more. That is what we are asked to pass in a time of war. It is difficult to understand the position of the Government. The Government, in a time of war, are inaugurating a new scheme and embarking upon a considerable experiment that will cost the nation a large amount of money. When we ask on what authority they are doing it the only reply we get is that the Army Council say that they ought to have more horses. There is no recommendation from any Committee. In fact, the Committee appointed by the Board of Agriculture a year after the War commenced does not mention one word about a scheme of this sort. On the contrary, it insists on continuity of policy. Paragraph 19 of the Report says:Continuity of policy is absolutely essential to the success of any horse-breeding scheme, and radical alteration of policy should be as far as possible avoided, unless and until it has proved ineffective to secure the object in view.This scheme is absolutely contrary to continuity of policy. What was the policy before? It was the registration of stallions, the award of premiums to stallions, and the leasing of Government brood mares to breeders. That scheme seems to have been fairly successful, because, whilst in 1911 there were only 311 registered stallions, in 1914 there were 1,471 travelling the country. The Committee made several other recommendations, but they did not make any recommendation of this sort.
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
But they could have asked the Government for a gift of this sort. They went on to recommend certain other things, and said that possibly it might be well for as much as £100,000 to be spent. What they based their policy of spending more money upon was this very cry from the Army Council. I should like to call the attention of the Committee particularly to this point. In paragraph 12 the Army Council say that it is of the 1116 utmost importance that steps should at once be taken to arrest the deterioration of the light draught-horse stock in this country. As a matter of fact, I under stand that there have been plenty of other horses, and that the real shortage in the War has been in light draught horses. If anybody thinks they can get light draught horses from thoroughbreds they are making a great mistake. The Army Council went on to say in paragraph 64—
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
We know that; but this Committee was formed after the War had been going on for twelve months, and these are their recommendations. My point is that the Government had no recommendation from any Committee or from anybody to commence a horse-breeding stud of their own.
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
With regard to these draught horses, the Report says:It may be impossible to find enough sires of the requisite stamp, and in that case it may be necessary for special efforts to be made by the Board to breed this particular type of horse—not to breed racehorses, but the type of horse wanted—not Derby winners or horses which carry about 10 stone weight. Troop horses have to carry 15 or 16 stone weight. What use are thoroughbred horses for a job of that sort? Still less are they of use either as sires or in themselves as Artillery horses. The Report goes on to say that a small class of horse, such as used to be in the London 'buses, are the horses that are very much wanted. Instead of saying anything about thoroughbred horses they speak about pony-bred horses, and they say that they wish to express their entire agreement with the opinion of the Committee appointed in 1912, thatponies bred in the open are the natural reservoirs from which all our national breeds of light horses derive and reinvigorate many of their characteristics of temperament, courage, intelligence and resource.You will not get these horses from thoroughbred sires.
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
I am not talking about French horses. I know something about the breeding of draught horses, and I know that you will not get horses to draw guns from thoroughbred horses, and that is the kind of horse that is wanted. The Report goes on to say:It is well known that the breeding of light horses has been on the decline for many years past. The increase of mechanical traction may be held to be responsible for this to some extent: but there are other contributory causes, and by no means the least of them is the fact that farmers have not found the industry a paying one.The Report of the Board of Agriculture for last year says that it is because farmers cannot get proper prices for their horses that the horses are not bred. That is the crux of the whole question. The real reason why these horses are not bred is that the Government do not give enough for them. If, instead of spending £67,000 in establishing a stud and £4,000 a year in keeping it up, they gave better prices to the farmers, they would get the horses they want. There is no doubt that there has been a scarcity of these light-bred horses. But there is one class of horse of which there is no scarcity, and that is the thoroughbred horse. I have no hesitation in saying there were more thoroughbred horses bred in 1913 and in the two or three previous years than ever before known in this country. Yet the Government are going in for the breeding of a class of horse of which already there is a plethora. At Tattersall's four days' Doncaster sales, at which nearly 500 horses are sold, there was a great demand for space; and Tattersall's can get a very great many more entries than they can take. No wonder thoroughbred horses are being bred. It may be accounted some sort of a gamble, but it is an industry where the prizes are numerous. Hon. Members may not know that some racehorses in their career earn in stakes alone, from £5,000 to £50,000. In fact, I believe one horse earned £58,000 in stakes alone. When there are so many prizes of that sort no wonder people breed thoroughbred horses. Besides, afterwards these horses go to the stud and very often earn in service fees anything from fifty to 300 guineas per mare. They make thousands a year for their owners. There is a great demand for them for breeding, not for Army purposes, as many people suppose, but for racing stud purposes—though it may be for Army purposes to a certain extent.
What have the Government done? Instead of breeding horses that are needed, they are going in for breeding 1118 horses of a kind of which there are already too many. This kind of horse ought to be bred privately, but because the prizes are so great they are a kind of horse which the Government is going to breed. They are not going to try and breed the kind of horses really needed—not so far as I understand. Russley Park and Tully are not to be used to breed Army horses and mares. They are to be used to breed racehorses. I must congratulate the Government upon commencing their racing career in the time of war. The right hon. Gentleman, who spoke euphemistically, said that the Government, or at least Lord Lonsdale, was going to take half of the prizes gained. An ordinary person does not call them prizes. They are stakes. The Government are partners in a racing establishment. Let there be no mistake about that. So long as the Government take half of the stakes won—
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
I do not know. I do not think the Government will bet as a Government. Individual Members may or may not; I cannot say.
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
I do not think that I am saying anything derogatory of them in saying they are going to start racing, but on the grounds of economy I object entirely to this transaction. It is a transaction which has been entered into without any warrant whatever. As far as I can see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin) has simply bounced the Government into it. I can see no other reason. The right hon. Gentleman has always been in favour of this matter; and even the recommendation from the War Office that Lord Kitchener sent is almost in the language of the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot help thinking that some of these recommendations are really almost inspired by the right hon. Gentleman. The War Office will not content themselves by just saying they want horses, but they say how many horses are to be got. I really do not know whether Lord Kitchener is any greater authority on horse breeding than any Member of this House. Yet he writes to the Committee, or the Board, giving particulars of the kind of horses he wants, and the way they ought to be obtained. It is very peculiar that his view exactly coincides 1119 with that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon! The Government have gone into this great experiment at a time when all of us think the utmost economy ought to be practised. I cannot think how members of the Government can go anywhere and preach economy and yet be parties to taking over this stud which will cost £67,000, and which cannot by any stretch of imagination be of any use for the War. As I have shown, the experiment is a very questionable one in time of peace. In time of war, when we need every halfpenny we can get, it is not fair to the nation to try such an experiment. So far as I am concerned, if a reduction of the Vote is moved, I shall vote in favour of it.
Anyone who knows about this transaction ought not to remain silent for a moment after the speech to which we have just listened. It is not the fact that the Government and the House of Commons are being asked to pay £67,000 for this stud.
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
I am very sorry if I gave that impression. I do not want for a moment to reflect on the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has given the horses. He has given them in all good faith, but they entail expenditure on the Government.
I am just going to show that that is not the case. It is not fair to put in that shape at all, because we are not here to discuss points of detail of this exceedingly valuable stud and these two properties. What we are here discussing is whether we shall approve of the Government buying Russley Park and Tully, and incidentally to accept the magnificent gift of Colonel Hall Walker. That gentleman represented the Widnes Division of Lancashire, and he has offered a free gift to the nation of his extremely valuable stud of thoroughbred horses and mares; in addition to these horses and mares, which stood in his books at over £100,000, he has also presented all his cattle on both these estates, together with all the utensils, fixtures, fittings of different kinds, and all fodder and stock of every kind and description sufficient to go on with for months, without it costing the Board of Agriculture or anybody else 1120 a single penny to take over those two splendid places as going concerns. That is the gift which Colonel Hall Walker has made to the nation. The hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Government has told us that Mr. Trustran Eve in his valuation pointed out that upon those properties alone, accounts which were shown to him, showed that Colonel Hall Walker had spent over £102,000. I have no hesitation in saying that this is one of the most opportune and splendid gifts which we have ever had. It is perfectly futile for the right hon. Baronet who has just sat down to say to us: "You cannot do this or the other with this stud of thoroughbred horses." Everybody knows that if the nation, and particularly the War Office, has eventually to be provided with suitable horses, that for the getting of those horses nothing could help as a start and nucleus better than a thoroughbred stud like this. There are eighty horses and mares. Some of them have got worldwide reputations. These will be reputations, from an equine point of view, for many centuries. It is a magnificent gift, and I think we ought to be all very grateful to Colonel Hall Walker for it. When he decided to make the gift the only stipulation Colonel Hall Walker made was: "You ought, I think, to take over the two properties that have been made so valuable and so excellent in every respect by the way they are fitted up. I have spent over £100,000 upon them, but to-day in the depressed state of the landed market I value them at £75,000: I do not ask you to pay that sum, send your own independent valuer, and whatever sum he-fixes I am willing to accept." I cannot imagine a more handsome and spirited way of making this gift than that adopted by Colonel Hall Walker. In order to carry out the gift Colonel Hall Walker has been obliged, temporarily I hope, to resign his seat at Widnes. His constituents are very anxious to re-elect him, and he, I think, is willing to come back. All that he is waiting for is the passing of this Vote to carry out the purchase of the two properties. I hope that we shall meet this gift in the spirit in which it is made, and reserve any criticism of the method of carrying out and administering the gift until it can be organised. I hope we shall proceed to pass this Vote, and so avoid difficulty and delay.
§ Sir T. ESMONDE
I do not desire to criticise the offer of this very fine stud; on 1121 the contrary, I should like to join with other Members in expressing my appreciation of the gift which has been made to the nation, and my realisation at the present time of its very great value. For many years, although I have not taken part in the Debates on agricultural matters, I have urged that we should have a Government horse-breeding establishment in this country, and in Ireland, the same as there are abroad. It has always seemed to me a most extraordinary thing that in these Islands, where we have always prided ourselves upon the excellence of our horseflesh, that no Government has ever taken the trouble to follow the obvious example set by foreign Governments, and to take the matter of horse breeding into their own hands. As regards this particular stud in Ireland, the step is one in the right direction. It is a most excellent step, and I hope it will be carried further. I do not know whether our Government will ever find money enough to start horse-breeding establishments on its own, but certainly if it does I shall be very glad indeed to see other owners of horses actuated by the same liberal spirit as has actuated Colonel Hall Walker and place their horse-breeding establishments at the service of the nation.
The right hon. Baronet opposite spoke about breeding thoroughbreds. Of course you cannot please everybody, and I am very much reminded of a horse-breeding commission, of which I was a member, which sat in Ireland for a very long time, and went all over the country and examined all sorts of witnesses, and in the end came to conclusions. Everybody produced a report of his own, so that it is not possible to agree on the question of horse breeding as to which is the best type of horse suited for any particular situation. But I would leave that to the breeders of horses themselves. They are perfectly competent to know what is the best breed, and, with their experience, they ought to know what is the best way to produce the best results. But I would say this: if the Government want a particular kind of horse they can very easily get it by giving a price which would pay to breed that particular kind of horse. Of course in Ireland they can produce a heavy horse if it pays them. If the Government wants in Ireland, Scotland, or England horses for the Cavalry or the Army Service Corps they ought to offer prices which will pay farmers to breed such horses. That will bring them out of 1122 the difficulty so long as the Government has not sufficient courage to start horse-breeding establishments of its own. However, I think this Government is becoming a little more courageous. I wish the Government success in their endeavours in horse-racing. I hope they will be very successful, and particularly so as this particular stud has the advantage of being carried on in the county of Kildare, where what they do not know about horses no one can tell them. I would like to see other studs formed by the Government, and, quite apart from the differences of opinion about the various breeds of horses, I think the Government might, now that they have plucked up courage enough to start horse-racing, go a little bit further and give serious attention to this question of horse breeding in these Islands, which has been grossly neglected by Governments in the past.
§ Mr. ROCH
I think everyone recognises, as has been said by every speaker, the generosity of the gift of Colonel Hall Walker, and I am sure nobody in criticising this transaction wishes to cast any reflection on that gift or to say anything than that it was a generous gift in every shape and form. But when you have said that, I think you have said everything that can be said about what is a most ridiculous scheme. Let us look at the circumstances under which we are living. In the ordinary time of peace I think this would have been an excellent thing to take advantage of, but, whatever you may say, no benefit will be derived from it for five, six, or seven years. Let us look at the transaction as it is presented by the right hon. Gentleman. There is an expenditure of close upon £70,000, and the upkeep to maintain this stud is going to be £4,000 a year during the War. The net result of that is that the Government is to take part in what the right hon. Gentleman described as a low form of sport. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ask him to withdraw!"] That is the result as presented—an expenditure of £70,000 and of £4,000 a year to take part in a low form of sport.
§ Colonel LOCKWOOD
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman said that as representing the Government?
§ Mr. ACLAND
I may have said it was a rather low form of sport or not a high form of sport. I said that as a purely personal opinion. I do not think, compared with hunting or big-game shooting, racing is a high form of sport.
§ Mr. ROCH
Of course it is a serious rebuff, coming from that quarter, to what many of us regard as an excellent form of sport. But let us look at this transaction again on its merits. The right hon. Gentleman said that this stud was going to be transformed into a stud for breeding Cavalry horses. I cannot imagine, in taking advantage of that gift, a more ludicrous proposal than that. The sole value of this stud is that it contains some of the best horses in the world for racing purposes which are not of the smallest value for breeding Cavalry horses at all.
§ Mr. J. O'CONNOR
With all respect to the hon. Gentleman's statement, allow me to say it is our opinion in Ireland, especially Kildare, that the thoroughbred is the foundation of this horse.
§ Mr. ROCH
My hon. Friend really misunderstands me. I do not say the thoroughbred is not a suitable horse, but that no one outside Bedlam would dream of crossing sires of the high class of this stud with a half-bred horse. I do not think anyone has ever heard about it. All the criticism that I wish to make of this thing is that, while it may be a very valuable thing for the country in ordinary times to keep this high-class stud as a high-class stud, to transform it then, as the right hon. Gentleman said, into a stud for breeding Cavalry horses would really be a ludicrous proposal. That really is the transaction as I think it appears. It has no immediate need at all; it fulfils no immediate purpose. When you have said 1124 that, I think you have dealt with the matter frankly and honestly. As I said, in ordinary times of peace, to preserve this stud would be a luxury to the country, and it would be a luxury which in normal times nobody would say a word against; but this is a time when the right hon. Gentleman, I think in company with Cabinet Ministers, is going this week to the Guildhall, when this very day, while we are speaking, four Cabinet Ministers are going to get up and preach economy; yet here in the House of Commons, from the Front Bench, is being advocated an expenditure of £70,000 and of £4,000 a year which, on the showing of the Government spokesman, is during three or four years only going to be devoted to taking part in a low form of sport.
§ Mr. BURDETT-COUTTS
I must apologise to the House and particularly to the right hon. Gentleman who has moved this Vote for speaking on this subject, because I am under the disadvantage of not having heard his speech; but there are one or two main points in this matter which I think stand out. First, may I say I join fully in the tributes that have been paid to Colonel Hall Walker for the obvious motives of generosity and patriotism which have led him to' make this gift to the nation? But the two points that seem to me to stand out most prominently are these: first, that this is a radical alteration in the policy of England in this matter. The hon. Baronet (Sir T. Esmonde) who spoke from these benches seemed to forget that this country attained the highest position in the world for all kinds of horses entirely on the strength and by the practice of private enterprise. I speak as a very large breeder of horses for thirty years. And may I say, in parenthesis, that, although my interest has been mainly in the breeding of what are called light-draught horses, perhaps the highest class of them, I have the highest possible admiration for the thoroughbred; I had a thoroughbred stud for some years, and I have constantly used the thoroughbred and am able to appreciate the value of his blood in crossing with other breeds, and in producing various kinds of horses. I have had under my observation, and I have been engaged in some of the discussions with regard to State-aided horse breeding in this country, and I confess, on the whole, having seen the extraordinary results that have been produced whereby England has supplied the whole world with the finest breeding stock of horses, I have been 1125 rather against State-aid in horse breeding; but I do recognise that now we have come to a very different state of things. The introduction of motors has undoubtedly greatly discouraged and greatly diminished the breeding of horses in England, and it is a question for consideration whether we ought not to adopt some, what I call, artificial means for keeping up what is a very necessary industry in the country—and I call them artificial means because they are means which have never yet been attempted in this country—and it is a great question whether, in view of the difficulties of breeding horses at a profit all over the country, we ought not to make some change in this respect and go in for a system of State-aid for horse breeding. Of course, the question whether we ought to make that experiment at the present moment is one for the consideration of the country.
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
Might I remind the hon. Member that the Committee that has sat since the War commenced did not advise that?
§ Mr. BURDETT-COUTTS
I quite admit that, but am not sure that I agree with it. The times have Changed, and many of the objections which I formerly held to State-aid have been removed by circumstances to which I have alluded. All the same, I do not think we ought to disguise from ourselves the fact that it is a radical change of policy.
My second point is that if we started upon the basis of horses of the character that are included in this generous gift, it is a far more elaborate experiment than if State-aid were started upon a lower and more practical basis. For instance, this class of horse which Colonel Hall Walker has presented may be very useful to horse breeders in Ireland, but it is quite clear that you cannot produce from those horses directly horses that will add to the general supply of useful horses in the country, and if you are going in for an enterprise of that sort, you will have to breed the required horses gradually, and it would take you many years to produce a fixed type of light draught horses or Artillery horses. Take the ordinary Derby winner. In the first place it is false economy to use a, horse for breeding purposes whose service in the market stands at 100 or 150 guineas or more with a half-bred mare that can be served by a stallion with greater likelihood of producing good useful stock for 30s. or two guineas. I do not join in 1126 all this chaff about the Government going in for racing. I never heard that brought as anything like a libel against great Continental Governments which encourage the horse-breeding industry, and also go in for racing. I say that, apart from going in for racing, you must start a process of breeding the right sort of sire which you want.
I can assure hon. Members that it takes a long time before you can make sure of arriving at a type of horse that will be useful for these practical purposes. It may take three or four or even more crosses before you get the horse you require which, from his conformation, bone, and quality all combined, you think is the right class to breed good light draught horses. You not only have to breed the horse, but you have to find out that he does produce good light draught horses. It is a long process. This is no doubt a most generous and patriotic gift, but what I want the House to understand is that it will be of very little use to the Government or to the State unless the whole experiment is handled on a large scale, and unless the Government is prepared to spend something like the amount of money which Continental Governments spend in their great systems of encouraging horse breeding. If the Government are not prepared to do that, I say that while fully appreciating this exceptional and remarkable gift, it would be far better to spend this £70,000, and this £4,000 a year, in purchasing thoroughbred stallions which do exist, and which, in the opinion of good judges, are known to be useful sires for half-bred horses. You want some system which will make certain that they are absolutely sound. That is one of the great difficulties. I will go further and say that you should not confine yourselves to producing sires which by their looks commend themselves to judges of hunters and thoroughbreds when seen trotting round the ring, but absolutely to sires which have proved themselves able to get the class of horse that the State requires for practical purposes.
§ Mr. ROBINSON
I think we are all agreed that the speech which we have just listened to is one of great value, and if the Government had consulted the hon. Member for Westminster before deciding to take this step they might have adopted a different course. I do not dispute that this is a most generous gift, but it must 1127 not be overlooked that after the War began racing largely ceased, and the value of that stud decreased by at least one-half from the very fact that the same prices were not to be obtained by those horses during the War. [An HON. MEMBER: "Speak up!"] We have to consider the amount of expenditure we are likely to be drawn into in regard to this proposal. The speech we have just listened to shows very clearly that £4,000 a year is nothing like the figure that will be required, and it is a comparatively small amount compared with the sum that we shall be asked to vote in future years. It may have to be increased from £4,000 to £15,000, or even £20,000, and consequently I think that now is the time to make our protest against this expenditure. I do not think we should launch into an expenditure of this kind at a time like the present. If this scheme was going to help us to end the War, of course we should all say nothing about this expenditure, but it is not. I suppose the men employed in this stud will be exempted from service. If, instead of adopting this proposal, the Government had stopped hunting and racing and the raising of game in the country for the time being, they would have been doing a good deal more good. At a time when there is almost a famine in petrol a good deal of petrol is being used conveying bookmakers and others to race meetings. I regret that the Government are not using this money for something really valuable in the direction of true economy, and I am sorry they have not taken up another line.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I desire to congratulate the Government most cordially upon having availed themselves of the splendid generosity of the hon. and gallant Member for Widnes, and upon having made a most admirable bargain for the nation. By this gift and the opportunity which the hon. and gallant Member has given the Government we get not merely as a free gift this exceedingly valuable blood stock, but we acquire perhaps the best land in the world, and one of the best equipped establishments for breeding purposes that exists in the United Kingdom. Whether or not we go on in the same way as the hon. Member for Widnes did, breeding a very high-class blood stock, we have got this establishment in County Kildare, which is the best spot in the world for breeding horses for Army pur- 1128 poses. The hon. Baronet the Member for Prestwich suggested that blood stock was of little value in breeding Cavalry horses, but I think that is an entire misapprehension, and in this, I think, the hon. Member for Westminster, who has had much practical experience in horse breeding, will agree with me.
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
I did not mean to make any suggestion of that sort. My point was that thoroughbreds were no good for producing the light draught horses which we want.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
If you want to breed a heavy Artillery horse I know that you do not require a thoroughbred sire, but we want to produce Cavalry horses. During the early part of this War people were going all over the country buying up Cavalry horses at enormous prices, and where did they go? They went into the localities where there arc hunting stables, and masters of hounds and owners of horses most generously gave to the Army their best horses which were invaluable for Army purposes. But the Government could not get enough by private munificence, and they had to buy horses of the hunter type at enormous prices for Cavalry purposes. How were those hunters bred? They were bred, as all good hunters are bred, from high-class bloodstock sires mated with half-bred mares. I ask any man who has ever ridden in a point-to-point race or a good run with the hounds, has he not realised the value of having a strain of blood in his horse when he is getting to the end of a long hunt or race? It is exactly the same with the Army. If you want a good horse for Cavalry purposes in the Army you must have the blood strain in it, and the only way you can get that is by getting thoroughbred sires. How do you get these thoroughbred sires? The only way you can obtain thoroughbred sires for the country is by racing. That is the only stock on which you have to draw for thoroughbred sires, and just as you have to look to the thoroughbred sire for a good hunter so you have to look to the thoroughbred sire for a good Cavalry horse. The hon. Gentleman sitting opposite to me said, and I have no doubt said with absolute truth, that you would not use a Derby winner in the Army Service Corps.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
There I take issue with my hon. Friend. I did not say that you would use a Derby sire for the purpose of breeding either a hunter or a Cavalry horse, but you would use a thoroughbred sire, although he might not be a Derby winner. Therefore, when we start, as I hope we shall start, and as I hope we shall continue to keep up, a stock of thoroughbred sires, we shall probably not use Derby winners if there are any amongst them for the purposes of breeding Cavalry horses, but in a large breeding establishment, as every breeder of bloodstock knows, every horse is not a Derby winner. If you get one in a lifetime you are very lucky. Many private owners spend a great deal of money without ever getting one. There are in every breeding establishment a large number of horses which are nothing like Derby winners. They cannot win in a first-rate race, but they are good enough and the proper sort for breeding hunting and Cavalry horses. We want a breeding establishment in which we can get the sort of sire which would be a good sire for Cavalry horses. The hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to think it was a very terrible thing that the Government should ever receive half of the stakes which might be won when Government horses ran or were leased to run. The owner of a good horse is just as much entitled to receive the stakes which his horse wins as, at any rate, most of the Members of this House are to receive their salaries, and I would even go so far as to say as some of the Members of the Ministry are entitled to receive their salaries. I am not in the least shocked at the idea of the Government receiving half the stakes. They are perfectly honourable and fairly won in one of the great, one of the most honourable and best sports we have in England.
Objection was taken because this purchase was made in war time. If this were a great gamble I should say that it would be inadvisable for us to embark upon it in war time, but when we have this magnificent gift offered to us in war time by an hon. and gallant Gentleman, an absolutely free gift coupled with the chance of buying at an exceedingly low figure one of the best breeding establishments in England, I say, notwithstanding that it is war time, we should be exceedingly ill-advised to reject it. The cost is small, but the advantage to the country in the future is very great, because I for one do not see that the time is yet coming when we can do 1130 without Cavalry horses in the Army. Therefore, we should be well advised to make this important advance, which we ought to have made long ago, in breeding horses for the Army. Anyone who went about the country at the beginning of this War and saw the enormous difficulty there was in getting horses of the right stamp for the Cavalry and horses of light draught for other purposes, and who saw the enormous sums which had to be paid for them, will be only too glad to know that the Government at last have embarked upon a course which in the future will furnish our Army with better and cheaper horses than we have ever been able to get before.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.
It is almost unnecessary for me to make the speech I intended to make, because the bulk of the points I wished to put have been made in the preliminary discussion, but there are still some very pertinent questions to ask the Government, and I regret that the front Treasury Bench is occupied entirely by the Government foals and that no responsible Members of the Government are present. We were promised by the Prime Minister that in most of the discussions some Cabinet Minister should attend. I withdraw, and apologise to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Montagu). I am glad that he is here, because he will recollect the history of this transaction. He will remember that this offer was made by the hon. Member for Widnes (Colonel Walker). The Government delayed accepting it, if I remember rightly, until the point was reached at which the offer was to be withdrawn unless they accepted it. That is a very important point. It has not been met by my right hon. Friend who represents the Board of Agriculture (Mr. Acland). What was it that altered the opinion of the Government and induced them to accept this offer on the point of the offer being withdrawn? I hope that he is able to tell us what made the Government change its mind. I do not know whether or not it was the inducement held out to them that they could race themselves if they had them, but, at any rate, we are entitled to know.
The House of Commons ought to realise, again, the position in which it finds itself. We are attempting this afternoon to buy the property of a fellow Member of the House of Commons. He has been forced to go out of the House because of the fact that we are going to discuss this matter, 1131 and he cannot come into the House until we have determined what we are going to do. That is a very false position for us to be in. We ought to have known at the moment the Government accepted the offer because it was going to be withdrawn what was the reason and what was the policy that induced them to accept it, and we ought not to be placed in the position of considering this at this particular time. I do not want to go into the question of horses. There are some very interesting horses in this particular stable. There is the Night Hawk, which, hon. Members will remember, won the St. Leger as a rank outsider. It was considered so poor a horse that not a single sporting tipster tipped it for the St. Leger race in the year it won it at 33 to 1. There are men in the House who know horses better than I do. I hope the only Cabinet Minister on the bench will be able to assure us that the form of Night Hawk has improved so much since the occasion on which it won the St. Leger as a rank outsider as to warrant them being more hopeful, when they enter it for any other race, that they will get half the stakes. There are a great many interesting points of that sort I could go into, but I want to reinforce the point with regard to the use that is going to be made of the stud. It is going to be used for producing horses for the Army. Broadly speaking, that is the use to which it is to be put. A large portion of it is a racing stud. If there is one thing which the present methods of horse-racing in this country do not do it is the producing of horses of stamina. I see my hon. Friend opposite who last spoke (Mr. Butcher) looking very horrified at that statement.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I strongly resent the statement that the average race is four furlongs and under. I do not know any race of four furlongs. There are five fur-longs, which is much too short Perhaps the hon. Member has been to Doncaster, where the races are considerably over a mile?
§ Mr. HOGGE
I have not so much time to attend Doncaster as my hon. Friend, and my recollection of the exact distances is perhaps not so familiar as his, but the only mistake I made was the slip of the 1132 tongue in stating four furlongs instead of five. [An HON. MEMBER: "You are wrong altogether!"] It is a point that can easily be settled by reference to any calendar of races.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Yes, I know the age of the horses. They are two-year-olds, and are as wise at their sport as we are at ours. Again I make the assertion, which can be proved, that the bulk of horse-races run in this country are races of that nature. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] Let me put it in another way, which perhaps hon. Members will accept: "Races in which the horses trained for the purpose shall be, say, of a flash of speed rather than to run a long distance." That is accepted. Very well, that is all I intended to say. It shows how difficult it is sometimes to make yourself intelligible all round. Hon. Members will agree that it is a question more of speed than of stamina in the modern racehorse. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, if you do not agree, I cannot help it. The facts are against you, and that is so often the case that? am quite sure you must be wrong.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Everyone who has got a horse to run in a race—let us take point-to-point races as a good illustration—knows that he must have blood in him if he is going to win, and the only way to get that is to get it out of a thoroughbred stable.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I have no objection to blood in a horse. I think there ought to be blood in every horse. I hope for the sake of the Government there is blood in the Coalition. After all, this is a proposal from the Coalition Government for the active prosecution of the War. It is a proposal which is going to produce horses for the Army. My hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. Burdett-Coutts), in the speech which he delivered just now, stated, I think, reasons which should induce the Committee to reject this Vote. He pointed out, in his very able speech, that the scheme was not going to effect the purposes which it had in view, and that the cost would increase from year to year. Is it not the case that we are not presented here with the full story? It is true that the hon. and gallant Member for Widnes is making a very valuable gift to the Government, but, if he had kept it to 1133 himself, would it not have become a liability on him during this period of War? Without uttering a word of depreciation of the hon. Member's gift, I ask whether, if it had not been accepted, it would have been a liability on him, and I suggest that that fact ought to temper our views of the transaction.
We have been told by my right hon. Friend that they are going to enter horses for races. I suppose some have been already entered, although it is not known whether or not they will race. May I remind the Committee that we have not yet heard from the President of the Board of Trade whether the facilities for racing this year are or are not to be extended. As far as I am able to gather from the papers dealing with sport, it is the intention of the Government to increase the facilities for racing during 1916. If the Government own horses and provide more facilities for entering them for races in order to win stakes and make more money, that surely is a point which even members of the Coalition Government can appreciate. We ought to know whether, in the future, in this sport of kings, we are to be dominated by a Coalition Government partly owning horses. I understand that they are in association with a Noble Lord who was a well-known sporting member of this House, but who is not now a member, and with his business man on the Turf. Would it not be better for the Government to associate themselves with Mr. Bottomley in this connection? There is a man who knows the Turf from one end to the other. He knows how to make money out of the Turf, and he gives the best racing tips that can be obtained. Could not the Government make a better arrangement than half-and-half? Have they asked for tenders for this scheme? Is it simply another gamble in the choosing a particular man? Have they in fact looked round to get the best man?
Although it is said we should not look a gift horse in the mouth, I do suggest that this Committee ought to examine this proposal very closely. Small boys are convicted in our Courts for street betting. What moral status will the Coalition Government have in legislating on betting or with regard to the Turf if they are part owners of horses which are entered in these races, and if they are providing the very material upon which these small boys are convicted? That is a point which ought to be taken into consideration. Again, is this House to be a Coalition 1134 Jockey Club? Surely if you want the most responsible men to govern the Turf you should get rid of the Jockey Club, which is a voluntary organisation, and make this Coalition Government the official organisation. Let me ask a few questions upon the finances of this transaction. We are told this scheme will cost us £4,000 a year. Does that represent the cost of the horses or merely the rates that will be paid on the establishment? My right hon. Friend told us there are eighty horses there, and he has mentioned a few that will be entered for races. Everybody, surely, knows what it costs to run racehorses for a year. At any rate the cost can be easily calculated. I suppose on the other side there may be some income from the service of stallions. Has there been any estimate?
When my right hon. Friend gets up to reply, will he give us the figures on which his estimate is based? Will he say how much is represented by possible winnings, and how much of the estimate refers to matters which can be passed by the Accountant-General? Again, will an opportunity be afforded to Members of this House for viewing the stud? Will a pad-dock be provided in the vicinity of Westminster where the horses may be walked round for inspection by hon. Members before they decide in favour of this extraordinary bargain? I have never been faced during the War with a more ridiculous proposal than the one the Government have brought forward on this occasion. This Government has been appointed for the vigorous prosecution of the War. Its duty is to win the War, and while our leaders are more less absent from the Front Bench talking economy in the City, we, their humble supporters, are asked to erect a racing stud here at Westminster. Why, it is almost as bad as taking a quarter of their salaries in Exchequer Bonds! On these grounds I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £100
I assume the reason which actuated the Government in finally accepting Colonel Hall Walker's offer was that they were getting a very good bargain; that they were profiting by the experience of the present War and therefore forming a national stud which, although it may not help us to win the present War, may help us to win future wars. I think this munificent offer should be accepted by this Committee. The hon. Member who last spoke mentioned the particular case of Night Hawk, a horse which won the St. Leger at long odds a 1135 few years ago. If he had taken the trouble to look into the pedigree of that horse he would have found it was simply a case of blood telling after generations; the good blood was in the original sire. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Roch) suggested that the right hon Gentleman in introducing this Vote had intimated that these high-class animals should be crossed with half-bred mares. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman said anything of the kind. What he said was that these high-class animals should be mated with thoroughbred mares and that their progeny afterwards should be crossed with half-bred mares. I hope that the operation of this scheme will not be confined to the breeding of Army horses, but that horses will be bred for use in agricultural and other work. We find in Ireland that horses which have a good percentage of blood are the best horses for working on the farms. It is also the fact that Artillery horses bred in Ireland for war purposes have a good percentage of blood in them. There is one point upon which I wish to be quite sure, and that is whether the sires which are to be maintained at stud will be available for thoroughbred mares the property of private owners, or whether the use of them will be entirely confined to thoroughbred mares belonging to the Government. I do not quite agree with the hon. Member who suggested co-operation with Government Departments in Ireland. I would be rather shy of that. I would not care to depend on the advice we get from some of the Government Departments. I think every member of this Committee should join in appreciation of the munificence of Colonel Hall Walker, and I think we should be doing very bad work indeed if we rejected the offer so generously made.
I wish to point out how very valuable a start this in the matter of breeding horses from a military point of view. Sooner or later the Government would have to set up and maintain an establishment for breeding horses. That seems to be perfectly clear, and although the hon. Member for Westminster may be doubtful whether this is the best system of starting a national breeding establishment I welcome it as the initiation of a policy whereby the Government are seeking to secure that horses bred both for trade and for military purposes shall be of a suitable strain. I welcome the step the Govern- 1136 ment has taken, and I think we should be very grateful indeed to Colonel Hall Walker.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I will try my best to answer some of the questions which have been asked in the course of this Debate. I should like to apologise in the first instance, for having introduced into the discussion some of my own views about horse racing. I do happen, in this connection, to object to those whose only association with horse-racing is betting regarding themselves as sportsmen. I do not look upon them as sportsmen in the truest sense of the term.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I am sure the hon. and learned Member is much too wise. [An HON. MEMBER: "I often bet!"] Then I am sure the hon. Gentleman can afford it. The next point I want to make is that I cannot claim that this expenditure is connected with the War. It is not, of course. The immediate value of having the stud depends upon what it will do for you four or five years hence. We believe that having this stud and developing it in the way that men like Captain Greer will do will be of great value to the nation in future times and in the event of a future war. It cannot be pretended for the moment, and no one does pretend, that for the immediate purpose of producing Cavalry remounts the gift is of the value it will be later on, but we believe that if the Government had not accepted the most generous gift when it was made many of the horses might have been sold and exported and that our thoroughbred stock would have been much the poorer if that had happened. That is the only connection with the immediate present which the gift has, however much it may justify itself, as we believe it will, as the years go by. I was asked what would be done with the mares and fillies that are produced. Presumably they will be sold at the best prices that can be got for them either as yearlings or after a more or less lengthy racing or breeding career as skilled minds such as that of Captain Greer suggest should be done. Considering the splendid stock presented to us, when normal times return certainly they will be no loss. The hon. Member for North Kildare (Mr. J. O'Connor) will be glad to hear that it is not intended to hand the management or ownership of the stud over to the Irish Department of Agriculture. The War Office will have a definite 1137 policy. They will know the sort of horses they want, and the sort of policy they wish to pursue in establishing and developing their stud. I feel sure it is better that the stud should be owned and administered by the persons who are responsible for producing the sort of horses they require rather than by an agricultural department.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will remember that I said there would be close co-ordination between the two policies—the policy of the stud and the official policy of horse breeding in Ireland, but there is no intention of handing the stud over for management by the Irish Department. The War Office regard the gift as being of very great value to them, and they will be quite willing to take it over as soon as their hands are rather freer. I believe that if they keep in touch with the official policy of horse breeding in Ireland they will do good to horse breeding in Ireland as well as do good to themselves in helping to produce the sort of horses they require. I have no knowledge of any intention of fixing the fees of these stallions at especially cheap rates. I believe this is going to be run absolutely as a business concern, and the fees at which these stallions will stand will be the highest that can be obtained both now and hereafter. There is no intention of making it a cheap business to help the small horse-owner or anything of that kind. The best fees will be charged that can be got. The hon. Member for Prestwich (Sir F. Cawley) brought up the point that in this policy we were embarking on a discontinuity of the policy which the Committee to which he referred recommended. To a certain extent that is true, but the Government is not discontinuing the policy recommended, namely, the policy of King's premiums and super-premiums with regard to stallions. There will be no break of policy in that regard. But it is considered by the War Office that some extension of that policy is really necessary for the horse supply of the future. The old-established policy of King's premiums and super-premiums will be continued, but it will be added to and extended by developing this stud on these estates for which we now ask authority for the purchase price to be paid.
The question of breeding Artillery horses, although an important matter in 1138 itself, is a different matter. I am not an expert, and I do not know anything about the breeding of horses, but I do know that the use of thoroughbred stock for that purpose is a very different thing indeed from the use for crossing with half-bred mares to produce horses of the Cavalry type. I should have thought it would have been quite possible by the slow development of breeding as described by the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Burdett-Coutts) to produce a great many more stallions of the type that are already included in this gift, the type, for instance, of the stallion "Great Sport," which is a type suitable for mating with thoroughbred stock. I believe it will be the object of the directors of this stud to increase the number of stallions of that type, but it is no loss to them, rather a gain, that they should have stallions such as "Great Sport," "Royal Realm," and "White Eagle." It will be a waste of money and material to mate them with half-bred stock at the present time, but by gradually working on the stud there is at the present time, and bringing other animals in, much can be done from the point of view of mating them with half-bred mares. It will be possible to build up a stud of very great value in the direction of Cavalry horses. Some reflection was cast on the fact that we were leasing certain two-year-olds to Lord Lonsdale for this next year. I do not think it was seriously suggested that the other gentleman whose name was mentioned to us would really be a superior person to race, manage, and look after these horses rather than Lord Lonsdale. I do not think we could have found a better man to do it than Lord Lonsdale.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I think the arrangement is only for one year. I do not think he wants to go further, because, as I have pointed out, the President of the Board of Agriculture is only managing this stud ad interim, and it will be handed over to the War Office as soon as the War is over. The arrangement with Lord Lonsdale is only for one year, and I do not think we could have found a better man than Lord Lonsdale.
§ Mr. ACLAND
The arrangement at present made only applies to certain 1139 selected two-year-olds. I was asked what the £4,000, which I gave as the figure for the upkeep of the stud and the two establishments for the year, would cover. That is more a question to be brought up on the Estimates. I did not pledge myself to that figure. It will come up for review on the Estimates in the ordinary course. My. impression is it is merely the cost of keeping up the two establishments, food for the horses, payment of the men who look after the horses, and such purchases and sales on balance as may go on during the year. Another question I was asked was whether the horses could be brought over here for hon. Members to inspect. "The answer to that is "No." If the hon. Member wants to see them he must go to Tully.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I was asked whether the stallions would serve mares belonging to private owners. I believe that those which are suitable for that purpose will do so. One cannot tell wholly for the future whether there will be a sufficient number of mares in the stud to be served by the stallions of the stud, but it certainly is intended that stallions that are desired for that purpose should on the payment of fees on a business basis be at the use of private owners who desire to have them. There is no intention to keep these stallions solely for mating with the mares that are in the stud. If that went on indefinitely it would result in a system of in-breeding, which is undesirable. I have done my best to answer the questions put to me, and I regret that I am not a great authority on these matters so that I could give a better explanation.
§ Question, "That a sum not exceeding £50,000 be granted for the said Service," put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.