HC Deb 13 May 1918 vol 106 cc165-72

Considered in Committee.

[Mr. Whitley in the Chair.]

CLAUSE 1.— (Restriction on Travelling and Exhibiting Unlicensed Stallions.)

Any person who after the appointed day, being the owner or having the control of a stallion of a prescribed age, travels it for service, or exhibits it at any market or show or in any public place, or permits it to be so travelled or exhibited, shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds unless the stallion is at the time licensed under this Act.


I beg to move, after the word "age" ["prescribed age, travels"], to insert the words "uses it, or permits it to be used, for stud purposes, or."

I move this on behalf of the hon. and gallant Member (Major David Davies), who is not able to be present for the moment, but he is anxious that it should be submitted to the consideration of the Committee. The Clause is for the purpose of restriction on travelling and exhibiting unlicensed stallions, and the object of the Amendment is to widen its scope, and make it not only necessary for the owner of the stallion to obtain a licence, but the controller of the stallion will also require to have a licence. This makes the measure more far-reaching. It places in the first Clause not only the man who utilises a stallion, but the man who possesses one. I do not know what view the President of the Board of Agriculture takes of the Amendment, but I beg to move it for his consideration.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Prothero)

I hope the hon. Member will not press his Amendment. The Bill is strictly limited, and as it stands it is a Bill agreed in principle by all the great breeding societies of the country. I am very much afraid, if it is intended in the way suggested, it will provoke very great opposition. There are a number of very valuable stallions which, from their breeding or other qualities, are valued by the owner of the mare, who know well that they are not sound under the Regulations of the Bill, but who yet take the risk and back their own judgment. The object of the Bill is not to prevent owners of mares taking that course; the object is to prevent people who are ignorant of the unsoundness being taken in by a stallion which is travelled on the road or exhibited in market places, and who, for the sake of the low fee, send their mares to that stallion, with disastrous results. I quite agree that the Amendment is consistent with the object of the Bill, namely, the improvement of horse breeding, but I am very much afraid that it would be impossible to carry it through without reasonable and strong opposition from the breeding societies of the country, and I regret that I cannot accept it.


In deference to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, I would ask him whether he would consider extending this Clause and adopting this Amendment not in the words I have actually put down on the Paper, but on the lines of Clause 14, which he has already drawn up in respect of Ireland? I submit that the Amendment is only designed to strengthen the Bill and to bring within its scope all stallions for which a fee is charged for service, and in doing so I think the case has been made out for excluding thoroughbred horses which have undergone a very severe training during the time they have been racing. But there are other horses in addition to the thoroughbred horse which have undergone this severe training and which would not come under the scope of the Bill as it is drawn up at present, and the object of this Amendment is to bring all those stallions within the scope of the measure. Then the Irish Clause, as I have endeavoured to point out, does not meet the difficulty, and I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman, if he cannot accept this Amendment, might be willing to apply Clause 14 and make the provisions of that Clause applicable to Clause 1.


That is rather a new suggestion, but I am afraid that the same objection applies to it as to the original Amendment. It is impossible, I regret to say, for me to accept this widening Clause, because, as I say, it is an agreed Bill in principle, and I feel that I should be going back upon the negotiations I have had with the breeding societies were I to accept it. I may also say that it so enlarges the scope of the Bill that it would be quite impossible to carry it out with the limited funds I have, even if it were possible for me to accept the Amendment. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is such an authority upon horse breeding generally that I am very sorry not to be able to accept it, but I hope he will not press it.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move to leave out the words "or exhibits it at any market or show or in any public place."

This Amendment takes the place of the one I have on the Paper, which is to leave out the words "or in any public place." I think it is an improvement on that. The Amendment which I moved for the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Major Davies) was a widening Amendment. That was done simply for the hon. Member, as I am desirous, not of widening the measure, but of narrowing it, and this is a narrowing Amendment. As the Committee is aware, any owner of a stallion, or anyone having the control of a stallion, is to take out a licence if he travels it for service or exhibits it at any market, and the idea behind my Amendment is that if he travels it for service he should take out a licence, but that he should not be asked to take out a licence under the severe penalty in this Section if he simply exhibits it at any market or show or in any public place. Questions arise on these particular words as to what is exhibiting and what is a public place. Those are two very difficult points, I think, in law to decide, and I think it is unnecessary to impose such a severe penalty on any owner of a stallion who exhibits it in any public place. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to be content with what is really the intention of the whole measure, namely, to insist that owners of stallions, or those who have the control of stallions which are travelled for service, should be asked to take out a licence.


I was not quite sure what the hon. Member had in his mind when he moved the Amendment. I thought that he objected to the words "in any public place," and that he would have been content with my explanation that, if a man travels a stallion and exhibits it for service in any market or show or in any public place, he would allow me to retain the words, if I explained that that covered a road. If a man is travelling an unsound stallion and he travels it along the road up to the market or show, and then draws it back again, and does not come under the penalty, he has nevertheless given an advertisement to the general public that that animal is travelling for service. I shall be very glad, after the explanation of my hon. Friend of his readiness to consider those words, to see whether they are not too wide as they stand, and to bring it up on Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

CLAUSE 2.— (Licensing of Stallions.)

(1) The Board of Agriculture and Fisheries (in this Act referred to as the Board) shall have power to grant, revoke and suspend licences for the purposes of this Act.

(2) The Board shall, on application being made in the prescribed manner, and on compliance with the prescribed conditions as to inspection and examination, grant to the owner of any stallion a licence in the prescribed form in respect of the stallion on payment of such fee (not exceeding one guinea) as may be pre scribed:

Provided that the Board may refuse to grant a licence and may revoke or suspend a licence in respect of a stallion if it appears to the Board that the stallion—

  1. (a) is affected with any contagious or infectious disease;
  2. (b) is affected with any other disease or defect prescribed as a disease or defect rendering the stallion unsuitable for service of mares; or
  3. (c) has proved to be inadequately prolific; or
  4. (d) is calculated if used for stud purposes, to injure the breed of horses.


I beg to move, at end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words: Provided that in the case of a stallion that is not less than eight years old and has been licensed in three successive years (i.e., as a five, six, and seven year old) such licence shall not be revoked or suspended except on account of contagious or infectious disease. This Amendment raises a point of importance. The object of the Bill is to safeguard the owners of mares, but I am sure it is not the intention unnecessarily to harry the owners of stallions. It is stated, quite rightly, that the principle of the Bill is agreed upon by the powerful horse- breeding societies, but a number of these are very strong on getting this Amendment accepted. It was put down after consultation with the officials of the Shire Horse Society and other societies who are interested in the same subject. The principal point that is aimed at by the Amendment is to prevent a horse, after it has gone through an examination for a certain number of years again being examined for wind. Such an examination in the case of a stallion in serving condition is a troublesome and, in some respects, a dangerous operation. The horse is not in a fit condition to be run round the arena, very possibly on rather heavy ground, for a considerable time to give it that thorough examination which the veterinary surgeon so loves to give when testing a horse's wind.

In the first place, it is bad for the horse. It is bringing the horse before the tribunal an unnecessary number of times. If for three successive years his wind has been passed, I do not think it necessary in the interests of breeding to subject him to another test in the fourth successive year. When the horse has reached the age of eight years, after he has been through an examination three times in three successive years, it is reasonable to consider that this is sufficient. The horse ought to be considered safe from wind troubles. It is not only the possible danger to the horse that has to be considered, but also the risk to the owner. That is not only a real risk, but there is considerable feeling of insecurity on the part of many owners of stallions on this particular point, because veterinary opinion of wind is always rather an uncertainty. I have known one man cast a horse for its wind, and another man, equally competent, examine it the next day and say it was one of the soundest winded horse he had ever come across. This does not happen only in exceptional cases. Anyone who has had a good many horses through his hands will bear me out in saying that there is nothing in which veterinary surgeons differ so much as about questions of wind. I am referring specially to horses that are in hunting condition. In the case of a horse that is in a serving condition it is far harder to examine it and arrive at a trustworthy opinion as to whether or not it is sound in wind. Every additional examination means additional risk to the owner of the horse. From that the owners of horses reported by the breeding societies wish to be relieved. They support the Bill as a whole. They think it is a good Bill. But I think I am right in saying that they are unanimously of opinion that some Amendment on these lines ought to be introduced. I hope that the President will give this Amendment his most kind consideration.


This Amendment proposes an age limit for the licensing of stallions. The experience of the Board during the period which has elapsed since voluntary registration shows that stallions develop unsoundness at any age between four and twenty years, and in the last registration year (1916–17) sixty-seven stallions were rejected as unsound which were passed as sound in the previous year. I should like to point out that the breeding societies themselves recognise that a stallion may go unsound at any age. The Shire Horse Society requires that every stallion before it competes for its prize should have a certificate of soundness. If the society think it essential for the purposes of exhibition to have a certificate of soundness, surely they must also think it essential to have the same certificate for breeding purposes. This question of an age limit was considered by the Royal Commission on Horses in 1892, and by the Horse Breeding Advisory Committee in 1911, and by Lord Midleton's Committee in 1915, and in each case the recommendation was opposed to the adoption of any age limit. When I say that in opposition to the general granting of an age limit I do except in my own mind the case of wind. I think wind stands by itself, and I entirely appreciate the hon. And gallant Member's arguments as to the difficulty of the danger of trying a stallion for wind, and also that after a certain period, if the horse has been passed as sound, it is right to except that horse from future examination, but I do not think the way to do that is by a general age limit, but rather by treating that particular disease on particular grounds. If the hon. and gallant Member will turn to the first Clause, he will see the words "having the control of stallions of a prescribed age." The prescribed age means the age prescribed by the Regulations, and it is the intention of the Board in these Regulations to prescribe the age at which examination for wind only may be dispensed with. We intend to examine for all the other elements of unsoundness, whatever age the stallion may be, because we think it necessary, but in the case of wind we do mean that a stallion of the prescribed age, say, eight years, which having been three or four times examined for wind and passed quite sound shall be able to receive a licence. This is not merely a concession, because it has been our meaning throughout. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will accept that explanation of our meaning in lieu of pressing for a general age limit which we could not see our way to concede.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In Sub-section (2), after the word "stallion" ["the stallion on payment of such fee"], insert the words "and also, if so requested, a certified copy thereof."— [Mr. Prothero.]


I beg to move to leave out paragraphs (c) and (d). My right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) who has asked me to move this Amendment, considers these words unnecessarily vague, but it was especially to paragraph (d) that he attached importance. There is, perhaps, something to be said for paragraph (c). If a horse has been serving for a number of years and does not get foals, that may be a very good reason, but my right hon. Friend thinks that paragraph (d) was very vague, and was particularly anxious to have it left out.


On a point of Order. Will it not be necessary, in order to make it read grammatically, to leave out the word "or" at the end of paragraph (b)?


There is no doubt that paragraph (c) must stand. In some cases it is no doubt more the fault of the mare than the stallion, but when a very large proportion of the mares that are served prove barren, there is ground for saying that the stallion is inadequately prolific.

It being Eleven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 13th of February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."


With regard to the Maternity and Child Welfare Bill, is there any intention to take it on the first day we resume after the holidays?

Lord EDMUND TALBOT (Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury)

No, Sir.

Adjourned accordingly at one minute after Eleven o'clock.