HC Deb 08 May 1964 vol 694 cc1622-39

Amendment made: In page 5, line 45, leave out "last".—[Sir J. Lucas.]

Sir J. Lucas

I beg to move, in page 6, line 10, leave out "or a London borough" and insert: the council of a London borough or the Common Council of the City of London". The Amendment is put forward because the City Remembrancer of the City of London was anxious that his rights should be protected. He pointed out that it was extremely unlikely that there would be a riding establishment in the City of London, but that just in case there should happen to be one he would like to have the power to operate.

Amendment agreed to.

12.3 p.m.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Mr. Kimball

I should like to take this opportunity, particularly as we did not have a Second Reading debate on the Bill, of congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South (Sir J. Lucas) on introducing the Bill and using his place in the Ballot so wisely. I think that all of us in the House know the strong attachment of my hon. Friend to hounds and particularly to his terriers. All of us who are interested in dogs appreciate what he has done for the breed of Sealyhams.

My hon. Friend has introduced an important and major Measure for horses. I could not help recalling the famous sporting lecture by Mr. Jorrocks in which he reminded everybody that: The 'oss loves the 'hound, and I loves both. This is an appropriate quotation for my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South.

The Bill which my hon. Friend has successfully got through the House was promoted, or the groundwork was done, by the British Horse Society, the Horses and Ponies Protection Association, the International League for the Protection of Horses, the Ponies of Great Britain, the Association of British Riding Schools and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. My hon. Friend has succeeded in banding all this group of people together. The remarkable thing about the Bill is that all the people who are interested in horses have voluntarily agreed to put upon the Statute Book a Bill which controls their activities.

It may be of interest to the House to know of the large number of people who are now interested in riding and who derive recreation from horses. In 1939, there were only 7,000 members of the Pony Club, whereas the latest membership figures, for 1963, give a total of 30,000 members. There are about 2,000 riding establishments and about 20,000 animals, and we estimate that there are about 100,000 people who every week take some form of exercise and recreation on horses.

The House is probably aware that a survey was carried out by various people on existing riding establishments. This survey had no statutory authority, and it was carried out mostly by Colonel Boultbee who gave a great deal of time to carrying out a voluntary survey of these 2,000 riding establishments. The result of that survey, which was published by the Horses and Ponies Protection Association, was shattering. Of all the riding establishments visited, those which were conducted properly and kept up to a reasonably high standard amounted to only 30 per cent. Those which came into grade 2, which could be said to have a reasonable standard of horse management and reasonable facilities for instruction, amounted to 40 per cent. Those in grade 3—and this is the point at which the Bill is aimed—amounted to 30 per cent.; these were establishments in which the horses were neglected and kept in a poor condition. If we remember that there are 20,000 horses in riding establishments, it means that 7,000 horses in England and Wales today are kept in poor and neglected condition. This is what the Bill aims to put right.

The House may well ask why the 1939 Act did not achieve this objective. Why, after the passage of that Act, are there still 7,000 neglected horses and many bad riding establishments? The trouble is that the 1939 Act was purely permissive and did not compel local authorities to take action. There was no licensing. Nobody knew where the riding establishments were; it was impossible for the police to inspect them or for anyone else to inspect them because they had no knowledge of their existence. That is why the licensing and registration in this Bill are so important. The hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) spoke of local authorities operating this Act. One-third of the local authorities did not even bother to operate the 1939 Act; they took no notice of it at all and never carried out any inspections.

The House may well ask what will be the immediate effect of this Bill. I hope that, as opposed to the failure of the 1939 Act, the immediate effect of this Bill will be to deal with the kind of case which has been brought forward and which the R.S.P.C.A. feels, quite rightly, that it has no power to deal with under the last Act and under the Cruelty to Animals Act. I should like to quote a case brought forward by the Horses and Ponies Protection Association only the other day. It is of a riding school in North Wales—some very indifferent stables and a few bare stale fields. The person concerned has quite a number of horses and ponies. They are hired out to holiday people and galloped up and down the shore all day. In between rides they are tied to a rail with tack still on and no water or food, in an open field, with no shelter from sun or wind. Some look very poor in condition and all look tired and overworked. There is no one qualified to teach and no knowledge behind the place. The man has been there many years. One horse dropped dead in the road from starvation and overwork. But nobody has been able to do anything about this case.

This was the sort of case which was not caught before but which will be caught by the Bill, and that is one reason why I welcome the Bill. But I hope that there is no feeling among hon. Members that it is purely designed to catch the keeper of a bad riding establishment. That is not the real purpose. We all regret such cases, and we hope that as a result of the Bill the problem will be dealt with, but the real purpose of the Bill is educational and to enforce the proper management of horses and riding establishments, and to give a little teeth and bite to the law. The very fact of putting the Bill on the Statute Book will mean that people who intend to keep riding establishments will have to learn about the proper management of horses.

We have to face the fact—it is very sad—that no longer have we any cavalry regiments and no longer have we any proper yeomanry camps. Up to the war the standard of horse management taught by the British Army was very important in this country. It meant that many people who had an interest in horses went to yeomanry camps or joined the Army and at some point had proper instruction in how to look after and manage their horses. That is no longer the case. We are taught how to look after tanks but not after horses.

Another important point is that the Bill will reinforce the part played by the Pony Club. The House ought to pay tribute to the enormous amount of elementary instruction which goes on throughout the country, not only in the hunting counties but in every part of the United Kingdom, by the Pony Club, increasing the general interest of people in horses and their knowledge of how to manage them. The manual on horse management and stable management published by the Pony Club is the bible of everyone interested in horses, and if only the standards laid down in that manual are maintained, all horses in this country will be properly looked after. The Bill is based on enforcing the basic requirements laid down in the Pony Club's manual.

It would be wrong if the House did not recognise the enormous growth which there has been in the amount of horse riding and in the demand by people to have horses, to have the use and facilities of the countryside and to see the countryside from a horse. The only point perhaps on which we have fallen down in the Bill is that we have not tackled the problem of a warranty for a horse. When a man sells a horse and says that it is sound in wind and limb, there ought to be some warranty. We ought to have tried to put this in the Bill, and I hope that it will be put in some other Bill shortly, so that we deal with the problem of ensuring that people do not sell unsound horses, and do not doctor up lame horses to sell them to someone who subsequently finds that they are lame and in poor condition and that he is unable to sell them again. It is essential that this problem is tackled.

I conclude by quoting once again Mr. Jorrocks, who himself was instructed 100 years ago by another famous sporting writer, Mr. Johnny Lawrence, who asked Who shall counsel a man in the choice of a wife or an 'oss? I hope that the House will shortly face up to the fact that it ought to issue proper guarantees and counsel to people on the subject of a warranty certifying whether a horse is sound. With that slight reservation I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South on having put a very valuable Measure on to the Statute Book.

12.14 p.m.

Mr. Howie

I, too, should like to join in the congratulations which have been offered to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Sir J. Lucas), whose borough took another great step forward yesterday. I congratulate him on that, too.

I do not know a great deal about horses, but I have no animus against them or against their riders, and I am glad to have been able to take a part in the discussions on the Bill, especially since we have improved it substantially today. I am very pleased about that. I notice that in one of the Clauses which we amended today there were references to equipment and harness not causing suffering to the animal or accident to the rider. It struck me that we left out the important matter of the equipment not causing suffering to the rider, which occasionally happens to people with little experience.

Nevertheless, in spite of this suffering, many people seem to enjoy horseback riding nowadays. The street in which I live is enlivened most Sundays by a cavalcade or convoy, whatever is the proper word, of riders making their way to Hampstead Heath for their morning or afternoon exercise. This means that children run the risk of being run over by motor cars from Monday to Saturday and by horses on Sunday. It has its compensations, because my roses benefit in a small way.

Reference has been made to the weakness in the 1939 Act. It is important to realise that in this kind of Measure the weakness is not so much in legislation as in men. To my mind this is the kind of Act which should not be necessary. In a reasonably civilised country people who make their living out of animals should treat them properly. There would then be no need for legislation to oblige them to do so. But we have to face facts as they are and to realise that people do not always behave towards animals in the way in which they should. Sometimes these men are driven, as the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) said, to try to obtain the last pound of flesh out of a horse in order to make a profit. This is an evil of private enterprise, and I am glad to join other hon. Members in regulating it. I congratulate the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South on his Bill.

12.17 p.m.

Mr. Roots

The House welcomes the Bill wholeheartedly—a welcome which can only have been increased by the vigorous and enthusiastic speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball), who clearly has this subject very near his heart and who has expressed the feelings of many of us perhaps better than we could have expressed them ourselves. If, therefore, I add one or two points in support of his remarks, I hope that I shall not be thought presumptuous.

He referred to the importance of ensuring a proper standard in riding establishments. One further point justifies the interference by the law with these establishments, and it is that if we eliminate the bad establishments we indirectly, but in a very important fashion, benefit the good establishments. There are many cases in which people quite bona fide manage to acquire two ponies at low price—or perhaps they are left to them by a relative. Immediately they think that it would be a good thing to set up a riding establishment, although they are quite unqualified to do so. In order to get clients they charge a price which is wholly uneconomic. They last only for a year or two, but they impinge in an important way on those who recognise that they must keep a proper standard. The elimination of the establishments which are well below standard will in itself do an immense amount of good to riding establishments as a whole.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will give us an assurance on the next point. Do the Home Office issue, in the way in which the Ministry of Housing and Local Government do, circulars in respect of Acts of Parliament recently passed? If so, I hope that it will be stressed that, particularly in the initial stages, the success of the Act will depend on a reasonable and sensible administration by local authorities. It is essential that common sense is allowed to creep in. May I give an example of what could occur? I refer hon. Members to Clause 1(3,b) in which one of the matters to be considered in determining whether to grant a licence is that in the cases of horses maintained at grass there will be maintained for them at all times during which they are so maintained adequate pasture and shelter. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough will be the first to concede that if one read that strictly according to the law, a shelter would mean some form of hut.

Dr. Alan Glyn

A tree.

Mr. Roots

A quite adequate and proper method of keeping horses at grass, even during the winter, is to use equipment known as the New Zealand rug. I will not venture to speculate on the question whether our courts would or would not hold that a New Zealand rug was a shelter. The plain commonsense answer is that it would be ridiculous for a local authority to bring proceedings in such an event. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will say a word or two emphasising the importance of common sense in the administration of this sort of legislation.

Subject to those remarks, I agree with all that my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough has said. I could not have said it better. I support the Bill.

12.21 p.m.

Mr. Greenwood

Usually, problems of animal welfare do not involve party differences in the House, and it is therefore right that I should join my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Howie), in association with the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) and the hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots), in paying a very warm tribute to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Sir J. Lucas).

Over the last 18 years the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South and I have been associated in a number of matters of this kind, and it is only right to say that during that period I have developed a quite unbounded admiration—indeed, respect—for the work that he has done in animal welfare. Throughout the time that I have been a Member he has shown an unflagging interest in the welfare of animals. If I have had one disappointment it has been that I have not yet succeeded in persuading him of the need to extend further protection to wild animals in the way that we have done for domestic animals. However, I still live in hope.

This is a good and workmanlike Bill, filling a gap in existing legislation, and it is heartening to know that it has been welcomed by the proprietors of riding establisments. The hon. Member for Gainsborough listed a number of organisations which have sponsored the Bill, but I do not think that the R.S.P.C.A. was among them. It is therefore right for me to say that it joins in the general welcome that has been extended to the Measure.

The Society asked its inspectors for reports on riding establishments in October, and two of the reports submitted are specially relevant. One came from Inspector No. 19 and was dated 12th October. It referred to the case of a girl aged 15 having 14 ponies at her establishment at that time, although she herself was attending school. The inspector commented on her lack of competence in looking after the establishment, and on the fact that she was not able to give it the time that was required. Two days later Inspector No. 135 referred to a riding establishment by saying: Condition of animals very poor. Stables awful. Feeding and general management very bad. Animals in the hands of inexperienced people. These two reports illustrate in very graphic form the real need for amending legislation of this kind.

On behalf of the Opposition, I wish to thank the hon. Member for Portsmouth. South for introducing the Bill, and I also thank the Home Office for the help that it has given in drafting the Amendments.

12.25 p.m.

Mr. Leavey

I join with other hon. Members in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South (Sir J. Lucas) on his success in getting the Measure to this stage. I hope that it will reach the Statute Book with the support of the whole House.

I am not always ready to accept the need for a further extension of the licensing of human activities, but I am sure that this Measure meets a general need. I was very glad to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) had to say. There has been a particular need for this Measure in those parts of the country which are well known to the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) and to me, who have the honour to represent constituencies in industrial Lancashire. In the past few years we have had our attention drawn to a number of quite appalling cases of inexperienced people setting themselves up in what have euphemistically been called riding schools but what have been an abuse of the word "schools', in that in no sense have they taught anybody anything except very bad habits and very low standards.

In a typically British fashion, I want to refer to the benefit which the Bill may bestow, first, upon animals and, secondly, upon humans. I am confident that there will be fewer cases of neglect and cruelty as a result of the requirements written into this legislation. That fact will be welcomed by all. I am glad that the hon. Member for Rossendale made the point—it having been inadvertently omitted by my hon. Friend—that the Bill has the support of the R.S.P.C.A.

The benefits which will come to those who are beginning to take an interest in riding ought not to be overlooked. I stress that because in those parts of the country which are ordinarily described as industrial areas there is an even greater need for the amenities provided by riding, which have hitherto been more usually associated with the rural parts of the country. Hitherto these opportunities have been limited in industrial areas, and in a number of cases the provision of more reasonable opportunities for riding have been associated with very unsatisfactory conditions. The fact, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough, that about 30 per cent. of the establishments inspected were very much below standard, gives substance to that observation.

The hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) referred to the development of riding in the area in which he lives. I hope that the time will come when his children may also have the pleasures and benefits of taking part in riding as a recreation and exercise. From now on I hope that he will adopt a more agreeable attitude towards policemen and horses, and that he will invariably

find himself on the side of the law and have no need to regard it with any apprehension—he will, of course, not take my remarks too seriously—since he was apparently very apprehensive in his last contact with police officers and police horses.

I know that other hon. Members wish to express their support for the Bill, and I therefore conclude by congratulating my hon. Friend and saying how much I hope that the Bill will do what is expected of it when it reaches the Statute Book.

12.29 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South (Sir J. Lucas) upon introducing a Measure which will greatly benefit the horse world. It is also appropriate to pay tribute to the British Horse Society, which has contributed enormously not only in the detailed work but towards the general principles lying behind the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) has said that 100,000 people are now taking part in some sort of equitation. In the circumstances there may be good reason to believe that the attitude of the community towards horses may have altered.

Before the war great numbers of horses were used by commercial institutions. We have only to cast our minds back to remember the milk floats, and the number of horses that were used by coal merchants and even by the railways, to realise that a considerable amount of knowledge of horses existed in this country at that time. For instance, if a totter's cart was going along the road and the horse was lame, it would not have gone a couple of hundred yards before someone also used to horses would have drawn the attention of the owner or the police to the fact that the animal was lame.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough has said, the amount of training in horses is now extremely limited. When I was a young officer, there were four horse regiments and 13 yeomanry regiments, which meant that every person who passed through those units was trained to a very high standard, not only in riding, but in the management of horses. People who left those units to become grooms or owners of riding establishments did so with considerable knowledge based on the training of many years, or at least on a great deal of training during camps. In addition to those units, there were also units such as the R.A. and horse transport units where training in the management of horses was given, and horses were also used in industry and commerce.

Not only the present lack of knowledge, but the increase in the desire to take up this form of recreation may have given rise to the low standards which have been mentioned by so many hon. Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough said that the Bill was necessary because the 1939 legislation was permissive. It was not operated by many local authorities. I will not weary the House with details, but I have a list of many local authorities which entirely failed to operate the 1939 Act. Others failed to do anything about it even though they knew that it existed. In one instance there were 13 riding establishments in an area and yet no action was taken to ensure that they were properly run.

We have to consider the benefits of the Bill which will accrue not only to the horses, but to the riders themselves. The hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) spoke about the standard of riding schools throughout the country. I have some examples—he may have some of the same and I hope that I shall not be repetitive if I cite a few. A small farmer on the outskirts of an industrial town had eight horses and ponies of which all, except one of recent acquisition, were in an appalling state of neglect. It is alarming that in the 20th century establishments like that should be allowed to continue without any control. The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) spoke of the girl of 15 who was running a school in a field without stables or buildings. The horses were saddled by people with no experience; the bits were ill fitting, with the result that the mouth of a horse was cut almost immediately the rider mounted. About 30 per cent. of the riding schools have been run in a way which can be described only as deplorable.

The Bill closes almost all the present loopholes. The disqualifications suggested in Clause 1 are reasonable and will eliminate those people who have shown themselves to be undesirable persons to run such establishments, even though they may have experience of horses. These are the people who are not the type to look after animals and from whom licences should be withheld.

I am extremely glad that we have had an assurance that the question of the licensing fees will be reconsidered. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots) has said, we have to balance the cost which local authorities and ratepayers should bear against these which the establishment should bear, and at the same time not depart from our general principles.

Clause 1(3) seems to cover every aspect of the quality of premises, including matters such as ventilation. It covers many of the matters which we have in mind, such as ill-fitting saddles which give the horses sore backs. In this respect the rôle of the veterinary officer will be very important, because he will be the person qualified to see that the activities of the establishment are carried out in a proper manner.

The establishments will be inspected before a licence is granted and afterwards and will thus cover the three categories of those who wish to have a licence, those who should have a licence, and those who are licensed. This, combined with the compulsory provisions, will close many of the loopholes of the 1939 Act. Many hon. Members were worried in Committee about such things as over-riding and ill-fitting saddlery. I am satisfied that the sort of over-riding which we have known so frequently with ignorant owners of riding stables, where the horses are sent out again and again until they are hardly able to stand, will be covered.

It is only right and proper that the Bill should contain provisions for the right of appeal of a person who is refused a licence. No one will take exception to that. Nor will there be objection to the exceptions in Clause 6.

I agree with what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South has said about Clause 7. In the transitional stage, there will be difficulties for people who are running riding establishments in a way which is not ideal, but they must be given time to put their own houses in order. We cannot just rush in like a bull in a china shop. I hope that the authorities who have to administer the Bill will do so reasonably and in the course of their inspections will offer advice on how establishments ought to be run. If that is the attitude, it will be of great benefit to the riding establishments.

It is too little appreciated that the costs of maintaining horses are very high and that a riding establishment which exists for one year against cutthroat competition is quite uneconomic. If the horses are to be properly trained and so on and if the riders are to be properly trained, money will have to be spent not only on fodder and so on, but on finding experienced people to look after the horses.

I hope that we shall see a very considerable increase in the standards which exist in riding establishments. I feel that our whole attitude towards horse riding is changing. Many people are finding that this is not perhaps what was regarded as a sport restricted to rather rich people. It is now becoming a sport which is enjoyed by an enormous number of people. Therefore, as time goes on, particularly in the municipal areas, I think that we shall find an increase in the number of people who want to hire out horses and that the number of establishments will steadily increase. Because many of these establishments will be on the outskirts of urban areas, where perhaps knowledge of animals is not as great as it is in country districts, it is particularly important that we should have this Bill, so that when new establishments are set up the circumstances and conditions are satisfactory for the animals.

By this Bill we are doing a service to the community. Many people go to a riding establishment and are put on a horse, without any sort of tuition, and then they wonder why horses bolt. There should be very much more careful supervision. I cannot over-emphasise the importance of this in connection with those establishments run in the vicinity of municipal areas. It is all very well to have a horse run away with one on the hunting field, but it is another thing when one is run away with somewhere near the M1. I hope that all those concerned with the horse world will appreciate what my hon. Friend has done in this Bill and will combine in ensuring that the horses are properly turned out, trained, fit, and properly looked after.

In conclude by congratulating my hon. Friend and also those Members opposite who were on the Committee for their co-operation, and I hope that the Bill will be on the Statute Book at an early date.

12.43 p.m.

Sir J. Lucas

I should like to say a word or two of thanks. First, I should like to thank the Minister very much. I have been in the House for 24 years and I have never drawn a horse before in the ballot stakes. I am very grateful to Colonel Ansell of the British Horse Society, who rang me up as soon as he knew and asked me to have a shot at this Bill.

I want particularly to thank the Minister because, as I was green even after all those years, he was able to put me right a number of times. I am sorry that I had to give him so much trouble. I should also like to thank all the Members of the Committee on both sides, and my hon. Friends who have spoken today.

The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) gave me a tremendous puff about my little dogs, but he rather implied that I had never been on a horse. As a matter of fact, I was a cavalry cadet at Sandhurst before he was born, and I went out as the galloper to the 22nd Brigade in 1914. I know that Indians sometimes say they are "Failed B.A.", but I can say that I am a failed steeplechaser. I should like to thank everyone very much, and, of course, the backroom boys of the societies, who all helped in every way they could.

12.45 p.m.

Mr. Woodhouse

It is a little paradoxical that we have spent a good deal longer on Report and Third Reading of this Bill than we did on the Second Reading, and in Committee. Because the Bill went through Second Reading without debate, I did not have an opportunity to declare my own personal interest, but I feel that I should now put on the record that 20 years ago I not only ran a riding establishment but had under my control the only horse cavalry unit in the Middle East Command. The squadron was commanded by an American, manned by Greeks, mounted on horses captured from the Italians.

I think that we conformed to all the standards laid down in this Bill, and I would not have felt any anxiety from the local authorities. Personally, I preferred to ride on mule rather than horseback. Perhaps the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) might take a tip from me that for physiological reasons, which I shall not elaborate, a mule is much safer than a horse because it is less likely to fall over a precipice.

There is another reason why I should like to say a brief word on this Bill. It will make quite a serious difference to the livelihood of many people, and in a way which I hope, like other Members, will be wholly beneficial. The 1939 Act already gives local authorities fairly wide powers in relation to riding establishments, but there is, I know, a feeling which has been voiced by many hon. Members that the 1939 Act has not proved effective for its purpose.

This Bill has been inspired by a recent report of, among other things, the results of an extensive survey of riding establishments conducted by a horse expert. I am naturally not in a position, since this was a private enterprise, either to confirm or to refute the allegations which were made in that report, but I can say that I have no reason whatever to doubt its accuracy. I agree very much with the hon. Member for Luton that it ought to be unnecessary to pass this kind of of legislation, but from what we have heard today from, among others, the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) quoting the R.S.P.C.A., the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) and, indeed, from almost every hon. Member who has spoken, it does not seem that one can look at the situation with quiescence.

There are no statistics available to me of the number of prosecutions that have been brought under the 1939 Act, but I have no knowledge of any and it seems unlikely that there have been many convictions, if, indeed, any, under that Act. One of two conclusions might be drawn from those facts: either the standard maintained by riding establishments is so satisfactory that no prosecutions were necessary—and I have very little doubt, in view of what we have heard in the House today, that in respect at any rate of a proportion of riding schools one cannot accept that conclusion—or, for one reason or another, the 1939 Act has proved to be ineffective. That, of course, is the reason the present Bill has been put before the House.

The provisions of the Bill closely follow the provisions of the Pet Animals Act, 1951, and the Animal Boarding Establishments Act, 1963. The former has not given rise to any difficulties of administration, and there is equally no reason to believe that the latter which has only just come into operation, or this Bill, if it becomes law, will not work smoothly and effectively; so to that extent I think we can be optimistic.

The House will, however, appreciate that the Bill, if it is passed, will mean that riding establishment proprietors will be placed under fairly onerous obligations instead of being free to continue in business subject only to the general law and to occasional inspection at the discretion of the local authority. They will not be able to do so in future except by permission of the local authority, and only under conditions the fulfilment of which may involve a great deal of trouble and expense to the licence holder.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) mentioned the expense of maintaining a riding establishment. This expense is likely to be increased in many cases as a result of the Bill, but I hope that all the points to which he referred both in Committee and today will be met by the Bill. As my hon. Friend knows, I am not in a position to give an assurance about interpretations which a court may place on legislation, but, so far as I can read the Bill, I think that all the anxieties which have been expressed by my hon. Friend and by other hon. Members will be met by it.

This Measure entails a necessary loss of freedom on the part of those operating such establishments, but one must weigh this loss against the fact that unsatisfactory conditions undoubtedly exist in a number of the less reputable riding establishments. This, I think, may well lead the House to the conclusion that the restrictions which the Bill will place on proprietors are justified to ensure that horses are humanely cared for.

As has been pointed out, it is important to bear in mind that this legislation has been supported, if not initiated, by the main organisations of users and breeders of horses in this country. It is to that extent, therefore, to be regarded as a Measure of self-discipline, rather than as a Measure which is being imposed on an unwilling body of proprietors.

If the House decides—and I have no doubt that it will—to give this Measure a Third Reading, I shall certainly consider at a later stage, after it has been through another place, the points made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots) about the possibility of giving advice to local authorities, and a similar point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham about the transitional provisions in Clause 7.

I also gladly undertake that the Government will continue to co-operate in the further examination to which the Bill will be subjected in another place, although, following the careful and thorough-going amendment which it has undergone both in Committee and today, it appears to be already an effective and workable Bill.

All that remains for me to do is to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South (Sir J. Lucas) on his initiative in bringing the Bill before the House, and to wish him and the sponsors of it luck in the further stages.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.