HL Deb 09 March 1909 vol 1 cc367-70

My Lords, I rise to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture whether His Majesty's Government intend to carry out the scheme for the encouragement of horse-breeding which was outlined in this House on July 6 last, and, if so, whether he can give any approximate date when the scheme may be expected to be put into operation.


Before the noble Earl replies, I would like to suggest that the Government should consider whether the money at present given for premiums on thoroughbred stallions could not be spent in a more advantageous manner. This afternoon I had the pleasure of participating to some slight extent in the money so given, but, in spite of that, I suggest to the noble Lord that the money might be spent in a different manner. I am quite sure that His Majesty's Government are fully alive to the necessity of doing something as speedily as possible to prevent mares going out of the country at the present very alarming rate. We have here the finest country in the world for breeding horses, and we have produced, and are producing, the finest breed of horses in the world. If the £4,000 given by way of premiums on thoroughbred hunter sires were spent by the Government in buying a certain number of mares and stallions each year, in a certain number of years you would have the nucleus of a considerable breeding establishment. It has been objected to this that supposing you had bought a certain number of mares you would not know what to do with them or who would take charge of them. In the part of the country I come from we have started a system which, I believe, will be very successful, and which is no doubt highly acceptable to the farmers. It is that when a hunter mare has to be disposed of, either through being incurably lame or being too old to hunt, that mare is then leased to a tenant farmer at a nominal rent of 5s. a year or something of that sort, the owner retaining to himself the right to inspect the animal whenever he thinks proper, and to take her back if she is not being properly done by. A further condition I have made with regard to many mares I have treated in this way is that the mare shall be mated with a thoroughbred hunter sire or premium horse every year and shown with the produce at a local show. I also have a call on the three-year-old, the four-year-old, and the five-year-old, whichever I think proper, at a certain price, but not an excessive price, the farmer having the right to dispose of the foal, the yearling, or the two-year-old if he is able and willing to do so. This system I recommend with very great respect to the consideration of the noble Earl. If the Government were to start something of the kind, I feel sure it would be very acceptable in hunting districts.


My Lords, I hope the House will forgive me if I do not go into the question raised by Lord Willoughby de Broke. We had a long debate on the subject in July last on the Motion of Lord Donoughmore, and I then tried to explain the scheme we had in view on this subject. The scheme has been approved of and passed by the Army Council, but if the noble Lord will be kind enough to allow me to talk over the matter with him possibly we might amplify the scheme by the adoption of some practical suggestions from him. Perhaps I may be permitted to say exactly how the matter stands at the present moment. The Board of Agriculture are trying to get a census of all horses in the agricultural districts; we can do nothing in the towns, having no machinery. We sent out 300,000 forms early this year, and for the first time, I believe, we shall be able to have a reliable estimate of the number and classes of horses in the country. Acting on the suggestion of Lord Ribblesdale, we have columns in the new return for hunters and other horses in private stables. We have also sent out 300,000 pamphlets with pictures of the different kinds of horses requisite for the various branches of the service. Mr. Haldane, in his speech in another place last week, said there were enough horses in the country to mobilise the Army at the present time. That is so; but it is not so much the present as the future that we have to look to; and I can assure the House that we have no intention of shirking that duty. In conjunction with the Secretary of State for War I hope it may be possible soon to launch our scheme to promote the improvement of horse-breeding, not only for military, but for agricultural purposes. But, of course, we are handicapped in the matter of money. We can only move when our financial position admits of it. I can assure the House that nothing on my part will be left undone to try and bring the matter to some satisfactory conclusion.


Am I to understand that nothing will be done to encourage the breeding of horses? The noble Earl has told your Lordships about taking a census, but that will do little or nothing in the direction of encouraging horse-breeding. Are we to understand that there is no hope of the scheme as outlined by the noble Earl being carried out this year?


It is a matter entirely for the Treasury. We have everything ready, and the moment the money is voted the scheme will be put in hand.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Four o'clock.