HL Deb 09 February 1911 vol 7 cc76-9

LORD ST. DAVIDS rose to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture whether he would consider the alteration of the rule by which no exhibitor at the Show of Thoroughbred Stallions is allowed to enter more than one stallion in any class.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, before putting this Question I should like to say that I realise that His Majesty's Government cannot alter the rule for this year, and that if a change is to be made it can only be made for the exhibition of horses a year hence. In putting the Question I am not in the least intending to cavil at the action of the Government, as this is the first time for many years that a British Government has taken any active step towards helping the important and very necessary industry of horse-breeding,. I recognise that in adopting this rule the Government are following one of the old rules of the Royal Commission on Horse-Breeding, but it seems to me to be a rule which has no sound basis in reason, and I want them to consider whether they cannot abolish it in future. For this rule I have never heard any serious argument advanced, except that without it people might make a business out of hunter stallions. But even if a business could be made out of them, it would he a very good thing. Hunter stallions are largely kept by country gentlemen, including many members of your Lordships' House, for the benefit of their own tenants and the farmers in their immediate neighbourhood. These gentlemen are doing an excellent public work, and why they should be told that this rule must continue for fear somebody may get two premiums I cannot imagine.

After all, the object of this show of thoroughbred stallions is not that the Government may provide an interesting competition among stallion owners; the real object is that farmers and breeders may get hold of the very best horses available in the country, and if one man has two. three, or four of the best horses in England the rules ought to be so framed that that man should be encouraged. At present it is extremely difficult to keep in the country the class of horse that is most wanted. The agents of most of the European countries as well as the Japanese Government are spending large sums of money every year to secure our best horses. It is, therefore, very advisable that we should do every- thing possible. to encourage the owners of the best. horses, and that can only be done by giving premiums to the best animals even if one man happens to possess two, three, or four stallions. This year you have another great advantage inasmuch as His Majesty has given a Champion Cup for this purpose. That will, perhaps, help as much as the additional grant given by the Government to keep good horses in the country, because owners will be induced to enter into competition in order to win the King's Cup as well as the grant. This will undoubtedly tend to encourage people to keep horses above the value for which they can reasonably expect to get a fair return; and it is, I contend, all in favour of the abolition of the rule. I hope the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture will tell us that in another year the rule will be abolished.


My Lords, I intervene in this discussion mainly on the ground that from my youth upwards I have been a great lover of horses, while during the past twenty years I have had much experience in breeding stock. I have seen a letter sent cut by the Board of Agriculture to the various local authorities, and, as far as I can see, the proposals contained in it are of an able and practical kind. I am certain there will be only one desire in the country, and that is to assist the Board in this matter. I noticed two sentences in that letter. The first was that the President was anxious that the gentlemen appointed on the local committees should be intimately acquainted with the industry of horse-breeding; and the other, that it was all-important that the gentlemen appointed should possess practical experience and be closely identified with the industry. I cordially agree with those remarks and I would suggest that as these stallions are thoroughbred and of very great value, there should he at least one gentleman on each committee who has a thorough knowledge of thoroughbred stock and has studied the Stud Book. I am afraid the British public do not really understand the value of the animals embraced in the Stud Book, and are unaware very often that the Stud Book is quite different from the Herd Book. In the latter cattle can be entered after certain crosses have been obtained, but no animals can be entered in the Stud Book unless their origin can be traced to the original mares.

When gentlemen are coming from all foreign countries to buy our best blood we ought to take care to preserve, as far as we can, the best character of thoroughbreds. I have had some experience of the damage sometimes done by the expenditure of money given by the Government with the best intentions for promoting the breeding of horses. Fifteen years ago I sat on a Commission appointed by a former Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Cadogan, to inquire into Horse-breeding in Ireland, and we found that the Government had spent money on an animal known as the Hackney stallion, an animal of which I never approved. If that system of encouraging the Hackney stallion in the hunter-breeding districts had been continued, I believe that fine breed of hunters for which Ireland has always been remarkable would have very greatly deteriorated. There exists a magnificent breed of hunter brood mares got by thoroughbred stallions, and the produce of those animals, when mated with thoroughbred sires, used to fetch very large prices. If they had been mated wit h the perhaps rather taking Hackney stallion, the breed which has done so much good for the breeder in Ireland would have come to an end. Thus with the best intentions the Government might spend money on animals which were no good at all, and therefore they should be assisted by gentlemen with practical knowledge. I would urge on the noble Earl the absolute necessity of appointing on the committees gentlemen acquainted with the breeding and rearing of thoroughbred stallions.


My Lords, I hope I may be permitted, before I answer the Question, to offer my best thanks to the noble Marquess for the generous words he has used in reference to the efforts of the Board to do something, at any rate, to promote the improved breeding of horses. The noble Marquess's words, which I hope will be well reported, will, no doubt, have great effect with the Advisory Council who have so kindly consented to help the Government. I understand the noble Marquess to mean that on the county committees gentlemen well acquainted with the breeding of racehorses should be appointed and that that should be left to the Lords Lieutenant who have kindly consented to form the committees. No doubt that suggestion will be warmly appreciated and acted upon.


I think it is the Chairman of the County Council who has to form the committee. I should be quite content with Lord Durham in my County.


The Duke of Richmond told me that he was taking a great interest in his county committee and that led me into the mistake. As regards the Question on the Paper, I can only remind my noble friend that the Government have only been five weeks in office, as it were, since their new departure, and, therefore, I hope he will excuse me for not having laid clown any very hard-and-fast rules on any subject yet. It is quite true that it is impossible to do anything this year, but the Advisory Council met yesterday under the presidency of Lord Middleton, when I know this question was discussed; and it will be gone into again most thoroughly. I do not like to give my own opinion on the subject, though I have one, as it is left entirely to the discretion of the Advisory Council; but I am not without hope that the wish expressed by my noble friend will before this day twelve months be practically carried into effect.

House adjourned at five minutes before Five o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.