HL Deb 10 May 1962 vol 240 cc347-409

3.38 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, as some noble Lords have just returned from another place, may I repeat what I have just said? In moving the Second reading of this Bill, I want to assure your Lordships that I have no intention of committing you to the prohibition of professional boxing. In the event of my securing your support for a Second Reading, I propose to ask your Lordships to allow a Select Committee to examine every aspect of the business. Therefore, after the Second Reading, if that is agreed, I will move that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.

My Lords, over a number of years in another place, in speeches outside this House, and in a book that I wrote on this subject, I have sought to focus attention on the social problems which must arise from public exhibitions which glamorise violence—I put it as broadly as that. I have also emphasised the physical damage which is sustained by young boxers ignorant of the hazards of a business conducted by men primarily interested in the financial aspects and considerations. Although I am well aware that many people have misgivings about this business—and I emphasise that it is a business—it is only when world attention is focused on a tragedy such as occurred recently in a title fight in New York that people are moved to denounce professional boxing. The public outcry in the United States was very great, and in consequence a New York State Committee of seven members was appointed last month to investigate boxing. The Committee is made up of members of the State Assembly and Senate and is to report in 1963 to the Legislature, who will then decide whether boxing should be banned in New York State or whether the State boxing rules should be tightened. I come to your Lordships' House this afternoon to ask that a similiar investigation should be made in this country.

I feel convinced that the attitude of the public is hardening against this so-called sport. For many years the audience was a limited one, and no social problem arose; but now the influence of newspapers, the radio and television makes almost every inhabitant of this country a member of the boxing audience. Undoubtedly the advance of scientific knowledge, which has revealed the effect on the brain of repeated blows to the head, has impressed thinking people. Undoubtedly the advance of medical science has stimulated more thought on these matters, not only among experts but also by the ordinary public. Furthermore, the sight of a human being seeking to punch another unconscious becomes repugnant to people who during the last half-century have raised their standard of living and achieved a vastly improved code of behaviour.

I would remind your Lordships that cock-fighting and bear-baiting were prohibited not only because of the cruelty involved but also because of the degrading and brutalising effect upon the spectators. Furthermore, the motive of the fight commentator who retails in great detail the wounds inflicted and the amount of blood drawn is to give colour, zest and a sadistic thrill to the whole performance. Can all this be reconciled with the British people's approach to sport? Surely a civilised community should discourage any activity which tends to debase and brutalise. Every week there are displays brought by the television right into the living rooms of the people, where youngsters see violence glamorised and apparently given official sanction. Our prisons, our reformatories, our remand homes, are filled to overflowing, many prisoners living three in a cell. How can we justify sanctioning fights which will arouse the basest instincts?

In the past, boxing has been called the noble art. But in the light of the advice by experts, can anyone talk of the "noble art" without having his tongue in his cheek? The advice of experts is to "let him have it hard on the point of the jaw" in order to render the opponent insensible. This advice is medically accurate, because unconsciousness, and sometimes death, supervenes more quickly after this particular blow than after any other. Then the advice is to hit the groggy man quickly on the body. This is based on the fact that the first blow has injured his brain and befuddled him. In consequence of the body blow his hands, which should be protecting his head, quickly go down to defend his body. Then is the time, apparently, to give the already slightly damaged brain another blow in order to concuss it and induce complete unconsciousness. This is the sequence of events in the fights which you see on your television screens—one was shown on your screens on Monday—and this is the advice of the experts. How can this be called the noble art?

When this so-called sport is analysed, even its devotees must feel a little dubious about these rules, which, we are told, ensure the high standards of sport which are observed in the boxing world. I contend that professional boxing is a business, in which contracts are exchanged and huge sums of money made by promoters and managers out of the spectacle of two men trying to injure each other. I would ask your Lordships to recall the case only this week when a jury was told by a former boxing champion, Bobby Neill, that while in the year 1956–57 his earnings were £4,000, after paying his manager and other fees he had only £470.

Again the business nature of professional boxing was emphasised by a young man called Billy Walker, who is about to enter the professional field after 33 amateur bouts. He is called the "Blond Bomber from West Ham". To these boys it is all part of the business. If you are young and inexperienced in the world, it helps your ego immensely to be called the "Blond Bomber from West Ham". On March 26 of this year the Herald reported an interview with Billy Walker just before he entered the professional world. He said: I'm no longer a sportsman. How can you call professional boxing a sport, with all the villains and rogues who are part and parcel of the game? It's a business. A hard business all the time, a cruel business some of the time. I've no illusions about the noble art of self-defence or any of that kid stuff. That's all right for the amateurs. But from now I'm paid to hurt. The more I hurt, the more I'm paid. And Billy goes into this new life. We shall watch his progress and see just how long Billy is in this professional world.

The defenders of boxing include one or two people who maintain good bank balances and boast of the material success that boxing has brought them. But this small minority are chiefly those who have taken good advice and left the business before they suffered permanent injury. Gene Tunney is often quoted. I have read Gene Tunney's memoirs, and he says: After being unconscious for two days, I decided to get out while I still retained my sanity. Gene Tunney was a wise man. We are also told that the fine qualities of pluck, endurance and restraint are implanted in the boxing ring. If that is so, why do we not see boxing promoters putting their young sons in the ring for, say, 30 or 40 fights, just to toughen them up and strengthen their moral fibre, so that they can face life as better and finer men? Those of us who have seen and heard a boxing match, even on the screen, must ask ourselves: do the screaming crowd round a boxing ring display these fine qualities?

It is very encouraging to find sports commentators criticising the business. May I quote a few, so that your Lordships will not think that these are my views solely and that people who work in the business and who are close to it hold entirely different views? Paul Galico was a famous sports writer who in fourteen years covered 6,000 fights. He writes: I have covered boxing, promoted boxing, watched it, thought about it and after long reflection I cannot find a single thing that is good about it, either from the point of view of participant or spectator …. Boxing or ring fighting has never added an iota to the stature of anyone as a human being worth his salt. Most doctors who have examined boxers agree that a few skilled champions may escape serious damage, but the typical veteran, after some fifty contests spread over several years, begins to soften up. His defence lapses, his blows become less telling because they are no longer properly timed, and soon the promoters begin to look elsewhere for their box office attraction. We are told that some doctors say they can detect the medical and physical condition of these men before they go into the ring. There is no instrument which has yet been invented which can detect the small hemorrhages of the brain which a boxer sustains and which, if repeated over the years, produce the condition known as "punch drunkenness."

Of course, it is easy for promoters to dismiss the whole question of punch drunkenness, because in the nineteenth century, when there was even greater ignorance of these things, punch drunkenness indicated that the man found it difficult even to walk along a straight line. There are still, of course, many of those men suffering from that condition. But in these boys, these young men, punch drunkenness is an insidious matter. Slowly their personality changes; slowly they become depressed or excited. They lack concentration; they lack the power of co-ordination and consequently the experts who watch them in the ring can see when their blows are faulty and that already their brains are affected. Then is the time for them to be turned adrift. These young men find it difficult ever to hold down a responsible job. The brain cell, the nerve cell, never heals. To tell one of them that a long rest will change his condition is false: his condition is permanent.

I have always sought the advice of doctors who are fully competent to express an opinion, and may I say here how honoured I am to think that the noble Lord, Lord Brain, is following me to-day. Mr. J. H. Doggart, F.R.C.S., Surgeon to Moorfields Eye Hospital—which is a world-famous eye hospital—who supports everything I say, and who without qualification absolutely denounces professional boxing, because he operates on the boxers, says: Fists are not the only instruments of destruction. Boxers' heads colliding in the heat of combat can inflict fearful injury. So can the hard floor coming into contact with a stricken man's temple …. We have already seen that multiple blows on the head lead to hæmorrhage in the brain followed by irregular patches of cerebral atrophy. If I may lighten this debate a little, Mr. Doggart then described one boxer who came to see him. He said that one boxer he saw at Moorfields was called by the amazing name of Bill Softly. He had suffered an injury to the eye. He pointed out to Bill that seeing double must be rather awkward for him, whereupon Bill replied, "Yes. I see two chaps in the ring; I hit the one that isn't there, and the one that is there hits me".

I say with all due modesty that there are many doctors who will support me. May I report one who is world-famous? Dr. Karl Evang is the Director-General of the Public Health Services of Norway, and his services are used by the World Health Organisation of the United Nations as Director and Adviser of the Health Services in other countries. He says: In boxing a certain number of people are killed outright every year, a much larger number get 'punch drunk' or have to be registered as ring wrecks for years, or for a lifetime. How many boxers reduce their intelligence permanently and irrevocably nobody knows, but it is generally accepted that the risk exists. On the medical side, our British Medical Association said as far back as December 25, 1954, in the British Medical Journal: While many of the athletic activities of young men are associated with risk of injury and rarely of death, their value in developing physical fitness and character more than justifies the risk involved. Boxing is unique among the sports of civilised communities in that the object of the boxer is not only to hurt his opponent but if possible to render him unconscious. I am well aware that there are those who, despite the most damning medical evidence, are reluctant to condemn boxing. May I say that here is a clear case of emotion defying reason? So powerful is the effect of opinion in the circle of some men that even the certain knowledge that blows to the head are injurious would not persuade some of them to dissociate themselves from a code of behaviour which might imply that they were lacking in courage. I fully understand that. After all, we as Parliamentarians know full well that in our work over the years we are tempted to allow emotion rather than reason to dictate our actions. It would be remarkable if all male doctors could completely reeducate themselves emotionally, and allow only their reason to dictate their attitude.

Supporters of boxing argue that Rugby football is equally dangerous. Of course, this argument cannot survive examination. The primary object in football is to score points or goals, not to knock your opponent insensible. In football, an injured man is immediately removed from the football held, with the sympathetic approval of the crowd. I would say to your Lordships that professional boxing is the only sport in which a participant seeks to knock his opponent out in the shortest possible space of time. It is the only sport in which to confess injury and to retire is to risk a hostile demonstration from the spectators. It is the only sport in which wounds inflicted and blood drawn give colour and zest to the whole display.

Finally, one very serious aspect of the business is that even the fighter himself may not admit to any loss of skill for fear of being banned from further fights. On all counts, I believe your Lordships' verdict should be that this unsavoury traffic in young bodies should come to an end in Britain, and I ask you to give a Second Reading to this Bill to enable a Select Committee to make a full investigation of the business. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Baroness Summer skill.)

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, this is a question of great public interest and considerable complexity, with many aspects. As the noble Lady has shown so well, there are emotional and ethical questions involved, as well as purely medical ones. I want to confine myself mainly to the medical issues and to describe them as fairly and factually as I can. This, it seems to me, is one of those difficult questions when one has to balance the harm which may be done by boxing against the alternative evil of interfering with people's freedom to do, within limits, what they want, even though they may in the process do themselves, and even sometimes other people, harm. So that the weight of the medical service is, in this context, extremely important.

It has been known, of course, for a very long time that injury to the brain may follow a blow on the head, and that is all too true of boxing. But if we are to come to a right decision about this Bill we must surely first see what are the facts about this particular form of head injury and then consider what action they justify. As we know only too well, from time to time tragedies occur and a man is killed as a result of injuries received in the boxing ring; but that, in this country at any rate, I am glad to say, is extremely rare. But not all such injuries, of course, prove fatal, and I have made some inquiries to try to ascertain how common are the more serious head injuries as a result of boxing.

I asked one neuro-surgical colleague how many cases of serious head injuries in boxers he had seen recently, and he said that it numbered two in the last five years. Another colleague, who is the head of a hospital unit which admits about 100 oases of serious head injuries a year, told me that he had had only one as a result of boxing injuries in the last five years. So, to preserve a sense of proportion, these major head injuries as the result of boxing are not very common, which is, in itself, perhaps rather surprising.

Then the noble Lady has alluded to the condition known as "punch-drunkenness", which is very well recognised, both in this country and in the United States. It is a state of progressive mental and physical deterioration which may occur in professional boxers, and we now know that it may not appear until they have retired from the ring, sometimes as long as ten years after, and that it pursues an inevitably progressive course; but we do not really know—and that is perhaps particularly the reason—how common this condition is. In forty years' professional life I can recall having myself seen three cases. I asked a neurological colleague with an even longer experience and special interest in head injuries, and he said that he thought he had seen five. On the other hand, those with a special interest in the subject see more. Dr. Macdonald Critchley, who has written a good deal about it, tells me he has now seen about 100 cases of organic nervous disease in boxers, many of which, but not necessarily all, were due to boxing.

We still know comparatively little about the pathological changes in the brain which give rise to this condition. We do not know in detail the factors which produce it; how it is related to the character of the man's fighting experience. We know it is not directly correlated to the number of knock-outs he has had. We do not know how it is related to the length of his career or to the age of his retirement, or even whether there is such a thing as predisposition which makes one man more liable to it than another. Though it is commoner in professional boxers it is not unknown in amateurs. So far as I know, the brain has no way of distinguishing a blow from a professional from a blow from an amateur. So there are many gaps in our knowledge, and we do not even know the numbers involved, either absolutely or relative to those exposed to risks.

My own feeling, therefore, is that though I have a great deal of sympathy with much of what the noble Lady said, I could not myself feel that on the medical evidence alone there is a case at the moment for making professional boxing illegal. I think I have shown, and, indeed, I believe the noble Lady has herself admitted, that there is a need for very much more knowledge than we at present possess, which, incidentally, whatever may happen in the field of professional boxing, would be extremely valuable in the amateur field as well. And just because we need to know more, I agree with her that there is a need for an investigation, but I think it should be, at this stage, a scientific and medical investigation, and I doubt whether a Select Committee could, in the present circumstances, have before it the information which would enable it to reach a decision.

The President of the Royal College of Physicians has told me that the College has the matter under consideration and is prepared to set up a committee to go into it from every medical point of view. It may not be in one way a large problem, but its scientific and human interests are considerable and concern not only boxers but, to a considerable extent, medical officers of schools. The College, I need hardly say, has no axe to grind, its interests are purely medical, and I hope very much that the investigation will have the support and cooperation of the boxing community, to whom I believe it could render a very valuable service. Ultimately what happens to boxing depends, I believe, on an informed public opinion, and at the present stage we all need more information.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, it is a most interesting thing to be able to debate in your Lordships' House a subject which, on the face of it, is not political because you know automatically that you are not going to embarrass either the Government, your own Party or yourself, by the mistakes that you might make on a subject which is perhaps a little too weighty for you to take on. In this debate there are eleven other speakers on the list. I am not the slightest bit confused, but I wish to state very earnestly to the introducer of this Bill, the noble Baroness, Lady Summer-skill, that I have no intention of making any personal attack upon her. I am merely going to speak on behalf of the professional boxer and professional boxing, and to urge your Lordships not to allow this Bill to have a Second Reading, and not to go to the completely unnecessary length, as the noble Lord, Lord Brain, has just pointed out, of appointing a Select Committee. To start with, if a Select Committee was appointed, it would probably have to be formed, as the noble Lord, Lord Brain, suggested, from those doctors and others who know most about boxing. I can promise your Lordships that they are all administrative stewards of the Boxing Board of Control already.

Apart from that there is this question of freedom from a political angle. It is interesting to me to note the integrity of the noble Baroness, which I have always known is great, and who has always shown that she is profoundly adverse to boxing. I say "boxing", because, although this Bill refers to professional boxing the noble Baroness took the opportunity in her speech of making statements that brought in boxing as a whole, both amateur and professional—even boxing in America. We also had a mention of a doctor professor speaking his word on professional boxing or on boxing (I am not sure which) from Norway.

The interesting thing to me is that in another place the noble Baroness had a friend, who sat on the same side of the House as she did before she came to your Lordships' House, who is President of the Professional Boxers' Association, and who most certainly collects some 2,000 votes from the Liverpool area and from the Manchester area of those who are very close to being either licensed professional boxers or connected with the sport; and beyond that, of course, from a very vast number of the general public whose only connection with professional boxing is that they like to watch it as spectators. There is a point there. But it certainly shows that the noble Baroness has courage in asking for this Bill when she knows that Mrs. Bessie Braddock would be violently opposed to it.

I said that I wanted to be as impersonal as possible and merely to bring some facts before your Lordships. I have had to change my mind, however; and, with all due respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, I shall have to make one or two generalisations in the form of an attack upon her, because she has laid herself wide open by making some completely inaccurate statements. Let me take one, quite quietly. The noble Baroness mentioned television. After yesterday's debate we may feel hot around the neck about television, but I, speaking on behalf of professional boxing, have no such feelings. I will tell your Lordships exactly how many professional boxing contests were shown on the screen last year to all and sundry who wished to see them connected with the question of this Bill. There were 17—and only 17—British professional boxing contests. We allowed two programmes of professional boxing per month, and only two, to the two companies of television that fill our screens. Does that fit in with your Lordships' conception of what the noble Baroness has said? With all due respect, I would say that, either wittingly or unwittingly—I do not wish in any way to be personal, but it has come like this—she has made a confusion of the issue between amateur boxing and professional boxing. This Bill deals with professional boxing and no question of amateur boxing comes into it. Amateur boxing is, of course, being continually shown.

If we are on that subject, is professional boxing sadistic, and does it lower the character of those who watch it? Why is it fourth on the list of sports shown on the television? Because it is extremely popular. As your Lordships know, there are machines in the television studios which show the number of people interested in any one subject; the number interested in watching professional boxing is known, and the noble Baroness can get these figures, if she wants them, just as well as she can get the figures of those who watch amateur boxing contests, or horse racing, or any other sport. Let her take my word for it, that it is fourth on the list in popularity.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount a question? I thought he was going to develop this point when he stressed British boxing and the amount of professional boxing generally that is shown on the screen. Is the noble Viscount aware that practically every Saturday there is produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation what is called "The Fight of the Week", showing American professional boxing?


I am not aware of any such thing. The figure I have given is that 17 professional boxing contests were allowed to be shown last year, which was a peak year. Seventeen is the only number, and I know perfectly well that we allow only two professional television-shown contests per month.

I think it is only fair, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Brain, that some facts about this important business should be known to your Lordships. I think the best way is to explain, to start with, that I was professionally trained when I was nine years old. I have boxed, both at my preparatory school, as an amateur, and at Eton, as some of your Lordships may remember. There are four noble Lords here who certainly should remember—they were spectators, not my opponents, and therefore they may be more likely to remember. They may or may not have been viewers. Afterwards, I boxed in the Army and so on. But, more important still, I have been a steward of the British Boxing Board of Control, which controls pro fessional boxing, for 29 or 30 years, and I have also been Vice-President for a good many years. I have also been a licensed professional referee. I have boxed with more professionals than with amateurs. I think they are the best, most delightful lot of men, when they are young and even if they are old. I am not going to suggest for one moment that I have not met a "punch drunk" or slightly "punch drunk" boxer; I have.

The point is that the noble Baroness is talking about this sport as it was in the past. We are talking about it as it is now, in the present, and as it will be in the future. There has been a great change because of the efforts of the Boxing Board of Control, of which I have been a proud member, since 1949. There were great changes before that date. When I first joined, Lord Lonsdale was president. He sat in your Lordships' House now and again. All your Lordships will remember him. He was known as the "yellow man", not because he was frightened of anyone, not because he was in any way an unpleasant person, such as it has been suggested there are in this boxing business, but because he was typical of a certain type of British sportsman. For years on the Board was the late Lord Drogheda, whom your Lordships frequently saw sitting on the Woolsack. We have five Queen's Counsel, three doctors—seven altogether, but I am speaking of the three actually on the Board—who know what there is for anybody else to know; from whom Lord Brain could get his information, and from whom Baroness Summerskill could get her information, and has done.

In regard to this Bill, I must say, with all respect, that the noble Baroness has made some statements which, through ignorance, are entirely wrong and can be proved wrong over and over again. I will not go back into that matter. Let us take the phrase "the noble art". The noble Baroness says that boxing should never have been called a noble art, and she gave reasons which seemed to be perfectly sound as to why it should not be called the noble art. I am going to give a few reasons why I consider it should be so called, and my reasons may influence your Lordships if there is any doubt in your minds as to whether it is still a noble art.

In 1747 Broughton taught the "mystery of boxing" as a "truly British art" at his academy in the Hay-market. Boxing is an artificial sport, unlike running, jumping or swimming—it is of extremely little value against a man armed with a weapon or a Judo expert or strong and scientific wrestler. Fair play is a moral that has to be taught, and boxing is designed to teach it. Good sportsmanship and fair play go together. When mean advantages are taken they are easily seen, not only by the referee but also by the spectators, and are promptly penalised. I would say that boxing is a noble art—"a truly English art", Broughton said. He went on to say: May the day never come when an Englishman shall feel ashamed of it, or blackguards bring it to a disgrace. I am not suggesting that the noble Baroness would come into the category of a blackguard trying to bring it into disgrace. I know that is not the case. She has suggested that there are blackguards who could bring it into disgrace, and of course I heartily agree with that—there could be. I would go further and say that, of course, it is a violent exercise. We all know that. It has a sense of personal contest more manifest than in any other sport. Good manners certainly went out some time ago; but I can promise that they exist in professional boxing.

Some years ago—I have here an article written in 1958—there was a television debate on the sport between various well-known persons. I personally think that the case put up by the antagonists to professional boxing was a weak one. There are several quite sound arguments that can be brought to bear upon any rough sport, but let these not be exaggerated by using such expressions as those which, I am sorry to say, I am under the impression the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, was hinting at—such as "licensed murder "and "sadistic display". She used the word "sadistic". However, the article goes on to say: There is in all of us some of the primitive; in many cases we would cease to exist if there was not. Primitive instincts … can be rightly divided into good and bad, and I would say that boxing is a sport; which stands with, and for, the good things physically and mentally and has nothing to do with the word derived from the Marquis de Sade's character". I could go on quoting, but it seems a little curious that I have to read this, as it is part of an article that I wrote myself. I hope that none of your Lordships will think that I have to read my own article because I have suffered from impared eyesight, hearing and so on from my own boxing career. That is not the fact. I think that probably your Lordships can come to your own conclusion without my going further into this matter.

I have here, on Boxing Board of Control paper, a full list of injuries, fatalities, the "punch drunk" syndrome-medical and surgical expressions which have so many letters that they are almost like that unmentionable spot in Wales which has a small railway station whose name no one but a Welshman can pronounce. I could go through these, and if any of the other speakers wish to have my assistance in this matter, they can. These are reports from doctors, not only those who are on the Board of Control but those who have written and answered articles in the Lancet and in the British Medical Journal. In every single case it is proved that the damage to a boxer's brain that worries the noble Baroness is over-exaggerated.

I can speak personally about this. I have been knocked unconscious in boxing and the effects have lasted for only a few hours. But I have been rendered unconscious six or seven times through hunting falls, where the effect has lasted for weeks, and sometimes months. It is a most curious thing that the boxer, who is quite prepared and accustomed to receive blows on his face and head, shows absolutely no sign of any damage other than physical bruising. That has been admitted by the noble Baroness, and also by Lord Brain, because it is a known fact. The noble Baroness herself said that there is no machine which can show this damage. No, unfortunately there is not. However, there are machines that show that there is no damage—a machine which I will call, for short, an "electro 'gram". But there are Stewards of the Boxing Board of Control, there are our representative stewards, there are time-keepers, and there are inspectors who see every single professional contest held in this country and in Northern Ireland. They can act from their knowledge of boxing in a way that is better than any machine yet invented by man.

It is because of a very strong Boxing Board of Control that deals with professional boxing—a far stronger one than that which controls amateur boxing—that I have every confidence in this sport and its organisation. If a great sport is taken up professionally by boxers, promoters and managers are naturally required, and they can get their licences only if they get a completely clean bill of character, and so on, from the Board of Control. Therefore, there is really nothing to worry about.

No young boxer can even box professionally without, before a licence is given him, having been checked over completely by one or two doctors. He is then, if sufficiently good, allowed to box a minimum number of perhaps four rounds. On the days on which he is due to box he is seen, at the weigh-in, by a doctor. The doctor again sees him before he enters the ring, and yet again when he comes out of the ring. There is no sportsman—either professional or amateur—in any sport, however dangerous or non-dangerous it may be, who receives that attention. Someone might then say, "That is obviously because you recognise it as a dangerous sport". Of course it is a dangerous sport. But no boxer who takes out a professional licence has to do so. He can stop at any time he likes. Any viewer of professional boxing, if he feels it is sadistic (with which I entirely disagree, on the argument that extraordinary sportsmanship, courage and bravery is shown; there is no feeling whatsoever of creed, or faith or colour in this sport), can turn off his television set.

I would say that this Bill is an unnecessary Bill. It comes from a sympathetic person, but I do not think it has the sympathy of the public. I do not think the public is sadistic; I do not think the public likes to see blood. Blood will flow only during a round. No boxer is allowed to come back into the ring with blood flowing. I think, with all due respect to the noble Baroness, who is perfectly entitled to her own feelings on this subject, that she has given the wrong colour to many aspects of this sport.


My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down, may I put him one simple question? Would his Board of Control be prepared to cooperate with a committee of the Royal College of Physicians, if it is set up, in making a full investigation of the aftereffects of professional boxing?


Of course, they would co-operate with anyone, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Brain, said, more should be known about this subject. That is why I have been a little "long-winded" in this debate—because some of your Lordships just do not know all the technical facts of professional boxing. Some of your Lordships may not even have known about the number of times a man is seen by a doctor before and after he enters the ring. Only two or three days ago a fellow Peer, to whom I was speaking about this business, was talking about cuts, and so on, and mentioned the fact that boxing was done with the wrong gloves—"4-ounce gloves". A 4-ounce glove has not been used for ages. One could go on and on arguing about this subject. One talks about the cuts that are inflicted. Often the sadistic element of the impact of the cut comes about because newspapers and commentators use the phrase "cut eye". It is never the eye that is cut; it is the eye-lid. I have been cut to pieces all over the place, but the eye is never cut. The eye can eventually become bruised, but certainly is not cut.

Another point I wish to make is this—and I think this will intrigue Lady Summerskill, and your Lordships too. There has recently been a great change in regard to television and newspaper cameras, to which the noble Baroness referred. I am going to put it in quite a different way. It was put to your Lordships that in the matter of professional boxing the newspapers and cameras have been on the scene for only a short time. That is, of course, quite untrue. Contests have been recorded for over a hundred years. But, from the point of view of interest, I should like to mention that there have been enormous developments in the way of telescopic lenses and extraordinarily fast shutter speeds. Therefore, if, shall we say, a blow on a boxer's face is recorded instantaneously, in a thousandth of a second, with his face going all over the place, that might have the effect of making some people think it is a brutal sport. Look at those photographs which you see in the Daily Mail or the Daily Sketch—good photographs, upon which the photographer is very pleased with himself. Some people might say, "How awful!". But I say they are not so awful. Then look at the photographs which have been taken of the 21,22 or 23 years old pilots in the R.N.A.S. and the R.A.F., when they are doing a steep climb or a deep dive, or are pulling out, when the "G", the gravity pull—I am not even speaking about people going up in rockets—has pulled their faces out into the most appalling shapes. Their bodies are twisted almost out of their pressurised suits. None of this happens to the boxer.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, rises I wonder whether I could step into the ring for one moment, as, unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Brain, has had to leave. May I ask the noble Viscount whether he could say a little more with regard to the statement which the noble Lord, Lord Brain, made about the inquiry Which I understand the Royal Society is going to introduce? When it falls to my duty to act as referee between your Lordships at the end of the rounds, I think the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Brain, will have great influence upon your Lordships. We should be most grateful to hear a little more of what the noble Viscount feels in that direction.


My Lords, I would rather not say anything further at the moment in reply to the noble Earl, because I feel that I have spoken considerably longer and with more feeling than I had intended.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, I am not sure which of the noble Viscount's speeches I really liked the best—I think perhaps the first! I should like to congratulate him as an old friend, because I think he really did very well with extremely indifferent material. I think that the noble Baroness who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill covered the case so well that I may be very brief indeed. I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness for three reasons. She has shown courage in this matter because she has laid herself open, first, to a certain amount of ridicule from various quarters. She is bound to receive that. We on these Benches are used to that sort of thing; and in another place also, where we are not very numerous, we are used to ridicule. We do not mind very much, but we note that recently, for one reason or another, the ridicule has been apt to turn to acrimony—which seems to us to be quite a good sign.

The noble Baroness has also laid herself open to a good deal of abuse, which will certainly be forthcoming the further she goes. Finally, if her Bill ever looks like becoming law she may even be threatened. This would not surprise me at all since—and she has already quoted from the statement to the Press of Billy Walker—this is a very rough business indeed, and the further you go into it and the bigger the prizes involved, the rougher it becomes.

The noble Viscount who has just addressed us has spoken with very considerable knowledge of professional boxing in this country. He has been for many years a member of the Boxing Board of Control, and I agree with him that, had it not been for the hard work of the Boxing Board of Control, on which I have several friends, the situation would be very much worse than it is. I congratulate the Boxing Board of Control who have worked selflessly in order to keep professional boxing as it is.

Having said that, I must agree with the basic contention of the noble Baroness, that professional boxing is, in the last analysis, a bad thing from any point of view, which she has already so fully, so well and so clearly described. I was surprised when reading—though, unfortunately, I was not present at the First Reading of this Bill—that the noble Lord, Lord Newton, gave some figures of the number of people who during the last year were killed in various forms of sport. It seemed quite irrelevant to me, and as I read the figures it seemed even more irrelevant. If my memory serves me correctly, he said, for instance, that no fewer than 14 persons were killed during the year as a result of playing cricket. That does not surprise me at all; in fact, it surprises me that more were not killed, for a cricket ball is an exceedingly hard projectile and, should a young person happen to be unlucky enough to put his head in front of it, he is very apt to get his skull cracked open. But the bowler did not intend to kill him and did not intend to hurt him; he intended to hit the stumps. That was the intention. Therefore, it is quite outside the question of boxing, in which it is the boxer's clear intention to damage his opponent as quickly as possible.

If I may follow this up, because it was the noble Lord, Lord Newton, who raised this point, fourteen people were killed by playing cricket, but only three in boxing.




Very well, one. Your Lordships will remember some years ago the Test Matches in Australia. England possessed at that time the fastest and most accurate bowlers in the world, Larwood and Voce, both of Nottinghamshire. They bowled so-called "leg theory", which was not at the wicket but was at the batsman. The batsman, in order to protect himself, could play only one particular kind of stroke and there, waiting just behind him, were anxious hands ready to grab the ball. This was looked upon as unfair, because it was called "bowling at the man." There was a tremendous row at the time. I remember how amused foreigners in other countries were because Australia and England appeared to be on the point of Splitting up altogether for good and all on this issue. It really became quite serious. I remember it well and I remember the people concerned too, many of whom I knew personally. The M.C.C. stopped it, because of the attempt to hurt the man—in other words, intimidation. Recently the same thing has happened again in cricket, with the throwing controversy. A cricket ball thrown by a very accurate, strong man is exceedingly dangerous and that, too, has been stopped.

I have taken up a few minutes of your Lordships' time, for which I hope you will forgive me, but to talk about fourteen people being killed at cricket in the year in this connection is in my view—I am sorry—quite irrelevant.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for letting me intervene, because I shall not be taking part in this debate. I should like to say to him, if he looks at it from the point of view of the nation, that surely fourteen deaths, however they may be caused, are a graver matter than one death.


My Lords, I am afraid that I still think it is quite irrelevant. The fourteen deaths were caused by accident; whereas so far as the one death is concerned, although it is not specifically the object of a boxer to kill the other man, he is at least trying to damage him. If he is punched unconscious, death may follow. Therefore, I really cannot see that there is any connection between the two.

Many years ago a friend of mine, who was a very strong man, was educated at the same establishment as were the noble Viscount and myself. In the university heavyweight match he struck his opponent and rendered him unconscious for a very long time. He hurt him very badly indeed. He became scared and was advised by his father to give up boxing because he might do somebody a serious, permanent injury. He gave it up and he is now the illustrious head of the Criminal Investigation Department, so he had the sense to go into a job where he is able to deal with his opponents in a somewhat more comprehensive but less abrupt manner.

Perhaps, before I conclude, I may just touch on the other points from the speech of the noble Baroness. It has been said that professional boxers have gone on to do quite well in other walks of life. This is hardly ever the case. The noble Baroness mentioned Tunney. As he said himself, he "gave up in time". When I am in Paris, I go to a small bar in the Avenue de la Madeleine, where I meet my old friend Georges Carpentier. He gave up in time, too. He runs a bar there very well, and he is extremely popular. He did not stay in too long. We now have the extraordinary statement, which the noble Baroness read but which I have not seen, from Billy Walker, which really gives away the whole story. Possibly he did not write it—that is just possible, and the noble Viscount may feel that—-but at least he put his name to it.

Then, there is a young man called Caldwell, from Belfast. He went to Brazil not long ago to fight one of the lighter weights—bantam-weight or featherweight—I am not sure which. There was a tremendous hullabaloo surrounding the whole thing when the night of the fight came. National anthems were played, bands played, people shrieked and went wild with hysterics. I think that he had difficulty in getting to the ringside. I believe that that fight was a travesty. How anybody could describe it as sport, I really do not know. The noble Viscount may say, "I cannot help what happens in Brazil". Certainly he cannot; but it is still the same thing; it is still professional boxing. The scenes at the end of that fight were quite indescribable. Politics were brought into it, and the crowds became hysterical—and not the least hysterical section of the crowd were the women.

One more instance, my Lords. Years ago we had in my regiment a very good young man, a good boxer. He did nothing but Army boxing, and he never came to any harm in that because, my Lords, in the Army, in universities and in schools three rounds are the limit. They are only two minutes, two minutes and three minutes—seven minutes in all. The referee and judges, if they see that a man has had a good bang on the nose, stop the fight straightaway; and, as I say, the fights cannot go for more than three rounds. Professional boxing is over fifteen rounds, and it is the prolonged strain that does the damage. I have no medical knowledge whatever, such as the noble Baroness has. But to revert to what I was saying: we had this good young man, a strong boxer. He was heavyweight champion of the Household Brigade, and I rather think, afterwards, of the Army.

There was also at that time a horrible little man who used to hang around the London barracks; a promoter who bought prospects out of various regiments. He bought Jack Doyle from the Irish Guards. He bought this man for £30 (you could buy a man out of the Army for £30 in those days), and offered him a glittering future of power and glory; and so he went. He won his first two fights fairly easily, against nobody of prominence. The next two or three were a bit harder with a bigger billing. Whether or not they were "thrown" fights, as they are known, I have no means of telling. It might have been a "thrown" fight which had evaded the vigilance of the Boxing Board of Control. I am talking of more than 30 years ago—35 years ago—when things were not so tight as they are now. At all events, this young man eventually had to fight a real professional who knew what he was doing. He was very nearly killed. He lost his next few fights, and the promoter realised that he was not a very good prospect. Years later, I was walking down the Tottenham Court Road and I saw him on the pavement, selling matches. I spoke to him. He did not recognise me, although I had known him quite well. That man was as near down-and-out as makes no difference. His age at that time would have been, I should say, about 25.

We are told that it is not in every fight that each of the contestants is going for a knock-out. That may be true. Some fights have "gone the distance" because it was in the interests of the promoters to keep the crowd there as long as possible. I remember that when Carpentier very stupidly beat Beckett in sixteen seconds the crowd were very annoyed. They had paid good money for their seats, and they got very little in return. I should say the Joe Louis-Farr fight was one of the fights which went fifteen rounds; and how it did, except by arrangement, nobody was ever able to understand.

Finally, my Lords, whoever succeeded in any walk of life after being a professional boxer for any length of time? What can they really do? Very few, I should say, have made any mark at all. But I believe that where we are in a difficulty here is that the noble Lady is trying to confine her Bill to boxing for profit and everything that goes with it, whereas the noble Viscount is, I think, defending boxing as a pastime, sport or what you will. I believe, if I may say so, that that is what he is saying: that there is nothing intrinsically wrong in boxing as such.


My Lords, will your Lordships excuse me? I have just been given the opportunity by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to rise to my feet again very briefly. There are one or two things which he said which I think it might be very helpful——


Order, order!


My Lords, I would remind the noble Viscount that he is allowed to speak only to correct something which he has already said, and should not introduce any further matter.


I apologise, my Lords. It was in reference to what the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said about a boxer never doing anything afterwards. I would remind your Lordships—although it is a very long time ago—that a champion heavyweight professional boxer called Gully became Speaker of the House of Commons; and his descendants now sit in your Lordships' House.


My Lords, I think that is the most impressive statement I have ever heard, but I can only say that one swallow does not make a summer. I believe that the contention of the medical profession as a whole, as I think will come out of this Select Committee if it is ever set up—and I hope it will be—will be overwhelmingly in favour of the Bill proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill.

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, I fully appreciate the views of the noble Lady who has introduced this Bill, but I cannot help feeling that she really objects to all forms of boxing in the ring, and I am afraid that I am one of those who believe boxing to be a great and manly sport. Boxing is a highly specialised and skilled art—and let there be no mistake about that at all. Boxing no doubt began in the caveman's age, and perhaps he was learning how to defend his lady against outside aggression. I have fought many times in the ring; and, as a young naval officer in the Grand Fleet, I had to fight twice a day for a fortnight because there were so many competitors. I certainly suffered no ill-effects, and I think I managed to stand up a little longer than the other fellow in the final championship bout. I do not suppose I should have had the courage to enter the ring of my own free will. It was the commander of my ship who ordered me to train and fight for the good of the ship and the Service, and fight I did—and I enjoyed it. I mention this because the noble Lady has suggested that in professional boxing the fight promoters get hold of young lads and induce them to fight in the ring. My Lords, why should they not fight in the ring and make a little money if they want to? In most cases, I would say, it makes them better men, gives them greater stamina and improves their physique. There are few sports which are worth much unless there is some risk attached to them.

I would certainly disagree with the idea that the televising of boxing may have a bad effect upon the public generally. It is my experience that people not interested in boxing turn over from one channel to another, but those who are interested have an oportunity of watching it under very good conditions indeed. I would say that the technique of boxing can be watched and much better understood from the television screen than from a ringside seat, and the idea that the public are likely to be brutalised by such a broadcast is really too silly to contemplate. I would say to Her Majesty's Government, if they are induced to set up a Select Committee: how grandmotherly can a Government be? More people are injured—I think this was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham—by cricket. My Lords, if we are not very careful we shall have the noble Lady introducing a Bill to play cricket with a soft ball. I hope we shall not give this Bill a Second Reading.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, followed, as it was, by the profoundly impressive speech of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, leaves one very little to say. But in reply, partly, to the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, I would say a few things about the effect of boxing upon the television public. The point that I want to make is that addiction to watching scenes of personal violence is very easily acquired. It has always been a puzzle to me, and to many other people, that so humane, so highly civilised, a people as the Romans were able to endure the spectacles of the arena. In my reading recently, I came upon what may be an answer to that problem.

In the early part of the Fifth Century there was a young man who had become a Christian. He was a very earnest and sincere Christian, and, as a Christian, he refused to attend the arena. He would not soil his eyes at these terrible spectacles. On one occasion, however, he was compelled to go, and he resolved to keep his eyes shut all through the gladiatorial contests. He kept his eyes shut for a long time, but at one very exciting moment, when the crowds were shouting all around him, he yielded to the temptation to open his eyes, and he saw a gladiatorial combat. After that he kept his eyes open. The next day he had an opportunity to go to the arena again, and this time he was not compelled. After a great struggle with his conscience, he bought a ticket and went, and he watched again. After that there was never a gladiatorial exhibition in Rome but young Alypius was there cheering and gazing. How easily this taste, then, is acquired! The story is told in St. Augustine's Confessions.


My Lords, it must have been a good deal earlier than the Fifth Century.


My Lords, I am sorry, I made a mistake; I should have said the Fourth Century, and it was careless of me. But the addiction is easily acquired, and when I see members of the general public watching boxing on the television screens I wish I could share the confidence of the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, that they were really appreciating the finer points of the science. I wish I could believe that they were saying: "This man's footwork is poor; he should use his left more".


My Lords, if I might be permitted to interrupt, may I say that my view is that the public who are not interested in the footwork, and so on, of boxing immediately turn it off. In fact, I am sure they do.


My Lords, in that case I am rather surprised that boxing on television-—What one might call global boxing—has such a high T.A.M. rating.

There is another point we may learn from the past, and it also concerns personal combats, and that is in regard to the tournaments of the Middle Ages. I want to make this point: that those tournaments, which began by being very dangerous indeed and which were gradually made fairly safe by the introduction of precautionary measures, such as suits of armour, and so on, were condemned by the General Council of the Lateran, not because they were dangerous—there was no grandmotherly motive behind that condemnation—but because a man involving himself in so dangerous a sport might conceivably be guilty of murder. That was the ground of the condemnation. I think it proper to say that theologians to-day are considering very carefully the question of professional boxing, and with all the more urgency in view of the Benny Paret case. A very responsible ecclesiastical paper in Italy, one which represents a most important body of theological opinion and one which has not got a popular character, has written these words. I apologise for the violence of the language; I am quoting from a clergyman. It said: Those who saw Paret's face, disfigured and horribly swollen, certainly cannot talk of the noble art of boxing. If this form of legalised assassination was not abolished the guilt would fall on that section of the public which continued to favour this useless and ferocious massacre. My Lords, those words are not mine. I think they are too violent, and I do not wholly endorse them. But they represent an important point of view.

There is a third point which we get from the past, and that is the question of changing standards. In Regency times public opinion, on the whole, tolerated brutal prize-fights. It is true that those prize-fights were sometimes interrupted by warrants from magistrates issued under the Common Law, but, on the whole, the public tolerated the fights. And so they continued, but with less and less frequency, until the 1850s. After that the public would tolerate prizefighting, in the old sense, no longer; and members of the Fancy very sensibly laid their heads together, under the auspices of the Marquess of Queensberry, and drew up new rules for boxing designed to make boxing tolerable to mid-Victorian public opinion. They undoubtedly succeeded.

But that was 95 years ago, and I think the standards of public taste have altered in that time. Standards change. They do not always improve by any means, but they do change, and what was good enough for the mid-Victorians is not necessarily good enough for us. And we show it, because when we are really anxious to preserve life, When we are really concerned to avoid serious injuries, we lay down quite special rules—as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said in regard to Army boxing, which is a proof that we are not satisfied with the ordinary Queensberry Rule contest. I trust that Her Majesty's Government are not going to take any negative attitude towards this vital question.

The television programme called "Panorama" is viewed by a great many thoughtful people and those who turned it on on Monday night saw two things. The second thing was the noble Lady securing an undoubted dialectical victory over her opponent. That was not surprising. When it comes to argument, the noble Lady is in the heavyweight class. The first thing they saw was more important. I think the B.B.C. were quite right to show it, but it was a pretty responsible thing to do. They showed a man publicly battered to death. It made a great impression on me and I think on anyone who saw it. I have never been impressed by people who say, "It could never happen here". I have seen a very great number of surprising things happening here. I believe it is our duty to make sure that this never does happen here.

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, I will be very brief. Shades of those prize-fighters of old—Corbett and Sullivan, Jeffries and Fitzsimmons. Their bones must be stirring restlessly and uneasily this afternoon in their respective graves. I wonder whether, in that bare-fist era any Member of Parliament was ever known to rise in his place and denounce the 3,500-year-old sport and demand a cessation of it on the grounds of brutality and risk of injury. They were giants in those days.

I am not saying that the noble Lady has not made more of a case for her views than I should ever have anticipated, but she should know that we live in a world where the profit motive affects every activity in life; and unless she is going to ban the sport of boxing altogether, the teaching of the art of self-defence—an unthinkable proposition—it is useless for her, in my judgment, to think that she can ever ban professional boxing. But why does the noble Lady confine her activities to boxing? Why does she not turn her attention to motor racing, for instance, where there are more serious and fatal accidents in the course of one year than boxing can produce in half a century, and where the profit motive is anything but absent? You cannot discriminate in this feckless—I almost said reckless—fashion.

There is a profit motive everywhere—in football, in racing, Where casualties occur at times. The noble Lady will remember the statistics given to her a few weeks ago (I am afraid that I was passing in and out of the Chamber when Lord Windlesham referred to them a few minutes ago, and therefore did not quite catch what was said) which showed when interpreted that, for every death or serious injury there is from boxing, there are at least 36 resulting from other forms of sport—rugby, soccer and cricket, to boot. And what of the ceaseless toll on the roads to-day? The noble Lady might just as well start advocating the abolition of the motor car, which is a far more lethal weapon, as it is used by countless people, than the boxing ring could ever be. I hope that your Lordships' House will have no lot or part in this Bill and will robustly refuse to give it a Second Reading.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will excuse this little intervention from someone who has never in his life put on a boxing glove in what the noble Lady called the ignoble art, though since the advent of television I have become an enthusiatic spectator and now shout "What a haymaker!" with the best of them. I have liked what I have seen and I could not understand the point of view of the noble Lady. Far from finding anything vicious or degrading in the business, I have been impressed by the lack of resentment, the friendliness—even the affection—shown by the boxers—amateurs, mostly—between rounds and at the end of the fight. To me, they seem to present British sportsmanship at its best.

I was saying these things to a friend of mine, a former newspaper editor and sports editor, and I fear that I expressed myself rather strongly about the noble Lady and her opinion. "You know", he said, "she is quite right". I was taken back. If there is anything tougher than a sports editor, I should not like to meet it. "If", he went on, "you had seen the number of young men that I have seen—healthy, decent, intelligent young men, amateurs, most of them, who have had their minds permanently slowed up by boxing, you, too, would be against it." As I say, I was much shaken, and I thereupon decided to do a little research. In our library files, I found this statement by that famous and well-respected boxer, Mr. Len Harvey. He said: I have seen many ex-boxers on their heels mentally. Their reactions are so much slower, their speech is slurred. They lose their drive. Next I came across this article by the Sports Editor of the former Sunday Dispatch, Mr. Pat Reekie. May I quote? I am afraid that this quotation is a little longer. I am a renegade. Up to a short while ago I honestly believed that every boy should learn to box. Now I don't want my son ever to learn boxing. Let him become a man in other ways—break a few ribs like his father playing rugger, for instance. But boxing, no. I am afraid lest boxing makes a numskull of him. If a few professionals, knowing the risks but willing to take them in a bid for glittering prizes, want to box, let them, but in my view boxing should be cut out of the curriculum at all educational establishments. It is a waste of time educating a mind and then presenting it—the educated part of it particularly—to injury in the boxing ring. In a further article, Mr. Reekie pointed out something I did not know or even suspect: that more amateurs than professionals died through boxing.

My Lords, these were the views of two well-known sports writers. I have talked to others, and they, like the doctors, agree, albeit reluctantly, that the risks are there. What are we going to do about them? As with smoking, I do not believe in legislation. You cannot stop reasonably grown-up people from doing what they want to do if, in the doing of it, they are harming only themselves or others of their like. But again, as with smoking—and curiously enough, the two things are rather similar, though smoking is by far the graver problem—it is not the grown-up people who matter. They can make up their minds for themselves—and in any case most grown-up people do not start to box when they have already grown up. What matters is the young people. To them, I believe, and to their parents and teachers, it should be made plain that boxing may mean brain injury—most probably it will not, but it may. At present I do not think this is generally realised, and that is why I believe we are in the debt of the noble Lady for giving us the facts. Of course, they will be widely reported. Your Lordships' debates on subjects of general interest like this one almost always are.

This debate is a beginning, but I do not think it is enough. I am not, of course, suggesting any official campaign —far from it. What I had intended to suggest, and what I am glad to say is going to happen, is that the doctors should get together and produce one of their authoritative reports to which so much attention is rightly paid nowadays. The doctors can tell us just what the dangers are; and, more important, they can tell us how to guard against them, be it by boxing less frequently, wearing protective headgear, or doing whatever else is necessary. Then we shall know, young and old alike, just what the risks are and what should be done. I hope most deeply that we shall never see the end of boxing in this country. It is a truly British sport, and to my mind it epitomises the British fighting spirit, of which we have no reason to be ashamed. But it has its risks. Let those who so wish take them, but let them at least know what the risks are and protect themselves, in so far as it is possible, against them.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, I think there is a case for some inquiry into this matter. I listened to everything said by the noble Lady who moved the Second Reading, and I sincerely hope that she is not responsible for some of the literature that has been sent to me recently. I should like to make a public confession, which I hope everybody who wants to send me things will remember, because one form of literature that I dislike intensely is the confessions of reformed rakes. I have not been able to get through William Hickey, in spite of the interesting information on eighteenth century India which I believe it contains. I wish people would not inflict me with that form of literature.

One thing the noble Lady said interested me very much, especially coming from someone of her professional attainments, and that is the frightful effect of a blow on the point of the jaw. Was it not a comparatively short time ago that nearly every surgeon maintained in his service a professsional boxer ready at a suitable moment to give a patient a blow on the jaw? Those patients might be men ox delicate and fragile women. Therefore, the discovery of the lethal effects of a blow on the point is in the nature of a new medical discovery.

I shall keep your Lordships a very short time, but there is one thing I should like to tell you. About 50 years ago, or perhaps a little more, I got one of the most valuable lessons that I ever received in my life in watching a boxing contest. At that time there was a singularly handsome, well-made boxer, called Bombardier Billy Wells. I got a ticket with some friends for a fight that he was going to fight in some six weeks' time with Georges Carpentier. I am glad that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, is still here, because I want him to hear what I am going to say on this point. From the moment that fight was announced, the evening papers, of which there were many in those days, and quite uninhibited (we have heard this afternoon how the Globe would come out with headlines every evening about "Balfour must go"), started every night on Bombardier Billy Wells, until one thought that he had not a rag of character in the world; that he could not box; that he was a cur at heart, and every sort and kind of thing. They said he had not a chance. I went and saw that fight. Georges Carpentier was a much shorter man, a stockily made man, every bit as quick as Bombardier Wells and he stuck to the mark. In the sixth round Bombardier Wells was knocked out. That set the evening papers agog again, and every kind of epithet was turned on to this unfortunate Gunner.

Some two months later, a fight was announced with an Australian heavyweight—very much more his shape; a tall fellow, whose name I cannot remember. I got a seat very near the ringside and watched that fight. The fight went on with varying success for about five rounds, and in the sixth round there was a rally, and suddenly they broke apart. There was Bombardier Wells in his corner, and the Australian was in the centre of the ring. Then there was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. It was like a school demonstration of a left lead to the point, only much, much quicker. Wells came out of his corner and took his opponent on the point of the jaw. He was right on top of him. He shortened his arm to give him a second punch. I saw a questioning look come into his face. He backed away and let his hands fall to his side. His opponent fell completely knocked out, and the fight was won. The point I am making is that Wells had time to give him two more punches and make absolutely certain of the fight. He knew as well as everyone there knew that if his opponent had got up he could win, and we knew what the result would be. But in that one decision, taken instantaneously in the middle of the heat of the battle, he shamed every English evening paper, and he gave everybody at the ringside a lesson in how to conduct one's life, which I was very glad to get.

I am glad to take this opportunity of showing my gratitude by telling your Lordships that story. Against that we have this business of the other day. I have only heard about it, and have not seen it on television. When we find something like that happening in a business like this it demands inquiry, and I think we need to get at the truth. For that reason, I hope that the Government will arrange for an inquiry. If not, I shall support the noble Lady in the Second Reading and her subsequent Motion upon this Bill, because I think it requires to be inquired into. That does not mean that I am an enemy of professional boxing. I want to get at the truth.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, irrespective of the views which one might hold about the Bill which we are being asked to give a Second Reading this afternoon, one must admire the dogged-ness of the noble Baroness in her pursuance of this course. I well remember when she was a Member of another place how many of her supporters were, in fact, quite hostile, whereas many of my own side were the other way about, so that I do not think there is any Party issue in this matter. She moved the Bill with sincerity, and although there are aspects of it with which I cannot find myself in agreement, I think she has made some sound points.

My own experience of boxing has been confined to the Services where, for the first nine months of my Army career, we had compulsory boxing. I should never have boxed had it been other than compulsory, but I cannot say that I either enjoyed it or hated it. The CO. in charge of boxing was the then Army lightweight champion, and anybody who tried to dodge the issue had to box the champion himself; so it was not a very wise course to pursue. But the strictest control was operated, and the very second that any man was seen to be in distress the fight was stopped.

I am well aware of the fact that this Bill is confined to professional boxing, and I watched—I put myself out to watch—"Panorama" last Monday evening, when the closing stages of the Paret fight in New York was shown on film. Frankly it was one of the most distasteful things I have ever seen. It was positively revolting, and I am bound to say that in the interview which followed, I think, without mentioning any names, the noble Baroness won very much on points in her argument, even though I myself and many others did not agree with every word she said.

I consider boxing generally is a sport to be commended. It is a particularly useful sport for young people, and when two boys get into a scrap it seems to me an excellent idea to put them into the boxing ring. Certainly at the school which I attended for some five years that was done, and any occasions of bullying were treated likewise. On a number of occasions the bully was put into the ring with the school boxing instructor, and to my recollection he did not bully again.

I am rather worried about this Bill and about the wording of it. It seems to me to be lacking in substance. Supposing one wanted to promote a boxing match for charity, would that come under the terms of the Bill? I think the noble Lord, Lord Brain, in his excellent speech has really offered the best solution: that the medical profession should get together and really go into the medical side of this business. We all listened with great interest to the noble Viscount, Lord Scarsdale, who has great experience in the realm of professional boxing.

But I do not think that boxing at this stage should necessarily be singled out for an inquiry of the kind suggested. Personally I am worried about the conduct of very much professional sport—of boxing, football and even cricket; and about the enormous transfer fees, the buying and selling of players. If an inquiry is to be held, whether it is by a Select Committee, a Royal Commission, or what you will, it should cover the whole field of professional sport. It must be remembered that the rules of control for professional boxing in this country are much more stringent than in the United States, and, indeed, I think I am right in saying, on the Continent of Europe.

So while I commend the noble Baroness on a very sincere speech, I think, too, that the noble Viscount, Lord Scarsdale, put his case quite fairly. Speaking personally, I would far rather wait for the medical profession to get together and go into this matter. I hope that my noble friend who always goes so carefully into every matter in his Department, as I well know from experience, will bring pressure to bear on the various parties concerned with professional boxing to look into the points that have been raised to-day by all sides. I hope that the Motion for the Select Committee will not be pressed yet. I do think, however, that the matter should not be allowed completely to die down.

5.38 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships may be wondering whether I am supporting or opposing the Second Reading of this Bill, or, indeed, the principles (underlying the noble Lady's Bill; for in my younger days I took up boxing, believing in it for self-defence for oneself as well as for assistance to others. I would add here that, had it not been for my exertions in the gymnasium, I might have had a straighter nose because I should not have had it broken. I wonder now, though, to what extent boxing would be effective against judo, a razor slash or a knife in the back. And I would add here, my Lords, that I believe in amateur boxing—in fact, my son has taken up boxing and judo—for I believe also that it can be most useful in dealing at school with the proverbial bully. However, we are dealing to-day with boxing for profit.

I must say that I was impressed on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago When, quite unexpectedly to me, I heard the noble Baroness over the B.B.C. sound radio. I was impressed by her remarks and by the way she put them over. They were convincing in that, as a doctor, the noble Lady described the effect to the brain of repeated punches. The noble Lady, in her interesting book, to which she referred during the course of her excellent speech, if I may say so, said that it is estimated that the punch of a 10-stone amateur boxer is equal to an impact of 600 lb. pressure. I should, therefore, like to quote, if I may, a few lines from this book with regard to the effect of a blow to the head.

On page 10 the noble Baroness writes: The brain weighs about 3 lb. It is of the soft consistency of cold porridge. It is not tied down and rests in a fluid in the bony skull. A blow causes it to wobble from side to side; even a moderate blow will cause it to bang against the side of the skull and a more severe blow may cause such a forceful movement against the bony part of the skull as to bring on bleeding or bruises. Here I must confess I find myself in a little difficulty. Because, on the one hand, the noble Baroness says in her book (and she also mentioned it in her speech) that she believes it to be generally agreed that an instrument has yet to be invented which can detect the small hæmorrhages which a boxer sustains in the course of a fight and which, repeated over the years, produce the condition of punch-drunkenness. On the other hand, the National Sporting Club state that since the formation of the Board of Control, I believe in the early 1930s, these effects have been very much diminished on account of compulsory periodical medical examination. In fact, I understand that if a boxer loses on points three contests in succession he must appear before the area council and undergo a medical examination. If he is knocked out, he may not box again until he has had a rigorous medical examination.

The important factor here, I feel, is whether such a rigorous medical examination can detect any slight injury to the brain cells. I should hope that it can. For I feel that God has provided us with this brain, a highly delicate and complex instrument, one which, even in this scientific age, not even the most adroit instrument or tool maker or electronics engineer could hope to build. I mention electronics engineer for Dr. Maxwell Maltz, an American, seems to me right when, in an article called "Psychocybernetics" written in 1960, he says: The Almighty in providing us with a brain provided us too with a supremely developed servo-mechanism. I think we should therefore ask ourselves: is it right for us to condone (if that is the appropriate word) the deterioration of such a wonderful mechanism or instrument, or whatever you like to call it, with which God has provided us?

The Pope (I am not a Roman Catholic; I am a member of the Church of England) recently declared that professional boxing as it existed to-day was "objectively immoral". Therefore I am sorry that to-day we cannot have the advantage of having the views of the Church of England on this matter. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph which appeared on April 23 last, an ex-boxer, ex-police superintendent and later ex-army officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Farthing wrote: The majority of persons who attend professional boxing matches are not interested in a skilful boxer who by adroit movements avoids punishment and wins his fights on points decisions. All they clamour for is a man with a killer punch and they wait with avid and sadistic anticipation for the moment when it is successfully brought into action and the opponent is battered into submission or sinks unconscious to the floor of the ring. I am afraid that I believe that to be to a large extent true. I feel that professional boxing for profit, for personal profit, certainly does not bring out the best instincts in men.

I should now like to come back to the National Sporting Club, who allow no betting in or near the Club premises; nor do they allow any vocal encouragement to the contestants. I feel that those are two of the objectionable and distasteful aspects—the betting side and the encouragement of contestants—in the professional promotion of boxing matches. I understand that over the last ten years there has been in this country a big decline in the number of promotions of professional fights. In spite of this decline, the National Sporting Club has continued to prosper, and in fact during the last six years the Club promoted more charity tournaments than any other promoter in the country: for instance, tournaments for the benefit of boys' clubs, Sea Cadet Corps, orphanages; and co-operating, too, with the Variety Club of Great Britain in its great work for underprivileged children. These are certainly worthwhile causes. But the National Sporting Club did not, and do not now, seek to profit from professional boxing.

In view of this, I support the principle underlying the noble Baroness's Bill, which seeks to ban professional boxing giving an ultimate profit to the promoter. I am wondering, therefore, whether the noble Baroness, if she proposes to continue with this Bill, if it is given a Second Reading, would either agree to the insertion of such words as "for personal profit" in lieu of "for profit" as stated in the Bill. Alternatively, she might feel that it would be preferable to reintroduce her Bill, either after an inquiry which would be set up by the Government (that is not certain at this stage) or after the inquiry which has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Brain, and after there has been a Report (if I understood him rightly) on the effects to the brain of boxing as a whole. I feel that is all I have to contribute to-day.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I make one slight correction? The quotation which he gave was not a quotation from a Papal utterance. The Pope did not say it. It was a speaker on the Vatican Radio, not the Pope himself.


I am sorry to have misinformed the House. I understood from a paper I read that it was said by the Pope himself in a broadcast.


My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, says that the National Sporting Club, of which no doubt he is a member, does not promote for money, or profit, it is completely untrue. I do not know where he gets his information. A good deal of the information which he has given is completely erroneous. It is not true; it is not the fact. They do not promote their professional boxing for charity. They pay their boxers out of the subscriptions which they receive from the club members.


Order, order!


When the noble Lord said that the National Sporting Club do not allow any betting, there was almost a hint that betting was allowed at all professional boxing promotions. We do not allow any betting, and no betting takes place. But you cannot stop an Englishman or any individual from having a private wager if he wishes to do so.


My Lords, I should not like to be out of order, but I have been personally attacked and therefore I should like to refute what the noble Viscount has just said. I have here a letter from the National Sporting Club, dated May 9, 1962, in which the secretary says: I believe that Lady Summerskill's Motion in effect is to call for the banning of professional boxing for profit. Naturally, promoters could not afford to run at a loss, but in our case we do not seek to profit from it. There is the letter.


With all due respect, it does explain itself.

5.51 p.m.


My Lords, I do not always support my noble friend Baroness Summerskill, and I have never hesitated to say when I disagreed with her. Therefore, when I agree with her I think it incumbent upon me to say so forcefully; and I do agree with her most sincerely in the principle underlying this Bill, though not over the detail, as I shall show in a moment. I do not feel passionately about or against boxing, but I do feel passionately about damage to human beings and to the human brain. The ethical question which underlines this is: have we the right to do what we like with our own bodies? Up to a point we have; but the law rightly steps in and says that we shall not do certain things; for example, we shall not take drugs and we shall not behave in other ways which affect our personalities and our brains so that we endanger our own health and the happiness of ourselves and other people. It is that sort of argument which I think has to be applied to this particular problem.

Amateur boxing carries risks with it, as do all other sports. But I am quite satisfied that amateur boxing also has many benefits, and particularly to boys in clubs where many of us have worked. I expect that it enables boys who are by nature aggressive, to work off their aggression in a socially useful way, under good conditions, and to develop a good character. They not only develop a measure of discipline during training but also take defeat in a sportsmanlike way. At such amateur boxing contests as I have attended I have been impressed not only with the discipline and the medical care of the combatants, but also with the behaviour of the audiences, who it seemed to me were entirely interested in the finer points of the sport. They were mostly ex-participants, ex-amateur boxers who really cared about the sport of boxing and the skill displayed. I do not think that that is either a bad or a wicked thing, and I think there is a great deal of good in amateur boxing, although it carries risks.

I was sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Brain, did not say more about the medical side of boxing, because he could have spoken with great authority. But he did make the suggestion that it would be a good thing if we were to await the report, or a report, of a committee of the Royal College of Physicians, which he suggested might be set up. We have recently had a good Report from a Committee of the Royal College of Physicians on the subject of smoking. But that Report was not of an investigation; it was entirely a collection of existing evidence. That is all that the Royal College of Physicians has so far done. It is not an inquiry of this sort. It has collected the existing evidence. It has not any machinery for carrying out investigations. I may say that I am a Fellow of the Royal College, and I hope I am correctly representing the situation, though this matter has not so far been discussed. It has no machinery for calling witnesses or for making special inquiries. Indeed, the only machine that I know of that could really solve the problem of the incidence of "punch drunkenness" is that of the Government Social Survey. Strangely enough, I can see no other way of getting this particular piece of evidence if it were required.

But the medical evidence is there already in great quantities, and it is almost unanimous. First of all, about the incidence of injury in boxing, the biggest survey that has been made was that made by Dr. Johannson in Oslo, who examined 6,000-odd sporting injuries over a period, and boxing came tenth. So the total of all injuries sustained in boxing is much fewer than the total of injuries sustained in ski-ing, which caused 1,784 injuries; football caused 1,320 injuries. So as regards actual acute injury there is no doubt that boxing comes quite a long way down the list, if we take total numbers, though I at once accept Lord Windlesham's point that the intent in those two things is quite different.

The great authority on the medical aspect of boxing in this country—so far as I know, he has never pronounced on any subject other than the medical aspect of boxing—is Dr. Macdonald Crichley, to whom Lord Brain referred. I served under him in the Navy. He was consulting neurologist to the Navy and I was one of his medical officers. He examined 27 patients in the Navy who were sufferers from "punch drunkenness." As Lord Brain said, he has in fact seen about 100 people who are victims of the condition of being "punch drunk". So far as I know, he knows more about medical injuries as the result of boxing than does any other person in the world.

We have been asked some questions and some discussion has taken place about what happens when one is knocked out. It is perfectly true that nobody knows precisely what does happen. It is a strange condition; it is a double condition. There is, first of all, a complete loss of muscle tone so that the person flops down and, secondly, loss of consciousness; and it is possible for these two things to occur separately. No collection of medical evidence would solve this problem. It would required special scientific investigation, and how to carry that out I do not know. Indeed, there is a certain amount of division of opinion as to what actually occurs. Some people have thought that the primary injury was to the internal ear. Others have thought that it was due to the knocking of the base of the brain against the exit from the skull; and it is in the base of the brain, the brain stem, that the vital centres are located.

However, the common view, and the one now generally accepted, is that which the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill expressed—namely, that it is exactly the same as concussion from any other cause. What happens in concussion is that the brain -behaves exactly as though it were a bag of water. If one fires a bullet into a bag of water it goes in by a small entrance hole, and an enormous hole is blown at the far side. This is one of the reasons why troops have from time to time thought that their enemy was using dum-dum bullets. They encountered this small entrance hole and the large exit hole. The reason is perfectly simple. When the bullet strikes, a terrifically powerful wave is set up in the water, and it is this which produces the large hole and exit. Just imagine a similar blow applied to the brain and the wave that goes through the brain when concussion occurs.

The brain is an extremely delicate structure, which is why, as the noble Lord just said, it is safeguarded by the brain-case. The brain also has the feature that it allows for a very large margin of safety. We can get through life with the loss of one or two limbs: we can get through life with only one kidney, or even with one lung; and it is surprising how much brain-tissue can be removed by operation and for the person still to be all right. It is this fact which makes it absolutely impossible to detect the minor damages to the brain which undoubtedly occur every time anybody is concussed. They cannot be detected by examining doctors, no matter how skilled. The best that one can do is to take an electro-encephalograph reading (which was the word the noble Viscount, Lord Scarsdale, was searching for) to see if there is any change in it. As a matter of fact, if you take an electro-encephalograph reading immediately after a man has been knocked out, there almost always are changes, but it goes back to normal very often within a week—possibly only as long as the duration of the headache which the noble Lord described, when he himself was knocked out and concussed as the result of a blow on the head.

Every young doctor is taught, as I was as a student, to treat concussion extremely seriously, and we assess the effect of concussion very simply, not merely by loss of consciousness, but also by loss of memory. If there is any appreciable loss of memory, either preceding or following the assault, or cause of the unconsciousness, it is at once to be regarded as very serious indeed, particularly in anybody who has to use his brain. The first requirement is that anybody who has been concussed and has loss of memory should not do serious brainwork for about a month, or he will have headaches, besides diminished efficiency, for about two years. That is the best you can do with concussion. It is less obvious with people who do not normally do a lot of brain work.

In boxing there are many other kinds of injury which may occur. There are injuries to the eye. One is not really interested in cuts and bruising, and so on. The important thing is detachment of retina, which sometimes occurs and which is absolutely impossible to deal with; very seldom, unfortunately, are surgical operations for replacement of retina satisfactory. As to causes of death in boxing, death can be caused by a blow over the heart; there have been deaths from blows over the solar plexus. But the commonest finding after boxing is bleeding into, or around, the brain. There are a number of these cases recorded, but I should not myself feel that, if that were the whole story, it was in itself a reason for banning boxing; because one finds similar things happening, for example, to motorists who have sustained injuries, or from other causes.

But it is this punch-drunk state which presents the serious problem. This is a state of very gradual mental and physical deterioration. It has all sorts of scientific names, but some of the popular names are just as apt—"slug-nutty", and "slap-happy" are good descriptions. The condition is very much as described by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, when he spoke about the soldier who had deteriorated so extremely young and so tragically. A great many facts are known about punch-drunkenness. It is much more common in professional boxers than in amateurs; indeed, it is very rare for punch-drunkenness to be found in amateurs. Amateur boxing carries with it physical risks, as does almost every other sport, and I personally should not feel justified in interfering in amateur boxing on the ground of those risks. But on the question of punch-drunkenness, I feel that there is a very serious case indeed. It is much commoner in second-rate professionals than in first-rate professionals.

The typical story is very like the one told by Lord Windlesham. The boxer starts off, he soon reaches his zenith and then starts to go downhill. If he becomes a professional sparring-partner, if he goes into the lower realms of professional boxing, particularly if he is one of those people who are notoriously able to "take it"—sluggers rather than scientific boxers; often small men, not particularly concerned about the size of their opponents—the chance of his getting punch-drunk is very great indeed. The total of contests is as important as the number of knock-outs. In fact, many of these people are knocked out on their feet, and remain in a state of automatism, sometimes fighting on quite automatically, without having any consciousness or recollection of what has been happening.

It is among the humbler sort of people that this condition occurs, and it is associated with both physical and mental evils of a most serious kind, and sometimes with the delinquency resulting from the general deterioration of standards and morals, and often causing great family unhappiness and social failure. As my noble friend said, the damage is absolutely irreversible, because damage to tissue inside the brain or spinal cord does not recover, unless it be due simply to pressure; whereas the nerves outside the spinal cord do grow again, if correctly sutured, in a matter of nine months. Tissues inside the brain do not recover; damage there is absolutely permanent. Therefore, once it is detected no improvement can be expected, but, rather, steady slow deterioration.

My Lords, that is the case against professional boxing. How are we to deal with it? I hope your Lordships will resist the suggestion that an inquiry by the Royal College of Physicians would be enough. For several reasons, I do not think it would. First of all, it will only collect the existing evidence, which will be very much on the lines of Dr. Macdonald Critchley's classical paper which collected the existing evidence in 1957. It cannot get much beyond that; there is not much more to get. I cannot see that the Royal College of Physicians can collect actual figures about the incidence of punch drunkenness, though it would be very fine if they could, and I hope they do.

The issue which my noble friend has placed before this House is much more than a purely medical issue, and I would suggest that the medical evidence is there, and will be exactly as I have described it. Therefore, it is a question of making certain social and sporting decisions. I should like to see boxing of all kinds, but with a provision that there should be no blows to the head or neck—just as there are no blows below the belt. I say "head or neck" because there are places in the neck, such as the carotid sinus, which are just as vulnerable. If you strike a person on the right side of the neck you can knock him out just as much as you can with a blow on the chin. There are well-known fouls behind the head—"rabbit punches", and so on. If these can be excluded, surely we could exclude blows to the head or neck. But that is something on which it is right we should hear expert evidence from the sporting fraternity. I would suggest that that is the right way of looking at a problem like this. That is not a medical problem, but something of a sporting problem. And what better way of dealing with this, my Lords, than by a Select Committee of your Lordships' House?

I have here a Report, which I have had for many years and regard as a model Select Committee Report of this House. It is the Report dealing with the Regulation and Registration of Osteopaths, with which some of your Lordships may be familiar. This was before the war, and the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, was Chairman of the Select Committee. They took evidence from a great many members of the medical profession, a great many members of the osteopathic profession and a great many other people, too. They produced the classic document on this extremely difficult subject and it is the only text-book in the world, of which I know, which gives the full story of both sides of osteopathy. I hope that we shall be able to do something like this. Therefore, I most sincerely hope that your Lordships will not be satisfied with the proposal of my noble friend Lord Brain, that the Royal College of Physicians may set up a Committee. Delighted though we are to hear it, I hope that you will in fact give this Bill a Second Reading and then agree to the setting up of a Select Committee, which will take evidence, examine witnesses on oath, and then give us for the first time, an authoritative picture of the dangers of professional boxing, and what we might best do about it.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, when the noble Lady introduces a measure into your Lordships' House, it is always full of the deepest thought, and she does so always with the greatest concern about the subject on which she is speaking. This debate, when she introduced her Bill, has been no exception. I am quite sure that you would wish me to congratulate her on the modest, appealing and considerate terms in which she expressed all that she said, knowing only too well how long she has been involved—almost, one might say, a lamb lost in the wilderness—in this most controversial topic.

This debate on the noble Lady's Bill has been overshadowed by three factors. First, there was the tragedy in New York over the Benny Paret death. I think the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, summed that up when he asked: "Can it happen here?" Without a doubt as a result of this tragic death, which has been so vividly brought into everybody's homes due to the modern advancement of television and cameras, as we have heard, there is great concern in the nation about this sport of boxing. The noble Lady, in her Bill to your Lordships' House, has introduced the factor that we should vote, when the time comes, against the principle of professional boxing. She would then wish to have that Bill subjected to a Select Committee. I was struck particularly by the advice that the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, offered. He felt (and I think that it was the feeling of others of your Lordships; it is certainly my feeling) that we do not want to accept a principle in this House until we have the full medical facts.

The third factor which has come into this debate is the announcement by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brain, that the Royal College of Physicians is to set up an inquiry, to which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, referred in his most thoughtful and informative speech. We have not had enough time to consider what this inquiry should mean. The noble Viscount, Lord Scarsdale, himself did not really know, alas! that this inquiry was in mind. But I give your Lordships my assurance that, when we have found out what this inquiry will involve, what it will endeavour to do research into, I will do my best to see that the resources of my right honourable friend in the Home Office, where we are able, will be used, if possible, to help this inquiry. I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said, that of course a great deal of the information is already available. Nevertheless, as we have seen in this debate, much of the information is contradictory—we have had experts on both sides—whether it be boxing, whether it be medical. We know only too well that the medical bodies themselves have various ideas on the effect of boxing and mental injury, as a whole.

I would say to your Lordships that we should give this body a chance to inquire again into all the medical and physiological factors with regard to boxing injuries. When that report comes out your Lordships, and perhaps the noble Lady, can raise the matter again. I am quite certain that, with the great national interest which would be aroused, the matter would be raised again in this House, and no doubt also in another place. Then, I believe, would be the time to consider what sort of measure was needed, whether of legislation or not.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, mentioned the procedure that was used with the osteopaths. With great humility, I would say that I think that we are dealing here with a different sort of problem. Professional boxing, pugilism—call it what one will—has existed ever since civilisation has been on the earth. It is recorded in Crete 1,500 years before Christ. Homer and Virgil wrote about prize-fighting in the mythological games, when the Gods and their Heroes set to together. It is a factor, too, that boxing was not introduced into the Olympic Games themselves until the XXIII Olympiad, which was 880 years before Christ.


My Lords, is the noble Lord saying that boxing is older than osteopathy?


I do not think that that comes into my argument at all. I am saying that I think the particular subject of boxing has been carried on for a very much longer time, 1,500 years, than the particular science which was the subject of the Report mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor.


My Lords, I rather think that the noble Earl if wrong. So far as I know, osteopathic practices go back a good deal of time before Christ. I am not sure of the exact year, but the works of the Greek physicians contain a great deal of osteopathic theory and practice. So I do not think we can say that kind of thing.


My Lords, I do not know what sort of practice that would be. However, I concede that the noble Lord has a point. But I will say that boxing is recorded 1,500 years before.

So we go right through boxing, from the pugilists using bare fists to the great champions to whom the noble Viscount referred; to Jack Broughton who, it may interest your Lordships to know, remained the first national champion from the year 1735 until 1750. Indeed, that in itself must be an argument as to the amount of punishment a man can take with bare fists. So far as is known, he went on to a perfectly reasonable and ripe old age. In fact, he established his own boxing school, which was one of the first, at Tottenham, in London. He invented boxing gloves, the first "Maulies", as he called them, in the year 1747. From that time onwards, the rules of boxing were organised out of the chaos that undoubtedly existed: until, to-day, we have the Queensberry Rules, which were invented by John Chambers, of the Amateur Athletic Club, in 1867. From that time, 1867, till this day, those Rules have remained substantially the same.

There is concern about the dangers of boxing contests. It has been expressed by the noble Lady herself for many years. Much of the writing goes back to the 1930's, and the noble Lord opposite, Lord Windlesham, drew on his personal experience, much of it going back, I think I am right in saying, to those days. It must be agreed, too, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has said, that we have learnt something new in the methods of assessing head injuries. Her Majesty's Government can make no claim to the possession of any independent information or knowledge which I can lay before your Lordships, and the aim of my speech is to attempt to summarise the arguments which have been put forward in the controversy, both in this debate and at other times, and to try to draw a conclusion for your Lordships' guidance as to whether the case for banning professional boxing is made out—and I want to emphasise that the noble Lady's Bill is concerned entirely with professional boxing, and I appreciate all that she said in that regard.

It cannot be disputed that there are certain risks. They have been explained by speakers in your Lordships' House this afternoon. My noble friend Lord Newton showed, by his figures, which have already been referred to, that death is far from being a serious risk in boxing. According to information in a letter from the chairman of the medical committee of the British Boxing Board of Control which was published in the Lancet in June, 1959, there have been only four fatalities ont of upwards of 42,000 professional contests held in this country between 1946 and 1959. Assuming that these figures are correct (and I have no reason to doubt them), they suggest that in this country the risk of death to which a boxer is exposed is really very small. This point has been made in the past, and in reply to it the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, argued that the number of fatalities is not a valid criterion on which the issue can be judged—and I see his point of view. Injuries which occur in other sports, he has pointed out, are entirely the result of accidents, whereas in boxing they are the consequences of intentional acts. That is what the noble Lord and the noble Baroness have told us, and it is true. There may well be some substance in this argument, although I think it must be accepted that boxers in general do not intend to cause lasting injury to their opponents. In the final analysis, I suggest that we must have due regard to the figures which my noble friend Lord Newton quoted and which I have just mentioned to your Lordships, showing that, so far as the risk of death is concerned, boxing does not show up in too unfavourable a light.

The figures of world fatalities arising from boxing contests, which are sometimes quoted, appear to be more discouraging, and we have had some of them quoted this afternoon. An article which, again, appeared in the Lancet in June, 1959, quoted the death-roll as 64, including 22 amateur boxers, over a period of four years. These statistics suggest that outside the United Kingdom boxing may well be a more hazardous form of activity. The noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, and the noble Baroness referred to this, and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, gave a graphic account of a bout in South America. I appreciate all that has been said about boxing abroad, but in this particular debate, and in considering the noble Lady's Bill, we are not concerned with what happens in other countries, and I do not think we should allow ourselves to be influenced by those particular figures.

If, then, a case is to be made out on medical grounds for the prohibition of boxing, it must rest, in the main, on the non-fatal injuries, and we have heard much about those to-night. It cannot be denied that the risk of brain injury does exist, but we must note that medical opinion differs, and we have heard already this evening how even the noble Lord, Lord Brain, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, were somewhat at odds in their purely medical approach.


My Lords, I do not think we were; I think we were entirely in agreement. I merely gave a great deal more evident than my noble friend did, because he was talking about the committee; but the actual statistics we gave were, I believe, identical.


With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor—and I well appreciate my position, as a layman arguing with one who is such an acknowledged expert in all these spheres—my impression was that the noble Lord, Lord Brain, considered that there was not sufficient medical evidence. It was for that reason that the College had decided—and I am most grateful to them that they should have done so—to undertake to see whether they could get more evidence. Now the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, says that the evidence is all there and that it has already been published.


My Lords, could I remind the noble Earl that the noble Lord, Lord Brain, said he had seen only a few cases, but he said that the doctor who was regarded as the authority on the matter, Dr. Macdonald Critchley, had seen a hundred cases?


As I understood it from what the noble Lord, Lord Brain, said, he claimed that the experts in this field thought that out of the number of head injuries that they had attended in the course of their years of experience, very few of them were in fact sustained by professional boxers. That is what I gathered from the noble Lord, and it was in view of that rather remarkable claim that I said what I did. I think it is rather remarkable, my Lords. One would expect a lot of professional boxers to have had head injuries. As a layman, that is what I should expect; but it seems that that is not so, and therefore the Royal College of Physicians have offered to set out to find more information. I think the noble Lord and myself, the noble Lord, Lord Brain, and the noble Lady, are already in somewhat of an argument, and I feel that we must find out more about the medical evidence, particularly with regard to the less serious casualties.

I should also like to mention that out of the number of fights in which an average boxer might expect to take part during the course of his career, something in the region of 90 per cent. are won on pointe, and only about 10 per cent. are won by a knockout.


My Lords, would the noble Earl not agree that that is due merely to the lack of skill on the part of one or other of the contestants?


I agree that that could be argued, but I do not honestly think it is so; because when a man is good enough to get into the professional ring, he has got a pretty long way along the road to being a skilful boxer. I agree it could be argued, but that sort of information could come from an inquiry on the lines suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Brain.


My Lords, I am sorry to intarriupt again, but the noble Lord, Lord Brain, was suggesting an inquiry by the Royal College of Physicians. Such an inquiry has no power to call for evidence; it is merely a body of doctors sitting and collecting what evidence exists. They have no machinery for carrying out investigations of the type to which the noble Earl refers. One wishes they had, but they have not. It is a pity, in a way, that we have suddenly had this proposed inquiry—and it is only a proposed inquiry—sprung on us at this moment. I must say that, where we are dealing with semi-medical and non-medical matters, I feel the opinion of the Royal College of Physicians is of no significance at all.


My Lords, your Lordships will remember that I interrupted the noble Lord, Lord Windle-sham, or, rather, intervened between him and my noble friend Lord Scarsdale, who asked whether he had any further comment to make about this inquiry. I hope that the medical opinion which is so strongly represented on the British Board of Boxing Control will see their way to helping in every possible way the inquiry that the noble Lord, Lord Brain, has told us about. From the feeling of your Lordships' House, I am sure that they will see their way to giving assistance.

I think we all agree that there are varying degrees of injury the brain can suffer from a blow. There are also varying factors which will affect the seriousness of a blow to a boxer's brain—his physical fitness, for instance, is one of Ohem, but there are certainly many others. While many opinions have been expressed as to the incidence of brain injury among boxers, the fact remains that there is no definite statistical evidence. I must put that forward to your Lordships, because that really is true. Again, I hope that this inquiry of the noble Lord, Lord Brain, will be able to find more statistical evidence for us.

The noble Baroness asks us to decide in principle that professional boxing should be prohibited. A decision of this kind cannot be based on a supposition or on evidence of a piecemeal nature which may not accurately reflect the overall picture. I feel, my Lords, that some of the evidence quoted in your Lordships' House has been of a piecemeal nature. There again, I hope that in the next few years an inquiry can bring forward a greater body of evidence, so that a decision can be made one way or the other of the seriousness to the sporting population of the country as a whole of the noble Lady's Bill. I can readily understand the motives which prompt some medical experts to oppose boxing. On the other hand, I understand and know full well, as we have heard this afternoon, that all medical opinion does not support the serious measure which the noble Lady's Bill would involve.

The noble Viscount has explained the duties of the Board of Boxing Control. I should like to put before your Lordships only one further duty which the noble Viscount did not mention, and that is that, under the rules, it is the duty of the referee to stop a fight if the boxer in question should become defenceless. I do not know whether that rule exists in the United States, but it certainly exists here and is most rigorously enforced. I should also like to tell your Lordships that there is a minimum of seven days between each contest in which a boxer may take part. I put those points forward in passing only to explain how much the British Board of Boxing Control exists to safeguard the interests of the boxer.

The noble Baroness mentioned in the course of her speech the boxing crowd. I suppose, as we sit in the relative calm of your Lordships' House, even the calm of last night or of certain moments in the debate this afternoon, or of debates which are to come, or as we sit in our homes watching television, it would seem that a big night boxing crowd is not exactly an edifying spectacle. But, my Lords, when you are actually at the fight, when you are cheering for your particular man, the lad who comes from your home town, you appreciate that the fans who are there, or many of them, really are experts on boxing. They know the men who are fighting, and they are behind their man all the way.

My noble friend Lord Arran put forward his views as those of a complete non-expert, but of one who has learned to enjoy watching boxing. If he actually went to the fight, I am certain he would be shouting for the man of his choice. I dare say it is not very edifying, and it is not very satisfactory if you happen to be cheering for the man who has been knocked down—I will agree there. But neither is a football crowd at the Cup Final very edifying. It would be most remarkable if everyone stayed in his seat and said not a word. I think there is very much in common between the two sports. Great excitement is undoubtedly engendered, and we must remember that most of us, normally speaking, live fairly dull lives, and especially dull in an age of mass production. So I ask the noble Lady and others of your Lordships not just to dimiss a boxing crowd, and especially a big night crowd when the atmosphere is really electric with excitement, just as a sadistic mob of people, and even compare them to those who watched the Roman games, because it just is not true. I do not believe that watching boxing on television in the home can possibly corrupt our morals in such a way as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and my noble friend Lord Iddesleigh suggested.

Finally, my Lords, there is the question of the effect of televised boxing on children. Is there any child in the country or in the world who has not at some time or another had to go through a fight? It would be a very odd child who has not had a scrap, and I can only suggest that instead of concentrating on the brutality, or the image of brutality (if that is there), in the television boxing picture, why not concentrate on the finer parts of boxing—the skill, the undoubted courage, the quickness of movement, physical fitness, and so on—which without doubt is what the crowd pays for and enjoys seeing at a boxing match, and to which my noble friend Lord Arran referred?

My Lords, this is a free country. The noble Lord, Lord Brain, said that in his most learned speech. It is a free country, and we are rightly chary of interfering unduly with the freedom of adults to choose their own way of life. The onus rests upon the noble Lady, and those who think with her, to produce evidence to justify their view that here is an activity which the State has a duty to prevent. If a case exists at all for banning boxing, it seems to rest mainly on any adverse physical, and possibly mental, effect which it may have on the participants. As I have already indicated, it does not appear to Her Majesty's Government that there is sufficient evidence of the incidence of a lasting disability among boxers to justify the prohibition of this sport—that is, of course, professional boxing—which the noble Lady's Bill would effect. Assuming that those who take up professional boxing know the risks involved, and that boxing matches take place under strict rules, properly administered by the controlling bodies, there would appear to be no justification for any interference with their freedom to participate in their chosen sport and to become professional boxers if they wish.

I do not recommend your Lordships to follow the noble Lady's advice to give her Bill a Second Reading, excellently and moderately put forward though it was. I hope your Lordships will take my advice and follow what my noble friend Lord Auckland said: wait for the expert opinion which we may expect from the Report of the Committee referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Brain, and reconsider the matter afresh. I will certainly bring what has been said in your Lordships' House to the attention of my right honourable friend and help the noble Lord's College, if it is within our scope.


My Lords, may I ask this question of the Government? The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has pointed out with great force—and my experience agrees with what he said—that there is a great difference between evidence on oath and opinions given before a committee which has no power to take evidence on oath. We want to get some certainty on this matter. Would the Government be willing to arm any such committee with the necessary power?


My Lords, perhaps I could deal with my noble friend's point together with the other matter with which I want to deal. I have not the smallest intention of intervening on the merits of the discussion, but when the noble Lady moved the Second Reading of this Bill she said that in the event of the House's voting for the Second Reading she proposed not to follow the ordinary course in relation to a Public Bill—and may I remind your Lordships, though it is hardly necessary, that this is a Public Bill, though it is what we call a Private Member's Bill?—but to move for the reference of the Bill to a Select Committee.

I originally intended to say what I wanted to say after the debate on the Second Reading was concluded. But it has occurred to me, and I think it is right, that the vote of some of your Lordships on Second Reading would be influenced by the propriety or otherwise of the proposed procedure and it would be fair to the noble Lady and also to the House if at this stage I said what I could about the procedure which is proposed. This is an unusual procedure. I think that I am right in saying that, apart from Joint Committees, which raise somewhat different issues, this has not been done since the war.


My Lords, it was done in the case of the Public Registers (Scotland) Bill.


My Lords, the noble Lord's knowledge of these matters, especially in relation to Scotland, is very great and I am certainly not in a position to contradict him about this piece of information, but it is certainly an unusual procedure and at this stage I think we ought to consider whether it is a suitable one.

When I heard that this was going to happen, I looked up my Erskine May and found on page 501 that This procedure"— including that of the Joint Committee which, as I say, raises rather different issues, which I do not propose to discuss— is adopted in cases where the Bill requires a more minute investigation than it can receive on the floor of the House and where before coming to a decision upon it, it is considered advisable to hear the evidence of witnesses. This is a very small Bill. I have looked into a large number of precedents which have been provided for me by the staff of the House. A good many Bills to which this procedure has been applied in the past have been very long Bills requiring a careful and detailed consideration, and I am really concerned about whether the House could conscientiously say that this is a matter where the Bill requires a more minute investigation than it can receive on the floor of the House. There is nothing in this procedure which, at any rate in my view, entitles the House to depart from its general principle in this matter; and, as I understand it, the general principle of Parliament is that neither House gives a Second Reading to a Public Bill—and this is a Public Bill—unless it is prepared to endorse the general principle behind the Bill; that is, of course, in advance of an inquiry, although it might feel that an inquiry should follow the endorsement.

I was a little disturbed by some of the things which fell from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, because he seemed to think—and if he does, I certainly could not agree with him—that if your Lordships want an inquiry about professional boxing, a Select Committee would be a very suitable tribunal to inquire into it, because, for instance, it has the right to send for witnesses or documents; and that the right thing to do was to pass the Second Reading of this Bill. I am bound to tell the House that I do not share that view. The House should pass the Second Reading of this Bill only if it is prepared to say, in advance of an inquiry, that it endorses the principle, however it will be examined by whatever Committee following. May I proceed a little further? I will give way to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, in a moment.

This is what I feel that I should say to the House. Of course, if the House does approve—and some noble Lords have expressed the opinion that they do endorse the principle of the Bill—then the House should pass the Second Reading irrespective of what Committee it goes to. But if the House feels that the case has not been made out and it would like some sort of inquiry, it ought not to give the Bill a Second Reading. There are many ways of getting an inquiry. Noble Lords could put down a straightforward Motion to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into professional boxing, or they could put down a Motion demanding some other type of inquiry.

But they should not give a Second Reading to a Public Bill unless they are prepared to see it go forward from this House to-night that this House endorses the principle that those who promote boxing for profit—and may I say, in passing, that it is not professional boxing which is aimed at, but professional promotion; the professional promotion of an amateur contest would be as much within the Bill as any other promotion?—should be prevented from doing so. Unless they are prepared to endorse that and see it appear in the public Press to-morrow, it would be wrong to pass this Bill simply for the purpose of obtaining an inquiry. I do not want to intervene on the merits of the discussion, because, after debate, the House has to make up its mind about it; but I thought that it would be wrong if I did not make this point. I promised to give way to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and I apologise to him for not giving way before.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble and learned Viscount very much for so generously giving way. I think that possibly the last time this procedure was used substantially was in the case of the Osteopaths Bill. On that occasion, your Lordships passed a Bill in favour of osteopathy—and so accepted the principle of osteopathy, which, if I may say so, was a very interesting thing to do—in order to get an inquiry. As it turned out, your Lordships then did a very wise thing, because you had the best inquiry that has ever been carried out on the subject. That is the reason why I hope that perhaps there may be something to be said for a contrary view to that which the noble and learned Viscount so eloquently advanced. There may be something in favour of passing this Bill, as a broad general principle, if you like, but in the hope of, and the desire for, just this type of investigation rather than because we feel that the Bill itself should be passsd into law.


My Lords, may I explain what happened on the Public Registers (Scotland) Bill? The Bill was given a Second Reading. A Motion was made on the Committee stage to send it upstairs. The Government resisted that Motion and offered a Commission, under Lord Macmillan, to take evidence on oath. The Bill came back to the House with an Amendment which tore out the inside of the Bill, and re-wrote it.


My Lords, I fully respect what my noble friend has said, but I should not for a moment regard that as in any way condemning the view which I put to the House. What the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, does not, I think, appreciate—at least, I think he has not fully appreciated the significance of it—is that I cannot accept that this was done on the Osteopaths Bill for the purpose of obtaining an inquiry. The Bill was proposed for Second Reading in the ordinary way. A Motion was put down for the rejection of the Bill and was refused. That meant, of course, that the House endorsed the general principle of the Bill. It was then sent to a Select Committee and an inquiry—which may or may not have been valuable: I accept the noble Lord's evidence that it was extremely valuable—took place. But it would have been quite out of order—or at least, in my view, very ill-judged—if the House had first passed the Second Reading of the Bill in order to get an inquiry. That is not the right way to get an inquiry to discover whether the principle of the Bill is right or wrong. The right way to get an inquiry to discover whether the Bill is, in principle, right or wrong is to put down a Motion for an inquiry, but not to give a Second Reading to a Bill which endorses the principle.

I turn to what my noble friend Lord Saltoun said. Of course, it is true that if you endorse the principle of a Bill, as many Parliaments and Houses of Parliament have done, whether the Bill goes upstairs or remains on the Floor, whether it is considered by a Standing Committee in the House of Commons or by a Committee of the Whole House, it may often happen (we have all known it happen) that the Bill emerges either from the Select Committee or the Standing Committee in a totally different form, radically revised; or perhaps it may not emerge at all, because a Select Committee can reject a Bill altogether and say that it should proceed no further.

But, my Lords, I still submit to the House, with respect, that this is a Public Bill, and whether people vote for it or not is a matter for their own conscience. Nobody should vote for it unless he is prepared to say, in advance of an inquiry, that the principle is established, at any rate to some extent, that the professional organising of a boxing contest should be made an indictable offence, punishable by imprisonment. If noble Lords are prepared for that, then the Bill should receive its Second Reading, but I do not think any noble Lord would be wise to reconcile it with his conscience to say that he had voted for the Bill in order to get an inquiry.

6.56 p.m.


My Lords, I recognise that your Lordships have been here some time. Of course, you have heard every argument on the merits of the Bill. Whether your Lordships are with me or against me on this issue, it is a curious thing that the Second Reading has been on the Order Paper for two weeks, and underneath it says: Boxing Bill [H.L.]—The Baroness Summer-skill, in the event of the Bill being read 2a, to move, That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. This is the first time that I have been told that this procedure is out of order.


It is not out of order.


Well, that it is unusual; and it is suggested that this procedure should not be proceeded with, although there have been precedents.


No. I must make myself plain. The noble Baroness is perfectly in order in proposing what she does. If She succeeds in getting a majority of this House to endorse the general principle of the Bill as established, she will also be in order in moving her second Motion. I was disturbed by some of the comments Which fell both from her and her noble friend, who seemed to think that it did not matter whether noble Lords found that

the principle of the Bill was established or not, if only they wanted an inquiry. It is that which I am respectfully bound to say is not the correct view of the custom of Parliament.


In view of the fact that the noble Viscount says I can proceed, I feel, in the circumstances, that I should proceed. May I say one thing about the offer from the noble Lord, Lord Brain? My noble friend, who is a member of the Royal College of Physicians, is absolutely accurate. If I wanted, I could quote all the doctors who have examined this question. In medicine there is no frontier. When we come to compile evidence of any disease we take medical evidence from every country. There are doctors all over the world who have examined this subject for a long time. Dr. Macdonald Critchley was mentioned. What we were offered this afternoon was that the Royal College of Physicians would compile the evidence. I said in my opening that I regarded this as a social problem. Every aspect of it has been discussed this afternoon. I felt that the time had arrived when it Should be examined as a social problem which concerns us all. That is why the limited offer of the Royal College of Physicians would not meet my request.

I think that noble Lords are fully alive to the situation. They know the problems. It is not one that is remote from their lives. Therefore, I now ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading to the Bill; and afterwards, if I may, I shall do as I have indicated on the Order Paper.

On Question, Whether the Bill shall be now read 2a?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 29.

Airedale, L. Henderson, L. St. Davids, V.
Amulree, L. Iddesleigh, E. Shackleton, L.
Amwell, L. Kenswood, L. Sinha, L.
Baden-Powell, L. Lindgren, L. Summerskill, B. [Teller.]
Crook, L. Lucan, E. Swanborough, B.
Darwen, L. Merrivale, L. Taylor, L. [Teller.]
Harvey of Tasburgh, L. Morrison, L. Windlesham, L.
Hayter, L.
Ailwyn, L. Auckland, L. Buckinghamshire, E.
Ampthill, L. Bathurst, E. Carnock, L.
Atholl, D. Boston, L. Colville of Culross, V.
Conesford, L. Horsbrugh, B. Rathcavan, L.
Denham, L. Jellicoe, E. St. Aldwyn, E.
Devonshire, D. Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.) St. Oswald, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Saltoun, L.
Goschen, V. [Teller.] Newall, L. Scarsdale, V.
Hailsham, V. (L. President.) Newton, L. Teynham, L. [Teller.]
Hastings, L. Northesk, E.

Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.