HL Deb 02 July 1964 vol 259 cc753-72

5.21 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Massereene and Ferrard.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Licensing of riding establishments


(4) In determining whether to grant a licence for the keeping of a riding establishment by any person at any premises, a local authority shall in particular (but without prejudice to their discretion to withhold a licence on other grounds) have regard to the need for securing— (a) that there will be available at all times, for horses, accommodation suitable as respects construction, size, number of occupants, lighting, ventilation, drainage, and cleanliness;

VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD moved, in subsection (3), after "authority" (where that word occurs a second time) to insert, "or on or after that date". The noble Viscount said: The Committee may remember that during the Second Reading debate it was pointed out that Clause 1(3) was in difficulties inasmuch as it did not cover the initial application for a licence. Clause 1(3) requires that a local authority shall not reach a decision on an application for a licence unless they have received and considered a report by a veterinary surgeon, or a practitioner authorised by them, of an inspection carried out by him within the period of twelve months immediately preceding the date on which the application is received. Obviously, in the case of an initial application a local authority cannot ask the veterinary surgeon to carry out an inspection relating to the premises in question until after the receipt of the application; because until they have the application they do not know where the premises are. It would therefore be quite impossible in an initial application for the local authority to have an inspection in the twelve months preceding the application. My Amendment, by enabling the inspection and subsequent report to be carried out "on or after the date" on which the application is received, remedies this defect in the drafting of the original clause.

Perhaps, before asking the Committee to approve the Amendment, I should point out that the reason for having the inspection carried out in the preceding twelve months is to avoid the need for a further inspection on application for renewal of a licence when, as is likely to happen in most cases, a satisfactory report of a fairly recent inspection has been received by the local authority. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 7, after ("authority") insert ("or on or after that date").—(Viscount Massereene and Ferrard.)


I do not think I have any objection to the Amendment, as such, but I think it is very badly drafted. I think this provision needs a little looking into to make quite clear what is intended. If the noble Viscount will look at the clause, as amended, I think he will agree that it is not very clear. It reads as though they have to have a report from the inspector and that he can make it at virtually any time. The noble Viscount said it was not practical to have a report made before the application was received, because the inspector would know neither the address nor anything else about the establishment. Nevertheless, the noble Viscount still provides for a report to be made within twelve months before the application. I am not objecting to the idea; but perhaps the noble Viscount would consider whether he is satisfied with the clause in its final form, and, if not, will bring up something on the Report stage. If he will do that I am quite prepared to let it go this afternoon.


I will come to my noble friend's help on this matter. The Amendment was drafted by Parliamentary draftsmen, and we are satisfied that it means what the noble Viscount has said. But I will see that it is looked at again by the Parliamentary draftsmen.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD SILKIN moved, in subsection (4) after "authority shall" to insert: have regard to the suitability, qualifications and experience of the person applying for a licence and shall".

The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment which requires the local authority, before granting a licence, to look at the applicant for the licence. Subsection (4) provides for a lot of criteria which have to be satisfied about the conditions of the premises. Paragraphs (a) to (f) all relate to conditions of the premises; but there is no word about the suitability of the applicant. We know that the practice of running a riding establishment has grown rapidly in the last few years, and people are coming to run these establishments not so much for love of horses, as used to be the case, but purely as a profit-making concern. There is no requirement at all that the applicant for the licence should be a suitable person, should know anything about the business, should have any experience of horses or should be of good character.

These people are handling animals and human beings, the riders, and they are capable of inflicting damage on the general public. As I said on Second Reading, I have myself seen horses being managed by young people who have no particular experience of them, who have had quite inadequate training, if any, and have been a menace to the public because they have allowed the horses to run into heavy traffic in a way that might have caused serious accidents. We know many accidents have happened to young riders in the course of their being taught to ride. I feel, therefore, that the local authority, before granting the licence, should have a look at the applicant to see whether, in the words of my Amendment, he has the necessary "suitability, qualifications and experience".

In my Amendment I am deliberately leaving it to the discretion of the local authority to interpret these words as they please. But I think there is sufficient indication in the Amendment of the kind of things the local authority should look for when granting licences. What I am particularly anxious about is that they should look at an applicant to see whether he is a suitable person to run a riding establishment. I am not wedded to the exact words and if anyone can think of something better, I am perfectly prepared to accept it, but I should like the principle of the suitability of an applicant to be established and provided for in the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 14, after "shall" insert the said words.—(Lord Silkin.)


I have some sympathy with the noble Lord on the word "suitability", but when we come to "qualifications and experience", particularly "qualifications", I find some difficulty. So far as I am aware, we have no machinery in this country at the present time by which a civilian can become qualified to run a riding establishment. In the case of motorists, we have schools of motoring licensed by the local authorities. In the case of horses, we have private courses in horse management run by private individuals, but we have no statutory body to lay down any form of qualification. So, while I have sympathy with the noble Lord's intention, until we have the machinery available for teaching people these qualifications I do not really see that we can insert the word "qualifications" in the Bill.

I should like to draw the noble Lord's attention to the wording on Page 2, lines 13 to 15— … a local authority shall in particular (but without prejudice to their discretion to withhold the licence on other grounds)…". As the noble Lord knows better than I, the local authorities are not fools and if an applicant was obviously quite unsuitable they would refuse to grant a licence. And if it so happened, by some mischance, that an unsuitable person got a licence there is a veterinary inspection every twelve months and the licences are renewed every year. I think we could be sure that local gossip about a person's being unsuitable would permeate through to the local authority and at the time a licence came up for renewal any unsuitable person would find that his licence would not be renewed.

I have great sympathy with the noble Lord's intention, and I am sure that everybody is extremely pleased that the noble Lord, with his wide experience of legal matters, has taken such an interest in this Bill. However, I think that "qualifications" will have to be ruled out, but my noble friend Lord Derwent is going to say a few words on this and perhaps it may be possible to redraft the Amendment to make it acceptable.


I strongly support this Amendment. I think that I am right in saying that the Institute of the Horse has a diploma and that the Pony Clubs are developing a system of diplomas. I think that we are suffering from the absence of the mounted Yeomanry. which used to provide a standard for qualification.

If the word "qualifications" presents difficulties, perhaps some other word of the sort could be embodied in its place, because I feel sure that it would be a great improvement to the Bill to have something of the sort included.


I should like to support the Amendment because, as the Bill stands at the moment, it is permissive for local authorities to find reasons for turning an applicant down, but nothing obliges them to have a jolly good look at him before they start. I am not going to express an opinion on the word "qualifications", but we ought to have something of this kind in the Bill.


I wonder whether I can be of help both to the Committee and to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin? If the noble Lord's Amendment were accepted, there would have to be a Government Amendment on Report stage, because the drafting is defective. May I say straight away that we are in sympathy with the noble Lord's intention, but we see difficulties about the actual wording, some of which have been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard. One possible result of adopting the Amendment as it is at present is that it might be interpreted by some local authorities as meaning that licences should not be granted to persons who have no proper qualifications, such as a certificate, but may otherwise be suitable. Therefore, the Government would like to look at this again.

At the moment, we feel that the word "suitability" really covers all the points that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, wants. The word "qualifications" is perhaps too difficult to operate, or may operate unfairly. I would suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that the word "suitability" ought to be retained, and if he is prepared to withdraw his Amendment now I will undertake—although this does not affect my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard in any way—to draft a Government Amendment for the next stage to carry out the intention of the noble Lord.


It would be ungracious if I did not accept that offer in principle. I would only say in reply to the noble Lord that merely to leave "suitability" in might mean just suitability as to character. It would have no relationship to the knowledge of horsemanship that is required. What I meant by "qualifications" was, not that they should have some specific diploma, if that is not practicable, but that they should have some knowledge of horsemanship, particularly if they are going to teach other people to ride. I realise that the licence can be withheld at the end of the year, but that is, after all, to use the noble Viscount's own parlance, locking the stable door after the horse has gone. You are giving this person a year's run, and I do not recollect any machinery for withdrawing a licence during the year. It is far better to deal with it in advance. What I would suggest is this. Perhaps the noble Lord will not mind my seeing the Amendment before it is put down. We can have a word about it, and possibly come to some understanding. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


This is a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 34, leave out ("the").—(Viscount Massereene and Ferrard.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

5.42 p.m.

LORD SILKIN moved, in subsection (4), after paragraph (f) to insert: (g) that the horses are in a good state of health and suitable for the purpose of a riding establishment;".

The noble Lord said: This subsection again sets out all the matters which the local authority have to look into in granting a licence. The various matters included in paragraphs (a) to (f) all relate, in greater or lesser degree, to the conditions under which horses are to be kept. But there is nothing here that I can see which relates to the condition of the horse itself. I have seen horses that are quite unfit to be used for the purpose intended: they are aged horses, too old to carry the burdens that are required of them; horses, particularly at the seaside, that are grossly overworked and overburdened; and horses which are in obvious bad health. I can see nothing here which requires any kind of supervision over them, or which enables the local authority to have regard to the condition of the horses themselves in granting a licence. I submit that when the veterinary surgeon goes round and examines the stable, the feeding, the water supply, and so on, he should have power, also, to say that in his opinion the horses are not fit to be used for the purpose for which they are intended. I am sure the noble Viscount will have sympathy for the object of the Amendment, and I can see no practical reason why it should not he incorporated in the matters which the veterinary surgeon is required to look into. I beg to move

Amendment moved— Page 2. line 36, at end insert the said paragraph.—(Lord Silkin.)


I have some sympathy with the noble Lord, but I should like to point out that at the time a person applies for a licence to keep a riding establishment he may not have bought any horses. It would be quite a gamble for him. He might go and buy some horses and not be successful in his application. Alternatively, he might have one or two horses at the time of the official inspection and after the application is successful he might then buy, perhaps, twenty horses. I would draw the attention of the noble Lord to Clause 3. In that clause, the offences clause, the condition of the horses is fully dealt with in paragraphs (a) to (d). You cannot have a stronger clause than that to safeguard the condition of horses in a riding establishment. I feel that Clause 3 amply covers the noble Lord's point, and I would ask him to withdraw the Amendment.


If the noble Viscount is saying that he thinks the point ought to be covered but that it is covered by Clause 3(4), paragraphs (a) to (d), then I would ask him to look at those paragraphs again. Paragraph (a) relates to accommodation being suitable with regard to lighting, ventilation, drainage and cleanliness. That has nothing to do with the condition of the horse. Paragraph (b) relates to horses being maintained at grass at various times, and that there should be adequate pasture and shelter.


I think the noble Lord has the wrong clause. Clause 3 has nothing to do with horses being maintained at grass or there being adequate pasture and shelter.


Is not the objection to invoking Clause 3 here the same as was mentioned just now: that Clause 3 starts to apply only after the person has had a run? He may be quite unsuitable. I can see the difficulty that an applicant for a licence may not have his full complement of horses at the time he applies for his licence. But might it not be a good plan to have an Amendment along the lines of saying that any horses for the time being present in the establishment when the licence is applied for shall be suitable for the purposes of a riding establishment?


In the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has said, still believe that Clause 3 does not cover the point that was being made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and I would support, if not the actual Amendment he has put down, something of the sort: that horses should be in a fit state of health and suitable, or something like that. I have personal knowledge of a case in which a horse was let out on hire this spring. It was a perfectly sound horse, but it had on its heavy winter coat. It set off with a party of young people to travel across country for four days at an average of fifteen miles a day. The horse, in its winter coat, was not fit, and the result can well be gathered: the trip was a failure. I do not think the horse was submitted to any suffering, because the people were very sensible about it; but it did get saddle galls. I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is right in suggesting something of this sort in the place he has, as an additional paragraph to Clause 1(4), in order to make it absolutely watertight that the people in charge of the establishment should see that their horses are fit for letting out; and not only fit physically but fit, as I have indicated, in terms of their coats.


Is not the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in the wrong place? Is it not, as my noble friend in charge of the Bill would say, putting the cart before the horse? Would not a proper place to have such an Amendment be in Clause 2, because first of all the man gets his licence, then he buys his horses, and then the local authority may send in a man to inspect at any time? Surely it is at that stage that the inspector should have power to say whether the horse is fit, and so on.


May I say something which might help the discussion? I must say that we are entirely behind what the noble Lord has in mind, but we do not like the Amendment. Perhaps I may explain at some length, because I think it is applicable. Where the horses are already in the stables at the time of the inspection, a local authority already has power to withhold the grant of a licence if the horses are unlit or unsuitable, under the general discretion given to them under Clause 1(4) to withhold a licence on grounds other than those specified in paragraphs (a) to (f). My noble friend is quite right that the provisions of Clause 3(1) are also relevant. These make it an offence for any person to hire out a horse in such a condition that its riding would cause it unnecessary suffering—which I think covers saddle galls—or to keep a sick or injured horse without providing suitable curative care.


The point I was making was that this pony to which I have referred was perfectly fit for an hour or two a day in the spring before it was clipped out, but it was not fit for a trekking expedition. Therefore I feel that a provision of this sort should be in the Bill.


May I go on? Among other things, it is not quite clear what is meant by "suitability". I am afraid that if this Amendment is accepted it will give rise to difficulties of interpretation. Apart from the health aspect, which is referred to separately in the Amendment, the suitability of a horse for use in a riding school might depend upon its age and physical characteristics. Even from these aspects, however, suitability depends to a considerable extent on the extent to which a horse is to be hired out, and by whom it is to be ridden. An elderly horse might, for example, be suitable for limited riding by children, but not for more extensive riding by adults. I am merely reinforcing what my noble friend said.

The matter which worries the Government is this. We think it is very doubtful whether the Amendment, or anything on those lines, if accepted would be enforceable, except, of course, under the general powers of a local authority which I have already described, and which are very far-reaching. We are here dealing with people who want to evade the law, who do not care about horses if they are unfit or in pain, and so on. Riding establishments often accommodate horses other than those which are kept for hiring out—for instance, young horses which are being broken in, those kept for the personal use of the proprietor or his family, or horses kept at livery. It would be relatively easy—and we are talking only about people who are trying to get round this measure—for a proprietor to claim that any horses which were alleged to be unsuitable were not kept for. hiring out. There is, too, the point that certain horses may well be unfit at the time of the inspection, but may be receiving appropriate treatment and not being hired out for the time being. Even if they were being hired out, you would have to catch them being hired out. An inspection might be carried out in the stables, and the owner might say, "I am not hiring these out at the moment", and it might be difficult to prove that he was doing so.

I think it would be unreasonable to expose a riding school to the possible refusal of a licence on the general grounds that some horses were not in a good state of health at the material time. It may be, and it probably is, the case that some horses are at present being hired out for riding which are not fit or suitable for the purpose, or perhaps both. But this is the sort of defect—and this is what I want to bring to the noble Lord's attention—which local authorities may be expected to ask inspectors to have in mind when reporting on the suitability of establishments for licensing. In our view, because of the difficulties in enforcement and for the other reasons, and for the wide powers that are already in the hands of local authorities, we think it would be preferable to rely on the general discretion to withhold licences given to local authorities under Clause 1, and on the provisions, as my noble friend said, in Clause 3(1). We think we shall get into immense difficulties if we write anything more specific into the Bill.


What I am saying is that the local authority should have regard to these things; that is all. They are being asked to have regard to a number of matters such as feeding, pasture, and so on. Why should you not say in the Bill that they should have regard to what I regard as the most important question of all? Once more, I am prepared to recognise that the Parliamentary draftsman can make a better job of it than I have done—he always can. Sometimes the words are intelligible, and sometimes they are not. But if the noble Viscount who is in charge of the Bill is prepared to look at this again to see whether words can be formulated which will give expression to what we all want—that unsuitable horses should not be used in riding establishments, even if they are there for curative purposes-I shall be quite happy to withdraw the Amendment. But I think it is worth considering to see whether words can be inserted to deal with what we all recognise is a need.


I will certainly have words with the various organisations and with my noble friend Lord Derwent.


Then I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Inspection of Riding Establishments]:


This is a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 47, leave out ("section 1 of").—(Viscount Massereene and Ferrard.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is a further drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 6, leave out ("above") and insert ("of the foregoing subsection").— (Viscount Massereene and Ferrard.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Penalties and disqualifications]:


May I take Amendments Nos. 8 and 10 together? Subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 4 refer to "Section 2(5)" of the Bill but, of course, we do not have a Section 2(5), only a Section 2(4). These Amendments correct that error. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 4, leave out ("2(5)") and insert ("2(4) thereof").—(Viscount Massereene and Ferrard.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is another drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 6, at end insert ("such").— (Viscount Massereene and Ferrard.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line S. leave out ("2(5)") and insert ("2(41").—(Viscount Massereene and Ferrard.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6:


6.— local authority" means the council of a county borough, the council of a London borough or the Common Council of the City of London; as respects any non-county borough or urban district which has according to the last published census for the time being a population of 20,000 or upwards, the council of the borough or urban district; and as respects any other area the council of the county; and in Scotland means the council of any county or any burgh;

6.0 p.m.

LORD CHAMPION moved, in the definition of "local authority", after "county borough" to insert "or county district,". The noble Lord said: This Amendment and the next standing in my name go together. I think that their purpose is quite clear. It is to make all rural and urban district councils local authorities for the purposes of the Bill. I find it a little difficult to see why the sponsors of the Bill selected a population figure of 20,000 or over and said, in effect, that any rural or urban district council with a smaller population is not a suitable body for this purpose—and the purpose is, of course, the functions of licensing, inspection and prosecution under the Bill.

It is strange that the sponsors of the Bill should have taken this figure, since Parliament has already decided that, for the purposes of the Pet Animals Act, 1951, and the Animal Boarding Establishments Act, 1963, county districts, no matter what their population, shall be the local authorities for this purpose. Both those Acts make provision for licensing, inspection and prosecution by the county districts without any reference to the size of their population. Section 4 of the Pet Animals Act, 1951, makes provision for inspection by a veterinary surgeon or veterinary practitioner of any premises licensed by the local authority on any authorisation by the local authority. Section 2 of the Animal Boarding Establishments Act, 1963, makes exactly the same provision. Clause 2 of this Bill, with the addition of a very few words which in no way increase or decrease the right of the local authority to cause an inspection to be made, has the same effect as Section 4 of the 1951 Act and Section 2 of the 1963 Act.

There have been no complaints at all, so far as I can gather, of the functioning of those county districts I have mentioned under the, in many ways, comparable Acts of 1951 and 1963. Nor have the county districts experienced any difficulties in carrying out their functions, which, in the main, can be economically and expeditiously executed by public health inspectors who are in the employment of the county districts. I think, too, that mention should be made of the fact that under Clause 1 of this Bill a person disqualified under either the 1951 or 1963 Act from keeping an animal establishment (presumably as a result of action by a local authority) is precluded from applying for a licence under the Bill.

Perhaps I might call in aid of my Amendments the words of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, on the Second Reading of the Bill when he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 259 (No. 87) col. 113]: May I say one word, rather 'off the cuff', about the private argument that has ensued between the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. and his noble friend Lord Lindgren. Having heard this argument for the first time between the noble Lords, I believe, on balance, that the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, is right. My noble friend Lord Lindgren was taking the point of view that I am now expressing: that the county districts are suitable authorities for carrying out the provisions of this Bill. After some further words the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, went on (col. 114): One must remember, too, that the general public, in regard to complaints about horses being in bad condition and so on will want to go to their local member. If he is a county councillor he may be too far away; but if he is a man who lives in the next street it can be mentioned to him, and the local authority may then be prepared to send somebody round to look at the premises. He concluded: I think that is really the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren. Of course he supported it, but I admit that he said his remarks were "off the cuff". He said that he had not consulted his Department about it, and I accept that absolutely.

But the Government's spokesman in another place was not speaking "off the cuff" when, on the Third Reading of the Bill, he said [OFFICIAL REPORT (Commons), Vol. 694 (No. 106) col. 1638]: The provisions of the Bill closely follow the provisions of the Pet Animals Act, 1951, and the Animal Boarding Establishments Act, 1963. The former has not given rise to any difficulties of administration, and there is equally no reason to believe that the latter which has only just come into operation, or this Bill, if it becomes law, will not work smoothly and effectvely;". So to that extent, I think we can be optimistic. It is true that he was talking about two Acts of Parliament and was also talking about this Bill which contains this 20,000-population provision. But he clearly was arguing that the Acts passed previously by Parliament were suitable in every way for this purpose.

My Amendment is, I think, soundly based on experience under the 1951 Act, and on my experience as a member of an urban district council. I believe that the urban district council and the rural district councils are suitable bodies for this purpose; and my Amendment is certainly in line with the previous enactments.

I am bound to say that if I thought for one moment that adoption of this Amendment would kill the Bill, I would not even move it. I would certainly withdraw it without a great deal of argument, if either the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, or the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, assured me that if this went back to the other House it would be such a controversial Amendment that it would kill the Bill. The last thing I want is to see this Bill killed: I want it to operate as soon as possible. No one who has ever seen anything of these establishments, who has ever thrown his leg over the back of a horse, would want to see the treatment continuing which is quite often meted out to horses in these establishments. I was bound to think when I heard my noble friend Lord Silkin speaking about the qualifications of some of these people who keep these establishments. I am worried tremendously about the instructions the youngsters give, and no one who has ever seen harsh hands sawing at the sensitive mouth of a horse could ever feel other than worried about the treatment meted out to them. Nevertheless, this is not such a controversial matter as all that. This is a matter of administration and I believe that if this Amendment went back to the other place—which, of course, passed the 1951 and 1963 Acts—it would be approved quite rapidly and without the Bill being held up or killed. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 27, after ("borough") insert ("or county district,").—(Lord Champion.)


Before the noble Viscount who is sponsoring the Bill speaks, perhaps I may be able to help. I am not going to argue the merits of this case, but I have had put to me what would be the position of this Bill if this Amendment were carried. Therefore, I thought I would make my only intervention now, if the noble Lord agrees. I am not speaking "off the cuff" to-day, and having gone into the matter, I do not feel strongly either way, any more than the Government do. But, as he has asked me, I would say this to the noble Lord, Lord Champion.

This is a matter about which the different local authority associations feel very strongly and on which they have differing views. The Bill as it stands is, in fact, the result of a compromise reached in the other place and, I am told, to some extent, of discussions outside. All I would say is that if the Bill is amended on this particular point I feel that there may be a serious risk of losing the Bill altogether. Because, as I say, the present wording is a result of discussion and is—I say this quite frankly—a compromise. I thought that I had better put that point at once.


Since I have been referred to, I would say one word. This Amendment has been moved with my noble friend's usual persuasiveness and he has put the case for it as strongly as it can be put. Nevertheless, there is another point of view. My noble friend has quoted a number of Acts which are analogous to this present Bill, but he did not quote the Riding Establishments Act, 1939, under which the local authorities responsible are exactly those set out in this Bill. I think that is a much more reliable precedent than those he has quoted. For those reasons, and for the reason which the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has just given, that this is a compromise, I myself would be prepared to stand on this compromise and accept the Bill as it stands, although my own opinion is that the more suitable authorities would be the larger ones who have under their control the inspectors and veterinary surgeons, and so on. But if my noble friend is prepared to do a deal with me and accept the Bill as it stands, I am prepared not to move at a later stage for the larger authorities.


Like my noble friend Lord Silkin, I agree that my noble friend Lord Champion has put this case admirably to your Lordships. I intervene only because of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, that this measure is a compromise, and I have been asked to state the position of the Association of Municipal Corporations in regard to the Amendment. The Association has considered the Bill during its progress through another place, and it considers it will be a most helpful measure if and when it receives the Royal Assent. But in regard to the Amendment the Association feels that, since this Bill is intended to re-enact the Riding Establishments Act, 1939, with amendments, it is reasonable that the pattern of administration provided by that Act shall be followed on this occasion, leaving the question whether there should be a redistribution of function for consideration in a wider context. In those circumstances, and particularly in view of what has been said by the Minister, and my noble friend's anxiety for the Bill to become law, I do hope that we shall not have this Amendment pressed on your Lordships this afternoon.

6.14 p.m.


I join with my noble friend Lord Champion in supporting this Amendment, and also in desiring not to do anything at all to delay or damage the prospects of getting the Bill on the Statute Book. I want to register one point of disagreement in regard to the suggestion—and I know it is true—that this is an agreed measure. it rather seems to be one of those agreements where at least some of the parties do not agree at all, and certainly that appears to be the position of the Rural District Councils Association because they are very much behind this Amendment moved by my noble friend, as indeed I am.

With regard to the question of suitability, I am not now thinking of the riding schools providing courses for trotting round Rotten Row; I am thinking of riding schools and riding establishments in rural areas. There are some 474 rural district councils, of which 301 have less than 20,000 population. So if the Bill goes through in its present form, and I know it will, it means that two out of every three of the rural district councils will not be local authorities under this Bill when it becomes an Act. I would just say this. In roost cases the rural districts with these small populations not only are the authorities that have the facilities for administering this Bill, public health inspectors and vets readily at hand, but they have a number of riding establishments.

I see the noble Earl, Lord Fortescue, in his place. I am thinking of rural district councils such as Dulverton on the edge of Exmoor, where, of course, almost everybody rides and where quite a large number of horses are hired out, some for hunting, others for going over the moors, and where the need for this Bill is just as apparent as, or even more apparent than, in some urban districts. It has quite a small population, but nevertheless, they have everybody at hand, everything suitable for administering a Bill of this kind. They are indeed the people who know, and I think therefore it is a pity that this deal, as it were, was made outside and that the smaller authorities are going to be excluded. I think it is a mistake, because in many cases they would be the best authorities to administer this kind of legislation.


I do not have any precise knowledge of the number of rural district councils and urban district councils, but I should imagine there must be between 1,500 and 1,800. There are only 2,000 riding schools, and it is surely rather ridiculous to have, say, 1,800 authorities inspecting 2,000 riding schools. It is really rather like Alice in Wonderland.


I think that after this Bill becomes an Act the noble Viscount will find he has a lot more riding schools than he thought. There are many riding establishments hiring out horses which are not registered as riding schools.


It remains to be seen. But surely it is far better to have the power of inspection and granting of licences in the hands of the authorities who presumably will have within their jurisdiction the necessary officers. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who mentioned the precedent of the Riding Establishments Act, 1939. The county councils have been using their powers in the carrying out of that Act. They do know the business. I feel that if we are going to hand it over to all these small district councils it is going to cause a great deal of unnecessary trouble.

One noble Lord opposite brought up the question that the local inhabitant of a small county area would be far more inclined to lodge a complaint with his local authority, the rural district council. That probably is so. But, on the other hand, there are considerations against that, too. You may have Mr. Smith who is friendly with Mr. Brown on the local council, and perhaps he may have a grudge against the man who owns the riding, school. Human nature enters into this. I personally would be of the opinion that it is far more satisfactory to have this power in the hands of the big authorities.

One noble Lord opposite brought up the question of the precedent of the Animal Boarding Establishments Act, 1963, and the Pet Animals Act, 1961, which of course are administered by district councils. But these are completely new Acts, and we do not really know how they are operating; I think it is too early to say. They have not been working long enough to set a precedent for new legislation relating to riding establishments. As I have already mentioned, the county councils have been exercising these functions for many years, and to operate this Bill sufficiently well it is far better to allow the authorities who already have the available powers and machinery to carry on with the good work.


I am not going to spend a long time replying, because I said at the outset that if there appeared to be the slightest chance that this Bill would be lost if it went back to another place, I certainly would withdraw my Amendment. I am bound to say to the noble Viscount that the fact that many authorities would have the powers does not necessarily mean that all those authorities would exercise them. They would only exercise them in cases where they happened to have such establishments within their area. There is just one other point that I would mention. The noble Viscount said that somebody on this side suggested that the local member would be approached. It was his noble friend who made that point on Second Reading. I was merely calling him in aid. I shall not prolong this discussion because I think there is something in what the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said. Having regard to the local authority associations and their feelings in connection with this matter, they might get their champions to ride fearlessly into battle. If this Bill went back to another place, it might cause it to be lost. In the circumstances, I am happy to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported, with Amendments.