§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This Bill has been promoted by the Epsom and Ewell District Council, which is the local authority which covers Epsom and Walton Downs. This Bill deals with those Downs and it is necessary owing to the provisions of Section 262(9) of the Local Government Act 1972, which causes the existing legislation—the Epsom and Walton Downs Regulation Act 1936—to lapse at the end of 1984.
Epsom and Walton Downs cover an area of approximately 600 acres. Epsom Downs and part of Walton Downs belong to a company named Metropolitan and Country Racecourse Management and Holding Limited 1266 and are subject to a lease in favour of United Racecourses. The remainder of Walton Downs is owned by Mr. Stanley Wootton and subject to a lease between him and the Horserace Betting Levy Board.
Before the 1936 Act, which is the existing legislation, the Downs were subject to conflicting interests. The interests of the public were represented by the council (that is, the predecessor of the Epsom and Walton Downs District Council), and the interests of the predecessors of United Racecourses and Mr. Wootton lay in the use of the Downs for racing and training. The council's problem was that it had only limited powers to safeguard public interests. They could make representations and resist any permanent enclosures. Generally they were dependent on the goodwill of the others.
The 1936 Act therefore set out to do the following: first, to give statutory recognition to the rights of the public to air and exercise over the Downs. Secondly, to set up a body known as the conservators. The conservators are 10 in number and at present they consist of six appointees of the local authority; three appointees of United Racecourses; and one appointed by Mr. Stanley Wootton. The conservators were charged with the duty of preserving the Downs in their natural state of beauty, and were armed with the necessary powers. Thirdly, the 1936 Act was to define the rights of predecessors of United Racecourses and Mr. Wootton over parts of the Downs essential to the continuance of the racing industry, and to safeguard other users.
As I have already said, the 1936 Act will expire at the end of 1984 unless extended by the Secretary of State for the Environment under the powers he has in the Local Government Act 1972. Because it is expiring, the council set up a working party to consider the replacement of the 1936 Act. It was felt on the whole that the 1936 Act has stood the test of time quite well and that the new Bill should be on more or less the same lines, making changes deemed necessary only by the passing of time and what might be necessary in future. This I think the new Bill attempts to do.
Since the 1936 Act, there has been a considerable increase in the local population, with, I would have thought, a resulting increase in the ownership of cars and horses for hack riding. People also now have more time for recreation. The proximity of the Downs to the Metropolitan area has led to greatly increased pressure on their use. It is obvious therefore that some balance must be struck between the various different and conflicting users of the Downs, and it should be pointed out that during the consultative process the working party consulted all interested parties and, with one significant exception, all reached a considerable level of agreement. I shall come to that exception later.
The Bill seeks some new powers to make by-laws to prevent nuisance and damage and to preserve order so as to ensure that the visitors to the Downs behave themselves and do not interfere with the rights of others in their enjoyment of the Downs. In addition to the existing by-laws the Bill covers metal detectors, noise from radios and musical instruments, model aircraft, hang-gliding and dogs. A power to charge for parking is also sought, and also various regulations to control residential caravans at the Derby meeting. 1267 About all these there is really no dispute. All the appropriate bodies have been consulted. For example, with regard to the caravans, the National Gypsy Council and the police have been consulted, and on these matters no petitions have been lodged.
Epsom has a worldwide reputation as a training and racing centre. Epsom and Ewell District Council regard racing as their most famous industry. But it is not only that: it also provides considerable local employment. I think there are some 14 licensed trainers and one permit-holder operating on the Downs, with something in the region of 400 horses in training: the figure can vary from day to day.
Training on the Downs at present, although fairly satisfactory, is not nearly as convenient as at, say, Newmarket, where there is considerably greater space; and with this in mind and remembering the importance of the employment question, the promoters are seeking powers to regulate hack riding. Failing that, the continuation of training at Epsom would be in considerable jeopardy; and with the demise of training one could possibly argue that racing at Epsom would be threatened. I do not argue this point very strongly, but it is arguable and I imagine that some later speakers will be referring to it. Racing has existed at Epsom since at least the reign of Charles II and I do not think anyone would be prepared to see it go. Certainly the local authority consulted all the local residents and they all agreed that racing at Epsom should survive.
All I would say for the moment is that the promoters are most anxious that training and racing, and in particular the Derby—probably the most celebrated race in the world—should be preserved. This is not merely in the interests of the racing industry but in the interests of the rest of the community in Epsom and round about. It is with that in mind that the promoters seek power to regulate hacks on the Downs. I should mention that the 1936 Act was defective in that it left this matter unclear. It has worked tolerably well in the past, but the increased pressure on the Downs makes this less easy. Further powers are also being sought to erect temporary stands principally for the Derby meeting, to re-develop the present grandstand when necessary—at present it has only possibly 10 years of life—and to impose a limit of 16 days' racing a year. At present there is no limit, though in fact only nine days' racing takes place. Evening and Sunday racing has been anticipated, but only if there should be a change in the general law. Even then safeguards have been added to tighten up the existing regulations in the interests of the conservators and the council, whose consent would be required.
Turning to the question of hacks, concerning whom the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has tabled an Instruction, and concerning whom a petition has been lodged by the British Horse Society and the Epsom Downs Riders' Protection Society, due to increased pressure on the Downs the promoters feel it is necessary for there to be some greater control over hack riding. Obviously the exact details and the evidence needed must be left to the Select Committee, to whom this Bill would be committed should it be given a Second Reading.
I should like to make only three points. First, this is not, as I think some would like to see it, a dispute purely between the liberties of the hack riders 1268 and the alleged privileges of the racing industry. There are a great many other users of the Downs whose rights ought to be considered. People walk there; they go on cross-country runs; they have picnics there and the Downs are used for charitable events. Model aircraft flying takes place there and the local school cadet force meets there for its field day events. Obviously some balance must be struck between all those different users. The hacks are not the only users other than the racing and training industry.
Secondly, I cannot really emphasise too much the importance of the training at Epsom in terms of employment. This is of benefit to the area, and nobody wants to see training disappear if that would result in considerable loss of jobs. Thirdly, it is fair to point out that the trainers pay large sums for maintaining the various gallops and training areas on the Downs, while the other users do not. I do not know how many there are, but certainly some of the other users are not necessarily local residents or ratepayers.
Lastly, I turn to the Instruction in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, which will be moved should this Bill be given a Second Reading. I am not terribly happy with it; I do not particularly like the wording, but I shall leave it at that. I do not myself oppose it. If the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, moves his amendment to that Instruction, I feel I should have to support him, as I would prefer the Instruction of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, as amended by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, and while I realise I shall be speaking later, could he say how many jobs would be involved? This would be very helpful to those who are going to speak in the debate later.
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, I do not think I can say how many jobs would be involved. I certainly do not have the exact figure. There are about 400 horses in training and that will give some idea, because quite a lot of people are needed to look after that number of horses. Again, this is a matter of detailed evidence and I think it is the job of the Select Committee to look into that rather than for it to be dealt with on Second Reading.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time. —(Lord Henley.)
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has given your Lordships an admirable introduction to this Bill and I should like to say at the outset that I entirely support a Second Reading being given to the Bill and for it to go to a Select Committee. I entirely agree with him that it is the Committee's job and not one for your Lordships this afternoon to look into the merits and the arguments on one side or the other.
Before I make my speech, may I apologise profusely to your Lordships for the fact that I have to leave the Chamber at 5 o'clock to attend a meeting of your Lordships' Select Committee on unemployment. This is the last meeting of that Committee, which has been sitting for nearly three years now, and it is 1269 impossible for me to miss even a minute of its final meeting. Unfortunately, the timing of this debate was changed without providing any opportunity for me to comment on it. I believe it was altered to suit, in particular, my noble friend Lord Wigg and others of your Lordships who wished to speak this afternoon. As your Lordships will know, it was originally on the Order Paper for the end of Business yesterday when it would have been fairly late; but I am afraid it means that I shall not be able to stay until the end of the debate. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has very kindly agreed to move my Instruction formally when the time comes, and I hope I can save time by speaking to it now and therefore shall not need to speak for a second time, even if I were in a position to do so.
If I may add very briefly to a couple of points on the history which the noble Lord, Lord Henley, so admirably sketched out, before the 1936 Act the Downs were common land and were used for a wide variety of activities—as indeed they still are—racing, training racehorses, hacking, the grazing of sheep, golf, walking and so on. As the noble Lord said, more recently there have been more modern pursuits, such as model aircraft flying, added to the list. But in 1936 the number of horses in training had risen to over 1,000 and, due to the pressure which that and other activities were putting on the Downs, there was dissension between trainers and representatives of other users. The object of the 1936 Act was to maintain the Downs in a state as near as possible to the natural one, to their natural beauty, and to ensure that no particular interest group, no particular set of users, obtained more than their fair share of access to the Downs and use of them, and certainly that they did not do so to the detriment of other interests or members of the public.
The number of racehorses being trained has declined somewhat since 1936. As I said, then there were about 1,000; I understand that in the 1950s there were about 850 and that now the figure is around 350. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, quite rightly said that a number of jobs are tied up in this, but I do not think anybody who objects to the part of the Bill which changes the rights of hack riders would wish in any way, or even to suggest, that training should be limited or should disappear from Epsom. Quite the contrary—the argument is whether the changes in the Bill are needed to ensure that training continues. Just as a first point, it seems to me that if the numbers have declined from around 1,000 to around 350, while the area available for training has certainly not decreased, and has in fact increased, there are at least some prima facie arguments for saying that a change in legislation of the sort that this Bill would introduce is not needed.
But there are other economic interests and employment interests involved. For example, six local riding schools and their clients, together with a large number of private riders, use the Downs and employment will be involved in those riding schools, just as there is in the training. It is estimated that the Downs are used by about 40 hacks per day on a weekday and 100 per day at the weekend. Of course, those figures are subject to considerable seasonal variation, but I think they illustrate the degree of public interest among a large number of people in the use of the Downs for the purpose of hacking.
1270 As the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said, the Act needs to be brought up to date and, as I said, I certainly support the Second Reading of this Bill, but changes have been taking place in advance of a change in legislation. Over recent years, hacks on the Downs have been more and more confined to certain limited tracks and paths, by signs and barriers which have been erected across traditional riding grounds. These tracks are also used by racehorses going to and from the gallops, and by tractors and other vehicles of the racing interests. The result of this has been that the tracks have become very badly churned up in wet weather, even impassable, and one or two are completely unusable in any safety in bad weather. This has caused considerable problems for the hacks, but also considerable damage to the Downs themselves, and it illustrates the dangers of confining people to particular tracks when they are riding on horseback, particularly if those tracks are also used by tractors in bad weather.
For example, a sand track was constructed on the area at the top of Walton Downs where hacks used to ride. That soon became churned up and unsuitable, and a further track was built on the uphill side of the first. That track drained into the first one, which has become completely impassable, and worsened its already poor condition, and when the upper track was rebuilt all the unwanted material was spread on the lower track, making that into nothing more than a bog in wet weather.
I do not think I want to go any further into the arguments on either side. On that point, I simply want to emphasise that the petitioners to this Bill certainly have absolutely no intention of threatening racing or the training of racehorses on Epsom Downs. They would suggest that the 1936 Act has worked well and that it would be wrong, without serious consideration, to change its provisions. In addition, I wanted in the first few remarks that I made to illustrate that there is a very considerable public interest on both sides. I agree entirely with what the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said about the importance of racing and training racehorses at Epsom, but I hope that others of your Lordships, and he indeed, will agree that there is considerable public interest in the general recreational use of this area, particularly given, as he said, the increasing population and the decreasing amount of green space that is available, especially for people living near Epsom.
To turn to the legal position very briefly, the 1936 Act substituted for rights to ride over the Downs at will, which were claimed under common law, statutory rights to ride at will, but restricted in the sense that the public were not allowed to ride on the golf course, the racecourse or the training gallops. So the 1936 Act removed, of itself, very widely claimed and held common law rights, and substituted more restricted rights in order to balance, as the noble Lord said, the different interests involved. Section 4 of the Act, to which my Instruction draws attention, gives this right of access for air and exercise on the Downs, subject to a provision that nothing in that section shall authorise any interference with racing or the training of racehorses—that is quite clear in the existing Act—or, of course, the general right of access on foot or on horses, which is confirmed in later sections of the Act.
1271 The problem with this Bill and the point of public importance, and the reason why I suggest your Lordships agree to the Instruction which I have put down, is that the Bill before your Lordships this afternoon amends Section 4 of the Act, because it would restrict the general right of access to the Downs to those on foot only. It would therefore remove the general right of access, subject as I have said to the safeguards for racing and training, from those on horseback. I suggest to your Lordships that that is an important matter, a matter of public interest, and one to which it would be useful for the Committee to give particular attention.
To sum up the arguments of those who object to the change which is in the Bill, they would say that it is unacceptable that the public's statutory right to ride at will over the Downs should be exchanged for permission to ride on certain tracks and areas only. They would say that it is unnecessary to restrict the public's use of the Downs, because the Act limits this general right, as I have said, to the extent that it was necessary originally to train 1,000 racehorses on the Downs to provide a sufficient area of training gallops for that purpose; that now there are only 300 or 350 horses in training and it should not, therefore, be necessary to increase the size of the training gallops at this point in time. But the third argument against the change which is in the Bill would be that it is detrimental to the conservation of the Downs to restrict and channel riders in very narrow tracks used by a large number of horses, including racehorses and vehicles, because that damages the surface of the Downs and is in nobody's interest at all.
Finally, those who object to this change in the Bill would say that there is no evidence in the official report, which was published in 1981 by the borough council, of any conflict between riders and members of the public exercising their rights of access on the Downs. As I understand it, those with considerable experience of training racehorses—indeed, one trainer recently wrote to the Horse and Hound to this effect—say that there has not been a single accident in all the years of training racehorses on the Downs. That, I hope, is sufficient to suggest that there is a matter of public importance and public interest here, and I should now like to turn very briefly to the effect of my Instruction and to the amendment of my noble friend Lord Wigg.
First, the effect of an Instruction is not to settle the matter under debate; as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said, and I strongly agree with him, that is a matter for the Committee. The effect of an Instruction is twofold: first, to underline the importance of a point. I suggest to your Lordships that the number of people who put their names down to speak this afternoon does not allow anyone to argue that this is not a matter of general interest and importance. Therefore, on that ground alone, it seems to me right that your Lordships should agree to my Instruction and ensure that the Committee gives particular attention to this point.
The second thing which an Instruction ensures is that the Committee gives reasons if it disagrees with what is said in the Instruction or agrees with what is said in the Bill—either way. It seems to me, given the public interest in this subject, the number of interests involved and the degree of interest in your Lordships' House, that it would be advisable to ask the Com- 1272 mittee, by way of agreeing to my Instruction, to give its reasons for either agreeing with what is in the Bill, or deleting what is in the Bill and remaining with the provisions of the 1936 Act. That again will be the effect of passing the Instruction. It does not determine the outcome of the Committee's deliberations one way or the other. I would suggest to your Lordships that on those grounds the case for an Instruction is overwhelming. I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Henley, say that he would not object, although he was not entirely happy with my wording, to this Instruction being agreed to, and I hope that that will be the view which your Lordships will take generally.
Finally, as I shall not be speaking again, may I deal with Lord Wigg's amendment. It seems to me that it does not make a great deal of difference in practice which version of the Instruction is agreed to, because both will have these two effects: that the Committee will give particular attention to this point and, if they follow their normal practice, will give their reasons for either agreeing or disagreeing to the change made to the Bill. My only quarrel with my noble friend is that my wording is, I think, rather clearer and simpler than his and, secondly, addresses itself to the point in the Bill which is the focus of public concern. For that reason, it is a preferable form of words.
I say that because the reason for the concern which I have mentioned to your Lordships is that the 1936 Act is being amended in one important respect: to make it a criminal offence for people on horses to ride at will over the Downs where previously they had a statutory and before that a common law right to do so. That is the change which is causing concern. I suggest that logically this is the change to which the Committee's attention should be drawn and that they should give their reasons for either agreeing or disagreeing to that change. This is what my Instruction quite specifically does. If one reads it very carefully, Lord Wigg's does much the same thing, but not nearly so explicitly. It does not seem to me that my noble friend gains very much by his words, but it does seem to me that the Committee will gain something from the greater degree of clarity of my drafting.
Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will agree to this Instruction being passed to the Committee, taking into account the very considerable degree of public interest and concern. This very small change—the inclusion of the words "on foot"—which will make, as members of the British Horse Society, local riders, local riding schools and so on believe, criminal offenders out of people who previously had a general right at law to ride over the Downs, so long as they did not interfere with the racing and training interests, is a matter of considerable importance. On that basis, when it comes to the Bill—as I hope it will—being given a Second Reading, I hope that my Instruction can also be moved formally and will be accepted by your Lordships.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Lord Wigg
My Lords, may I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Henley, on the excellent way in which he introduced the Second Reading. He saved me a great deal of trouble and I think that perhaps he saved your Lordships some boredom, because much 1273 of what he had to say is what I intended to say—although I do not think that I should have said it as ably as did he.
Naturally I listened with great care to what the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, had to say. The great difference between us is that obviously he is interested in preserving the rights of those on horseback to go where they like, when they like and how they like, whereas I, for my sins, became involved in this problem in a practical way. My interest arises in the first instance from the work of the late Lord Chuter-Ede—my old friend Jim with whom I was closely associated in another place in connection with the legislation which the then Home Secretary, the late Lord Butler, placed on the statute book. The late Miss Ellen Ede and the Mayor and Corporation of Epsom did me the honour of asking me to deliver the address at his funeral service. I remember very well that The Times paid tribute to him by saying that he was among the most sensible men of his generation. He was essentially a sensible man and a man who commanded wide respect. Although a lifelong Socialist and a member of the Labour Party, he became Charter Mayor of Epsom and the chairman of Surrey County Council. I do not think that the political opponents of anybody could pay a greater tribute than was paid to Chuter Ede.
It was Jim Chuter Ede who was the author of the 1936 Act. I sat, as it were, at his knee and listened to him dealing with some of the problems and some of the chaos that existed before the 1936 Act. Of course there were many more horses in training then, but training then was very different from training today. The situation in Epsom before the 1936 Act was passed was as about near chaos as anybody can imagine. May I remind your Lordships that when I became chairman of the Levy Board in 1967, at the Derby one had the unique spectacle, by the Downs Hotel, of racehorses which were worth hundreds of thousands of pounds being mixed up with motor-cars, the public, ice-cream cars, bicycles, motor-cycles. Of course it is generally accepted that the winner of the Derby in 1970 was worth £1 million. When it pulled up, it could have pulled up in conditions which might have involved the end of the horse.
We had to tackle a problem which had been left over. Nothing had been done about it. We had to find the money to put in an underpass and tackle the problem. Between the 1970 Derby and the next Derby the Langley underpass was built. It is perfectly true that great quantities of chalk had to be excavated, that this was put on the Downs and that it made some parts of the Downs soggy. But there are problems all the time, which either can be left or can be controlled. What Chuter Ede set out to do, sensible man that he was, was to compromise. The 1936 Act, which has lasted from then until today, was based upon a compromise which worked very well.
The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, was very kind and very fair in what he said, but I do not think that he could have read his own Instruction because what he is asserting there is that there is an explicit right at all times, which should be continued, for hack riders to go, as I say, where they like, when they like and how they like. What Chuter Ede set out to do by setting up the conservators was to bring into practice a compromise which has, basically, worked. If the Bill is 1274 given a Second Reading and the amendment which I am going to move is accepted, to establish here the right of the trainers, under properly controlled conditions, I believe that training will continue, that racing will continue and that money will be available for the development and conservation of the Downs, free of any charge upon the public. May I remind your Lordships that one of the things which we managed to do was to take Epsom and Walton Downs out of private ownership, leaving the kind of problem I have mentioned at the Downs Hotel, and bring them into public ownership in order that they could be developed in the interests of the community as a whole: pedestrians, hack riders, trainers, the continuation of the Derby, and the family who want to go there for a picnic. It is not only Epsom that is involved. This is an open area available to the metropolis as a whole. If this can be developed then it will be a very important public asset, which I am proud to say that I helped to bring into public ownership so that it could be developed in that way.
Can I just tell a story? There was a difference of opinion concerning Mr. Stanley Wootton, the owner, as he is described in the Act, of Walton Downs. The future of Epsom came into doubt because the Grandstand Association, as it then was, under the chairmanship of the late Sir Brian Mountain assisted by Mr. Evelyn de Rothschild, was quarrelling with Mr. Wootton. It got almost to the point of litigation. Stanley Wootton asked me to meet him on Walton Downs on a lovely June morning in 1969. He said, "Look, over there is Headley Church. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could come to an arrangement whereby, 200 years from today, someone standing on this spot could see what we can see today while enjoying the glorious sunshine of a June morning?" I replied, "Two hundred years? Why not a thousand years?" He responded, "Why not? "So he agreed to give a lease to United Racecourses. In that lease he did not lay down the law or impose stringent conditions, and I know that because I have a copy of it here. He merely expressed the hope that in granting the lease he would guarantee the future of the Downs as a training centre for racehorses and for the continuation of the Derby. That is my interest.
I was committed in honour to do what I could to undertake what Stanley Wootton had asked me to do. A few days ago he wrote to me from Australia. Like me, he is now getting near the end of the journey and spends much of his time in his native Australia. He writes:Dear Lord Wigg, I understand that a petition has been lodged for hack riders to be given official authority to use some portion of Walton Downs. I am entirely opposed to this suggestion and trust that the Levy Board are of the same opinion. When I handed over the management of Walton Downs to the Levy Board, I did so upon their agreeing that the training of racehorses should always have priority over all other uses of the Downs. We must on no account give away the rights of the owners of the Downs to manage these within their authority. I am not opposed to a continuation of the friendly arrangement with the Hack Riders' Association, whereby they have somewhere to ride on the Downs".He goes on to tell me how I may get in touch with his solicitor.
It is not only Mr. Stanley Wootton who is worried. I have received a letter from Mr. Benstead, the chairman 1275 of the Epsom Racehorse Trainers Association, in which he writes:Dear Lord Wigg, I am writing on behalf of all trainers in the Epsom area to ask if you will render assistance in preserving the training grounds on Epsom and Walton Downs for the training of racehorses. As chairman of the Levy Board when Mr. Wootton leased Walton Downs and other parts to the Levy Board, you are best qualified to understand Mr. Wootton's intentions. During the preparation of this new Act, we were under the impression that the interests of United Racecourses and the trainers were one and the same. Recent events have indicated that this may not be so".The point is this. Here are these Downs and there are, I would suggest, some 400 racehorses. What the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, does not understand is that a considerable capital outlay has been undertaken to improve the quality of the gallops. I would like to pay tribute to Mr. J. S. Hall, who for many years was responsible for those gallops and for putting in all-weather gallops. These are maximum capital outlays and they are bringing their reward. Only last Saturday, the third and fourth in the 2,000 Guineas were horses trained at Epsom. The number may have gone down but the quality has increased. If Epsom is to continue as a racing centre, it will continue to provide employment not just for those who work in the stables; because it is like a brick being dropped into a pond, sending ripples out wide. There are also secretaries, saddlers, people who provide refreshments and all sorts of other people whose numbers must run into hundreds.
However, I would not base my argument on the question of employment, important though that may be. My argument concerns an event of world importance. It is the most important race in the world. If Epsom ceases to be a training centre it will be the end of the Derby. The training of racehorses and the continuation of the Derby are the heads and tails of the same penny. Others may not agree, but that is my firm view. I struggled to find the money to buy United Racecourses at a time when there was a restriction on credit. But I did so with the support of a very able board—and I pay tribute to my colleagues on the Levy Board at that time, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Kilmany, and certainly the late Lord Crathorne, who backed me up in buying United Racecourses with Deutschmarks.
Why did we do so? Because it was not only Epsom that we were concerned about. We were concerned about rebuilding the stand at Sandown Park, which was in danger of falling down. That was done, and the idea was to roll over part of the cost against gravel extraction at Kempton, and then to develop the 1¼ mile down to the 7 furlong start at Kempton and then to sell it. Negotiations were in progress which would have produced very large sums of money. But times change and those policies were not carried through. Nevertheless I believe that they were soundly conceived. But one cannot legislate for posterity. One can only do the best one can today, in the hope that it will hear fruit for tomorrow. That is what has happened.
It is also of tremendous importance that one should understand the part played by the local authorities. It was the view of my board, and certainly my own view, that we should bring the local authorities—Epsom Council, Esher Council and Sunbury Council—into 1276 association for the development of these racecourses. That was done; but in March 1974, without a word of warning, the local authorities got slung off. Notice was given by the late Sir Brian Mountain that they had served their purpose and must go. I was not very happy about that, and I am not very happy about it now. But with regard to Epsom Council, to whom I pay tribute because it has been a pleasure to meet Councillor Newton and the Chief Executive, Mr. Grimes, who are very pleasant colleagues, I have every confidence in their ability to sustain policies in the interests not only of Epsom but also of the continuation of the Derby.
I intended to put down an Instruction which would secure the appointment of Epsom Council on to the board of United Racecourses, but Epsom Council are satisfied with something less than that. They have sent me copies of correspondence with the Levy Board in which they say that the Levy Board are prepared to give an assurance to this House (although I do not know what the value of an assurance given to this House is, except that it is a way of expressing intent to follow policies through) to ensure that Epsom and Ewell Borough Council will be represented on the grandstand company and will be kept informed of all activities which involve Epsom.
That is a matter between the Levy Board and Epsom. I hope it works out. It has not worked out very well so far as the Grand National is concerned, because, although I have done my best to secure continuance of the Grand National, in my judgment unless something is done very quickly to put the stands right at Aintree there is not going to be another Grand National. If it is left to next November, when the option that the Racecourse Holdings Trust have with Mr. Davis will expire, and the money is not available, then I am afraid the 1982 Grand National is curtains.
I was afraid about the same thing happening at Epsom. The original stand was built in 1830. It is interesting to notice that the cost was £13,000. The present stands were built in 1927, and it is estimated that they have 10 years' life. But of course if you wait till the stands are about to fall down, and if you have had a policy of spending all your money on prize money or interest free loans to the Jockey Club, there will not be any money available to rebuild the stands. In my view, a survey ought to be undertaken now, getting the best advice available as to how rebuilding should take place, because of course, even today, the existing stands are not really up to modern standards. These problems have to be tackled in advance. If they are left, at the end of the day you can say, "Well, of course we are wholeheartedly in favour, we would do it all if we could, but we have no money." I now come, under the pressure of time, to the point of Lord Melchett's amendment. What he does in his amendment is to give the right to the public on horseback to exercise the powers which he says they have always had. Well, I am not going to argue about whether they have always had them. All I would say is that they have not practised them. It has been done on the basis of co-operation. I believe the Epsom Council and the Epsom trainers have leant over backwards to do everything they can to meet the hacking interests, but you cannot have all- 1277 weather gallops being used by valuable racehorses running within a few inches, or a yard or so, of people on hacks. To do that is to invite disaster.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord and I do not want to prolong the proceedings, but he has now said twice that I have an amendment down. In fact it is an Instruction. My noble friend has also said twice that the effect of the Instruction would he to continue a generally and totally unrestricted right of access by hacks to the downs. Neither of those statements is correct. My Instruction asks the Committee to make sure that they are satisfied that it is in the public interest that the rights available under the 1936 Act should be removed. It does no more than that. The Instruction does not tell the Committee what decision to reach; it simply asks them to make sure that it is in the public interest that the rights given under the 1936 Act should be removed by this Bill—no more than that.
§ Lord Wigg
My Lords, may I say this, with great respect: that is a lawyer's argument. It has no validity in fact at all. What the noble Lord is saying is that under the 1936 Act there was this right. I am saying it was an academic right and it was never put into practice. When it was, it brought the conflict between Mr. Wootton and United Racecourses which led Mr. Wootton, first, to threaten litigation, and then to say, "Look, I am prepared to give Walton Downs provided the training of racehorses should continue". I am saying to your Lordships that if you go and look at these gallops, these hack rides, they have 14 miles of hack rides. The trainers have leant over backwards. They offered not to use their gallops after midday. They have done everything they can. They offered to put in another strip to the top of Six Mile Hill.
This was all thought to be accepted, and then they found this. The trainers suddenly woke up to find that the Levy Board representative and the conservators representative, without a word from them, were going out measuring strips for hack riders within a yard or so of the gallops. At the end of the day, either you have the hack riders or you have the gallops; you cannot have the two. I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett. He says he wants to leave it to the Select Committee. So be it. I think this matter of such importance that your Lordships should say to the Select Committee, "Yes, be fair-minded, listen to the evidence, come back and say what you like; but in our view it is of prime importance that all users of the Downs—hack riders, trainers, pedestrians, picnickers—all have a right and somebody has got to balance those rights, and that should be the Epsom Council, the elected representatives." That is what I am saying.
If that is done, you will then get, in our peculiarly British way, in the tradition set out for us in the past by Lord Chuter-Ede, a working compromise. But if your Lordships accept Lord Melchett's advice, and if the Select Committee then come down and say that there is the inherent right here, as a legal right, for the hack riders to go where they like, or, as he puts it, the public on horseback have a right to go where they like without any restriction being imposed, without any restriction that the council in the interests of the users 1278 of the Downs may impose, then you have said goodbye to training at Epsom and you have said goodbye to the Derby. That is my view. I have put it to your Lordships as fairly as I can, and I would ask your Lordships to give the Bill a Second Reading and to support my amendment as against the original Instruction moved by Lord Melchett.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Lord Crawshaw
My Lords, I want to say a few words in support of my noble friend Lord Henley, who so ably moved this Bill, and of the Bill itself. First of all, I am extremely pleased to see that the local council, the Epsom Council, and the racing authorities are in pretty well total agreement over this Bill, because I think that augurs very well for the future of racing and training at Epsom. As I understand it, in point of fact all this Bill is doing is to put on to the statute book practices which are going on at present. We have had many instances of this sort of thing in the past; we had one last summer on the Bill to do with bookmakers' contributions, simply to put what is a current practice on to the statute book. That is how I understand it.
On the whole I have found that the mutual respect among those engaged in equestrian pursuits is very fundamental. It seems to me this is especially the case when it comes to, so to speak, leaving the floor. There is a great camaraderie between those engaged in steeplechasing, point-to-point, show jumping, hunting and so on; perhaps it is the common extra risk which is the unifying factor. This was all exemplified in the result of this year's Grand National. That was what sport, or steeplechasing or racing, is all about. Therefore, I regret that there is some conflict here between the equestrian interests. Fundamentally, there appears to be a need for the extension of the mutual respect about which I have just been talking.
As we have heard, there are 417 horses in training at Epsom which form a very important and welcome local industry. That must put Epsom in the top five or six training centres in this country. Such centres as New-market, Lambourn, Malton, Epsom, et cetera, can only be established over very many years—old turf has to come simply by age as well as the even ground, freedom from rabbit holes and ruts and hoof prints, particularly hoof marks which are, so to speak, going in the wrong direction. There is also the question of loose horses. Seeing my noble friend Lord Onslow here today I cannot help being reminded of an occasion when he rode one of my horses on a hack and I am afraid it came back with an empty saddle. However, that was a few years ago and I am sure that he is much better at it now.
In any event, those are all factors which are essential for highly-trained and corned-up horses travelling on very fragile limbs at speeds of anything up to 40 miles an hour. After all, to use a parallel, we would not expect Sebastian Coe to do his training for his running around Trafalgar Square or Piccadilly Circus. I think that that is a genuine parallel because the training of horses is a very precise science and it is practised as well at Epsom as anywhere else in the country. As the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has said, we did witness that the third and fourth in the 2,000 Guineas were trained at Epsom and came in front, if I may say so, of all the Newmarket horses on their own ground. So it seems 1279 obvious to me that those people who ride any other sort of horse ought to be prepared to accept some restraints on their movements.
That is why I want to support the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, and his Instruction—a fact which gives me considerable satisfaction this afternoon, because in the past on Bills and debates to do with racing in which we have both been engaged I have not found it possible to be in total agreement with the noble Lord, but at the same time I have always realised that he has a passionate interest and concern for the welfare of the sport and industry in this country. The same sentiments about the importance of training at Epsom were echoed to me also last Saturday by none other than Mr. Scobie Breasley—no finer or more fair-minded a sportsman ever sat astride the pigskin, in my opinion.
I must also stress, and this has again been mentioned by other noble Lords, that in this country there are about 100,000 people directly or indirectly employed in racing and its ancillary industries. There are approximately—and this is only an approximate figure—10,000 horses in training in this country and probably rather more if we talk about the point-to-pointers and so on. If we divide 100,000 by 10,000 we can see that each horse in a way represents employment for 10 people. That is a significant factor and I hope that it may help my noble friend Lord Onslow as regards his query about the employment situation.
I now wish to say a few words about the admirable British Horse Society, which on this occasion represents the hack riders. One of the few explosions that I have welcomed recently has been in the number of people who have been deriving great pleasure and recreation from riding horses. I have witnessed this at first hand in my part of the country, in the Midlands, and where I can I try to help to provide for it. Any purely obstructive treatment of these people by the racing fraternity at Epsom is bound to be counter-productive. In any case, they are all potential racing enthusiasts and I imagine that they would love to be associated, however remotely, with the successes of the Epsom trainers, or at least that is how they ought to view it.
However, as I have said, training grounds are extremely rare, scarce and valuable. On the other hand, it is possible to hack or ride in all sorts of other places. One extremely good outlet for this is to follow the local hounds—considering that I live in Leicestershire I was almost going to say, "even in Surrey", but the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, might not take that too kindly although I think that he will understand what I mean.
Without drawing your Lordships into a totally different argument, I would like to say how much I regret the recent actions and attempts by the Co-operative Society and various local councils to ban hunting on their land. That, in fact, includes at least one council in Surrey. It is an extremely unhelpful attitude, because it is, as I have said, a wonderful outlet for people who want to go riding. In view of the shortage of outlets which has been expressed this afternoon, I very much hope that these misguided councils and the Co-operative Society will change their minds.
Finally, I wish to welcome very much the control over caravans which is provided for under the Bill. 1280 I drove across Epsom Downs on last Derby Day and was appalled by the amount of rubbish which was lying around and which had been left all over the place. Not only does it constitute an eyesore, but it must be extremely expensive—and I imagine that it is a charge on the rates—for somebody to clear it up afterwards. Therefore, I very much welcome this part of the Bill. That is all that I wish to say. I wish to support the Bill and the Instruction of the noble Lord, Lord Wigg.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Lord Kilmany
My Lords, in following my noble friend Lord Crawshaw I find myself in very great general agreement with what he has said, if there was one part of it that gave me particular pleasure it was to hear my noble friend's reference to the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, with whom he admitted he had sometimes had differences of opinion, but to whom he paid tribute, and I would also like to pay tribute, for the tremendous amount of work that he has put into the preservation of those two great British races the Derby and the Grand National. I believe that this Bill makes it possible to look forward with every good reason to a continuance of the Derby being held at Epsom.
In my view there is no doubt that the Bill was needed. The fact that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has seen fit to propose to move his Instruction shows how very necessary it is to have a better Instruction. For my part, I am prepared to support the amendment to Lord Melchett's Instruction because I feel that, in the amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, is expressing what we really require to make Epsom safe for the great race and safe for trainers, too. I should like to read the relevant words. I shall not weary the House; I shall not talk for long. It says that the Instruction will ensure:…the continuance of racing at Epsom and in particular the maintenance of the Derby and the preservation of Epsom as a training centre of race horses is safeguarded".I think that that is about as far as I want to go in controversy.
I have no particular local connection. I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has a great deal of local knowledge. Very often I have been to the Derby at Epsom, and I am sorry to say that quite often I have lost a small sum of money. But I think that our point of view should be the national importance of horseracing in general, of the excellence of British horse breeding and of the tremendous status, background and history of the Derby at Epsom.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Lord Robertson of Oakridge
My Lords, I should like to support the Bill so ably introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Henley. I shall not be entering into the argument between the respective claims of cracks and hacks. There are many other noble Lords who have far more experience and knowledge of these two very important national interests. But I should like to pick up the remark that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, made on Sunday racing, when he said that the Bill gave provision for Sunday racing subject to a change in the general law and the approval of the conservators and the council.
On page 9 of the Bill there is a new Section 13A. It says: 1281Race meetings on the Downs shall be held on such days not exceeding sixteen days in any one year, as may be authorised by the stewards of the Jockey Club and may include Sundays".Then it goes on to say that such racing on Sundays must have the consent of the council and of the conservators.
Those words "and may include Sundays" have caused a certain amount of consternation in and around Epsom, and I have heard from more than 100 people, individually and collectively, on this subject, who have written expressing some alarm and some disapproval at the thought that there might be racing on Sundays. Quite apart from the effects on Epsom Downs and the amenities of the surrounding areas, it seems to me that for Parliament to say specifically that racing might take place at Epsom on Sundays, albeit subject to the approval of the council and the conservators, might well set a precedent, with possibly wide consequences.
Noble Lords will, of course, have their own views on the desirability of racing in general on Sundays, and I do not wish to enter into those arguments. But I think it would be wrong to take some action in this Bill which might affect the general position, this Bill being such a local one. Therefore, it was my intention to move for an act of Instruction to the Committee to study this aspect of the Bill. However, I am glad to say that I have received a firm assurance from the promoters that they agree to the deletion of the words "and may include Sundays", and will therefore ask the Committee to delete these words. On that basis, I am happy to let the matter rest there.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Lord Rawlinson of Ewell
My Lords, I declare an interest, but it is an interest of sentiment, affection and knowledge, because for some 23 years I represented Epsom and Ewell in another place and I have family connections which go back many years, when one was a small country town and the other a small village. I know the area well. I recollect being told by an ancient great-aunt, back in the 1920s, of herself on her pony watching the crowds come down from London for the Derby. In those days the banks shut on Derby Day and Parliament rose on Derby Day; it was a great holiday. The "Pearlies" used to come down in their wagons, brakes and carriages. It was a great national occasion throughout the whole of the sporting calendar.
As I also believe that the whole point of advocacy is to persuade people to do what you want them to do, as has been quite clear from what has been said so far—at least, I strongly suspect that your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading—I shall not spend a great deal of time on the Bill. Having, as I said, represented this area for some 23 years, I know the importance of the racehorse training industry to the area. I know the importance that is attached to it, quite apart from the tradition which is attached to it. I know that a great many people are employed in the industry. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, is perfectly correct, because not only are people directly employed by the industry, but the industry spreads beyond into different interests which arise from the fact that the racing stables are in the area. Indeed, I had a son-in-law who learnt as an assistant trainer in Epsom, 1282 and I was also glad to see what happened at the Guineas only a few days ago.
The real importance of Epsom remaining as a centre of racehorse training in this country is quite clear to me. That the great race, that great race—which I suppose, much more than any other single race in the world and certainly in this country, represents the interests of every section of our population—should be sure of being able to continue, is something which is very important in the heart of every Englishman and Englishwoman.
The Epsom and Ewell Borough Council has played an extremely responsible part in promoting this Bill and getting the balance right in the Bill. I assure your Lordships that this is believed to be an adequate balance between the different interests. The Epsom and Ewell Borough Council will continue to play its part, which is much accepted and much admired by many people throughout the whole of the borough. Therefore, I can only think that the balance is right and I am glad that the council has, indeed, played the part it has. I am wholeheartedly in favour of the Bill. I do not believe that the Instruction of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is necessary. I shall certainly support the amendment which has been proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone
My Lords, I too have to declare an interest. I am chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board, which is the freeholder of Epsom Downs and the leaseholder of Walton Downs. Secondly, I am chairman of the Epsom and Walton Downs Training Grounds Management Board, which is responsible for the gallops on the Downs. That the Levy Board is directly involved in Epsom and Walton Downs is due in very great measure to my predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, who, when chairman of the Levy Board, of course did so much to assist the development of the Downs. The racing and training industries really owe him a very great debt of gratitude. I should like, as others have done, to pay tribute and to record how much the present Levy Board appreciates the contribution that he has made in the past. Therefore, I support the amendment, which I think is crucial to racing and training at Epsom. But I think I must content myself by saying that the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, perhaps strayed rather further from the facts in regard to what he said about Aintree and some other irrelevant matters.
A number of noble Lords have already referred to the way in which the promoters of the Bill, the Epsom and Ewell Borough Council, have at all stages of its preparation gone out of their way to accommodate the many and varying interests and demands of the users of the Downs. T would like to add my appreciation of the way in which the council have, with great skill, tact and diplomacy, discharged this difficult task. The officials of the Levy Board and those of United Racecourses have nothing but admiration for the manner in which the Town Clerk and Chief Executive of the Epsom Council, Mr. Douglas Grimes, has co-ordinated the Bill's preparation.
It is of course a matter of very great regret to me and to the Levy Board, to the United Racecourses and 1283 the Epsom Council, that it has not been possible to reconcile the interests of the trainers and the hacks. I can testify personally to the fact that there have been endless meetings and discussions in an effort to bring about a mutually acceptable solution. I can testify too to the fact that the trainers have bent over backwards to accommodate the hacks' legitimate interests, and with their agreement the council offered to make many worthwhile amendments to the designated areas. I must emphasise, therefore, that any further amendments would seriously damage the training facilities which it is in the interests, I submit, of the whole of the local community to safeguard.
It should also not be forgotten that the lease between Mr. Stanley Wootton and the board, whose generosity will be appreciated by so many people now and in the future, makes it clear that it was Mr. Wootton's expectation and hope that Walton Downs would continue to be used for the training of racehorses, and that of course he has confirmed in his recent letter to the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. The noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, referred in his speech to the rubbish which is left by the caravans after the Derby, and I support him in his protest about this and the need to control them, because it is not the ratepayers who pick up the bill, but unfortunately it is United Racecourses.
I must refer to another matter. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, referred to the question of local representation on the board of United Racecourses, which was reconstituted without any such representation over eight years ago. But I think it should be pointed out that no request concerning such representation was received from the council to have the matter reconsidered until very recently. When such a request was made, the Levy Board and United Racecourses responded positively to the Epsom Council by offering them two seats, not on the main UR Board, which we both feel would be inappropriate bearing in mind the fact that it controls three racecourses in three different local authority areas, but on the board of Epsom Grandstand Association, a subsidiary of which specifically deals with Epsom alone.
The council have accepted this offer and discussions are continuing between the parties to tie up one or two loose ends. We all look forward to continuing the close co-operation and collaboration with the council, who themselves are committed to the future of racing and training at Epsom, and the Derby in particular. Although it has been suggested that the Bill might contain some reference to this matter, I feel that it must be inappropriate in the circumstances, not least because it would alter unacceptably the scope of the Bill. I assure your Lordships that both the Levy Board and the United Racecourses will act with the same good faith as I will, and as I am sure will the council. With those words, I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Lord Auckland
My Lords, I should first like to thank my noble friend and relative, Lord Henley, for his clear exposition of this Bill. I should state that am not a horse rider, or at least I have not been since 1284 the end of the last war. Therefore, I am not one of those who have particularly fanatical arguments vis-à-vis the racecourse riders and the hack riders. I shall have a word or two to say about that in a moment. My main purpose in taking part in the discussion on this Bill is that since 1954 I have lived with my family within four or five miles of the Epsom racecourse and I have known, and still know, many of the councillors, the present chief executive and his predecessor extremely well. It is important to point out to your Lordships that the Epsom and Ewell Council are unanimous in their promotion of this Bill. That is something which is not always the case in regard to local Bills. Careful study has been given to producing a Bill which gives a fairer crack of the whip, if I may use that expression, to all concerned.
My wife and children when they were younger, and I have spent many Sundays on Epsom Downs walking with our dog and occasionally picnicking, and I think it ought to be borne in mind that many people come from long distances to use Epsom Downs for these purposes. Of course, it is a paramount fact that Epsom without the Derby would be like Samson without his hair. The Derby and Epsom have grown up together in a tremendous mutual friendship, and even those, like myself, who have no particularly keen interest in horseracing recognise the great value of the Derby in the employment which it gives not only to those who look after the horses but to those employed on conservation of the Common as well. Indeed, last Friday, together with the chief executive, one of the councillors who has a major part to play in regard to this Bill and the conservation officer, I spent two hours going over almost the entire area to see for myself what was involved in this Bill.
I am not necessarily opposed to hack riding. In fact, riding is, I believe, an extremely healthy occupation particularly for children. But one of the problems on a place like Epsom Downs is that the hack riders are not necessarily skilled riders. One of the real difficulties here is that there have been, to my knowledge, one or two near misses when hack riders and trainers have nearly come into physical conflict. That could be extremely dangerous. Moreover, in recent years the local council has given hack riders more use of the land in the area, so it is important to get the matter in perspective.
I might add as an aside that in the area in which I live there is a great deal of riding. Almost on our doorstep is Ashtead Common, where there are many riders. There are properly laid out tracks but alas many of the riders, particularly the young ones, do not keep to the tracks, with the result that in bad weather particularly the common is in an infernal mess, and there is nothing more dangerous in an area such as a common than inexperienced riders and a mount which panics.
However, we are concerned with Epsom Downs. It is clearly for the Select Committee to look into the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and others, in his Instruction. But, in the last analysis, Epsom Downs—which I and all who use the Downs have grown to love—is a popular and very much frequented area. It is important to remember that the Epsom Derby is not only a great national institution but that it brings in people from many countries and 1285 has therefore, particularly from the point of view of the balance of payments, an enormous export potential. I believe the Bill will go a long way to giving a fair share not only to those who take part in the Derby and horseracing but to all those who use Epsom and Walton Downs for recreation. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, who has done so much for racing, put his case very convincingly. In my view, the Bill should be given a Second Reading and should be carefully studied by the Select Committee.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, it looks as if I am in a very small minority today in your Lordships' House. The racing community has rallied its ranks with vigour and intelligence, as it always does. I am not in any way suggesting that the Bill should not have a Second Reading: it is a legal necessity, if we are not to go back to the pre-1925 situation, which would be totally unacceptable. The racing fraternity is well represented here, whereas the hack fraternity seems to be represented only by myself, whose ability to fall off horses, I can promise the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, has, if anything, increased since I last fell off his more than 20 years ago.
The racing industry is a sport which attracts enormous public interest. It is a sport which attracts the very rich and it is a sport which, were it not for gambling and the gambling instinct, would be a different sport indeed. It is the only sport with the power to tax; it has the power to tax through the Horserace Betting Levy Board, which is given that power by Parliament, whereas hack riders have none of those benefits. They have had to resist the encroachment of the racing fraternity on Epsom Downs for perhaps 100 years. Mr. Buckwell, QC, who was then a Member of Parliament, is quoted as saying:If the Grandstand Association do not take care, they will raise questions about their own use of the Downs which it is in their interest to let sleep".He went on to say that no one could stop him riding or treat him as a trespasser, and added:The Epsom Grandstand Association solicitor sent to Mr. Applegarth a letter saying they had no intention of doing anything to prevent anyone using Walton Downs or Epsom Downs for reasonable exercise, but they did object to a person using the Gallops to exercise a horse up and down".There has been some, I believe totally justified, criticism of people bringing in point-to-pointers or eventers from long distances to train on the Gallops, and that is, of course, an abuse of the privilege of ordinary hacking people to ride gently around Epsom Downs.
The racing industry has on two occasions attempted to change the 1936 Act, but on both it failed. There were two reports which said that the Act was perfectly all right, and the 1981 report by Epsom and Ewell District Council also said that the arrangements had worked perfectly satisfactorily up till now. No one is saying, or even trying to suggest, that racing and training at Epsom should cease. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, and others have said that if hacking is not regulated it will cease. That flies in the face of all reality; there is no evidence to that effect. In 1936 there were 1,000 horses in training. Surprisingly, there were more livery stables at Epsom then than there are now. There was a dealers' yard on Epsom Downs. At present the number of people thought to be using 1286 Epsom Downs on a Sunday is about 40, which is not many. On Easter Day, 152 hack riders were counted.
Much has been made, rightly, of the number of people having their horses boxed. Somebody went to the trouble to count the number of horse boxes that came in on the three weekends of the Easter children's holidays. They counted all of seven horse boxes, carrying 15 horses. If Epsom Downs cannot take 2.133 recurring horses per day over a week-end, they should not be allowed to be used for anything. Certainly that is not very many. I am sure that the racing industry is making an enormous fuss over a problem which does not exist. People have had these rights and people's rights should not be taken from them unless there is a very valid case for so doing. The rights were curtailed in 1936, and up till now the Act has worked perfectly well.
The Instruction of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is not designed to amend the law but to say that the restricted access by hackers should continue; it says only that the Committee should satisfy themselves whether or not it is in the public interest that the present qualified right of access on horseback should be removed. That is all it says. It is not saying the Bill should be amended. It is not the custom in your Lordships' House to write in instructions to amend a Bill in Committee; at least, that is what I have been told on several occasions when I have been involved in private legislation. We have heard a lot recently about the paramountcy of the wishes of certain inhabitants. Nobody is claiming paramountcy for the hack riders. I am simply suggesting that the Committee should look very carefully at whether it is in the public interest that those rights should be curtailed when the present arrangements seem to be working perfectly satisfactorily.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Lord Westbury
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to congratulate my noble friend Lord Henley on introducing the Epsom and Walton Downs Regulation Bill and on explaining so clearly the intentions of the Bill. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, on his amendment. The last time that I spoke on the same side as him was over the Green Howards' band, and we won, so perhaps we might win again.
As a member of the Jockey Club, I am deeply concerned to see the future of racing and training at Epsom secured for the long term and, in particular, of course Derby Day, which is so much part of our heritage. I am most encouraged to find that the people of Epsom, as represented by the borough council, share my wishes and those of the Jockey Club to see racing retained at Epsom, and to see that the training of racehorses there remains a commercial proposition. The Bill contains a number of clauses connected with the viability of these enterprises, and I welcome them.
The promoters of the Bill have gone to considerable length in trying to preserve and protect the interests of the many people who use the downs for so many different purposes. Clearly, they have tried to balance fairly these diverse interests, but in the end the Bill must be something of a compromise. The hacking interests are obviously disappointed, but I doubt whether any of the factions have obtained exactly what they wanted from the Bill. I think that my noble 1287 friend Lord Henley has already adequately explained the need for some restrictions on free hacking, but it is my understanding that the trainers have offered concessions which go a long way to meet the claims of the hackers. Further major concessions to the hackers would not only damage the training grounds and thus threaten the viability of training at Epsom, to the long-term detriment of the local community, but would also constitute a hazard to safety. From my own point of view I should perhaps have liked to see more done for the racing and training fraternity, but I recognise that there has been the need for compromise.
I should like to say a few words on the subject of Sunday racing, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge. Having watched the successful passage through the House of the Shops Bill of my noble friend Lady Trumpington, I have detected that the climate of opinion against activities on Sunday is beginning to change, although actual change may not come for some time. Therefore I think it absolutely right that the possibility of Sunday racing at Epsom in the future should not be excluded by the Bill.
I believe that the Bill will make a considerable contribution to preserving racing and training at Epsom, which I look on as part of our national heritage. I know that I speak for all members of the Jockey Club in supporting the Bill wholeheartedly, and I wish it well in its passage through the House.
§ The Earl of Avon
My Lords, I join in the general appreciation of the House for the way in which my noble kinsman Lord Henley introduced the Second Reading of the Bill and explained it to us. I shall speak very briefly, to give an indication of the Government's views. Being surrounded by so many distinguished experts, whom I am delighted to find in agreement on this occasion, I should not dare to intervene on the subject of horseracing, nor for that matter to expound on the charms of Epsom and Walton Downs, or Ewell, when other noble Lords have such first-hand knowledge. However, it might be helpful if I confirm and endorse what a number of noble Lords have said: that, so far as the Government are aware, racing at Epsom and, in particular the Derby, will continue as it has always done, and that we know of no intention to abandon or disrupt Epsom as a training centre for racehorses.
The noble Lord, Lord Henley, and other noble Lords, mentioned the Bill's proposals to control caravans. These controls will bite mainly on the caravans of gypsies, who visit the Downs in large numbers each year for the Derby meeting, as my noble friend Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone mentioned. The Government are concerned that the proposals in the Bill conflict with the principles embodied in the Caravan Sites Act 1968. Under the 1968 Act local authorities are given powers to control unauthorised parking of caravans only after they have achieved "designation" under the Act by satisfying the Secretary of State that there is adequate accommodation for gypsies in the area. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State will pursue his objections to this aspect of the Bill in the usual way, by means of 1288 submitting to Parliament a report which can be considered at the Committee stage.
The Government have no objection in principle to the proposals set out in the Bill to control access for horseriders. We are content for matters concerning the management of the Downs to be considered in Committee, when the promoters and the petitioners can put forward their views in detail and the case can be considered fully.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, we have spent almost two hours discussing Epsom Downs, which I think is quite a good run for a Private Bill of this nature. In view of the fact that everyone is in agreement that the Bill should be given a Second Reading, I feel that it is unnecessary for me again to go over any of the ground. Therefore I commend the Bill to the House.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time and referred to the Examiners.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, I beg to move the Instruction standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, on the Order Paper.
§ Moved, That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is committed that they should satisfy themselves that it is in the public interest that the right of the public to have access on horseback to the Downs for air and exercise which was conferred by the Epsom and Walton Downs Regulation Act 1936 should be curtailed as proposed by the Bill bearing in mind the provisions of Section 4 of that Act safeguarding the interests of the racing and training industries.—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)
My Lords, the Question is, That the Instruction standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, be agreed to.
§ Moved, as an amendment to the above Instruction, to leave out all the words after "themselves" and insert "that the requirements of Section 4 of the Epsom and Walton Downs Regulation Act 1936, dealing with the Rights of Public over Downs, to preserve and control the use of the Downs for all users are recognised, but that, at the same time, the continuance of racing at Epsom and in particular the maintenance of the Derby and the preservation of Epsom as a training centre for racehorses is safeguarded".—(Lord Wigg.)
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, the original Question was that there be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is committed in the terms set out on the Order Paper. Since then an amendment to the Instruction has been moved in the terms also set out on the Order Paper. Therefore, the Question that I now have to put is, That the amendment to the Instruction be agreed to.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the amendment to the Instruction be agreed to?1289
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 92; Not-Contents, 33.
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Abercorn, D.||Manton, L.|
|Abinger, L.||Marley, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Melville, V.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Merrivale, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Mishcon, L.|
|Allen of Abbeydale, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Newall, L.|
|Banks, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Bolton, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Byers, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Caccia, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Chelwood, L.||Peart, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Peel, E.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Pender, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.|
|De L'Isle, V.||Rawlinson of Ewell, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Renton, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Enniskillen, E.||Sandford, L.|
|Ferrier, L.||Scarbrough, E.|
|Foot, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Selborne, E.|
|Gainford, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Gormanston, V.||Soames, L.|
|Granville of Eye, L.||Spens, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Hayter, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Hemphill, L.||Stone, L.|
|Henley, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Hives, L.||Strathspey, L.|
|Holderness, L.||Strauss, L.|
|Hornsby-Smith, B.||Swansea, L.|
|Hunt of Fawley, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Teynham, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Trevethin and Oaksey, L.|
|Kilmany, L. [Teller]||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Lane-Fox, B.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Vivian, L.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Westbury, L.|
|McFadzean, L.||Wigg, L. [Teller]|
|Macleod of Borve, B.||Wigoder, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Longford, E.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||McCarthy, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Melchett, L. [Teller]|
|Brookeborough, V.||Milverton, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Monson, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Collison, L.||Onslow, E. [Teller]|
|David, B.||Oram, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Rugby, L.|
|George-Brown, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Gosford, E.||Saltoun, Ly.|
|Hanworth, V.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Hunt, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Jacobson, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Leatherland, L.||White, B.|
|Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative and amendment to the Instruction agreed to accordingly.
§ On Question, Motion, as amended, agreed to.