HL Deb 20 June 1990 vol 520 cc975-99

6.20 p.m.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee. —(Baroness Masham of Ilton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Causing or permitting child under 14 to ride on road without protective headgear.]

Lord Stoddart of Swindon moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 7, after ("horse") insert ("of more than nine hands").

The noble Lord said: I listened to the Second Reading debate with great interest although I did not take part in it. I understand the reasons why the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, is promoting the Bill. I sympathise with her. She has had an unfortunate experience, and she knows a great deal about the subject. It is not for me to quarrel with her and her motives. I believe, as does the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that we in this country are going overboard on regulations. I wonder whether we have our priorities right in terms of parliamentary time. I read the Second Reading speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brougham and Vaux, in which he said: There are on average five fatalities per year from horse riding accidents."—[Official Report, 11/6/90; col. 81]

That is undoubtedly too many accidents. Even one is one too many; but I noted that in his speech supporting the Bill the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, said that in 1989 378 children were killed on our roads. In the light of that figure, our priorities should lie elsewhere. However, the Bill has been given a Second Reading in the House and we should now be trying to improve it, which is the objective of this amendment.

In support of the amendment, perhaps I may quote the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, who said: One is in a potentially dangerous situation if one is on a large animal capable of travelling at considerable speed. One could easily fall off and thus it would seem sensible to have protection".—[Official Report, 11/6/90: col. 91.]

I accept that to fall from a large horse could cause serious injury. Having in my early teens ridden various kinds of horses, including carthorses, I know how far away the ground can seem from the saddle or from the back of a horse. That is not the case when one is riding, let us say, a Shetland pony, when one is almost on the ground. A large lad, or even a big girl, riding a Shetland pony, a donkey, a young colt or filly would have their legs trailing on the ground. Slipping off the back of a Shetland pony or a donkey is probably far less dangerous for a child than falling from a high chair on to a tiled kitchen floor or for a youngster falling from his bicycle on a public highway.

I chose nine hands as the appropriate height to make it clear that I was not seeking to wreck the Bill but merely to make it more realistic and acceptable. I hope that under those circumstances, and in that spirit, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, will see fit to accept the amendment.

Lord Monson

I am pleased to support the amendment which, like all the amendments, is practical and is by no means a wrecking amendment. It merely brings more sense into the Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, has said, the amendment would exclude Shetland ponies and most donkeys. There are few donkeys which are higher than nine hands.

After all, nine hands is effectively 36 inches which is the height of an average kitchen worktop. Young people are often wont to sprawl on kitchen worktops unless there is an adult to shoo them away. The noble Lord mentioned highchairs and bicycles. Nine hands is less than half the average height of a child's climbing frame. Such frames, to my certain knowledge, are not by any means always sited on grass, because grass is a rare commodity in cities. They are frequently sited on garden paving slabs which are every bit as hard as a road surface.

Children will rarely ride donkeys or Shetland ponies on busy roads or even on less busy roads. However, there are circumstances, for example, seaside promenades, which are pedestrianised, or from which traffic is excluded at certain times of the day, which remain technically highways over which donkeys may occasionally have to cross. The amendment is designed to cope with those rather special circumstances.

Lord Addington

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, mentioned my speech. I was assuming that all things are relative. I assume that a comparatively small child would be on a comparatively small horse. If that child falls off, its delicate skull will strike the hard pavement. One would be travelling at greater velocity than one does on foot. I agree that there are some bad examples of children's playgrounds which have been placed on concrete, but all the new playgrounds are based on woodchip or some other soft material. Anyone who wishes to check that fact should go to a recently constructed park.

The Earl of Swinton

I support what the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said. I hope that my noble kinswoman will not accept the amendment. Some of the naughtiest of ponies are the smallest of ponies. They are extremely wilful little brutes and they can be extremely dangerous. Although they are not far off the ground, they can give one a bloody great kick, and a child can be thrown a considerable way before he falls head first on to the road.

Viscount Mountgarret

I should like to draw the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, to an artist by the name of Thelwell. I have never in my life seen more violent brutes than those little ponies which can be far more fearsome than a large, well-trained and lovely hunter.

6.30 p.m.

The Earl of Balfour

My Lords, I feel that it would be a great pity if the amendment were accepted. First, let us not forget the definition of a horse. A horse is an animal of more than 14 hands, if my memory serves me right. I admit that to me most horses or ponies tend to be somewhat uncomfortable in the middle and highly dangerous at both ends. I usually find that with dogs and horses the smaller the animal the harder it is to control. A tiny pony is much harder for a child to ride. I have the feeling that if we alter the wording to "nine hands" we shall do a great deal of harm to those children who wish to learn to ride.

It is my experience that if one puts a child onto a horse —I think I am right in saying this —for instance, a Welsh pony as opposed to a Shetland pony the child is much more likely to learn to ride properly. I cannot support the amendment in any way.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, perhaps I may clarify one point that has just been made. It was suggested that a horse under 14 hands is not a horse, it is a pony. If that is right, then the wording does not apply anyway. It would be useful to have some clarification.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, perhaps I should make it clear that I speak for myself since this is a Private Member's Bill, but I know that many of my colleagues support what I shall say. I oppose the amendment and hope that the noble Baroness will not accept it. As the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and others have made clear, a small child can be injured by falling from a pony. Shetland ponies are notoriously unreliable.

A further, more important point is that a small child who learns to ride wearing protective headgear is more likely to continue to use that headgear later without problems. I hope that noble Lords will reject the amendment if the need arises.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, told us how few children had been killed. He did not say how many had been injured. Helmets will protect children from injuries as well as death.

Lord Monson

My Lords, perhaps I may take the opportunity to correct the assumption of the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, that "horse" does not include ponies. If the noble Lord will look at Clause 3, he will see that for the purposes of the Bill "horse" includes, "pony".

Baroness Masham of Ilion

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have supported me in speaking against the amendment. To answer the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, the interpretation for the purposes of this Bill is that, 'horse' includes any mare, gelding, pony, foal, colt, filly or stallion and also any ass, mule or hinny". We want them to be included because there might be the odd case where it is necessary.

If accepted, this amendment would unnecessarily restrict the scope of the Bill. More important, it would exclude some of the most vulnerable riders, the very young on small horses, from the protection that hard hats give. As was said, most Shetland ponies are between 10 and 10½ hands, but there are some miniature ponies and the odd one might be under nine hands. The younger the child, the softer the skull, and that is an important point. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I have listened to the debate with great interest. I still find it quite amazing that we should talk about a horse as a donkey. That is what every speaker so far appears to rest his case on.

I agree that a horse of, for example, 14 or 14½ hands —I believe that the definition of a colt is up to 14½hands—may very well be dangerous for a child up to the age of 14. However we are not talking about toddlers but about children up to the age of 14, who can be quite large human beings. I believe that enforcing or trying to enforce the wearing of perhaps expensive helmets by children riding this type of animal is, if I may make a pun, making an ass of the law.

Although I shall not press the amendment at this stage, I hope that noble Lords and particularly the noble Baroness will consider the matter between now and Report stage to see whether they can come some way towards me in making the Bill realistic rather than imposing a regulation simply for the sake of doing so. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Mountgarret moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 7, leave out ("on a road").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the amendment is self-explanatory. It seeks to cut down the area of doubt as to where a child might be required to wear protective headgear. Your Lordships' House has already agreed, as has another place, to the principle that it is desirable for a child under the age of 14 to wear protective headgear. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the provision should be restriced to use only on a road.

The Bill would never have been necessary in the first place if parents or people in charge of young children had applied common sense. It must be common sense for young children to have sensible and rational protection to vulnerable parts of their body, principally the head, when they are allowed on horses or ponies. Unfortunately, many people, including parents, do not do that. Therefore there is the need for this Bill. Anyone with common sense would surely agree that the use of protective headgear is not merely to protect against accidents on the road, about which we all know the difficulties, but off the road. Many accidents happen when children are jumping fences or whatever it is. A fall from a pony or a horse, whether involving a young child or an adult, can be as dangerous and lethal then as a fall when they are on the road. That is one reason why I think the amendment has merit.

The second reason is that we all know that over many years the law—namely, judges, barristers and the like —have often complained that if only we had passed better legislation in the first instance their time would be reduced and the costs and other problems to the clients would be reduced likewise. If the words concerned are left in the Bill, it opens up all kinds of difficulties. So much so, that I know that my noble friend —if I may refer to her as such, though not in the parliamentary sense —will have to move an amendment later to try to define what a road is. If we delete the words "on a road" she would not have to go to the trouble of making that amendment to avoid creating areas of doubt in the eyes of the law if anyone transgressed the provisions of the Bill.

Thirdly, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, is bound to disagree with me because he is not entirely in favour of the principle of the Bill anyway. However, he and I joined forces genuinely on the whole principle of the compulsory wearing of seat belts. We felt —and I thought at the time quite rightly —that the principle of compulsion was an intrusion upon personal and private liberty. There is an argument for that. However, I have to say that, having seen car seat belts in operation over a number of years and having recognised that it is common sense to wear a seat belt in a car, it appears common sense for a child rider to wear protective headgear. If we accept the principle of a degree of compulsion where common sense should prevail in the case of car seat belts, why cannot we accept it in this instance?

It is not a question of wondering whether the local bobby will hide under a hedge to find out whether one's little darling is wearing a crash hat. That is not the point. The point is that if people know that it is a requirement of the law to comply with a measure, generally speaking they will observe it. Furthermore if an accident occurs and it is discovered that they are not complying with the law, the penalties are not only a fine in a court of law but also insurance claims, third party liability and other such liabilities. Therefore to require children to wear protective headgear when riding in the countryside as well as on the roads would present no more problems as regards enforcement than the position as it currently stands.

Finally, let us take the scenario of guest children staying in one's house. The darlings may go out for a ride, supposedly round the little cross-country course that has been laid out in one's park or on one's private land. Thelwell's pony takes off at a gallop and goes, lickety-split, through the gate which has been left open by mistake and out on to the road. The point is that the guest children started off purely by exercising in the park but they may find themselves on the road. When the rider regains control or the horse runs out of breath, the child will have to ride that horse back home without protective headgear as he only intended to ride in the park. However, the child is riding on the road and an accident may occur. If it does, the rider or the parent or adult responsible for the young rider has broken the law. I believe it is unnecessary to restrict this Bill to road riding. I believe that children under the age of 14 should be required to wear protective headgear at all times when they ride out on their horses or ponies. I beg to move.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

While I have some sympathy with the amendment of my noble friend, I believe it would be totally unenforceable. As regards children riding horses on private land, the police have no powers to enter private land to enforce the provisions of the amendment. I therefore believe the amendment is unenforceable.

Lord Monson

As the noble Viscount rightly guessed, I totally oppose the amendment for a number of reasons. In the first place it is incompatible with existing personal safety legislation, or nanny state legislation, depending on one's point of view. At the moment it is perfectly legal to drive a post-1965 car on a private road without wearing a seat belt. Pre-1965 cars can be driven anywhere without the driver having to wear a seat belt of course.

It is perfectly legal, whatever one's age, to ride a motorcycle on a private road without wearing a crash helmet. There is nothing to prevent 10, 11 or 12 year-old children from driving cars or riding motorcycles on private property if their parents permit them to do so. However, the most unacceptable aspect of the proposed amendment is that —the noble Lord, Lord Brougham and Vaux, pointed this out —it would give the police power to enter private property for the purposes of seeking out unhelmeted riders. That is a most obnoxious idea.

The whole rationale for this Bill, as I understand it, is that our roads are much more crowded than they used to be 10 or 20 years ago and a growing minority of motorists show riders no consideration whatsoever, thereby endangering both the lives of the riders and their mounts. However, none of those dangers applies to riding off the road. Human beings have been happily riding horses off the road on grass, sand or on the bare earth for at least 2,500 years, if not longer, without headgear. Long may they continue to do so.

Lord Cobbold

I cannot support the amendment either. As has already been stated, there is a considerable difference between riding on a road and r[...]ding off road. It is not only a matter of the road surface but also of the other traffic that uses the road and the possibility that the traffic may cause an accident. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, made that point. There is also the matter of enforcing the measure. The prospect of police entering private land is something that the Committee should resist.

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

It was decided to limit the offence to causing or permitting a child to ride on a road without protective headgear because of the great difficulties of enforcing a requirement to wear protective headgear on private land unless the police were given power of entry to private land. However, that was considered unacceptable.

It is also more important that a child wears protective headgear on the road because accidents in such places tend to be more serious than those which occur in a field due to the road's harder surface. The main purpose of the Bill is to compromise by the limitation that children will have to have appropriate hats available. The hope is that children will wear their hats everywhere.

The noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, gave the example of a pony bolting out on to a road. In that case any incident that occurred would be an accident. Therefore the parent or adult responsible for that child would not be liable. However, that is an example of how important it is for all children and all horse riders to wear hats if they possibly can. I hope the noble Viscount will withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Mountgarret

With such a charming plea how can I possibly do otherwise? However, I am not convinced by the arguments that have been proposed against my amendment. I do not believe my noble friend Lord Brougham listened when I said that it was not a case of police constables hiding under bushes to see whether children were wearing hard hats while they were riding. I cannot accept what my noble friend said. The prospect of intrusion by the police on to private land is quite wrong. Police do not intrude into private motor vehicles to see whether seat belts are worn. It is only when drivers transgress the law or something goes wrong that that factor comes into play. I am merely suggesting that if an accident occurred on private land and the riders involved were found not to have worn protective headgear they should be liable.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I am trying to imagine the circumstances of such an incident. The noble Viscount said that the measure would only be enforced if an accident occurred. However, a bit of bad neighbourliness may occur which could lead to a report to the police. The police would then go to a magistrate and obtain a warrant to enter the private land concerned. Has the noble Viscount considered that possibility and what it would mean to people in the countryside? I hope that he will not proceed with his amendment.

Viscount Mountgarret

I take that point. I also accept what the noble Baroness said that if children go out riding even off road, they are likely to wear protective headgear in any case. I just thought it would be more sensible to ensure that they did wear such headgear. However, not many Members of the Committee have spoken in favour of my amendment. The noble Baroness made a charming and impassioned plea for me to withdraw my amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 3: Page 1, line 9, after ("regulations") insert ("and (in the case of a child under 12 years)").

The noble Lord said: I was glad to hear my noble friend Lady Masham use the word "compromise" when replying to the previous amendment because this is a compromise amendment. In other words we have tried to meet my noble friend and her supporters halfway. My original intention was to propose an upper age limit of 12 rather than 14, not because I believe that it is safe or desirable for 12 and 13 year-olds to ride on busy roads without a helmet —I made that quite plain on Second Reading —but because the proposed law seemed quite unenforceable as regards 12 and 13 year-olds.

On further consideration I concluded that there should not be too much of a problem about enforcing the wearing of helmets. Even if 12 and 13 year-olds ride out on their own, which they normally do if they are experienced riders, there is usually somebody in charge at the stables or paddock to ensure that at least they are wearing hats when they set out. As hats are expensive items of equipment, the 12 and 13 year-olds are hardly likely to leave them stuck on top of a gatepost where they are likely to be stolen once they are out of their parents' sight.

Enforcing the correct wearing of hats is a totally different matter, particularly as all teenagers are, and always have been, notoriously rebellious. Teenagers seem to become rebellious younger and younger every decade. Only two days after our Second Reading debate it was revealed in the Daily Telegraph that an extraordinarily high proportion of young people, including 12 year-olds and even younger children, drink not only beer and cider but also wine and spirits, sometimes with their parents' knowledge but presumably much more often without their knowledge, particularly where spirits are concerned. There is not yet a law in force which makes it a criminal offence for parents to leave their drinks cabinets unlocked when their children are alone in the house, but no doubt some Back Bencher is working hard on it at this very moment.

Far more startling is the fact that the previous day —the day immediately following the Second Reading debate, 12th June —it was revealed, again by the Daily Telegraph and I suspect by other serious newspapers, that an amazing 46 per cent. of girls now lose their virginity before the age of 16. What an extraordinary world we live in now! Interestingly, the factor of illegality —with which this Bill is concerned —also arises in that case. Strictly speaking it attaches to the men and boys concerned and not to the girls. Nevertheless, it happens on an enormous scale, with the police only taking action in a tiny proportion of cases.

We must be blunt about this. If almost half of the parents in this country, according to the serious press, are incapable of preventing their 15 year-old, and sometimes 14 year-old, children from undoing their clothing immediately they are out of their parents' sight, how on earth can they be expected to prevent 12 and 13 year-old children from undoing the straps on their helmets once they are out of their parents' sight because they are too hot or want to eat a bar of chocolate or a bag of crisps or to swallow a soft drink? As I said, most children of that age, if they are experienced riders, ride out alone and not with their parents or with older people in charge of them.

It simply will not do to say that authorities will never prosecute in such cases. Once the law is on the statute book, however misconceived parts of it may be, there is no guaranteee that it will not be enforced by the police. That is impossible. It is most undesirable that a law should be brought into disrepute in this way, apart from being extremely unfair on the parent or guardian who may very well have done his or her best to ensure that the strap is fastened but has no means of controlling the child once the child is out of the parents' sight. I beg to move.

Lord Manton

I put my name to the amendment after much careful thought. I have, unfortunately, had experience of small children and of ponies. Small children are quite easy to avoid; ponies must definitely be avoided at all costs. Of course I am in favour of small children not landing on their heads too often and therefore in favour of them wearing hats. However, when I have been involved, much against my will, with my many small nieces and their even smaller and horrible ponies, I have noticed that at the slightest opportunity the children undo the straps of their helmets. If any Members of the Committee have watched racing recently they will have noticed that the first thing that a jockey does at the end of a race is to undo the chin strap.

I believe that it is very important that we do not support unworkable or untidy legislation. If this very important matter goes onto the statute book it should do so in a workable manner. I do not know whether it is possible to legislate that a small child has to have its chin strap done up. I have spent a great deal of time over the years making sure that their girths are done up. That comes quite high up the list of priorities. I have often noticed children falling off horses and taking the bridle with them because they have not done that up. To have to go round to the other side of the pony to make sure that the child's cheek strap is done up as well is almost impossible. That is a point which concerns me. It is a detail, but it is detail which makes for good or bad legislation.

Another point which I consider important relates to the owner of the pony. If you are lucky enough to acquire a good children's pony neither love nor money will make you part with it. I know what happens in the world of ponies from experience within my own family. My sisters, who live in various parts of the country, produce children with monotonous regularity but do not have quite so many ponies. Therefore they lend ponies to each other. If one parent lives in Yorkshire and another lives in Somerset the Somerset parent may ring up the parent in Yorkshire and say "Can I borrow the pony? Your child has outgrown it and mine wants to ride it". The pony is then sent several hundred miles south. That happens again and again. The owner cannot be responsible for what happens when somebody else's child is riding that pony in a different part of the country.

If one goes anywhere where a large number of children are riding, for example at Pony Club camps where there may be up to 100 children riding ponies, one will hear someone ask "Where did you get that pony?" The answer is "I was lent it by my friend, or my cousin." When that child has outgrown it the pony goes back to the original owner. That is intended to encourage children to enjoy the countryside and riding and to enable them to learn to ride. That is why it is important that they should ride good ponies. If the owner of a pony is liable for the safety of the child on that pony when the child and the pony are no longer in the owner's care, he or she will not lend the pony. As a result good children's ponies will be restricted to their original owners and other children will not have the chance to ride them. As a pony has a longer life-expectancy in the sense that it is likely to be ridden for much longer than a child will remain of a size to ride it, that would be a waste of ponies. That would be sad. If I were the owner of a pony I would not send it elsewhere if I could be liable for any accident that might happen.

Those are the only points that I wish to make, but I believe they are important. If the Bill goes on to the statute book in an unworkable form it will be very detrimental to the pony-riding world.

Baroness Nicol

I hope that the noble Baroness will not accept the amendment because it would weaken the Bill.

I should like to answer the main point made by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. A child between the ages of 12 and 14 is still a child and still vulnerable. The fact that that child is more difficult for the parent to handle is no reason for leaving it outside the provisions of the Bill. It seems to me even more important that as the child reaches the age where it tries to be independent parents should have the force of the law behind them. They would be able to say to their children that it is the law that they should wear headgear. I hope that the amendment will not succeed.

Lord Addington

Any child should be told that it is breaking the law, up to a certain age. Children are difficult at all ages. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, sounded rather like the reviewer of a 1950s James Dean film: the term "juvenile delinquent" was writ large. Children misbehave and experiment with drink and drugs in their early teens. However, they are usually small experiments. We could find cases of children doing so even at the age of five, where they find a drinks cabinet open, for example. I hope that that argument will not carry any weight.

7 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton

I would disagree with my noble friend Lord Mancroft on this. On the second point, he is probably on the wrong amendment about the ownership of ponies, so I shall not say anything about that. I could not follow his argument that children were less likely to do up their caps between the 4es of 12 and 14. I have a rather strange principle, which is probably totally wrong, that on the whole the more children grow up, the more sensible they are. This may be a complete and utter fallacy, but it seems to me that they are more likely to do up their hats between the ages of 12 and 14 than they are under 12, and I cannot see the reason for changing the age range.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

What I have found is that children, once they get past the age of 12, become very wilful indeed. The first thing they want to do is to rebel against anything that parents say to them. I would say to my noble friend Lady Nicol that in some cases to tell teenagers that it may very well be that their parents will get into trouble from the police if they do something or if they do not do something would be an extra incentive to them to do it or not to do it.

Of course my noble friend has had children and it may well be that her experience of teenagers is different from mine, but there is no doubt that teenagers as a whole like rebellion. If they can somehow in some cases at some point get at their parents, they love to do it. It has been happening from time immemorial. I therefore think that the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, is a sensible one, and if he presses it I shall certainly support it.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

As one who has had three children and brought them up, I have to say that I would say to my children, "If you break the law and if, because you have broken the law, I am prosecuted and have to pay a fine, that fine will be stopped out of your pocket money". That is how you cope. It is quite simple.

Viscount Ullswater

I would just like to correct one thing that my noble friend Lord Mancroft said, because I am sure that he did not seek to mislead the Committee. It is an offence under the rules of racing for a jockey to undo his chin strap until he has dismounted.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

May I answer the argument of my noble friend Lord Monson that if a parent makes it a condition that a 13 year-old can ride if their helmet is done up and the child breaks that condition, how can the parent be held responsible. They have not permitted the child to ride in this way, and therefore they would not be penalised. This amendment would make the regulations on how the headgear should be worn applicable only to the under-12s. This means that although the 12 to 14 year-olds would have to have a correct hat with them, they could wear it on their elbow or anywhere else if they so wished. This amendment, therefore, essentially reduces the age limit to 12.

As I said at Second Reading on llth June, 14 was chosen to bring this Bill into line with other similar legislation such as rear seat belts in cars. I hope that Members of the Committee agree that this essential piece of safety legislation should not be withheld from the 12 to 14 year-old riders. This is the age when there are many accidents. It was found in the neurosurgical unit in Nottingham that it was girls between the ages of, I think, 11 and 15 who had most head injuries. I urge my noble friend Lord Monson to withdraw this amendment.

Lord Monson

We have had an interesting debate and I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, for his support. This was particularly valuable because of his extremely thorough knowledge of all matters equestrian and his great experience. He also stressed the need for having legislation on the statute book that was enforceable so as not to bring the law into disrepute.

The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, did not explain how the Bill could be enforced once the child in question is out of sight of its parents. That really is the answer to the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, too. Children of 13 or 14, if they are at all experienced, do not normally ride out with their parents or their guardians. They go out on their own. Younger children tend to to be accompanied by an adult of some sort and therefore it is easy to enforce. I know that this is an arbitrary division, but one has to set an age somewhere, and that is basically the explanation of why I exclude the ages 12 and 13. I fully take the point made by my noble friend Lady Masham that many accidents happen, and I am not suggesting that hats are not a good idea. I am suggesting that because it makes the law look silly it is a bad policy in general to have unenforceable law on the statute book.

My noble friend Lady Saltoun said that if parents had to go to court and be fined they could take it out of their children's pocket money. Indeed, yes, but it is still not at all pleasant for parents to have to go to court. I would say to her that the assumption that if the child disobeyed its parents' instructions the parent would never be prosecuted is a dangerous assumption to make. I should like to think that that was the case, but in practice, as I shall explain when we come to the next pair of amendments, I do not think that it is something that could be relied on. Not at all.

I am somewhat in two minds as to what to do. I think I shall not press this amendment. I shall take it away and either decide to reintroduce it or to introduce a defence amendment. That is to say, that it shall be a defence for somebody accused under this section to prove that they had done everything in their power to persuade the child in question to have their chin strap buckled, or something of that nature. It is difficult to draft and it is rather unsatisfactory, but I would hope that it might meet many of the points made by my noble friend, who of course has studied this in great depth. Perhaps she might be more inclined to accept this. With that in mind, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 4: Page 1, leave out line 17.

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 go together. With the leave of the Committee I shall speak to them both. The purpose of these amendments is self-evident. It is to exclude the owner of the horse or pony from criminal liability when he or she is quite possibly hundred of miles away at the time the horse is ridden by somebody under 14 without a helmet or without the helmet being properly buckled, but to make the owner liable when he or she is in possession or custody of the horse immediately before the child rides it.

Some owners have their horses stabled without charge on the understanding that they can be ridden by properly qualified strangers. Other people may lend their houses together with any horses there may be in the paddock —possibly their cars too, not that that is relevant —to friends whom they know to be expert horsemen while they themselves are away on holiday or on business; or there may be a holiday exchange, as takes place quite often with the United States. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has also mentioned pony clubs where people often lend their ponies to strange children and obviously have no control whatsoever over what the children do.

I am afraid that it simply will not do, as my noble friend imagined, to claim that in such circumstances the police will not prosecute, because once the law is on the statute book there is no guarantee of this whatsoever. One of my noble friends, who unfortunately cannot be here today as he is attending another well known equestrian event but who strongly supports this amendment, has drawn my attention to a case in 1967 in which a school teacher who was tenant of a farmhouse let out rooms in that house to students. The students were subsequently caught smoking cannabis.

The unhappy school teacher was prosecuted and fined £25 plus £12.80 costs, which is equivalent in today's money to over £200 in all, for, being concerned in management of premises used for the purpose of smoking cannabis",

even though she did not live on the premises and could not possible have known about the cannabis smoking. It is true that she subsequently won her appeal, but not without being subjected to a great deal of expense and, above all, worry. One does not want to see that kind of thing happening again.

If this pair of amendments is accepted, subsection (2) will still remain tight enough to catch anybody who deserves to be caught. There will be no loopholes. I beg to move.

Lord Boardman

I feel that there is a misunderstanding on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and my noble friend Lord Mancroft when he spoke to the previous amendment. The offence is causing or permitting a child under 14 to ride without headgear. That obtains whether that person is the owner of the horse or has control or custody of it.

I do not think that it will make any difference whether or not the intended provision is in the Bill because the owner will be caught if he causes or permits the child to ride without headgear, just as any other person who has custody of the horse will be caught if he permits or causes the child to ride without headgear. I feel therefore that there is a misunderstanding of this point on the part of the mover of the amendment.

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

I feel that my noble friend Lord Mancroft disposed of the argument about the owner in one word. I do not understand why the owner should be responsible for something that is done with the horse when he himself may perhaps be in India or on holiday in the Isle of Wight or wherever and divorced from all possibility of any interest in what is done with his horse or pony in his absence.

It is also curious that if one makes the owner of the horse responsible and it is a child who is the owner of the horse, it will defeat the object of the Bill, which is to put the responsibilty for the child riding without a hat on the person who is responsible for allowing the child to do it and not on the child.

Viscount Ullswater

In the relevant circumstances both the owner and the person who has given permission could be prosecuted. In the case in which the owner has given permission for his horse to be ridden in his absence, he must have made it clear that the law must be abided by or must have had a reasonable expectation that the person to whom he gave permission would abide by the law. I hope that that helps in the discussion.

Viscount Mountgarret

I must say that I have a degree of sympathy with my noble friend. Provided that both these amendments—I am afraid that we have not discussed the second one—are taken together, one would end up with: any person who has custody or possession of the horse". That embodies the word "owner" as well. In a way therefore this provision is somewhat surplus to requirements, provided that the next amendment (which we are not speaking to now) comes into play. The Bill is probably best left as drafted but my noble friend has a point.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

On the advice of parliamentary counsel it was decided in another place that it would be desirable to have "owner" on the face of the Bill in order to avoid any misunderstandings. An owner who has caused or permitted a child to ride without the correct headgear will be liable to prosecution whether or not this amendment is accepted. For the sake of clarity therefore I urge noble Lords to withdraw the amendment.

I am an owner. I run a trekking centre. I make it known that I want people to wear a riding hat. If this Bill becomes an Act, I shall put up a sign stating that all people will wear riding hats. As it is, they are not allowed to ride unless they have a hat.

The point was made about a person lending a horse when he was absent in India. I lend ponies to people. I take great care to ensure that they go to responsible people. If this Bill becomes an Act I shall have to write a letter to them pointing out that if they ride this pony they must not forget to wear a hat, at least if they are under 14, but in that case I think that everybody would wear a hat. I do not think that that will be very difficult. I do not think that, if he has done his best, the owner should be liable.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

If I may say so, that is not good enough. We need the assurance that the owner will not be liable —not that the noble Baroness might think that he is not liable. That is the problem with this legislation. When legislation of this kind passes through the House, legislation under which people are liable to be prosecuted on a criminal charge, it has to be absolutely clear.

In speaking to the previous amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, showed exactly how an owner could be caught out by this legislation. That is simply not good enough. In my view the two amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, deal with the subject and make it clear that the person liable is the person who allowed the child to go out on a road and who had possession of the horse or pony immediately before the child mounted it. That liability should be there and nowhere else. It should not be allowed to be shifted somewhere else. That is in support of the Act itself. Once there is divided liability, there might be difficulty in obtaining a conviction.

I do not know what the noble Lord will do about these amendments but I hope that the noble Baroness will not just brush them aside. They are important amendments. Indeed, her speech showed that the matter needed some clarification. We must not pass legislation, through this House in particular, when that legislation is not clarifying and clear to the prosecuting authorities.

Lord Airedale

If the owner were to be in India, as has been suggested, he would be outside the jurisdiction and would be quite safe.

Lord Boardman

It is made quite clear that none of the people mentioned in subsection (2) is responsible unless he or she causes or permits a child to ride without protective headgear. I should have thought that it was quite unnecessary for this amendment to go any further.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

That was the advice of counsel. This Bill has the full backing of the Ministry of Transport and the Government.

Lord Monson

I am not sure how much today's Ministry of Transport knows about horses. I shall let that pass. The noble Lord, Lord Boardman, stressed the word "permit". The trouble is that the unfortunate owner has to prove that he did not permit it. It is all very well for my noble friend Lady Masham to say that she sticks up a notice saying that people must wear hats. That is possible in some cases but not in others.

Lord Boardman

The principle remains as it always has in criminal law with regard to the burden of proof. Someone has to prove that the owner failed to permit, withdrew permission, or allowed a child to ride without a hat.

Lord Monson

I do not think it is possible to prove either way unless there is something in writing about it. If everyone has to produce a legal document to prove that he has urged riders of his horses to wear hats, it will make the country more bureaucratic than it is already.

I am most grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Cork, as well as to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, whose support is unusual in so far as concerns this Bill, although it is welcome. If I may say so they have hit the nail on the head. If these two amendments are agreed to —they must both be agreed to; it is no use approving just one of them —whoever is in charge of the horse immediately before the child rides (whether or not it is the owner does not matter) is responsible. As I see it there are no loopholes nor is one giving too many hostages to fortune.

We bear in mind the case of the unfortunate lady who was prosecuted for allowing her house to be used for smoking cannabis although she was many miles away. With that in mind, from the civil liberties point of view I think it essential to test the opinion of the Committee on this amendment.

Viscount Mountgarret

Before the noble Lord sits down, is it in order for me to ask for clarification? He said that I appear to support the amendment. I wish to correct him. Is this amendment contingent upon Amendment No. 5, which we have not yet addressed? On its own the amendment is unacceptable to me. However, in conjunction with Amendment No. 5 it could be acceptable.

Lord Monson

I said at the outset that I was speaking to both amendments together. I would not dream of pressing the first but not the second. I hope that the noble Viscount does not think that I would do such an underhand thing. If that were the case it would be up to other Members of the Committee to press the amendment themselves. Of course the amendments go together. Since one amendment must appear before the other—there is no way round that —I have to press this amendment first. I hope that the other will then automatically follow.

On Question, amendment negatived.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

Lord Airedale moved Amendment No. 6: Page 1, line 22, at end insert: (" ( ) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that the child under the age of 14 years had apparently attained that age, and that he did not believe otherwise.").

The noble Lord said: The amendment draws its inspiration from the Licensing Act. One of the problems that is likely to beset the manager of a riding establishment will be similar to that which already besets the manager of a public house. Let us suppose that a well developed teenage boy presents himself at the door of a public house. The manager has never seen him before. The boy lies about his age but from his physical appearance may well be speaking the truth about his age. The manager has no other evidence about the boy's age, accepts in good faith that he is speaking the truth and lets him into the public house. In those circumstances, the manager has a statutory defence under the Licensing Act.

I believe that we may have a parallel situation. A boy may present himself at a riding establishment. The proprietor has never seen him before. He is a very well developed boy.

Lord Kilbracken

Or girl.

Lord Airedale

Boys include girls under the Interpretation Act. The boy lies about his age. The proprietor of the riding establishment has no other evidence about the boy's age and accepts what he says. From his appearance it may well be true. He allows the boy to ride without protective headgear.

I submit that that is a good parallel with the example of the public house manager. If a statutory defence under the Licensing Act is permitted in the first case, a similar statutory defence should be available under the Bill for the proprietor of the riding establishment who acts in good faith. That is the purpose of the amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

As in similar legislation on the wearing of seat belts, we have to be very clear about setting an age limit. The amendment would effectively limit the Bill to any child who appeared to be 14. It would be quite wrong to remove the protection provided by the Bill from any child simply because he or she appeared to be older than their years. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Airedale

I thought that I had drawn a successful parallel, and that if a statutory defence is allowed in one case it would be fair to allow it in another. However, I do not wish to take the matter to a Division. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Regulations]:

Baroness Masham of Ilton moved Amendment No. 7: Page 2, line 11, at end insert: ("(1A) Before making any regulations under this section the Secretary of State shall consult such representative organisations as he thinks fit.").

The noble Baroness said: The Department of Transport has already undertaken to consult widely before making the regulations to enforce the wearing of hard hats. However, on its advice it has been decided to enshrine this commitment in the Bill. That is what the amendment provides. I beg to move.

Lord Monson

I am slightly puzzled by my noble friend's explanation of the amendment. It seems to be at variance with the words of the amendment which imply that before drafting the regulations the Secretary of State will take advice from the organisations concerned.

I have no objection to that in principle. It may produce some sensible and worthwhile suggestions. However, we must remember that not every businessman wishes to join the CBI, the Institute of Directors or a small business group, not every farmer wishes to join the NFU, CLA or a small farmers' organisation, not every motorist has an interest in joining the AA or RAC and by no means all riders wish to belong to "representative organisations". We must always remember the individuals who wish to be treated as individuals and not as part of a group. At all costs we must avoid anything that smacks of the corporate state.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

The requirement on the Secretary of State to consult before making the regulations is chiefly to discover whether there should be any exemptions upon religious grounds or in particular circumstances. It is also to receive advice on what the required standard or standards of headgear should be —for example, whether cycle helmets should be included.

Lord Monson

Can the noble Baroness say whether it is proposed that Sikh children should be exempted from wearing helmets?

Baroness Masham of Ilton

That is a consideration.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 8: Page 2, line 12, leave out subsection (2) and insert: ("(2) A draft of any regulations to be made under this section shall be laid before each House of Parliament and those regulations shall not be made unless the draft has been approved by a resolution of each House.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is self-evident. The same applies to Amendments Nos. 12 and 13. They merely extend the principle of affirmative procedure rather than negative procedure to Northern Ireland to bring it into line with the remainder of the United Kingdom, on the assumption that Amendment No. 8 is accepted.

If the Bill is passed we are taking quite a major step. I do not need to remind the Committee that no other country in the world has a similar law. The argument that somebody has to be the first is not an adequate answer. Moreover, when the legislation governing seat belts for children in the rear seats of cars was brought in, the affirmative resolution procedure was agreed to, in recognition of its importance with regard to civil liberties. Exactly the same principle applies to this Bill. It may not in practice make much difference in this Chamber. We know that the advantages are more apparent than real. However, the affirmative resolution procedure regulation provides for greater scrutiny in another place I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Boardman

A number of resolutions that come before the Committee should be positive. However, the provision does not fall within that category. The regulations are straightforward. The Committee has passed an amendment relating to the consultations which must take place before they are made. I believe that we should leave the provision in the form of a negative resolution.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I imagine that before the Bil1's Second Reading the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, had thought that it would be straightforward. I am sure that she had no idea that I should take part in the debate. However, it has proved not to be perfectly straightforward. A number of amendments have been tabled and there has been a great deal of discussion. Therefore, we cannot assume that the regulations will be perfectly straightforward.

The amendment is perfectly reasonable and is one which in other circumstances the noble Baroness may have supported. It is important that Parliament should be able to discuss regulations and orders and to reject them. It would be wise for one reason in particular, as has been mentioned, to have an affirmative procedure in this case. In her speech on Second Reading the noble Baroness referred to exemptions on religious grounds. Some of us strongly believe that no exemptions should be made on religious grounds in this or any other Bill. I spoke against the exemption of Sikhs, for example, from wearing protective helmets on building sites. I believed that it set a bad example to others. If such a provision is extended to the riding of horses two issues will arise; first, it will set a bad example and, secondly, it will appear that the state is less concerned about accidents and deaths to Sikhs than to other people. They are two good reasons for providing that the regulations should be made by means of affirmative procedure. Indeed, if the exemption relating to Sikhs was contained in such a regulation I might well have wished to create a precedent in the Chamber and vote against the regulations perhaps with effect.

I support the amendment. The rights of Parliament are being overriden from all sides. The Acts that it passes can be overruled even by the European Community. I hope that Members of the Committee in particular will be careful about their rights and privileges and support the amendment.

Lord Airedale

The principles which decide whether an order shall be affirmative or negative appear to be most odd. Recently we dealt with an affirmative order about mushroom growing. That was quickly followed by the student loans regulations which were highly controversial and which were dealt with under the negative procedure. Is there a principle which decides such issues?

Baroness Masham of Iltion

Nothing surprises me about this Chamber. I have been a Member since 1970 and I never take anything for granted.

The amendment seeks to change the regulation-making process from negative to affirmative resolution. As Members of the Committee know, the affirmative resolution procedure is the exception rather than the rule. In the parliamentary Session 1987–88 there were 113 general Statutory Instruments from the Department of Transport under the negative resolution procedure and only 11 under the affirmative resolution procedure; that is a proportion of nearly 1 to 11. The affirmative resolution procedure is quite rightly used where the regulations are potentially controversial. That was the case with rear seat belts for children. Members will recall the debate about school journeys, for example, and how they would be accommodated in the rules.

The Bill is far more straightforward. It is more akin to motorcycle helmets where the regulations are made under the negative resolution procedure. The regulations to be made for this Bill will cover the type of hat, how it is to be worn, who might be exempted on religious or medical grounds and in what circumstances they might be exempted. None of that is controversial and the only effect of changing to affirmative resolution might be to delay the implementation of the great safety benefits that the measure will bring to young riders. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Monson, will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Monson

I am afraid that I cannot withdraw my amendment. If both Houses of Parliament thought it right that the affirmative procedure should apply to regulations governing the wearing of seat belts by children, logically we cannot deny applying the same procedure to this Bill. It represents a more major change in the law because the front seat belt legislation was already in place when the rear seat belt legislation was passed. Therefore, it was not such an innovation.

As the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said, many controversial issues may arise from these regulations. The provision would not delay the effective introduction of the Bill as opposed to its legal introduction, given that the publicity attached to the Bill may induce many more people to buy helmets for their children on a voluntary basis. It is an important issue and once again I must test the opinion of the Committee.

On Question, amendment negatived.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Interpretation]:

Lord Stoddart of Swindon moved Amendment No. 9: Page 2, line 16, leave out ("foal").

The noble Lord said: I do not wish to delay the Committee and therefore I shall speak also to Amendment No. 10. The major debate on the amendments took place during our discussions on Amendment No. 1. Nevertheless, several comments remain to be made. I do not agree with what was said and still hold the view that we are making a fool out of the Bill by including the animals referred to in the amendments.

For example, I suggest that on page 16 we leave out the word "foal". I understand a foal to be a young horse still with a dam. Is it seriously suggested that people ride foals? I do not believe that they do. When in my young days I lived at Chazey Court if I had been seen on the back of a foal I should have been knocked off. I would have been told that it would cause damage to the animal at a critical stage of its life. Therefore, why are foals included in the Bill?

Furthermore, why on earth are asses, mules and hinnies included in the Bill? I suspect that the reason for the inclusion of the definition is that it is contained in other Bills. The word "horse" is defined in the Protection of Animals Act 1911 as follows: 'Horse' includes any mare, gelding, pony, foal, colt, filly or stallion.

Again the definition in the Docking and Nicking of Horses Act 1949 is: 'Horse' includes stallion, gelding, colt, mare, filly, pony, mule and hinny".

One can understand that asses, mules and hinnies might be included in the Docking and Nicking of Horses Act, but that does not mean that they should be included in this Bill.

The Slaughterhouses Act 1974 states: 'Horse' includes ass and mule".

However, that was an Act to regulate the slaughter of those animals. In the Farriers (Registration) Act 1975, which again has nothing to do with protective headgear but I understand has to do with the shoeing of horses, the definition states: 'Horse' includes pony, mule, donkey or other equine animal".

Therefore, it seems to me that the definition of "horse" has been filched from other legislation, and because it is thought convenient, it has been included in this Bill.

I still contend that is is wrong to insist that young riders up to the age of 14 —and they may be six foot tall at that age —should be forced to wear protective headgear complete with tight chinstrap when they are riding a horse or a mule. I do not believe it is necessary, and that is the object of these amendments. I reject all previous arguments. The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said that asses and mules have a hell of a kick. However, they usually kick behind them and do not kick a person on the head. I hope that that sort of argument will not be used again against my amendment.

We have had the main argument, and I do not wish to repeat that. I have put forward my theory as to how those words are included in this Bill, and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, will even at this stage consider the amendment and accept it. I beg to move.

Baroness Nicol

I do not quite know how to confess this, but as a child I rode an ass and an animal called a jennet which does not seem to be mentioned. That is a cross between an ass and a pony, but the other way round to a mule. Such animals can be very unpredictable. They are accessible to children growing up in the sort of family with which I was brought up which owned miscellaneous animals. I should like to feel that the provisions of this Bill extend also to those animals. I cannot agree with my noble friend, and I hope that this amendment will be rejected.

Lord Monson

As regards Amendment No. 10, my support for it was based upon the use of the Queen's English. I do not believe that one can include in the definition of a "horse" an ass or a mule any more than one includes in the definition of a "motor car" a bus, lorry, or motor cycle. With that proviso, I am inclined to accept the argument of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, on Amendment No. 10.

Amendment No. 9 is a totally different matter. It is ridiculous to suppose that anybody, even a baby, will ride a foal. In any event, a baby will not have a crash helmet. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, will not press Amendment No. 10. However, I hope that he will press Amendment No. 9 if it is not accepted, because it will be interesting to see how many Members of the Committee go through the Division Lobby in support of the proposition that foals can be ridden.

The Earl of Swinton

My admiration for the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, knows no bounds. I asked myself how he would be able to bring in his aversion to Europe on this discussion, and he managed to do that on the last amendment. Donkeys and other animals can not only kick back, but can buck and kick in the air with enough power to dislodge a small child and throw it on to its head.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I should correct the noble Earl. My aversion is not to Europe but to the EC.

7.45 p.m.

Lord Addington

Leaving the EC aside, as regards these amendments, we come back to the point that this amendment is making an exception. A foal can be a potentially large animal. I am sure that those more knowledgeable on equestrian terminology will be able to find some very interesting definitions of the word "foal", and can find examples of enormous specimens. A child can be hurt at an early age by falling from a considerable height from such an animal. I suggest that we should make our definitions as wide as possible when dealing with safety regulations so that they can be applied as widely as possible.

Lord Monson

Before the noble Lord sits down, has he ever heard of a case of anybody ever riding a foal?

Lord Addington

No, but what happens when we do?

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

I can suggest a possible answer to that because no matter what the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, may say, it is possible to ride a foal. Like other animals, foals vary in size from the small to the large as do people. When the noble Lord was of an age to be told that it was improper or unwise to ride a foal, he was large enough and old enough to understand. Had he been told that when he was a baby, he might not have been quite so ready to understand. His mother might have said to him, "Look at this dear little animal! Do have a ride!". She might have then put him on the back of the foal. Foals can take off with remarkable alacrity. He might have landed upside down on hs head on the cobblestones. Unquestionably, he might have received a very nasty injury which could have proves fatal. His mother would have been responsible for that. That is a possible scenario.

As regards the other animals which the noble Lord wishes to omit from the definition, I am not certain that I have ridden them all, but it is quite likely. I can swear to the fact that a mule is a dangerous animal. It may be slightly less dangerous when you are sitting on its back than when you are on the ground beside it. Such an animal is rideable. Many mules are taller than children of the age referred to in the Bill. This definition should be retained in the Bill.

Lord Monson

Before the noble Earl sits down, perhaps I may ask him this question. Is he suggesting seriously that the mother of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, would have put him on the back of a foal on the public highway? After all, that is what this Bill is concerned with. Secondly, the size of the foal is not important. The important fact is that its bones are not yet formed and therefore it is dangerous to put anything heavy on its back.

Lord Burton

It is like trying to make a baby carry a large weight. Therefore the person responsible for the child should be prosecuted whether or not the child is wearing a hard hat.

Lord Mancroft

I have no intention of ever trying to ride or fall off a foal. However, can any Member of the Committee tell me what is a hinny?

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

A hinny is the product of the mating between an ass and a stallion. Is that not correct?

Lord Airdale

It is the other way round from a mule, is it not?

Baroness Masham of Ilton

I should like to put on record that nobody should ride a foal, but some people do remarkably stupid things.

By narrowing the definition of "horse" it would make enforcement very difficult for the police, who would need some expertise in distinguishing the size and type of horse. It is not always possible to tell a foal just by looking at it. According to the Oxford English Dictionary a foal is, The young of the equine genus of quadrupeds". I hope the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, will appreciate that problem and withdraw the amendment. Also, if the purpose of excluding donkeys is to protect donkey rides on the beach, perhaps I can advise him that they are already excluded as we are concerned only with roads. If the amendment is to exclude a specific donkey derby, I should be grateful to know which so that the Secretary of State could take that into account when he makes the regulations.

I have ridden donkeys and they are exceedingly difficult to ride because they have very little in front of them. I believe I have fallen from a donkey more times than I have fallen from a horse.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

As I said earlier, we had the main debate on Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 when discussing Amendment No. 1. Other noble Lords may have had different experiences from myself. I confess that I have always ridden docile donkeys. I have never been thrown or kicked by one; perhaps I have good control over them. However, I have never yet seen anyone else being thrown by a donkey, and certainly not on a public highway. I therefore believe that my original amendment was reasonable and that Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 are also reasonable.

I believe that by allowing to remain in the Bill the possibility that foals can be ridden is a bit beyond the pale. As the noble Lord, Lord Monson, explained, foals are young animals not properly developed. We are speaking of riding foals on a public highway. I cannot conceive of circumstances where foals will be ridden on public highways by anybody —not by children of 12 and 14 or by adults. Presumably adults will also do stupid things, but I cannot conceive of such a situation. In those circumstances I shall press the amendment.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

Before the noble Lord does so, perhaps I could say that the reason "foal" appears is that nobody wants anyone to ride a foal. That is obvious. But the definition of "foal" is very vague and nobody knows when a foal is not a foal. That is the problem. When does a foal become a young horse? "Foal" appears because the definition is vague.

Lord Monson

Perhaps I may intervene. In answer to my noble friend last night I telephoned a friend who has enormous experience in the riding world and herself trains horses. She said that under no circumstances can a foal be older than six months.

Baroness Nicol

Perhaps I may ask my noble friend, before he puts the amendment to the Committee, why he must press the amendment if he feels that foals are never likely to be ridden.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To make it a better Bill. There is no point in including words in a Bill which are unnecessary. I understand that the definition of a foal is a young horse running with its dam. That is a very young horse indeed. Therefore I feel that it is right that I put the amendment to a vote.

Viscount Allenby of Megiddo

It might possibly help the Committee if we go a little further on the definition of "foal"; does it cease to be a foal when it has been weaned from its mother? Having said that, young horses run with their mothers for quite a long time. In my experience, small children are often put on what could be called foals. The fact that they may not be on the road is probably irrelevant. It is possible for young people, for enjoyment, to be put on to little horses or foals and it is therefore important that the Bill remains as it stands. Otherwise we shall confuse the issue.

On Question, amendment negatived.

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

Baroness Masham of Ilton moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 2, leave out lines 19 to 27 and insert:

(" "road" does not include a footpath or bridleway but, subject to that, has —

  1. (a) in England and Wales the meaning given by section 192(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988; and
  2. (b) in Scotland the meaning given by section 151(1) of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.

(2) For the purposes of the definition of "road" in subsection (1) above—

  1. (a) "footpath" means a way —
    1. (i) over which the public have a right of way or. in Scotland, of passage on foot only; and
    2. (ii) which is not associated with a carriageway; and
  2. (b) "bridleway" means a way over which the public have the following, but no other, rights of way: a right of way on foot and a right of way on horseback or leading a horse, with or without a right to drive animals of any description along the way,").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 11 is intended to restrict the scope of the Bill to roads where there is a risk of collision between vehicles and horse riders. That is the reason bridleways and footpaths are excluded. However, it will be illegal for children to ride their horses on a footpath alongside a road without protective headgear. Under Section 72 of the Highways Act 1835 it is an offence to ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of the road set aside for pedestrians. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 [Corresponding provision for Northern Ireland]:

[Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 not moved.]

Clause 4 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.