HC Deb 09 July 1959 vol 608 cc150-1W
72. Mr. H. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is now in a position to make a statement following his inquiries into the conditions relating to the running of the Grand National.

Mr. R. A. Butler

As I suggested in answering Questions on 9th April, I have had conversations with the Stewards of the National Hunt Committee, and also with the owner of the Aintree Course and with representatives of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and of other bodies interested in animal welfare. I am much indebted to all these people for the information and help that they have given me.

The House will realise that in this matter I have no direct responsibility. The responsibility rests with the Stewards and owner of the Course and, more broadly, with the Stewards of the National Hunt Committee. My conversations with them have been most helpful, and they have listened patiently to all the representations and suggestions that have been put forward through me. I have accepted an invitation to visit the Course and see the next Grand National race so that I can form my own impressions at first hand.

The Stewards are properly determined to maintain the traditional character of the race. They consider that the Course is tough but fair, and that the history of the race shows that this is so. I do not feel that I can go into detail about the Course itself. As regards conditions of entry, the Course authorities have been good enough to take note of the various suggestions that have been made, and have given me the assurance that they have the qualifications continually under review. I am satisfied that they will seek so to control the entry and its extent so as to be sure that the horses are fit and suitable to run.