HC Deb 29 April 1897 vol 48 cc1225-6
MR. HUBERT DUNCOMRE (Cumberland, Egremont)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce a short Bill defining a "place" under the Betting Ads, 1853 and 1854, in intelligible and unmistakable words, and in accordance with the expressed intentions of the trainers of the aforesaid Acts?

The HON. MEMBER also asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention had been called to the fact that, under the recent Judgment in the ease of Hawke v. Dunn, any defined or undefined area may be converted into a place within the meaning of the Betting Houses Acts, should one man make, or offer to make, bets there as a matter of business: and whether, having regard to the impossibility of insuring that among a large assembly of spectators no one will bet or endeavour to bet as a matter of business, the Government will take steps to so amend the law as to enable Her Majesty's subjects to witness sports and games without the risk of finding themselves arrested, searched, and locked up?

SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether his attention has been drawn to the statement of Mr. Justice Hawkins, in giving the Judgment of the Divisional Court in the ease of Hawke v. Dunn, that he and his learned brethren were giving effect to what they believed to be the object and intention of the Legislature in passing the Betting Acts of 1853 and 1854; (2) whether he is now in a position to state what is the effect of that judgment; and what directions in consequence of it have been given to the police; and (3) whether, considering the crime and misery which, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Judges, has ensued upon the rapid increase of public professional gambling, and especially that carried on by starting or tape price bookmakers, he can hold out any hope of being able to propose legislation which, while not interfering with legitimate sport, would check and mitigate the admitted evil?


I will answer the two Questions of the hon. Member and that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Honiton Division of Devon at the same time. I am not prepared to suggest legislation in either of the directions proposed by the hon. Member. He appears to me, in the second of his Questions, to take an exaggerated view of the effect of the decision in the case Hawke v. Dunn, and I do not think that Her Majesty's subjects will be in any such danger as the hon. Member represents, or that any further legislation is necessary for their protection. In reply to the right hon. Gentleman, I have to say that I am advised by the Law Officers that the Judgment applies to all kinds of betting, betting on credit as well as betting for ready money, and that the Metropolitan Police, the only force directly under my control, have instructions to take proceedings against bookmakers and others who can be proved to have infringed the provisions of Section 1 of the Act of 1853. Several summonses are, in fact, now pending. As regards the evil to which he refers m the last paragraph of his Question, I am fully alive to its gravity, and, though I cannot promise anything definitely, it shall not escape my attention. ["Hear, hear!"]


May I ask whether this House is in any danger of being held to be a "place" within the meaning of the Betting Acts? [Laughter.]


That is a question that should be addressed to the Law Officers of the Crown. ["Hear, hear!"]