§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ Mr. CAUTLEY
I do not see the Solicitor-General or any Law Officer here, but I should like to ask one or two questions about this Bill. While strongly approving of the Bill, I want to ask what is the meaning of the last sentence—No action for the recovery of money under the said Section shall be entertained in any Court.I am not aware quite what is the meaning of the phrase "entertaining an action." The legal phrase is not known to me, and I should like to know whether it means that no action is to be brought in the future, or what it actually does mean. A large number of actions have been commenced under the existing law to recover money that has been lost on bets and paid by cheques. These actions are in various stages of their procedure. They have got various distances on the course for trial. There is no provision at all for what is to be done with the actions that are now pending. It seems to me very undesirable in these days that those people who have started actions should be able to recover, contrary to what at the trials is the existing law, since the Act of Parliament under which they are suing has been repealed. I should be glad to have answers to these questions.
§ Sir EDMUND BARTLEY-DENNISS
I very much regret to have to take up even a few minutes of the time of the House, and divert the thoughts of Members from the calamity which oppresses us all. I cannot, however, allow this Bill to pass the Third Reading without making some kind of protest against the way in which it has been brought in, and the little consideration which has been given to it, either in the other place or in this House. This is a private Member's Bill, but the subject is one of general public policy, and it is not, to my mind, a fitting subject for a private Member's Bill. I sympathise entirely 1550 with the object of the Noble Lord who introduced it in another place. If he had confined his Bill to the object he had in mind, namely, to preventing people who have already paid their cheques to the bookmakers from recovering the money back, I should not only not have had a word to say against the Bill, but I should also have welcomed it and thought that it was a mere matter of common honesty and justice. But the Bill goes very much further than that, and reverses the policy which has been in existence now for nearly 90 years, which was adopted in 1835 to deal with what was then a very serious evil, namely, gaming in all its forms, has been continued unquestioned up to the present time, and which, but for a decision in the Courts of law with regard to bookmakers' winnings and cheques that are paid to them in respect of those winnings, the House would never have thought of reversing in any way. This Bill—which is a little Bill of one Clause—entirely reverses the general public policy which has been pursued for so long, and which was brought in to redress a great social evil, which social evil continues in different but undiminished forms to the present day. London is full of gaming houses at the present time—of night houses where cards are played and where young men are tempted to their ruin, very often to the danger of great loss and the crippling, if not the ruin, of their relations. Women, as I am reminded, are said to be taking the same means of getting money for nothing, for that is what gambling comes to. It is, I am afraid, inherent in human nature that certain people should be greedy and should endeavour, whether by horse racing, or by card playing, or by gambling on the Stock Exchange, to make money for nothing. That being so, it is necessary for this country to deal with the evil now as it was in 1835.
The objection I have to this Bill is that, instead of conveying the simple statement that a cheque given for a gambling debt, when paid, shall be incapable of being made a subject of any action to recover the money so paid in respect of betting on horse races, the Bill goes to the full extent of repealing the whole Section of an Act of Parliament which is vital to the public interests of this country. I do not intend to do more now than to point out to the House what I believe to be the effect of the Bill. The reason I am 1551 compelled to do that is this. I was a member of the Committee which sat on the Bill upstairs, and there I raised the question of the absence of any legal officer of the Crown who could explain to the Committee what the real effect of the Bill was. The learned Lord Advocate was there—in what capacity I do not know—and when I appealed to him, he, with his usual courtesy, said he would under no circumstances care to give any opinion on the matter of English law, although he was quite prepared to deal with questions of Scottish law. Therefore the members of the Committee were totally unprotected so far as legal assistance was necessary in the consideration of this Measure. It was quite clear that the Committee upstairs did not understand the scope of the Bill. Under Section 2 of the Gaming Act, 1835, which this Bill seeks to repeal in toto, if people give bills or notes or mortgages, including equitable charges, which are simple things, that can be written on a half sheet of notepaper, for a gaming debt of any kind, whether in horse racing, or card playing, or Stock Exchange gambling in differences, after the money is actually paid it can be recovered. But this Bill says that, under no circumstances, even in the case of mortgages, can such money, once having been paid, be recovered.
There is this practical difference to be borne in mind between money paid by by cheque and that conveyed under a mortgage. If a man gives a cheque, he usually has at the bank a sufficient balance to meet it and he can afford to pay it without crippling himself. But if he gives a mortgage on his property, he may in a few minutes at a gaming table, cripple himself, his family and his heirs for ever. These things have happened in times gone by. They happen even now, and to say that the evil that the Act of Parliament passed in 1835 was intended to remove should no longer be prevented and that the Act itself should be reversed by this short Measure, is to advocate a course which ought not to be adopted. Had the Bill been confined, as originally intended, to cheques given to bookmakers by men who had lost money in betting on horses, I would have welcomed it but, as a matter of fact, it goes a great deal too far. This is a matter of grave public policy, and I for one feel that the Bill should have seen brought in after due consideration by the 1552 Government itself on the advice of the Law Officers of the Crown. Neither of the Law Officers of the Crown is here to-day and, as a result, we are completely in the dark as far as the legal aspect of the Measure is concerned.
Let me tell the House what happened in another place. The Bill was not printed until the morning of the day on which the Second Reading was taken, and scarcely anyone in the Upper Chamber knew anything about it. It was put down for Committee the next day and no opporwas afforded of giving notice of Amendments to it. What will be possible under this Bill will be that a man who is gambling may either stake his title deeds on the table and hand them over to his opponents should he lose, or he may, by writing on a half-sheet of notepaper, give a charge on money to which he is entitled. Under the existing law such a charge would not be effective, even if the charge had been assigned, and surely nobody desires that it should be. But once the money has been paid by the loser then, under this Bill, the man will be unable to recover it; whereas under the operation of the existing law the transaction can be set aside and the money recovered. We all have heard what happens in these gaming houses in London at night. Personally I have no knowledge of them, but there is no doubt that a good deal of drinking goes on, and young men are encouraged to drink while those with whom they are gambling keep sober and only pretend to drink. I remember one particular case which came to my own knowledge years ago. I was told by a man who was a regular card player that he had an arrangement with the club steward that the drink supplied to him should be merely a coloured liquor intended to represent whisky, while the men with whom he was playing were supplied with whisky itself. Large sums of money were often gained under similar circumstances, and I submit that they ought to be recoverable. This Bill, however, will prevent that, and will place no obstacle in the way of a man mortgaging the whole of his property.
What was the origin of this Bill? A gentleman named Dey, who made bets with a bookmaker, had lost £852 which he paid by cheque, and the cheque was duly honoured. Afterwards he made other bets with the same bookmaker and won, but the bookmaker then refused to pay. 1553 Thereupon Dey brought an action against the bookmaker to recover the £852 which he had paid by cheque. It was a bit of rough justice, and he succeeded in getting his money back again. It was a meritorious case so far as Dey was concerned. Afterwards another case cropped up in which the same principle was involved, and it was taken to the House of Lords, who confirmed the decision in the former case, and in consequence of that case this Bill was brought in to rectify the state of affairs that the litigation had brought about. One result of the legal decisions was that a large number of people who had always been paid their winnings by the bookmakers sought to recover from the bookmakers losses they had made and which they had paid by cheque. It was admitted that that was a scandal which ought not to be allowed. I myself did not put down any Amendment to the Bill, because I felt it dealt with a matter of general public policy, on which the best legal knowledge which this House possessed should be at the service of the Members. In my opinion the Law Officers of the Crown ought to have carefully considered such a Bill before it was brought in I tried to get the Committee upstairs agree to make some representation in favour of the Government providing hon. Members with legal assistance, and I maintain that such legal advice is necessary even now, for I doubt if there are many Members in the House who understand the full significance of this Bill. Just to meet one hard case, which we all have admitted ought to be met, a Bill is brought in which reverses the whole position, whether in regard to card-playing, horse-racing, Stock Exchange differences, or any other form of gambling. It repeals the section, and, furthermore, at the end says,No action for the recovery of money under the said Section shall be entertained in any Court.My hon. and learned Friend who opened the debate has stated that large numbers of actions are pending in the Courts to recover such moneys, and some of those who have brought those actions may be in the same position as Mr. Dey, that is to say, may be only seeking to recover their money because some bookmaker has failed to pay when he has lost. It would be very hard if they could not succeed, but this seems to me to be, and I should like to know from some legal 1554 authority in the House whether it is, retrospective. It does not say that no action shall be "brought" in any Court for the recovery of money. That would have protected people who have already brought actions. It says that no action shall be "entertained," and, therefore, as soon as this Bill becomes an Act, it can be said that any such action can be no longer entertained, thus, I suppose, putting an end to those legal and rightful claims, though some of them may be mean and paltry, which are already before the judicature of this country and which ought not to be swept away by a short, ill-considered and rushed Bill, brought in without the weight of Government assistance. The Bill ought not to be retrospective.
I thought it my duty to bring these considerations before the House. People who bet with bookmakers and give cheques for their bets, can afford, as a rule, to do it, and they ought to pay their debts. But card-playing at night, in gaming houses in London and elsewhere, is different, and many cases of serious trouble have been caused to young men by these night houses. This Bill allows a man to gamble away his whole fortune by giving a note across the table—a bill of exchange, or a cheque, or an equitable mortgage on a half sheet of paper. The Bill ought to be limited to what is really the object of the Noble Lord who brought it in. If the House chooses to pass it to-day, it will do so with its eyes open to the consequences, so far as I can point them out. Personally, I think the House ought not to proceed further in the matter until it has proper advice. If it does not choose to pass this Bill to-day, the Government might easily bring in a one-Clause Bill to deal with cheques and cheques only, so that this system of paying bets by cheques, which is extremely convenient both to those who bet and to bookmakers, should be put right, and upon such a Bill I am sure we should be all agreed.
§ Captain LOSEBY
I should like to remind the House of the circumstances in which, as I believe I am correct in saying, Section 2 of the Gaming Act became law. At the time when that Section was passed, in 1835, money paid by cash was recoverable if that cash was paid in respect of a gaming transaction, but the same rule did not apply in regard to negotiable securities, which are prac- 1555 tically identical with cash, in that they pass from hand to hand. The Section was introduced to put cash on the same basis as negotiable securities. At a subsequent date, I think in 1845, payments made by cash were made irrecoverable, but it would appear that by some omission negotiable securities were not placed upon the same basis, and the necessary legislation was not introduced. It is common knowledge and common morality that where a man pays by notes in respect of a gaming transaction, those notes should not be recoverable, but where he pays by other forms of negotiable instruments they should be recoverable. It appears to me that this is merely commonsense legislation to rectify an obvious omission. It has nothing to do with gambling or with the morality of gambling. Certain circumstances were cited by the hon. Member for Oldham (Sir E. Bartley Denniss) in which men laid money, but in those cases it would appear to me to be clearly recoverable as the law stands, in spite of this particular Bill. It is important that the House should recollect that the main purpose of the Bill is to put negotiable instruments which pass from hand to hand as cash on the same basis as cash. It is necessary in the interests of ordinary morality, and I hope it will go through without opposition.
§ Mr. SIMM
I wish to support the protest made by the hon. Member for Oldham (Sir E. Bartley-Denniss). He began by objecting to this Measure as being far too limited in dealing with a very large subject. With that I entirely agree in its essence. It is, of course, a piece of class legislation. It affects those who pay by cheques. But gambling or gaming in this country is just as prevalent among people who pay in small cash as among those who pay in large or small cheques. I think that both the nation and this House are playing the hypocrite with a subject of this character in not being prepared to see to it that persons engaged in gambling or taking bets are registered as such, and that only such persons are allowed to carry on those operations. Those who have any acquaintances with racecourses know that upon every racecourse now there is a whole body of people, most of them of the worst sort, who go there with a pound or two, get a tidy sum of money from investors there, and then slip away without paying. I 1556 remember that on one occasion, when I happened to be at the Derby, I saw one bookmaker who made a very fine show, and who was saying that he had a place in Holborn and a carriage and motor car. He was doing a large business—it was just at the end of the War—with ex-service men, Australians and so on; and at the end of the second race, when people came for their winnings, he had got away with something like £2,000. I do not see why, when we are dealing with a subject of this character, some real effort should not be made to clean up the racecourse of this country. It could be easily done. Nearly all racecourses now are enclosed places, and, if the police were not called upon to do it, I think the racecourse company ought to be compelled to see that every man who makes bets there is registered for the purpose.
I may go one point further. The Measure was passed to prevent what is called ready-money betting, but the effect has not been to prohibit betting nor has it done it in the slightest degree. There is more gambling done to-day, not only among men, but even among women and children, down even to coppers in all sorts of places, in places which are not put up for gambling purposes. All sorts of holes and corners are being used by bookmakers for the purpose. The bookmakers want to register. They want the job made as clean as possible. It is bad enough to be robbed by an Englishman or a Scotsman, but it is even worse to be robbed by a Jew, who may not even be naturalised, and I object very strongly to these people, who are the very lowest human types, being allowed to infest our racecourses to the extent they do. The racecourse ought to be as clean as the cricket field. I fear I have gone outside the scope of the Measure, but I have got my protest in, and I hope the matter will be taken up seriously because gambling is a serious matter and we should gain as a people by passing a Bill of this character, which is a just Measure, and we should get a grip of the wider problem of the small gambling which is going on to a marked extent.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I did not quite follow the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Oldham (Sir E. Bartley Denniss) with regard to the bookmaker in the motor car and the carriage, who got the money of a large number of ex-service men, amounting to £3,000.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I did not suppose my hon. and learned Friend was engaged with the bookmaker, and knew what was in the bag. At any rate it was a large sum of money. The Bill does not affect that in any kind of way, because the money paid under these circumstances would be paid in cash or in Treasury notes, and therefore would not come under the operation of the Bill. I was very much in favour of the Bill, as I understood its object was to enact that a person who paid a gambling debt by cheque should not be able to recover his money. I do not think there can be anyone in the House who does not think that is a right and proper thing to do. But now I understand that the Bill goes a great deal further than that. I gathered that my hon. and learned Friend was a member of the Committee, on which there was no Law Officer of the Crown, and consequently they were unable to obtain that legal advice which they were 12 N. clearly entitled to. The Law Officers are more conspicuous by their absence than by their presence, both in the House and in Committee. If the Bill goes as far as my hon. and learned Friend says it does, I are inclined to think the proper course is to adjourn the discussion in order that we may really know what it is we are doing. I have the impression that if it is desired to move to recommit the Bill on the Third Reading, it must be done at once and cannot be done during the discussion.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
That is of what I was afraid. Supposing any hon. Member moved the Adjournment of the Debate, would it be possible then to put down a Motion to recommit the Bill? That would give the Government an opportunity of having a Law Officer present, and if it were necessary to alter the wording of the Bill in order to limit it to that which everyone really desires. namely, that payment by cheque should be the same as payment by cash, we might have an opportunity to amend the Bill and get it through at once without the delay which would be necessitated if it was thought advisable to bring in a new Bill. If I should be in order in doing 1558 it, I would move the adjournment of the Debate if the course I suggest could be followed.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The trouble in doing that would be that if the right hon. Baronet moved that the Debate be now adjourned—I presume the Home Office is prepared to answer for the Government on the point—it would not be in order on that Motion for such a reply to be given. Would not the best way be to hear what the Government have to say, and then probably some other hon. Member might move?
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Baird)
This is purely a legal point, and I cannot expect my right hon. Friend to accept my view on a legal matter as final. The points raised by the hon. and learned Member for Oldham (Sir E. Bartley Denniss) have been gone into; the whole Bill has been carefully examined by the legal authorities, and I understand the fears entertained by my hon. and learned Friend are not justified. In the House of Lords the Bill had the advantage of being introduced by a most distinguished lawyer, and he secured the support of all the other legal Members. There is another point. Undoubtedly the Bill is intended to remove what everyone agrees is a great defect in our system —a most unfair state of affairs.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The Under-Secretary for the Home Office has told us that this is a private Member's Bill. I do not want to interfere with the passage of the Bill, but I would point out that if the Debate be adjourned now, and the promoters of the Bill put it down for next Friday, it would come on as first Order next Friday, and nothing would be lost. What would have happened would be that we should have had an opportunity of ascertaining the effect of the Bill, and, if necessary, it could be re-committed at once.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
The right hon. Baronet is far more familiar with the practices of this House than most of us, and he will 1559 agree that at this stage of the Session a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
I wonder if my right hon. Friend would readily consent to that course, if it were proposed in regard to a Bill of which he was the promoter.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
There has been an Amendment made in Committee upstairs, and it will be necessary for the Bill to go back to the Lords.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
It is a Private Member's Bill, and if the promoters desire to adopt the course recommended by the right hon. Baronet, it is for them to do so. Here is an attempt to remedy a very great wrong. The matter has been very carefully considered by the legal authorities of the Government and by legal Members of the House of Lords. The hon. Member for Oldham (Sir E. Bartley-Denniss) raised this point in Committee, and at the time, although there was no Law Officer of the Crown present, we had the opinion, in a lay capacity, of the Lord Advocate, who did not think there was substance in the hon. Baronet's fears.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
It is for the House to decide whether the Bill should proceed, as there is no Law Officer present. Having regard to the importance of the subject, and that this Bill has been very carefully drafted by competent legal authorities, I hope my right hon. Friend will not persist in this course.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
1560 No one will under-rate the importance of this Bill, and on that account it is a matter for regret that there is not a Law Officer of the Crown present. What is the position? This Bill seeks to make payment by cheque equivalent to payment by cash, but it has been suggested that it goes much further than that. What we have to ascertain is whether, in fact, the Bill does go further than that. If this Debate be now adjourned, the Bill will be put down for next Friday, and I understand from the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury), than whom no one in this House is more cognisant with procedure, that the Bill will come on as first Order next Friday.
If it be put down for next Friday, it will come on as first Order. I agree that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush, and if by the Adjournment of the Debate we should lose the bird in hand, I agree that it would not be a good, proper, or wise-thing to do. In spite of what the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department has said, I do not think there is any fear of the bird in hand being lost. If there were any such danger I would not move the Adjournment of the Debate, but, in view of what has been said by the hon. Member for Oldham (Sir E. Bartley-Denniss), and the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, and believing that this Bill can be obtained next Friday after the points in question have been gone into, I have pleasure in moving the Adjournment.
§ Colonel PENRY WILLIAMS
I beg to second the Motion.
It is inadvisable on a Friday afternoon, in a thin House, to allow a Measure of this sort to go through without very grave consideration. It is quite clear that there is a divergence of opinion between legal authorities as to the full extent of the Bill. The hon. Member for Oldham (Sir E. Bartley-Denniss), who is a distinguished lawyer, has expressed doubt as to the scope of the Measure, and in reading the Bill myself it seems to me that there is no meaning in words if this Bill does not repeal the Act of William IV, which made irrecoverable certain money given for gambling debts. The hon. Member for Oldham has said that if a 1561 man across the gambling table gives an equitable mortgage, that is not recoverable if this Bill be passed. This is a serious state of things, and the Bill ought not to be allowed to go through the House unless we have a definite assurance from the Law Officers of the Crown that that is not so. If it is so, we must have an assurance from the Government that they will take the necessary steps to put the matter right. It may be right to allow a man to charge his property by going to the family lawyer or any other lawyer and drawing up a proper deed, because the presumption is that the lawyer who drew up the deed would see that his client was sober at the time, whereas if a man gives a mortgage across the gambling table there is no guarantee that he is sober when he gives that equitable mortgage.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I agree that this Bill does undoubtedly more than legalise payment by cheque. It does not torch the question of the validity of the mortgage. You can set aside an equitable mortgage to-morrow if you had not paid upon it. It is only if the mortgage has been executed and the money has been paid upon it that you cannot re-open the transaction four or five years hence. There is no particular harm in the Bill in its present form. What we are doing is quite harmless. I admit that this goes further than the House of Lords decision. The House of Lords simply dealt with the question of money paid under a cheque, but by repealing Section 2 of the Gaming Act, 1835, by this Bill, we say that where money has been paid under either a cheque or an equitable mortgage or any other document, it has been paid beyond control, and that you cannot recover the money from the man who has got it. At present you can. It would not be in order to enter into the merits of the Bill, but the evil which it seeks to set right is one as to which all sections of the House are agreed. This House has never fairly faced this question of gaming. No one knows the evils of gambling more than I. It does more harm, perhaps, even than drinking, though I could never see the sense of not taxing it and not making more money out of it. But merely because this Bill secures an ordinary act of common justice to people who are engaged in gambling, I cannot see why it should 1562 not be passed. It is simply a Bill which says that when you have paid a bet you shall not get it back again.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
Not being either a gambler or a card player myself, I will accept the fact that all gambling, either by cards or by bets, is very similar. This Bill gives no right to recover the money which you have lost at cards. All it says is that if you have lost money at cards and given a cheque one night you can set aside the cheque next morning, but if it has been passed through the bank and paid you cannot, six weeks or six months hence, get that money back. It seems to me an immoral thing that you should do so. If you have given an equitable mortgage for a gambling debt., then some time afterwards, when the money has been paid, the executor is not to be able to open that transaction three or four months hence, and to be bound to re-open the transaction. If the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) paid at once his gambling debts, as I am sure he would do, by cheque, all I have got to do at the present moment, if I am his executor, is to bring an action to recover the amount, a thing which the dead man would not wish me to do. Last year I introduced a Bill on this matter, much better drawn than this one, of course, which, although I am very much against hasty legislation, I tried to get the Government to take up, but the Government did not take it up, and therefore I think that we should take advantage of this Bill now that we have got it, and say that when people have given a security for money, of course, they could set it aside, but when they have paid up on that security they shall not have a right to recover that money.
§ Colonel P. WILLIAMS
Then it would be possible for the mortgage to be given and the money lost and paid over the gambling table in the one evening?
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
If he has given the mortgage to the man, is not that the 1563 same as borrowing the money from the man?
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
It applies equally as to the case of a cheque. When a document is handed over it makes very little difference whether you write out a cheque or a mortgage. The policy ought to be the same in the case of one as in that of the other. The risk in the case of this Bill is so very slight and the evil to be met is so great that I hope the House will not take the Motion for Adjournment.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The vast majority of Members of this House are in favour of the judgment of the House of Lords, but this Bill goes beyond that, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has admitted. The only result of the Motion for the Adjournment would be that this Bill would be first on the Order Paper on Friday next. The Law Officers would have had the opportunity of discussing the matter between then and now, and the Bill would simply be passed one week later than if we passed it now. We know that it is the custom for, say, three or four adventurers to get hold of somebody and take him into their flat and rook him there, and if what the hon. Member (Sir E. Bartley-Denniss) says is correct, that man might part with the whole of his money and not be able to recover any of it. In those circumstances the loss of one week cannot be compared with the bigger loss which may accrue if we do not get proper advice before we pass this Bill.
§ Captain LOSEBY
If hon. Members will look at the actual words of this Bill, they will be completely re-assured. There is no kind of difficulty in the matter. It is proposed simply to repeal Section 2 of the Gaming Act, which makes money paid —not money to be paid—to the indorsee holder or assignee of securities given for consideration arising out of gaming transactions recoverable from the person to whom the securities were originally given. The governing words are in the reference to money actually paid. It is surely perfectly clear that the Clause refers only to money paid and not to money which is to be paid. There is no legal knowledge involved in the matter. If my Friend's friend at the gaming table 1564 had handed over £300 in cash, he could not, under the law, recover that £300. It he had accompanied it by a piece of paper, which might have been called a negotiable security, and had actually paid the same money, he could go into the Courts and say, "This is the chit of a security which comes under the Gaming Act, 1835," and, on that point, he could succeed.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If the hon. and gallant Member is so certain that that is the case, why does he object to the Law Officers dealing with it next week?
§ Captain LOSEBY
Because the Law Officers have expressed themselves so clearly and emphatically. Lord Birkenhead's speech in the House of Lords was perfectly clear, and the whole point is elementary.
§ Sir E. BARTLEY-DENNISS
I have the Report here. This question was never raised. Only the question of cheques was raised in the House of Lords.
§ Captain LOSEBY
I would call attention to the actual words. They make it clear that no legal knowledge is involved in the matter. The thing is clear on the face of the Bill.
§ Mr. LYLE
This Bill is down in my name, but I do not profess to be a lawyer, and, therefore, anything I can say on the subject now will not carry very much weight. We all want to get this Bill through. Personally, I have no ulterior object in the matter. I am not one who is interested particularly. But I have brought the Bill in at the request of a Noble Lord in the other House. It is agreed that the present state of the law is not at all satisfactory. I appeal to Members to come to a decision to-day if they can see their way to do it. I do not want to rush the Bill. It is a very sound point that has been put to the House that a bird in the hand is worth two in the hush. I do not know what is to happen next Friday. It may even be possible that the Government will have resigned; I do not know. But I ask hon. Members to realise that it is not quite right to accept what the hon. Baronet the Member for Oldham (Sir E. Bartley-Denniss) has said with regard to the lack of discussion. The Bill has been very fully and thoroughly discussed in another place. This Bill, or one similar to it, has been 1565 through the other House on two occasions On the last occasion it was very fully discussed by some of the most acute legal minds we have in this country. The Home Secretary has told us that he put the matter to the Law Officers, and that they expressed the opinion that the matter was quite in order. In addition to that, we have had the very valuable opinion of my learned Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Raw-Upson). If I quote the opinion of the Lord Chancellor, it might strengthen hon. Members in their view. The Lord Chancellor said this:We have to deal with a situation in which Parliament has said that if a man who has lost a wager pays in Bank of England notes he cannot recover it. The Section, which says that if he has paid it by cheque he can recover it, was allowed to remain on the Statute Book. Nobody knew that that Section had been allowed to remain in the Act. It had escaped the attention of those who had to deal with these matters. Suddenly it has been revealed that recourse may be had to the law successfully for the recovery of debts paid by cheque. My own conception of that which will follow is not that many people will avail themselves of this decision. But there are certain persons who may avail themselves of it, i.e., persons who are under the obligation which springs from the discharge of a representative duty, and in these cases undoubtedly claims will be brought forward, sometimes on a large scale.The Lord Chancellor went on to talk of the position of executors. He said:The executor of a deceased person who had lost £200,000 in betting, and had discharged his liability by cheque, would, in ray Judgment, be called upon to bring an action to recover this money. Conceive the position of the individual bookmaker against whom such an action is brought. He would say, Well, I won, playing the game in a court of honour. Here is someone who brings a claim for £200,000 against me. If that claim is brought against me, I, after all, must also have an equal opportunity of taking advantage of the technicalities of the law. He would, therefore, be bound to bring action against other persons to whom he has equally discharged his liabilities by cheque. There are grave difficulties in the Law Courts to-day, owing to the amount of litigation, and I am shocked to think what the resulting consequences may be.Then the Lord Chancellor discussed the question from the moral point of view, with which we all agree; and he said in conclusion:I cannot conceive that any sound, rational or considerable protest in the direction of supposed morality can he made on those grounds. Looking at it as an ordinary human being, with such application of common sense as it is in my power to 1566 make, I do not see any answer to the proposals made by the Noble Lord.
§ Sir E. BARTLEY-DENNISS
Was not the discussion in the House of Lords restricted entirely to cheques, and is it not the case that mortgages were never mentioned?
§ Mr. CAUTLEY
I suggest to the House that there is nothing in the legal question which has been raised. Prior to 1835, the law, as I understand it, was that money paid for gaming debts could be recovered, and cheques given for them were void. An Act was passed in 1835 which altered the law in this respect. It made such cheques no longer void, but provided that a bookmaker who had received a cheque and paid it away in payment of a debt of his own, and got the money, could not stick to it. The Act of 1835 was meant to put him in the same position as regards payment by cheque as he was in with regard to payments in cash. The Act of 1845 prevented a person who had paid money away for a gaming debt from suing for it, but it was omitted to notice this particular Section, and there fore the bookmaker or the person who received payment of a gaming debt by cheque was left in the same position as formerly. It is to get over that and to remedy that injustice that this legislation has been found necessary. The same principle applies to a mortgage or other security of a similar nature which has been given, because it is only to the assignee of the mortgage that the money has been paid. Ordinary legal remedies apply in every particular if there be 1567 anything fraudulent or wrong in giving it. So far as this point of law is concerned, there is no reason for the adjournment. I still think the promoters of the Bill ought to have provided for the matter which I raised earlier, namely, what is to become of pending actions and the costs thereof. Of course it is good for the lawyers; it means that a case will go up to the House of Lords as to what the Clause intends. If the actions now pending be stopped, as the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson) seems to think, what is to become of the costs already incurred? I consider there is nothing in the legal point.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I wish to remind the House that there is a Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate. We are not discussing the merits of the Bill.
§ Mr. TOWNLEY
I do not propose to enter into the merits, but merely to speak on the question of the Adjournment. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), in advocating an Adjournment, said it would only delay the Bill for one week, because it would come on as the first Order on next Friday. It will, however, have a very serious effect on a matter in which the right hon. Baronet may be interested. It will affect the Bill dealing with railway fires.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I object very strongly to the insinuation made by the hon. Gentleman. This has nothing to do with the Railway Fires Bill, which is not the first Order on Friday next, and will not be affected in any way. We have not to consider how the Adjournment of this Bill will affect the Railway Fires Bill, but whether or not the adjournment of the Bill is a right and proper course.
§ Mr. TOWNLEY
I am sure the right hon. Baronet will accept my assurance that I did not mean anything personal. I drew the attention of the House to the
§ fact that the Adjournment of this Bill means that it will take precedence of other Measures on the Order Paper next Friday, and one of these is the Railway Fires Bill, in which the agricultural part of the community is very strongly interested. There is also the Rating of Machinery Bill, in which a. large portion of the urban population is very interested. That Bill is the first Order at present and the Railway Fires Bill is the second Order. This Bill has already had two discussions, and if it is adjourned until next Friday we will not be able to get the decision of the House on the other two important Bills which I have mentioned. I hope the House will refuse to adjourn the Debate.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
The only object of adjourning the Debate would be to obtain the opinions of the Law Officers of the Crown. Presumably, if those opinions were forthcoming, the passage of the Bill would be facilitated, and it would immediately go through, and so no delay will ensue if the Debate is adjourned until next Friday. The conflict of legal opinion which has been evinced within the House this morning points very clearly to the necessity for advice from the Law Officers of the Crown. No explanation or excuse is forthcoming from the Government as to why the Law Officers could not be present this morning when the House is asked to pass a Bill which materially affects the law of the country. That is treating the House of Commons without that measure of respect which is due to it. It is the business of the Government, with the facilities at their disposal, to advise the House on questions in which legal doubt arises, and on which the ordinary lay mind is quite unable to adjudicate. In the absence of these Ministers I shall support the Motion for the Adjournment.
§ Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided; Ayes, 45; Noes, 107.1569
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Morrison, Hugh|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Mosley, Oswald|
|Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hogge, James Myles||Myers, Thomas|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Hopkins, John W. W.||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Johnstone, Joseph||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall. St. Ives)||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||M'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Morris, Richard||Robertson, John|
|Sexton, James||Wallace, J.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Simm, M. T.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Smithers, Sir Alfred W.||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Stewart, Gershom||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)||Lieut.-Colonel A. Murray and|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Wolmer, Viscount||Colonel Penry Williams.|
|Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Parker, James|
|Banton, George||Grant, James Augustus||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Rodger, A. K.|
|Barrand, A. R.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Hallas, Eldred||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Hamilton, Sir George C.||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Hayday, Arthur||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Sugden, W. H.|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hinds, John||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Taylor, J.|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Irving, Dan||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon, Cuthbert||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Townley, Maximillan G.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Kennedy, Thomas||Waterson, A. E.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Cockerill, Brigadler-General G. K.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Larmor, Sir Joseph||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Wignall, James|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Col. L. O. (R'ding)|
|Edwards. C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Windsor, Viscount|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Wise, Frederick|
|Evans, Ernest||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Mills, John Edmund||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge and Hyde)|
|Finney, Samuel||Molson, Major John Eisdale||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Mr. Lyle and Mr. Rawlinson.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
Bill read the Third time, and passed, with an Amendment.