§ "As from the thirty-first day of October, nineteen hundred and twenty-seven, Part II of the Finance Act, 126 (which imposes a duty on betting and on certificates required in respect of bookmakers' businesses and premises), shall cease to have effect"— [Mr. Snowden.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This duty was first imposed in the Finance Bill of last year. It met with very strenuous opposition, and the opposition from certain quarters has been continued down to the present time. I remember no new tax that has been proposed in recent years which has united the Opposition as this did. The Chancellor of the Exchequer defended it purely as a revenue tax. Although the opposition to the duty raised a moral objection, the Chancellor denied that any moral issue was involved. "Until," he said, "we have covered the whole country with a network of licensed betting houses, until we have legalised all betting, no moral question can arise." I do not propose to cover at all the ground which was trodden so often during the Debates a year ago. I want to justify this Motion for the repeal of the duty upon the actual experience of 12 months' working of the tax. I am prepared to concede that there was no precedent of a similar tax, and therefore no very reliable data on which to form a judgment or to calculate an estimate. At any rate, reasonable people would have admitted that. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not. He proposed, first of all, a uniform duty of 5 per cent. upon all betting, and from all the material that was available he estimated that that would give a yield of £6,000,000. That is the figure he was determined to get. After the introduction of the Budget, and before the Finance 1192 Bill finally passed into law, he amended his proposals, and instead of a 5 per cent. all-round duty—by all-round I mean upon credit transactions and on bating on the racecourse—he submitted a revised rate, and it is very interesting to recall what he said in justifying this new rate.
He said he had better information. He had examined books, he had been able to reach a much safer, surer and stricter estimate than was possible before, and, as the result of this examination of reliable material and sure facts he had come to the conclusion that the original estimate was very much too high and that it would give far more money than he had estimated. He estimated for £6,000,000 and the tax, as first proposed. might raise £10,000,000 or even £18,000,000 and the prospect of a haul like that was one from which he recoiled with horror. Therefore, he proposed to reduce the rate to yield the original sum of £6,000,000. The original estimate was based upon a turnover of £170,000,000, and in order to be on the safe side he took off £50,000,000, which reduced the taxable turnover to 5 per cent., to get the yield of £6,000,000—£120,000,000 at 5 per cent.—which he said he was determined to get. But those further investigations to which I have alluded brought him or his advisers to the conclusion that the turnover was very much larger than the figure he had originally stated, and that instead of a turnover of £170,000,000 it was about £275,000,000, and this new estimate was not the result of conjecture but was, he said, after a close examination of all the available facts. In order to be on the safe side, he reduced the estimated turnover of £275,000,000 to £200,000,000. That was his justification for the reduction of the percentage duty from 5 per cent. to 3½ per cent. upon office betting and 2 per cent. upon racecourse betting. That would give him, he was quite sure, £6,000,000. He said, "It is a sure and certain basis as far as anything can be certain and sure on which we expect to reap this duty." Of course, £200,000,000 at 5 per cent. would have given him £10,000,000. That was the figure from which, I say, the right hon. Gentleman recoiled. He said he did not want to ruin the industry, though why in the name of Heaven betting should be regarded as an industry 1193 I have never been able to understand. Instead of being an industry, it is a parasite upon industry. He did not wish to run the risk of ruining this industry, so he reduced the rate of tax to the figure I have mentioned.
We have had seven months' experience of the duty and, according to the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman a week ago, it has yielded just over £1,250,000. At that rate, the yield for this year will be about £2,500,000, less than half the sum that the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated with so much certainty and confidence just a year ago. What is one of the main reasons why it failed so lamentably to come up to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's expectations? It was, as I said, sure and certain. I think there is one explanation. In the same reply to which I have referred, the Chancellor stated that the number of licensed bookmakers, that is to say, the number of persons who have taken out licences, is about 14,000. That struck me, when the figure was given, as being very extraordinary. I believe the Committee which inquired into the Betting Duty did not estimate the number of bookmakers of the country at anything like so large a figure. How is it that so many bookmakers' licences have been taken out? The explanation is to be found on the surface. It gives not merely a certain standing—I will not say a certain respectability—but, above all, security to the man who formerly had to do his betting in secret, when he was hunted about from pillar to post by the police. Of course, the licensed bookmaker can only legally do credit betting.
There can be no doubt about it—and I am supported in this by the evidence of a very large number of bookmakers who have written to me from all parts of the country—that men have taken out bookmakers' licences for offices, because you cannot always have a policeman in an office to see what is being done. In these licensed bookmakers' offices, a vast amount of cash betting is being carried on, and upon this no duty is being paid. There is not a day passes but we see in the newspapers reports of bookmakers being brought before the magistrates charged with illegal betting, and in practically every case I have noted that these are licensed bookmakers. A bookmaker wrote to me a week or two ago from a town not 40 miles away and said, "You 1194 can stand in the street of the town any racing day from one till about half-past two, and you will see a constant procession of people going into the licensed bookmakers' offices. They are not going to bet upon credit. They are simply carrying on now, under the shelter of the law, a practice that they formerly carried on in the street." I do not go on the racecourse, but I am told by some people who do that the evasion of the duty on the racecourse is flagrant and obvious to everybody. There can be no other explanation of the fact that the yield of this duty has not come up to 50 per cent. of the Chancellor's confident estimate based upon sure and certain facts. There can be no other possible explanation of the fact that wholesale evasion is going on. I am sure nobody would suppose there is less betting. That I do not think is the explanation. That would be a fatal objection to any tax. Any tax is doomed which is easy of evasion, because those who conform to the tax and legally pay it are being penalised at the expense of those whose consciences are not quite so clear.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
We are not dealing with Super-tax at the present time. Unfortunately, I was unable to be here yesterday, but I understand that that question was discussed at very great length, and the opposition which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to encounter yesterday may account for the fact that he has not yet quite recovered his usual genial spirits and good temper. I could never understand why credit betting should be regarded as creditable and respectable, and why cash betting should be regarded as something which was, reprehensible. Betting with cash seems to me to be far more honest and far more respectable than betting, to use the vulgar expression, "on tick!"
I have also seen in the newspapers this very serious matter raised. Credit betting is a very great encouragement to people to indulge in betting far beyond their means, and the fact that we have now 14,000 licensed betting offices in the country must increase the temptation enormously. There was a letter in one of the Yorkshire daily newspapers only two or three days ago in which a man related the case of a young man who had been induced 1195 to bet on credit. When he betted in cash a shilling was the extent of his bet, but he began to bet on credit in pounds, and the result was that he got into debt. Persons carrying on this alleged credit betting in licensed offices must be doing two things: carrying on a large amount of cash betting which evades the duty and encouraging a trade which also, I believe is, to a considerable extent, evading the duty. There never has been a duty imposed in recent years which after 12 months' experience has proved to be such a miserable fiasco as this Betting Duty. It was an amateur proposal a year ago. No respectable financier would ever have proposed it when there were orthodox and respectable means still open for raising the revenue that was needed.
Before the right hon. Gentleman came into the House just now, I mentioned that he refused, 12 months ago, to admit that the moral issue was raised. He said the moral issue could be raised if we covered the country with betting houses or if we legalised all betting. The right hon. Gentleman has covered the country with betting houses, 14,000 of them. I believe there are, I am speaking from memory, only about 8,000 parishes in this country, so that, on an average, we have nearly two betting houses for each parish. Therefore, he has raised half the moral issue. What is he going to do? He is faced by the choice of one of two things. It is quite evident that he is not going to get his revenue from this duty. I do not believe that it has reduced betting in the least. If his estimates were so sure and certain twelve months ago, it means that a great deal of betting, the greater part of the betting, is not paying the tax. What is he going to do? The Chairman of the Board of Customs and Excise, in giving evidence before the hon. and learned Member's Committee, was very emphatic that you could not work a duty on betting unless you legalised all betting, and I am sure that there is nobody who has had any practical experience of taxation matters who would not agree with that statement. It is unjust and unfair to tax one form of betting and not to tax the other. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman must make up his mind. Is he going to allow this wholesale evasion to go on, or is he going to propose an alteration in the law for 1196 the legalising of betting of all forms? If he does that, then, according to what he said last year, he is raising the moral issue. If he raises the moral issue in that form, I can assure him that the opposition which he had to encounter yesterday and to-day from his own supporters will be nothing compared to the opposition that he will have to encounter from most influential sections, politically influential sections in this House.
In basing our case for the repeal of this part of the Finance Bill on financial grounds, I am not receding one iota from the non-financial objections which I raised 12 months ago. I am basing our objection to the continuance of this duty mainly on the ground of its financial failure. In all my experience and knowledge of financial matters, I have never known any such miserable failure as this. Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer fully appreciate the magnitude of his failure and the ridiculous mistake that he made 12 months ago when he so confidently predicted after an examination of books and of all the available material, that he must reduce the duty from 5 per cent. to 3½ per cent and 2 per cent., or he would get twice or perhaps three times the money that he wanted? Of course, that was the last thing that the Chancellor of the Exchequer wanted. We base our case this evening mainly on the ground that the duty has failed as a fiscal instrument, that it has failed to achieve the one thing for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he was imposing it last year, namely, to raise revenue. He may get £2,500,000 this year. Seven of the 12 months have gone, and he has got £1,300,000. I am told by racing men, I do not know myself, that those seven months will be a fair average of the whole 12 months. I know that one of the big races does not come within this period, but others do. At any rate, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not be justified if he expects to realise a large amount on the average of the past seven months. It is not worth bothering about. It is not worth the outrage which has been committed upon the consciences and the deep convictions of a very large section of the people of this country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said an hour ago that 6d. on the Income Tax would bring in £32,000,000. It would not bring in anything like that, because 1197 the yield of Income Tax has been going down under the right hon. Gentleman's administration.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
If the right hon. Gentleman would only remember his own responsibility for the general strike, he would not be quite so ready to attribute all his misfortunes and the consequences of his own incapacity, to the general strike. He says that 6d. on the Income Tax would bring in £32,000,000. Let him say £30,000,000. That is £5,000,000 for every penny on the Income Tax. One halfpenny on the Income Tax would have given him the yield which he will get from the Betting Duty, and one halfpenny on the Income Tax would not have needed the employment of an additional officer of the Revenue Department. It would not have increased the cost of collection by a single farthing. Figures were given some time ago of the number of additional officers who had been employed. If a sufficient number of officers of the Revenue Department were employed in dealing adequately with evasion, the result of their efforts would be more than double the yield of this duty. We base our appeal for the abolition of this duty, without in the least raising our general objection to the duty, mainly on the fact that it has been the most miserable financial failure that was ever proposed by a Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) fills me with amazement. I have always regarded him as one who poses as a model and austere financier and as a purist in financial methods. I suggest that not one Member of this Committee would say that a pure luxury is the very first thing to which a financier of such austerity would turn, and the more readily at the time when the finances of the nation are in sore need and, to gain a small party advantage, throw to the winds all his financial theories of austerity of probity and denounce a tax levied on a commodity that is no good to anybody, except affording a little pleasure, and a useful pleasure, in my opinion. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the introduction of this duty was an amateurish performance. Is 1198 he aware that every civilised nation in the world has a Betting Duty except the United States of America, and that it is levied on the turnover of the bet. A Betting Duty is levied in the Dominions of Ontario, New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, West Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, the Cape of Good Hope, the Transvaal, Natal and in Bengal, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, and Austria.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
I said every civilised nation. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean when he says that this duty is an amateurish performance by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, when every civilised country in the world except the United States have a Betting Duty; and the United States only avoid it because they are rolling in money and do not need it. Surely, he must withdraw that criticism or I shall not be able to place him on the high pinnacle he has put himself as a financier. The second complaint made against this duty is that it has failed. It was imposed to raise money. First of all, has it failed; and, secondly, is it failing? We are told, not by persons who have investigated the question but by persons and papers who are interested in the betting business, that in this country, where betting is more prevalent than anywhere else, we cannot sustain a tax of 2½ per cent. Is the right hon. Gentleman opposite aware that in Australia, for instance, where they have the totalisator, that before any cost of the apparatus or the expenses incurred are taken, the State steps in and takes no less than 9 per cent. of the total amount of the stake placed and do not pay a single farthing to the expenses, not even towards the cost of the collection. Yet forsooth, if we are to believe the wailings of the bookmakers in this country, this industry—it is an industry so far as they are concerned—cannot stand a tax of 2½ per cent. That is nonsense.
I do not admit for a moment, although I have not the figures with me, that it has failed. I believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer will ultimately get his money, and I believe he will be able to tell the Committee that the receipts are steadily increasing and are likely to increase. It is quite true that the figures of the 1199 receipts on the introduction of this duty did not come up to expectation, but there were particular circumstances, patent to everybody who really considers it, to account to that. It was started at a time when this country, was suffering directly from the results of the coal strike, when there was less money to spend on all luxuries, and more particularly on this luxury. An attack was made on the duty by the bookmakers, who, in my opinion, have been the worse led section of the community we have ever known. As soon as the duty was put on, what did they do? We had a ridiculous strike of the bookmakers, and the result of their action is that the introduction of the totalisator, which must be anathema if not ruin to them, has been actually brought within the region of practical politics. It is by no means certain that they have not been successful, by the attitude they took in resenting this duty, in preparing the ground ready for the introduction of the totalisator. It looks as thought they are going to bring it about.
What was the next thing they did? As soon as the duty was put on they said, "Do not bet with us, do not come to us, do not be so foolish as to bet with us." Was there ever such folly? What would have happened if the brewers, for instance, had taken such a line? They said, "We do not like this duty; we hate it, but we will share it, and in any case the producers will shove it on to the consumers." That is business, at least I am told it is business. What did these silly fellows the bookmakers do? Instead of saying, "Do not bet with us" they would have said, if they had been sensible people, "This 6d. in the £, we can stand it; we do not like it, but we will share it; "knowing that they would be able to pass it on to the consumer. That is what they should have done. The other charges of a bookmaker, his telephones, his travelling expenses, and all his motor cars in getting to the various race-meetings, he charges as expenses against his business, and he gets it through shortening the odds. That is what he ought to have done with this duty. In my opinion it will reach the amount which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has estimated, and more than reach the amount.
1200 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley has called the attention of the Committee to the fact that more bookmakers have taken out licences than was estimated by me in the Report I made as Chairman of the Betting Committee. That is true. I said that the minimum number would be about 10,000. About 14,000 odd have taken out licences. A profit of £250 a year in each case would mean about £3,500,000. The evidence we had was that if the bigger bookmakers make one per cent. profit they are fortunate, the big bookmakers who make one-half per cent. profit say that is all that they want. They said, "How can they pay a tax of 2½ per cent. when they are only making a profit of 1½ per cent.?" The figures I have given show that the total amount of betting, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated at £200,000,000, was a minimum figure, and that considerably more is being staked in this country. If that be so, it is only a question of time before machinery is adopted for the collection of this duty which will work with practically no evasions. I believe a great deal of evasion is going on, but I have not the least doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to tell us that the system of collecting the duty is working well.
The only part that is not working well is that which depends on the honesty of the bookmakers in keeping their books and recording the bets which are made. It is true, I believe, that some of the betting that is now done with some bookmakers is done "on the nod" and, instead of entering it in their books, they either carry the transactions in their minds or enter them on papers which are destroyed, and so cheat the revenue. That, however, can be made a very short-lived device. The Chancellor has only to ascertain by means of his staff, by detectives or otherwise, that some leading bookmaker is playing this game. That bookmaker can be prosecuted, and when his licence is forfeited it will bring home the risks of the practice to some of these big men and stop this dishonesty. It is the same as all dishonesty in the avoidance of duties on tobacco or other dutiable articles, and can be dealt with in the same way. I have not the least doubt that this evasion can be stopped. There is one line of action in 1201 which, I think, the Chancellor and his advisers have made a mistake, and I say so with a certain amount of egotism, because I advised against this course in my report. I refer to the right hon. Gentleman's differentiation between betting on the racecourse and betting in an office. He made this differentiation with the laudable idea of benefiting race meetings and the owners of racehorses and those who live by race meetings, and he thought it would encourage people to go to the racecourses instead of to the credit offices. That object cannot be attained by a differentiation in the rate of duty. On the contrary, this provision is leading to a certain amount of jugglery among the bookmakers themselves who try to put bets which ought to bear a 3½ per cent. duty on to the 2 per cent. basis.
A reason why this arrangement will not achieve its object is that in both cases the odds are the same. Practically all the betting in credit offices is starting-price betting and the starting price is fixed by the bookmakers on the course. It is difficult to see why people should go to the racecourse and pay all the expenses of doing so in order to bet with the bookmaker there, when they can get the same odds from the bookmaker in the betting offices. Therefore the motive of the Chancellor, while a worthy one in itself, cannot be attained in this way, and I would suggest making the rate 2½ per cent. or 6d. in the £ all the way round. That seems to be the one flaw in the system which the Chancellor has set up. I wish I knew what were the total receipts during the last month. Last month and the present month are, I suppose, the two most favourable months in regard to the amount of betting that takes place. Racing is now in full swing and already I see signs that the bookmakers are repenting of the very foolish course of action which they have hitherto adopted. The receipts from the Betting Duty are, I am informed, steadily increasing, and I believe, if the present rate of increase is maintained, the full anticipated amount will be shown. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to stick to the duty, which is a duty on a pure luxury. Nobody would be a penny the worse if they did not bet. In fact, people would be better off if they did not bet. I am not, however, an enemy of betting and I go further, perhaps, 1202 than many people because I believe it provides a great change of mind and thought for people who are living monotonous lives.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
I believe it provides a certain amount of healthy amusement within reasonable limits. I have no sympathy with the moral objections to it, but I agree in one respect with the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer. I agree that ready-money betting is infinitely less dangerous than credit betting to those people who have no sense of moderation. If a man bets on cash terms he has to put up the cash for every bet, but a man who indulges in credit betting and who meets with financial disaster, is tempted to try to retrieve his disasters by plunging beyond his means. In my report I suggested a provision for controlling all betting—putting cash betting on a legal footing and allowing the street bookmaker to have his office, thus freeing our streets from the pest of bookmakers and touts who encourage people to bet who might never do so otherwise. That question, however, does not arise on the present occasion, but I think it is better to raise money by taxing a luxury of this kind rather than by increasing the taxation on necessaries or by raising still higher taxes which are already too high.
§ Mr. JAMES BROWN
I had no intention of taking part in this Debate, but I have been tempted into it by the speech of the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley). He has said that betting helps to relieve monotony, or words to that effect. He must not understand the kind of betting that goes on up and down the country. Otherwise he would know that it is the most cruelly monotonous thing that could come into any community—this betting of sixpences and shillings which ought to be devoted to providing food for families and helping to keep the homes of workers. The hon. and learned Member does not attack this duty on moral grounds. I am old-fashioned enough to attack it on moral grounds. I am old-fashioned enough to believe thatRighteousness exalteth a nation.1203 When we try to get revenue out of such a practice as betting, I believe we are taking a wrong course. I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman thinks that. betting can very well be conducted in the betting office without troubling to go to the racecourse. I am sure the promoters of races would have something to say about that. It is on moral grounds that I am attacking this, and I am not grumbling at all about the failure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in not getting his revenue.
On the whole, it is a decided Godsend that it has not been the success that he predicted, and every hon. Gentleman in this House ought to be very well pleased indeed that there was any chance at all of this duty being a complete failure, so that we might return to the old customs we had before desperate remedies were applied by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have always understood betting to be a sin, but it is now made out to be a commodity. Indeed, it is made out to be a luxury and an industry, and we had a peep into the minds of many hon. Gentlemen as to how the business is conducted. I rather think the last speaker tripped over himself when he began to talk about this great business, and how, like any other business, they tried to evade the duty and to make as much out of the concern as possible. It was said that the Betting Duty has not had an opportunity and that the main reason why it has not was because of the great coal stoppage. What does that point to? That it is out of the shillings and sixpences of the ordinary working homes that we are expecting to recoup the revenue, and that, when an industry is paralysed and when lock-outs take place, then the revenue is the sufferer through this Betting Duty. I have no hope at all of getting the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take my view of betting, any more than I have any hope of him and other hon. Gentlemen taking my view of many other things that I hold very strongly indeed.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
I did not go into the details of the morals of betting. My report showed that if betting is a sin, as the hon. Member says, then I started on the assumption that to stop betting is practically impossible in this country, and the only thing to do is to control it.
§ Mr. BROWN
I am very sorry I did not get that meaning from what the hon. and learned Gentleman was saying, and, if that be so, I must withdraw some of the remarks I have been making. At any rate, I still adhere to this, that this duty has been imposed and so balanced as to get the highest amount of revenue, and I was saying that I had no hope that my view would be taken by this Committee, or by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I wish they would. All that I got up to do was to register my protest against the Betting Duty altogether and to express the hope that the revenue will be such that it will not be considered necessary to continue the duty, so that we may get rid of it altogether and resume our old relationships. If we are the only country in the world who does that, I do not think it is any discredit to us. I think the right hon. Gentleman must have made a mistake when he said that all civilised nations other than ourselves and the United States had such a duty. If he will consult the map of Europe, he will see that he left out a good many countries. He did it very cleverly, because he gave six or seven of the Australasian islands and Governments, so that he might swell the total and make it as big as possible, but he was not able to give us so many countries after all. I am sure I could name more countries to the contrary than were named by the right hon. Gentleman. I have now registered my protest and I hope that there will be a vote on this subject. I trust the It the country, at any rate, and the great body of opinion which the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to flout, will bring its weight to bear, and will let the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his supporters know that 1205 there is some morality in the nation which is striving after righteousness, even though it may not yet have attained it.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I just want to refer to the remarks made by the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) about the Committee over which he presided and their recommendations on the question of ready-money betting. My objection to this Betting Duty is that it does not legalise the whole of the betting which takes place in the country. It legalises one form, and I want to know why it does not go further and legalise ready-money betting and thus do away with what is, after all, a differentiation between the wealthy man and the poor man. In the course of my experience as a magistrate, I have had to sit on the Bench from time to time when these cases of prosecution of people for ready-money betting in the street have been brought up, and it has always appeared to me to be a very unfair thing that men who themselves could, and did, do their betting over the telephone with commission agents should sit and adjudicate and fine men for doing something that they themselves were able to do without being prosecuted.
We had a case in my own district just recently, where a man, who had taken out a licence as a bookmaker, put a plate on his door "Registered bookmaker" and certain working people, thinking that because he was a registered bookmaker and had that plate on his door he was entitled to take bets, went into the office and made ready money bets. A raid was made on the office and the man himself was prosecuted in the Police Court and fined £20, and the punters—the working men who had put their shillings or eighteen pence on—were fined 10s. each for doing so. Further, the office was visited, and the betting slips were taken, and, though the man made a request that he should he allowed to have those slips so that he could do the equitable thing and pay out to the people what they were entitled to, he was not allowed to have them, so I am told, though the Inland Revenue officer came down and charged him duty on the slips. I want to know if that is really British justice? Why should we have one law for the rich and one for the poor? If the Chancellor of the Exchequer 1206 thinks it right and proper to make it legal for men to bet on credit over the telephone or on the race-course, why in the world if a man wants to have 1s. on and has the ready money and can afford this little bit of sport, should he run the risk of being hauled to a Police Court and fined 10s. with the probable loss of a day's work? I think that by one stroke of the pen the Chancellor could have clone away with a great deal of the opposition to this duty. I have mixed among working people in my own district and many other districts in the country, and they are bitterly opposed to this Betting Duty and are showing it at the by-elections in the way they are voting. The Chancellor of the Exchequer never gave the Opposition a better weapon than he did when he gave them this Betting Duty to play with, and it is being used against the Government. It is being used in the by-elections, and I know the effect which it has had on the votes cast. It is not that the working people object to the duty, what they do object to is this differentiation between the man who passes his shilling in ready money and the man who passes his £10, £20 or perhaps £1,000. It is not in accordance with our sense of British fairplay and justice, and, if the Chancellor deals with this aspect of the duty particularly, he will wipe out much of the opposition of the working classes to it.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I intervene for a few moments in this Debate in support of the repeal of this duty, perhaps on different grounds from some of those that have already been mentioned, because I feel, first, that as long as there is a large field of sport you will always have in it a man who desires to lay a wager. I do not think for a moment that heavy taxation will destroy the desire for betting, nor do I think that the absence of taxation will encourage more betting. What I feel about it is the inequality, and the unsatisfactory nature, of the duty itself. A £10 licence is charged to what one may call a struggling bookmaker in the small ring or outside the rings of a racecourse. Now £10 is the cost of a licence in the big ring as well, where bets run into thousands of pounds, perhaps, during the course of the day, as against the odd pounds to the man in the small ring or outside the rings altogether. It is 1207 an unfair principle to levy one £10 licence on these two different kinds of bookmakers.
I do not talk of the sense of justice associated with this kind of taxation, because I feel there is money there to be had. I certainly do not look upon the bookmaker as one of the worst types of citizens in this or any other country. I look upon those engaged in that kind of occupation as having at least as high a moral character as those engaged in speculating on the Stock Exchange, or those who make a bet on a tennis court, at a sculling match, or a boxing match, or on a greyhound racing after the mechanical hare, and I have found amongst bookmakers citizens of a high type who have generally come forward in aid of those who require financial assistance, men of large heart, many of them men of great vision, but their training has made them men of the world whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the whole of the Civil Service staff, would have to be very clever to catch.
The hon. Member who spoke from the opposite benches said that they believed the duty would reduce the volume of betting, and that if one unlicensed man were prosecuted it would intimidate the rest. No. They are artful men who live on their wits, and though the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be artful, and though he may be credited with being witty and a man of mind and alert, as he may be, when there is injustice in an unequal levying of the duty on a fraternity they are all likely to join together against it. They have a trade union now which is trying to secure that the incidence of that taxation will be a little more equal than it is. I am not one of those who would say that it is bad to tax the turnover in sport and at the same time that it is quite right to tax heavily the beer and alchoholic beverages in the country. Wherever the revenue is available, and if it can be obtained from luxury or any form of enjoyment as against putting an increased volume of taxes on the necessities of life, then my mind is going to turn away from every impost on necessities and towards a greater impost on the luxury side.
One of my constituents made a little statement to me which is typical. He tells me of the difference between the 1208 bookmaker who goes away and the stay-at-home bookmaker—the office man. The hon. Member speaking earlier stated that you have a 3½ per cent. tax on the turnover of the office bookmaker and a 2 per cent. tax on the turnover of the racecourse bookmaker. The hon. Member opposite said that he has an Amendment to make it 2½ per cent. all round. But here is an average statement of the expenses in connection with the two days' race meeting at Newbury. The small bookmaker who goes to that race meeting says that the railway fare for himself and two others to Newbury amounts to £5 10s.; two days' ring and entertainment tax, £6 15s.; two days' cards and marking, £2 3s.; one night hotel for self and two men, £2 5s.; two days' wages for two men—his clerks I suppose—£8. So that the initial cost for two days to this small bookmaker attending at a racecourse is £24 11s. Now that amount is more than the expenses of an office, bookmaker for a week in different circumstances. The office bookmaker's rent is £1 per week; wages of his clerk,£5; his telephone charges, 6s., making in all six guineas for one week, as against £24 11s. for the bookmaker, going away to the racecourse for two days.
The incidence of the levying of a 3½ per cent. duty against 2 per cent for the racecourse bookmaker who may run the risk of catching stumer and finding himself in the Court—[An HON. MEMBER: "What is a stumer?"]—I would not like to corrupt my hon. Friends by leading them astray into the realms of racecourse slang. But you will see, at any rate, that there is a just and a right, grievance. The best thing to do is to repeal the duty. You may try some other form, and I would not be at all averse from looking at it from the point of view of saying, "If you want £5,000,000 from the bookmakers, let your basis of taxation be a proper licence." I quite agree that, with our present loose method and with the present semi-official recognition of betting there is a system creeping in which none of us like. I would make it illegal to take a bet from any person under the age of 20, but, unfortunately, in some places bets are taken from children or from young persons before their minds are sufficiently settled to enable them to appreciate the step they are taking.
Street bookmaking has its serious side in many of the poorer quarters. I would 1209 not support that for a moment, because it is that bad moral atmosphere which is created by that early contamination of the mind which makes it impossible for these children as they grow into manhood and womanhood to have a proper idea as to the limits to which they ought to go, or as to whether they should bet at all. I am not therefore, over-stating the case when I say that that is one of the bad sides to the question. I do say, however, that the bookmaking fraternity and the followers of race meetings are, in the main, as good a body of citizens as are those who gamble in stocks and shares. I believe you will never eliminate the desire for wagering. I have heard people who never bet at all say at some particular instant when something is happening, "I will wager you so and so"—even if it be at draughts. Therefore, it is no use starting out with a theory that if you tax high you will kill the incentive to bet, or that if you have no tax at all and fight betting by the weapon of the law you will kill it. You will not do so. Therefore, you had better see whether you cannot have some incidence of licence or taxation which will gain the support of these people, and which will be fair and even in its application all round. Then I think you will stand a much better chance of securing revenue than you will under the present form of taxation which, as I say, is unfair, uneven and unjust in its incidence.
§ Sir FRANK MEYER
I have some difficulty in addressing the Committee, because I was not here when the discussion opened, and I am not quite sure what was the procedure which you, Sir, laid down. I understand that you laid it down that there should be a discussion on all the Amendments appearing on the Paper in connection with the Betting Duty. May I ask you, Sir, before I proceed any further, whether it is your intention at a later stage to call upon the Amendment which is down in my name—[NEW CLAUSE (Betting Duty reduction of rate)].
§ The CHAIRMAN
I will call the Amendment if the hon. Member thinks it worth while, and if he does not get satisfaction in the course of this discussion. This is not an Amendment to a Clause of the Bill. It is a new Clause, and therefore it is open for general discussion.
§ Sir F. MEYER
I only wish to safeguard my right to ask for a Division, if necessary, of the Committee on my Amendment, because there are certain features in the new Clause which we are now discussing which I should find myself unable to support. I should like, regretfully, to comment on the absence from this debate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Ronald McNeill)
He must be allowed to have some relaxation.
§ Sir F. MEYER
I say that I regretfully comment on the absence from this debate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the reason that this is the first, and probably the only, occasion on which the House will have the opportunity of discussing the very important change in the taxation laws of this country which was made last year by the imposition of the Betting Duty. The duty does not come up under the ordinary Clauses of the Bill. The subject has to be raised by means of a new Clause, and this is the only occasion which we shall have of discussing it. I do think it is important that the Chancellor should realise the different points of view which Members of this House of all parties have on this Betting Duty, and the reasons which they wish to press upon him for making some change. Some people wish to do away with it altogether and others merely wish to change its incidence. No doubt my right hon. Friend opposite will convey to the Chancellor all the opinions which have been and will be expressed in his absence.
I believe the Chancellor is very proud of this child of his, the Betting Duty. From the answers to questions which he has given in the House of Commons at different times during the past fey months, and from the answers which he has given to various deputations of bookmakers and of Members which have waited upon him, I gather that he is thoroughly satisfied and delighted with 1211 this new child of his. Therefore, I propose to draw the attention of the Committee to what it was the Chancellor last year claimed to be able to do in connection with this duty, and then to compare his prophecies with the actual results which have been achieved. For that purpose I am bound to read to the Committee a very brief extract from the speech which the Chancellor made on the Report stage of this Betting Duty last year. This was the occasion when the right hon. Gentleman was explaining why it was that he intended to reduce the duty from the originally proposed 5 per cent. on turnover to the altered percentage of 3½ per cent. for office betting and 2 per cent. for course betting. The right lion, Gentleman said when he opened the Budget, that he estimated that the turnover on betting was £170,000,000, but that he was advised it would be safer to allow for a shrinkage of betting, owing to the discouragement caused by the duty, to the amount of £50,000,000, which would leave £120,000,000, and that 5 per cent. on that would yield £6,000,000, which was the revenue he estimated. He went on to say:That is the amount which I hope to achieve, and which I am determined to achieve, if it is humanly Possible.[An HON. MEMBER: "That has been read!"] I apologise to the Committee if this has been read, and I will not repeat it. I will just emphasise, however, in order to make a point which I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is desirous of making, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he made the alteration from 5 per cent. to 3½per cent. and 2 per cent., said definitely that, after careful examination, he now estimated that there would be a much higher turnover. He added that he had examined the bookmakers' books, and was confident that, on the later basis of 2 per cent., he would still get £6,000,000 and, if it had been left at 5 per cent., he would have got £10,000,000. That was in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 15th July, Col. 749, Vol. 198. I admit that the right hon. Gentleman did not say that he would get this £6,000,000 in the next 12 months which followed the examination of the books. He expected to get £6,000,000 in a full year, and £1,500,000 in the few 1212 months ending 31st March, most of which included the winter jumping season.
My figures, and I speak subject to correction, are merely obtained from answers given to questions, mostly asked by the hon. Member for Central Southwark (Colonel Day) and myself. Those figures show that up to 31st March the total receipts from the Betting Duty were as follows: £652,000 from the duty on betting, and £179,500 from the duty in respect of licences issued to bookmakers. The latter figure, I believe, is not quite correct. It was given in January, and there may have been some more licences issued between that time and March. There is nothing in the OFFICIAL REPORT to give me any guidance on the matter. The total is £830,000, which is only just half what the Chancellor estimated that he would get between November and 31st March. That is down 50 per cent. Since then, he has received in April, £259,000, and in May, £289,000. We have not yet got the figures for June, though I was hoping we should have had them in to-night's discussion.
The net result is that for a period of seven months the Chancellor has collected, approximately, £1,400,000. Allowing still five months of flat racing to complete the period of 12 months of the imposition of the duty, he would be extraordinarily optimistic who would suggest that the Chancellor could possibly get a total of £3,000,000 during those 12 months. It would not surprise the Committee to find satisfactory figures for the month of June. I gathered from something the right hon. Gentleman said to me in a friendly spirit, when passing the other day, that that was so, and that the figures were likely to be very good. If, however, he takes the figures for June as being any indication whatever of the likely yield of the duty for a period of months, he is living in a fool's paradise. During the month of June betting is different from any other month. To start with, you have the Derby, which is a race which is betted on by tens and hundreds of thousands of people, who do not bet on any other race. Owing to the booming of the Press and the facilities for transport, it is very largely attended by people who do not bet on anything else.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I am very anxious to understand the hon. Gentleman's argument. 1213 Is his argument that a tax is unjustified if, in any year, the revenue from it happens to be over-estimated?
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Sir F. MEYER
I am most anxious to reply and not to keep the right hon. Gentleman in the dark as to what is my argument. I intend to develop it in a very few minutes, based on the discrepancy in the figures. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks that the figures which he is going to give us for June, are any indication of the average, he is likely to be misled. Ascot is another meeting in June, which is very much boomed in the newspapers, and to which people go who do not follow racing. Thousands of people attend there, from the social point of view, and, when they get there, they have a bet and perhaps it is the only one which they have during the year. Coming to the argument which I found on the great discrepancy between the Chancellor of the Exchequer's figures and the actual amount he is likely to get, I ask, What is the reason why this has fallen so considerably below his estimate? Is it because his estimate of turnover of £275,000,000 was wrong? If that was so, he was wrong by 50 per cent. Will he come forward and seriously tell us that his estimate, which was based on a careful examination of many of the leading bookmakers' accounts, was wrong to that extent? He cannot say that. Is the discrepancy due to the enormous reduction in the volume of betting? When he said that the £275,000,000 might be reduced to £200,000,000 by the operation of the duty, was he wrong? Has it been reduced to about £100,000,000, or by 50 per cent.? That is obviously incapable of proof, one way or another. Anybody would be very bold who would suggest that the amount of betting is only half what it was last year. The only solution which reasonable people can agree to as to the reason for this 50 per cent. reduction is patent. It is evasion. Evasion is going on right and left. It is a very difficult thing to prove, but anybody who is taking any interest in this subject and has discussed it at all with people who go racing, with bookmakers, backers, and sporting people generally, knows perfectly well that the amount of evasion going on is immense.
It is never a very gracious task to remind the Minister, or a Committee, of 1214 remarks which one has made on a previous occasion, and to say, "I told you so." I think I am justified, on this occasion, in reminding the Committee that last year, on the Report stage, when I raised this matter I told the Chancellor of the Exchequer that his only chance of collecting a good revenue for this duty, anywhere near his estimate, was to get the good will of the bookmakers; and that the only way to get their good will was by fixing the tax at a rate which they conceived they would be able to pay. After all, the right hon. Gentleman has made the bookmakers his unpaid tax collectors. That cannot be questioned. He has put them in a most extraordinary position. They are unpaid, but they have to collect the tax, because he told us again and again last year that he did not expect the bookmaker to pay, but the backer. He has imposed on the bookmakers a duty at a rate which they say they cannot pay and, as a result, they are evading. When I told the right hon. Gentleman last year that they would evade it, he laughed me to scorn, and told me that the Inland Revenue were up to a trick or two, and would not be bamboozled as easily as that He said:The hon. Member for Great Yarmouth told us how if he were not a moral and respectable Member of Parliament"—I appreciate the compliment"—he would evade this duty.He briefly referred to a method which I put forward last year as to how it would be easy to evade the duty. Then he said:Really, I hope hon. Members will give His Majesty's Customs and Excise credit for being a little more up-to-date than would be supposed by a question like that. How is it supposed that we collect the vast revenue of this country? It is because we deal by samples with classes of goods. Wherever we find fraud or evasion we punish. This is not only the result of the activities of the Customs and Excise officials. The information on which we act nearly always comes from the trade itself. When an honest trader, and an honest bookmaker, sees himself being undercut—and bookkeepers are just as honest as anybody else"—and I heartily re-echo that statement—by the dishonest trader, he never hesitates to give information. If a systematic method of defrauding the revenue, such as the hon. Member suggests, was in practice in any bookmaker's office, there is not a single clerk who would not know about it, 1215 and, if he were dismissed, he would give information and we should act upon it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th July, 1926; col. 756, vol. 198.]The right hon. Gentleman is relying on spies in the offices of bookmakers and on bookmakers giving information about each other. If he is relying on that he is relying on a very broken reed. I consider that bookmakers are an honest class, so that the Committee will not misunderstand me when I say that there is honour among thieves. I am not suggesting that they are thieves, but they have made up their minds that they cannot pay the duty or get it out of their clients, and the only way they can carry on their trade is by evading the duty. The best class of bookmakers, the men who keep their books carefully, who have them audited by chartered accountants, who give a proper and accurate return, who pay their debts and never defraud their clients, although many clients keep them waiting a long time, and they have had debts—that class of bookmaker is paying the duty faithfully. But there are hundreds and thousands who change their addresses, who spend large sums in advertising and disappear and defraud their clients, and they are evading the duty the whole time. That is the real basis and ground of the grievance I have against the duty. I have no sympathy with those who oppose the duty on the moral issue. I cannot adopt so high a moral attitude as to say that three or four million of my fellow countrymen are immoral and sinful. I have never said that this duty would ruin racing or horse-breeding; that is a gross exaggeration. But it is a scandalous thing to impose a tax which penalises the honest man and which makes people become tax-collectors without regulating the industry in a proper way.
This duty has been conceived on an entirely wrong basis. I do not want to take up the time of the Committee by suggesting an alternative method. I have sympathy with the ideas which were put forward by the hon. Member for Nottingham West (Mr. Hayday), who suggested that by a system of graduated licences on bookmakers according to the size of their offices and so on, you could prevent evasion. We might get £3,000,000 in that way, even if we did net get the £6.000,000 which, I believe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will never get. 1216 I would draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to remarks which were made in another place during the debates some weeks ago on this matter, when a Noble Lord brought in a Bill to licence cash betting. In the course of that debate, two Noble Lords, who are stewards of the Jockey Club, one of them the senior steward, and both of them men of the highest repute in racing circles, clearly and specifically criticised the Government because under this duty, they said to the public and the bookmaker, "We give licences; anybody can have licences; we use bookmakers as tax collectors, but we are in no way responsible as to whether they are honest and pay their debts and whether they are the sort of people who ought to have licences." They said it was a scandal that bookmakers, whom they had again and again warned off Newmarket Heath because they defrauded their clients, can get from the Government a licence which induces people to bet with them.
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said last year that the giving of a Government licence was not giving a guarantee of a bookmaker. Of course it is not. But, in the eyes of the ordinary man-in-the-street, not the man who is acquainted with racecourses, but the man who does not know much about these things, the fact that a man has been able to get a £10 Government licence does give him a standing which will induce people to bet with him, which they would not do with a man who had been warned off many racecourses. I think the present method of collecting the duty leads to contempt of the law. The duty is evaded on a large scale, and it cannot be enforced. There is no other tax similar to this that has ever been imposed in any other country. The tax raised by means of the totalisator is a different method, and the taxing of cash betting is different. How can you tax the amount that is agreed upon in the course of a telephone conversation and be certain that you are taxing it correctly? If I ring up my bookmaker and put a £10 bet on a horse by telephone, it is only by art honourable agreement between us that he pays me if I win, and I pay him if I lose. You are taxing a contract which is not enforceable, and you will never prevent evasion if you do it in that way. The right hon. Gentleman may be very pleased that he 1217 is to get approximately £3,000,000 out of this duty, and I would like him to get more; but I should like to see the duty paid equally by all who take part in bookmaking. I strongly urge the right hon. Gentleman that he should reconsider the whole position, and see if he cannot get the money in future years by a method which lends itself less to evasion and dishonesty.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The hon. Member who has just spoken has given us a renewal of the views which he expressed a year ago when this duty was under discussion in the House, and he has shown that he remains of the same hostile opinion about the duty which he expressed in the days when it was first being debated. No one, therefore, can accuse him of any inconsistency in the matter. But I must avow that I, too, have retained the same opinions about this duty which I expressed last year. In a very few words I am going to address myself to some of the principal questions which may be asked upon this subject. One of the first charges made against this tax was that it would prove unworkable. There is no truth in that. We know already that it will not prove unworkable. It may prove inconvenient to some, it may prove unpopular with some, it may not yield the full financial results which we expected from it; but it is not unworkable. The tax has worked smoothly both on the course and in the office. There has been no difficulty in working it on the race-course. No large addition has been required to the staff of the Customs. The tax has passed into administrative operation with hardly a jar so far as the machinery of the State is concerned.
Then the question is raised, Has the tax decreased betting? I am afraid I cannot give an absolute answer to that. It may have decreased to some extent the volume of betting by professional punters or backers. It may be that some of those who were accustomed to bet upon horses without ever going to see a race run may have been deterred by the deadweight charge of the tax on turnover from continuing their indulgence. I have received letters from persons of both sexes, on the whole the ladies predominating, to say they intend to give up betting in view of the fact that on 1218 a very large number of transactions they have shown only a small balance, and that small balance has been absorbed by the tax collector. I have always written to those ladies or gentlemen, as the case may be—[Interruption]—I was making no reference to the Noble Lady the Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor); I know she represents women, but in this case I was not referring to her. I have always encouraged them to persist in their resolution to discard betting, because, although the Revenue might lose on the cessation of their operations on the turf, I am quite sure it will gain by their increased activities in other directions. It may be there has been a certain check to betting. If so, my sorrows on the Exchequer account are to some extent assuaged by my satisfaction as a moral reformer.
The more serious question is, Has the tax increased illegal betting? That is a sphere into which I cannot attempt to enter at the present time. I am not at all sure that it has increased illegal betting. At any rate, the great mass of bookmakers who have registered themselves have placed us in possession of a great deal of information. We have been furnished with their accounts and their methods of doing business. Some of them have returned not merely the profits of their legal transactions, but also the profits of their illegal transactions, and have desired to pay tax upon them also. No reasonable offer is refused. There is no evidence at present to show that there has been a large diversion, or any appreciable diversion, of betting from legal to illegal channels, from credit to cash transactions. It is quite possible that a certain number of transactions take place which do not always reach the cars of the Revenue authorities, and, as my hon. Friend who spoke last reminded us, conversations over the telephone are not always capable of being brought with certitude to the ear of the Revenue officials.
The question also arises as to how far it will be necessary to modify the Revenue estimates of this tax. By the end of June the tax had yielded about £1,750,000, but the month of June alone realised £356,000.
§ Sir F. MEYER
The figures which the right hon. Gentleman has just given do 1219 not in any way tally with the monthly figures given in his answers to questions over the last eight months. I have carefully taken them down and added them up, and they amount to considerably less.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The total yield from November to May amounted to £1,379,000, to which we add £356,000 for June, which makes approximately £1,750,000.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Yes. Let us see how far the duty has been productive in the present year. In April, the yield was £255,000, in May, £289,000, and in June, £356,000, so that in the first three months of the present financial year—the first quarter—it has yielded £900,000. I agree that it is perfectly clear that it is not going to produce a sum of £6,000,000 in the year, but it was admitted from the very beginning that this duty was speculative in its character, and was of an experimental nature. It seems to be probable that the duty will yield between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 in the present year, and, if we had adhered to the original estimate of turnover, and had imposed a tax at the present rates, that tax would have yielded £3,600,000 in a full year. We were induced to modify and mitigate the tax—to reduce it to 3½ per cent. in regard to offices and to 2 per cent. on the course; and, in consequence, the high yield has fallen off. But still, if the tax yields £3,500,000, that is a very ample and important contribution to the Revenue, gained as it is by the taxation of a luxury and a pleasure the diminution of which could not possibly carry with it the slightest injury to the general well-being of the country.
Has the tax injured sport? There I think there is no doubt that no evil effects such as were prophesied have occurred. It is quite true that the attendances this year are not so good as they were in the comparable months of 1925—I do not think it would be fair to make a comparison with 1926, when everything was paralysed by the strike. The attendances are somewhat below that figure. [An HON. MEMBER: "The weather."] The weather is always bad. 1220 If we look at the statistics, we shall see that the incidence of the tax was not the only factor. For instance, take three periods. The first is the pre-duty period, from 4th May, 1926, the first day of the general strike, to 31st October, just before the imposition of the duty. The drop in comparison with the corresponding period of 1925 was 14.2 per cent. From 1st November, 1926, to 28th February, 1927, the drop in comparison with the corresponding period of 1925–6 was 18.6 per cent. From 1st March, 1927, to 31st May, 1927, the drop in comparison with the corresponding period of 1926 was 2.9 per cent., and with 1925 7.6 per cent. Thus in the six months before the Betting Duty the decline in gate receipts was 14.2 per cent., which was no doubt largely due to the strike and the coal dispute. In the four months after the imposition of the duty the decline is 18.6 per cent. This period included only the final month, November, 1926, of the coal dispute. In the remaining three months the consuming power was little better than during the dispute itself and expenditure was still greatly restricted. In the following three months, which included over two months of the flat racing season of 1927, the decline was 2.9 per cent. in comparison with 1926 and only 7.6 per cent. in comparison with the normal year of 1925. It is also a fact that for some years past the attendances at race meetings have shown a slightly downward tendency. But it is very remarkable that where you have the great South-country meetings you have had very large attendances, and where the meetings have been held in districts where the pinch of the industrial trouble has made itself felt there has been a marked falling off—a very explicable falling off—in spending power. As for Epsom, this year it eclipsed all records. The attendances exceeded by 33 per cent. the attendance of 1925 and still further exceeded the attendance of last year. It is perfectly impossible for anyone to contend that there has been any fatal blow struck at sport.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
We are going to have a special discussion on coursing later on. When You turn from the attendance at race meetings to the prices 1221 realised for bloodstock, the sales at Newmarket in December, 1926, [...] in April and June of the present year show average prices in excess of those obtained at the corresponding sales 1925 and 1926. There is a slight falling off in the Entertainments Duty, but nothing appreciable. There is no appreciable alteration in the postal revenue, as far as you can trace the results that belong to the betting traffic, there has been no undue charge thrown upon the public in the cost of collection and there is no reason to suppose that the estimated annual cost of £150,000 furnished to the Select Committee of 1923 will be vitiated. The conclusion is that neither in the reaction of this Betting Duty on other branches of State revenue or expenditure, nor in its effect upon racing or the breeding industry, can any case be shown For throwing away or diminishing the appreciable revenue which will certainly be derived from this tax. As for the bookmakers I entirely agree with my hon. and learned Friend who spoke earlier in the debate, the Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley), when he said they had conducted their affairs with extreme un-wisdom. They have done their utmost to alarm people about the working of the tax, to make out that it would no longer be advisable for people to continue the habit of betting. Having done everything they could to cry down betting and discredit the Betting Duty, nevertheless, in spite of having conducted their affairs with so much unwisdom, I gather that a great many of them have not found any reason to retire from the profession. For instance, one must really judge by what people say about themselves. Here is an advertisement taken from the "Sporting Life" of the 3rd of June headed "Duggie Never Owes."
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I did not wish to cause any offence to his clients. The advertisement, which is a very striking feature, says:Our clients won upwards of £100,000 from us over the Derby. Our winning vouchers, like bank notes, were redeemed immediately. Thousands came and saw these proofs that Doggie never owes. Our resources enable us cheerfully to meet all obligations. Years ago we announced that £100,000 reserve was in our bank. Nowadays 1222 even that sum pales into insignificance! The Press has said that our 'stability is as impregnable as the rock of Gibraltar.' Eventually! Why not now? Write to-day—don't delay.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
A more remarkable advertisement is furnished by Mr. J. John, who gave evidence before us and certainly predicted that the imposition of the duty would mean the complete ruin of the business which he conducted. His advertisement appeared in the "Sporting Chronicle" of the 2nd of June:All records broken. On Derby Day we had the biggest turnover since we started business 37 years ago. This is indeed a compliment to the J. John system. Little wonder he is known as the lightning settler. If you are not on his books send to-day and open a credit account, or, if you do daily letter business, send your bets by letter to our Scottish address,
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I forbear to give the precise information that the Noble Lady is seeking to obtain. I think, at any rate, with these simple statements made by the parties principally concerned, I have shown that we have not destroyed racing, we have not ruined the bookmaking confraternity, and that we have not prevented the continuance of that practice of betting about which there are so many different opinions. And if without upsetting in any violent way this feature of our national life, and if possibly at the same time somewhat restricting its indulgence we have managed to obtain a substantial revenue, a revenue equal to half the yield of the whole of the duties on tea, if we have been able to add that to the Exchequer in the first year of the imposition of the tax, and in a year when all our affairs are overshadowed by the general impoverishment of the community through what occurred last year, if that is so, there is certainly no cause for receding from our original purpose of imposing this tax and milling sure that it has a fair trial. It has not had a fair trial yet. I assured the deputations who waited upon me at the beginning of the year that I would study the statistics of June attendances and June revenue before making up my mind whether the duty required any revision in the present year. I have given 1223 attention to those June figures, and neither in regard to attendance nor in regard to revenue is there the slightest reason to pronounce that the tax is a failure. It may well be, as my hon. Friend has said that ultimately the duty will realise the financial estimate first placed upon it, but even if it realises a lower sum that lower sum is a necessary contribution to the revenue, and it is about the cheapest money that the British Exchequer gets, and money which least conflicts with the general development of the wealth of the country.
We must have a longer period. We must have an opportunity of seeing the statistics for a full year, including the whole of the flat racing season, and we must have an opportunity of making the necessary deductions in regard to those statistics which it would be proper to attribute to the impoverishment of the population from what occurred last year. Next year, before the Budget is framed, we shall be in a position to survey those results and then, if it be found that the duty at its present rate is too high and that it is possible that a better result a more permanent remunerative result, could be achieved by a somewhat lower figure, it will be the interest of the State to make such modifications as are necessary. For the present and at this moment, I ask the Committee, which last year by very large majorities voted for the imposition of this duty, to make sure by their support of the Government that it is given an opportunity to try it out fairly, and that Parliament next year is put in a position to judge upon the results of a completed year.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I want to support the appeal that has been made on moral grounds by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. J. Brown). The case as presented by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) is certainly significant, after his close examination of the figures. I anticipated the line that would be taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The lighthearted fashion which he adopted as a reformer gives a very clear indication that he has not much emphasis for moral issues. The situation which he has presented is very fairly representative of the jazz sort of business system upon which the country is conducted. Only the other 1224 day, we had a striking illustration of this sort of thing being conducted on a big scale by the departure from this life of one of the most outstanding men who, in juggling even with millions, has left a good number of his colleagues with the impression that, after there is something serious about a business of this kind. And when we find it conducted on such a large scale it is not surprising that working people, who are suffering from adulteration of food and drink, business trickery, should show an increasing tendency to go in this direction. One of the most ridiculous instances was the case of a man who was brought before the magistrate the other day for engaging in this business without a licence, and the magistrate said that it was a most preposterous situation for him to have to try a man for not having a licence for a transaction which was illegal. That is an illustration of the anomalous situation into which we are now getting. The hon. Member from the opposite side of the House who gave the Committee some figures on this matter made no bones of the fact that he was engaged in this business, and he said that those who were bookmakers were as good as those who were gambling on the Stock Exchange. That does not settle a question of character. That is only a comparison.
If you are going to test the moral issue, the proper way to test it is by a more effective illustration. Take a great evil like prostitution, in which so much business is being done that it has become an international evil which the League of Nations is trying to take in hand. Does the hon. Member say that because other civilised nations engage in a licensed system of prostitution that we should copy their example and ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to adopt this method of obtaining revenue? I know that the speech of the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) was directed to the simple point as to the amount of revenue we were receiving from this duty. He said that at the present time there was not sufficient money being derived from it to justify its continuance, but at the same time he said we do not waive the moral principle. I am afraid, if we confine ourselves largely to the question as to how much money we get out of it, we shall begin to lose ground for the moral case. A man who is a real reformer does not 1225 trouble himself with the question as to how much money we are going to get from it, but whether the evil involves absolute disaster to the working-class family circles of the land flow much disaster does the credit system mean to these people? The credit system is the most dangerous feature that can be employed. In regard to the other licensed business, from which the Chancellor of the Exchequer also draws revenue, we find that the credit system was nailed to the counter by the law of the country. It is against the law of the country to have any dealings on credit in the licensed liquor business because it was maintained that that would be an objectionable system and that it was preferable that the money should be paid over the counter.
In this case, the credit system is being defended by the Government in a way that gives a further impetus towards that downward path along which many of our working people are being forced. We have been told about the racecourses and about the concern of the Chancellor to take the line which involves least disturbance. We heard once of a deliverance made by His Majesty himself, that the glory of the Empire was centred in the hearts and homes of the people. The Chancellor of the Exchequer as an amateur moral reformer—a late starter—has cognisance of the working of this duty, and from the reports which he is receiving he must know something of what is involved in the rush of men and women into the vortex of this dangerous "business"—as bookmakers would term it. Recently in this House a Bill was introduced to prevent children from engaging in this practice. It is not a matter of the personal character of those engaged. The first issue is—are we as a House of Commons representative of the people, seeking to set an example of rectitude? Are we proving our anxiety to place the national business on a proper footing and on a basis that will bear examination? One can find many illustrations of the utter indifference of many Members of this House to any question of this kind. We hear Members treating of its humorous aspects only. That is the measure of the artificial character of the professions which we hear from public platforms.
We hear, time and again, the advocacy of great principles; we hear Members 1226 professing their desire to encourage people in the ways of economy and thrift. Such a proposal as this Betting Duty is a travesty of those professions. One does not need even to take part in the Debates in this House; one only need to follow the gibes and quips and jokes that are passed and the light-hearted, almost ribald manner of some Members of the House in treating questions of this kind, to realise that fact. We have people like the Chancellor of the Exchequer who makes an amusing reference to himself as being "a sort of moral reformer." That phrase is one of his own little touches of humour, but at the same time it is an indication of what he meant when answering a Member on this side who suggested it was in the had weather, he said the weather was always bad. He is one who has studied the weather-cock system, and he knows very well there are varying weather conditions whether he is a betting man or not. He has studied the state of development of our political forecasts, and the possibilities and movements of the tide which might lead to fortune, or misfortune, for he is particularly careful about misfortunes. How can the Chancellor stand up and talk as he has done about balancing the question—though making the admission that he is not receiving so much as he anticipated, and thereby conceding some of the points made—and saying he has at least the satisfaction that he is becoming something of a moral reformer. As one who does feel deeply in making our profession of moral standards and with the great responsibilities of this House, I am perfectly confident that no man or woman associated with this great assembly can contemplate what is really involved by these transactions of which we hear so much—I care not whether it is £3,000,000 or £30,000,000—without seeing that our profiting from this abominable business is the measure of our profligacy, and an abject failure to raise the standards of our people as we ought to do.
Are we not to raise the standards of the people—and I am not talking about party standards now but of the personal responsibility which each man and woman has to Hint to Whom there are appeals made at the opening of this House every day from that great Book? The prophet Isaiah's proclamation was:Lift up a standard for the people.1227 God knows it is tragic though you may treat it lightly. There are greater questions than facing a General Election—questions of making sure that we are really standing for great moral purposes—and there are other alternatives than the pursuit of these things. You are bound to recognise that there is the alternative that you can face this in the opposite direction, and instead of deriving revenue from this wretched source you can take the course that we maintained last year, namely, that the thing ought not to be done at all and if you say it cannot be done, I refer you to what was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, when dealing with the opposition of Members who are against this proposition, he said, "Now I understand the position of the hon. Member perfectly well. Do not tell me, you Members on the Opposition side, that it cannot be done. It can be done. You can say you are going to stand for the stopping of the means of carrying on this transaction and that you
§ are going to stop it by the post, the telegrams and the Press. Do not say it cannot be done." That is what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said. And that same Chancellor of the Exchequer can tell you whether he means still with his ability to step into the arena—into the very racecourse—and whether he will manage to make this scheme workable. I am confident he is capable of doing that. In the same way, if he were a real moral reformer instead of being chiefly concerned about holding his position in the Government, he would stand up in this House as a man, and denounce it, and if he applied his energies and his enthusiasm on the basis of real moral force in the country against this evil, I am convinced he would make a mighty factor in advancing the real progress of our country.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The Committee divided : Ayes, 152 ; Noes, 233.1231
|Division No. 243.]||AYES.||[10.56 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Greenall, T.||Palin, John Henry|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Paling, W.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Grenfeil, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Pethick-Lawrence. F. W.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Groves, T.||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Astor, Viscountess||Grundy, T. W.||Potts, John S.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Preston, William|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Baker, Walter||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Barnes, A.||Hardie, George D.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Batey, Joseph||Harney, E. A.||Riley, Ben|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Harris, Percy A.||Ritson, J.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hayday, Arthur||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stratford)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hayes, John Henry||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)|
|Broad, F. A||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Rose, Frank H|
|Bromfield, William||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Bromley, J.||Hirst, G. H.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Sexton, James|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hore-Bellsha, Leslie||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Buchanan, G.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Cape, Thomas||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Compton, Joseph||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Connolly, M.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown)||Smillie, Robert|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Jones, T.I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kelly, W. T.||Snell, Harry|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Kennedy, T.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lawrence, Susan||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Dennison, H.||Lawson, John James||Stamford, T. W.|
|Duckworth, John||Lee, F.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Duncan, C.||Lindley, F. W.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Lunn, William||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|England, Colonel A.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Invarness)||Sullivan, J.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Sutton, J. E.|
|Forrest, W.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Gardner, J. P.||March, S.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro., W.)|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Maxton, James||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Morrison, R.C. (Tottenham, N.)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Gillett, George M.||Murnin, H.||Townend, A. E.|
|Gosling, Harry||Naylor, T. E.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Oakley, T.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Oliver, George Harold||Viant, S. P.|
|Wallhead, Richard C.||Wiggins, William Martin||Windsor, Walter|
|Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney||Williams, Dr. J.H. (Lianelly)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wellock, Wilfred||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.|
|Welsh, J. C.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)||T. Kennedy|
|Whiteley, W.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Goff, Sir Park||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Albery, Irving James||Gower, Sir Robert||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Grace, John||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Grant, Sir J. A.||Murchison, Sir Kenneth|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Neville, Sir Reginald J.|
|Bainlel, Lord||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||O'Connor, T.J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Bennett, A. J.||Hall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. (Dulwich)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Bethel, A.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Ormshy-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hammersley, S. S.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Harmon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Harland, A.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Perring, Sir William George|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Hartington, Marquess of||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Pilcher, G.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Haslam, Henry C.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootie)||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Ramsden, E.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Holt, Capt. H. P.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Hope, Capt. A. O. J, (Warw'k, Nun.)||Rhys, Hon. C.A.U.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Campbell, E.T.||Howard-Bury, Lieut. Colonel C.K.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cazalet, Ceptain Victor A.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Rye, F. G.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hurd, Percy A.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Christie, J. A.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Jacob, A. E.||Savery, S. S.|
|Clayton, G. C.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Jephcott, A. R.||Shaw, L.t.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Couper, J. B.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N)||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Smithers, Waldron|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Lamb, J. Q.||Somervllie, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Loder, J. de V.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Davidson. J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Long, Major Eric||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Looker, Herbert William||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovll)||Lougher, Lewis||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Lumley, L. R.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Drewe, C.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Macintyre, Ian||Tinne, J. A.|
|Ellis, R. G.||McLean, Major A.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Elveden, Viscount||Macmillan, Captain H.||Waddington, R.|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Wallace, Captain D. E|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hulf)|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Fansnawe, Captain G. D.||Malone, Major P. B.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Fielden, E. B.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Margesson, Captain D.||Watson. Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Mason, Lieut-Col. Glyn K.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Meyer, Sir Frank||Wells, S. R.|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Gates, Percy||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)|
|Wilson, R.R. (Stafford, Lichfield)||Wood. Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).|
|Wise, Sir Fredric||Wood, Sir S. Hill (High Peak)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Wolmer, Viscount||Wragg, Herbert||Captain Lord Stanley and Colonel|
|Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.||Gibbs.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
It might be convenient to the Committee if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were to say now what his intentions or desires are, and how far he proposes to proceed this evening. It was, I believe, the original intention of the Government to get through the Committee stage to-day. That is clearly impossible, because there are nine pages of Amendments still upon the Paper, and a very considerable number of them are in the names of Members on that side of the Committee. That should be a sufficient reason why we shall not be able to get through these nine pages this evening, unless hon. Members opposite, in their anxiety to get these Amendments through, are prepared to sit until this time to-morrow. There are several Amendments to the Bill, some of which are of great importance. For instance, there is that relating to the Sugar Duty, and there are quite a number of others. It is manifestly impossible to get this Bill, through to-night, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is prepared to give further time. There are a great many highly contentious points in this year's Budget, and we have only had four days' Debate, which is much less time than is usually given. It must be remembered that the Members of the Government party have taken up quite an unusually large amount of time in the discussions on the Bill. Indeed, they took up nearly all the time yesterday in the discussion of a matter in which they were very keenly interested. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to make some concession? I think the very least that he might do would be to rise now, or very soon, and then give us at least up to dinner-time on Thursday.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
We have only proceeded so far in the discussions in Committee on the Finance Bill by what I may call the general good will of the Committee. The Committee has concentrated on the principal Debates and topics, and has allowed the other business to pass rapidly through. I 1232 fully recognise that in this matter the Government are in the hands of the Opposition, and not only of the Opposition but of members of the Committee on their own side in politics. It would be, I think, for the convenience of Parliament if we disposed of this Bill to-night. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I think it would be for the convenience of Members, and I do not believe that the public service would suffer thereby. An examination of the various new Clauses discloses three or four points which might well take half an hour each to discuss, but it does not show any prospect of alterations in the Finance Bill because, in the main, except for inconsiderable exceptions, the new Clauses, of course, one not be accepted by the Government. As I say, we are in the hands of the Committee. It is perfectly obvious that if hon. Gentlemen opposite or around us choose to debate these matters, there ere in them ample material to keep us up to a very late hour to-night, and to prevent us from reaching the close of our labours on this Bill. Therefore, I leave it entirely in the hands of the Opposition. If they wish to prolong these discussions until the interruption of business at the dinner hour on Thursday next the Government will not resist them. We should like to complete this Bill, as we have so far conducted it, in an atmosphere of good Parliamentary arrangement on both sides. Therefore, if it be the desire of the Opposition that we should take up till Thursday at dinner time, and if it be understood that we shall get the Committee stage completed, new Clauses and schedules alike, by that hour, and that we should make the best use of our time in the intervals, the Government would propose that we should not sit very much longer to-night, but should resume our discussions on Thursday next.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not, indicate the exact time to which he proposes to sit to-night. The next Motion is on the Sugar Duty. My friends attach considerable importance to that and would not be satisfied with a short Debate on that. Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer prepared to accept my Motion to report Progress now, 1233 on the understanding that we agree to try and finish the Committee stage and end at the dinner hour on Thursday?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Yes, Sir. If by what I call good arrangement and goodwill, we can reach the conclusion of the Committee stage by dinner on Thursday, I should not propose to ask the Committee to sit any longer to-night.
§ Sir F. MEYER
There are a number of Amendments down in the names of Members of the Government party, and I do not know how far the Opposition would be prepared to concede a certain reasonable amount of time for the discussion of these Amendments. Otherwise, we should have to oppose the Motion to report Progress, as we do not 1234 desire to sacrifice the Amendments we have put forward.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.