§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I beg to move, in page 2, line 2, after the word "years" to insert the words:(not being an officer of the Post Office acting in the course of his duty).It may be argued that this Amendment is unnecessary, but my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General is anxious to have it made quite clear and, therefore, I readily assented, as I am sure the House will assent, to putting it in the Bill, in express words, that the messengers dealt with in the Bill shall not include telegraph boys and others who are in the service of the Crown.
§ Mr. GROVES
I do not know whether the Lord Advocate seriously means to convey to us that, while we are prepared to support this Bill, which will prohibit a child individually from engaging in betting transactions by carrying slips, we are going deliberately to agree that an officer working for the nation shall do that which we say is illegal for a private citizen. If that is so, I think it is a most disgraceful position for the Government to take up.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I would like, strangely enough, to support the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves) on this occasion. I think that here we have struck the question of principle and have a position in which we can stand on a rock. If we are to say that young people are not to engage in this practice, which is recognised by the Bill to be an evil course of procedure, and then we have a representative of the Government saying that in this particular instance we are going to involve the young people who become telegraph messengers, it is a serious position. I will call the recollection of the House to the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking on the question of betting in general, said distinctly that we could proceed to prohibit this great national evil by cutting it out of the post, which, of course, 1971 would include the telegraph service, and prohibiting it in the Press. If we can do all these things on the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I submit that we are doing the wrong thing today if we insert this Amendment. We ought to take a stand on principle in supporting this Bill, which I feel is only a very small thing as compared with what we ought to be doing in connection with this great evil.
§ Mr. BARR
I wish to emphasise what has fallen from my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour). The Lord Advocate was perhaps assuming that his Amendment would be carried through without discussion and consequently did not enter into a full explanation of its bearings. I wish to call attention to what is the purpose of this Clause. It arose in its history, I think, from a case in Glasgow in which it was found that boys were serving bookmakers in the way of carrying slips. In one particular case the boy was convicted and the bookmaker got free in the courts, and it was felt that this whole question needed to be considered. I agree that this is only a partial consideration of it that we have in this Clause, but what I take to be the effect of what the Lord Advocate said was that the messenger of a telegraph office would be immune if he were delivering slips in this way. The words used in the Clause are:to convey or deliver any information, advice, or money for the purpose of making or procuring the making of any bet or wager.It deals with information, and, if I am not mistaken, in the Act of 1874, which was the first time that the Betting Act of 1853 in England became applicable to Scotland, it uses this very word and prohibits in any circumstances any information regarding a bet or wager being conveyed at all. How much more is that binding upon young people, whether they are in the service of the Post Office or otherwise!
If it were stated in the Amendment that this was done unwittingly, or to that effect, there might be an argument made out for it, but even in that case I conceive that there is no better way of hitting at the betting evil in this country than to make it impossible to have bet- 1972 ting odds and information transmitted either by telegraph, by post, or in the newspapers. I conceive that all the Bills we are discussing in this House about dog racing, totalisators, and so on, on which we spend a great deal of time, are of little importance compared with something like this, that would cut at the root of the matter and would be far more effective than anything else we could do. I am rather astonished that the Lord Advocate should, without fully explaining the position, seem to be conveying the impression at least that in some way the Telegraph Office and the Government are putting their shield over those who are doing this thing, which, I hold, is quite illegal. Under the Scottish Act of 1874, which, I am sure, the Lord Advocate knows well, it is expressly forbidden, and to say that you are going to shield the Post Office in doing an illegal thing, while you are going to penalise young children and their parents and others acting in a personal capacity, seems to be a very one-sided thing to do.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I certainly, despite my responsibility in speaking on behalf of the executive of the education authorities, could not possibly accept this Amendment without a Division. I say that, because when we were discussing the Bill as an Executive, and when I, as an individual, responsible for this particular Bill, was discussing its merits and the possibilities of getting it through, we realised that there might be a difficulty in connection with the telegraph messenger boy, who is really the individual who is sought to be exempted by this Amendment. I recognise that you have the boy from 13 to 15 years of age employed as a telegraph messenger who would possibly be carrying a telegraph message in connection with a bet, but to me that is a betting slip just as much as is a slip for 6d., or Is., or Id. even, that may be carried by an individual child, or the child of a bookmaker, or any other child in connection with betting transactions. To me there is a very vital principle here. What strikes me as rather remarkable is the fact that, having carried through all the correspondence and negotiations with the Secretary of State for Scotland, and, on his advice and recommendation, accepted all the 1973 Amendments that were considered necessary so that it would be an uncontroversial Measure, at the very last moment we have an attempt made to remove from the provisions of the Bill the child who is employed by the State, and to allow that child to carry betting slips which we are refusing in the case of private individuals.
In these circumstances, I do hope we shall not lose the Bill. If I cannot get all I want, I am prepared to take three-fourths in the interest of good administration and to safeguard our children in connection with the betting evil that is so rampant in our midst. But I do hope we shall have a Division on this Amendment, so that we can at least register our protest against the attempt of the Government at the last minute to place State servants in a position from which we are seeking to safeguard the private individual. If I were the only Member calling for a Division on this question I should raise my voice, because to me it is a question of vital importance. While opposing this Amendment, I sincerely hope that we shall get the Bill.
§ The ASSISTANT POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Viscount Wolmer)
I apologise to hon. Members for the fact that this Amendment was not put down earlier, but, on the question of principle, I think that if the matter is looked at, it will be found that the question of principle really does not arise. The object of this Bill is to prevent small boys being employed as messengers between bookmakers and their clients. That sort of practice, we all agree, is exceedingly undesirable, and has a very bad influence upon the boys themselves. That, I think, is the chief point which the promoters of the Bill have in view. The difficulty with regard to the Post Office is this. The Post Office every year has millions of telegrams and thousands of millions of letters to deal with, and the officials of the Post Office who deliver these telegrams and letters, of course, have no knowledge whatsoever as to what is contained in them. They deliver the telegrams and letters in the ordinary course of their business. A postman or a telegraph boy may call at a bookmaker's place of business, it may be with a dozen or half a dozen communications. Some may he and some may not be betting 1974 transactions. How can the boy know or how can the Post Office know? Hon. Members will see that it is quite impossible for the Post Office to distinguish between letters and telegrams which contain betting transactions and those which do not.
I would further point out that the effect of this Bill, if carried without the Amendment, would not, of course, be to prevent the Post Office from transmitting these betting messages, because there would still be nothing illegal in a bookmaker receiving a telegram from a messenger boy over 16 years of age, and when you say in an Act of Parliament that a messenger boy who is over 16 years of age may deliver a telegram which a messenger boy under 16 may not deliver, surely you are trying to do something which is altogether absurd. That is why we desire to exempt the Post Office, which, in carrying out its enormous business of transmitting messages of all sorts, is not at all in the same category as people specially employed for the purpose of carrying these messages.
§ Mr. GROVES
The Noble Lord argued on the asumption that the employés do not know what is contained in the letters. I think that is a very legitimate answer, but supposing they did know, would they be justified in refusing to deliver or accept a message for a bookmaker's establishment, and if they did not know, would they be exempt from any legal punishment under the Bill?
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
That is the very point I wish to put. Clause 1 says:—Any person who causes or procures or attempts to cause or procure any young person to convey or deliver any slip.Can we have an assurance that the officials who receive a telegram do not know it is about a betting transaction, or the officials who receive a telegram and put it into an envelope and give it to a person between 13 and 15 years of age do not know it?
§ Viscount WOLMER
Certainly in a great many cases—I do not say in every case—it is perfectly impossible to tell whether a telegram is a betting transaction or not. An enormous number of these betting telegrams go by code. The Post Office is in a totally different cate- 1975 gory, and I therefore hope that hon. Members will not think that any question of principle is involved.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I think the difficulty which the Noble Lord has pointed out is a real one, but it also applies to the District Messenger Company. They are given a letter, and do not know what is in it. Most of the boys who come to me with messages look to me a good deal under 16. Are they to be liable in the same way?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Of course not, but I think under this Bill the District Messenger Company in Scotland—for I presume it operates in Scotland—will come under the pains and penalties of this Bill for using a messenger under 16 to deliver a betting message. [An HON. MEMBER.: "Knowingly."] They have got to prove that they do not know it. A man carrying on business as a bookmaker in Glasgow pays his tax to the Exchequer and sends out thousands of messages to his clients. It would be a very hard task in law to prove that they did not know what those messages contained.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member is speaking against Clause 1 rather than on this Amendment.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I do not want to enlarge on that, but the Post Office is trying to prove that its position is different from that of a private company such as the District Messenger Company. Suppose the postal authorities had not suddenly woke up to the fact that this Bill would affect their business in the delivery of telegrams, and that it had gone through. They would have had to do one of two things, either to engage messenger boys over 16—and as I hope to see all children in a few years remaining at school until 16, that would not be a bad thing—or else they would have had to frame regulations to get over the difficulty. I admit that a good many telegrams are in code, and that the Post Office has no means of knowing that they are betting telegrams, or that a man who has ordered 20 salmon means that he is putting £20 on a horse; but many of 1976 them are not in code, and the Post Office could issue regulations that messages known to be betting messages and known to be from bookmakers, should not be delivered by boys under 16. Is there any administrative difficulty there? If we accept this Amendment, it will put the Post Office in a separate position and will make the whole law in connection with betting more farcical than it is at present. The Betting Laws of this country are full of anomalies and injustices and the whole situation is perfectly absurd.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we are on the Report stage of this Bill.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I do not want to make a Third Reading speech. I am only pointing out the absurd position in which the Amendment puts us. I do not see any reason why this Bill should not apply to the Post Office as to any other person in Scotland, or why suitable rules should not he framed to that end.
It does not seem to me that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has had quite such a complete conversion as he might think he has had from his previous political party. He rather complained that this Amendment would give a State concern a privilege as against a private concern. I rather doubt if that is an argument which would find extreme favour with his Front Bench, or with the more theoretical and strait-laced section of his party.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I do not want the State to have a monopoly of vice, but a monopoly of virtue.
I agree, and I would like to see all of us have a monopoly of virtue, but I was not dealing with it from that point of view. It has very often been held in this House and in other places that the service of the Post Office in this country is far better and more useful than the service in other countries, because in a high percentage of cases the Post Office official is above giving away any secret which he may find out in the course of his duty. This Bill would prevent bookmakers extending their business through the Post Office. It would also take certain young persons out of the 1977 business. When you come to the Post Office, however, it is a matter of public delivery. The nature of many of the telegrams are not known, and the actual messages are of a different sort from those which are sent from bookmakers by ordinary boy messengers.
I think that the State in this instance is particularly justified in wishing to exclude their messengers, when you consider the enormous value it is to the community that the Post Office should retain the full confidence of the country that it does not know anything that it is not absolutely bound to know in the conduct of its business. That is to say, it knows nothing of what is inside the letters and telegrams which it is handling. We placed them in that position, and no Civil Service has earned it better. I will give an illustration to explain my point. It would be agreed by any party represented in this House that it would be unfair and wrong for a Postal official to cause any delay to a communication passing through his hands because he was of an opposite political party to that of the addressee of the letter. He is supposed to deliver it automatically and officially. In the same way, with the delivery of a telegram, it is the messenger's duty just to take a piece of paper, deliver it, and ask if there be an answer. For that reason I cannot think that there is anything in the argument of the hon. Gentleman who spoke against this Amendment, whose name I believe is on the back of the Bill. Many of the messengers are quite disinterested in the messages that they are delivering.
I do not think that those who are opposing this Amendment have a case of any value, or that they have made out a case for troubling the House on a Friday afternoon with a Division on this matter. Their case is based entirely on a sort of supposition that some messenger at some time or other might see a betting slip and be offended. In the interests of the Bill, the Government are justified in inserting this Amendment, because, otherwise, there would be confusion throughout the Post Office. They would have to separate betting telegrams, betting notices, betting slips and everything connected with betting, and have a separate form of delivery. If any of these things were touched by some young messenger or young clerk, the law would be broken, 1978 and it would enormously increase the difficulties of the Post Office. On consideration, I am perfectly certain that my hon. Friend opposite must realise that this Amendment is essential if the Bill is to be really valuable for that part of the country which I do not represent.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
I think one ought to have a. little more information from the Lord Advocate, although I am not at all certain that I see a very strong case in the point of view that has been put. The first Clause of the Bill provides penalties against people who procure young persons to convey betting information and messages. Is the Postmaster-General anticipating that there would be prosecutions by ethical and moral societies against the Post Office? From whom does he think those prosecutions will emanate? He makes out a perfectly plain case when talking about telegraph boys who are conveying sealed telegrams from the Post Office to the recipients not knowing anything of the contents of the telegrams, but is it also the idea of the Post Office that they want to exclude the possibility of proceedings being taken against a person who is sending messages to the Post Office from a racecourse or any racing establishment? I think officers of the Post Office are used to convey open messages from racecourses or betting establishments to the nearest Post Office or trunk telephone office in order that they may be forwarded by the Post Office. Neither the Lord Advocate nor the Assistant Postmaster-General has met that point. They have confined their observations to the employment of a telegraph messenger to convey a sealed telegram from the Post Office to the recipient, but there is also the converse use of officers of the Post Office, because I understand that the Post Office do provide staffs of messengers at racecourses, and very likely they may also be sent to racing establishments.
I well remember a ease at the Somerset Assizes, I think it was some 20 years ago, of a criminal prosecution for fraud against people who were dabbling in horse-racing and gambling and had made use, not of telegraph messengers, but of a young person employed by a sub-postmaster in village post office just outside the town where the betting business was carried on. It is cases like that which make me see something in the moral and 1979 legal aspect of the case which was put by my hon. Friend, although it does not seem to me that his point has yet been met. Why do we need the Amendment at all? It seems to me to be unnecessary, and I think the Post Office must meet the point of the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr) as to why it is necessary to introduce words of this kind, although no such form of words is included in Section 3 of the Act which applied the 1853 Act to Scotland and was passed on the 8th June, 1874.
§ Viscount WOLMER
With the leave of the House, I will reply to the point raised by the hon. Member. I would not like to give the House the impression that a messenger boy never knows that he is carrying a betting message. There may be a few occasions when he knows that it is a betting message, and when the person who has sent him knows that he is employing a boy under 16 for that purpose, but my point is that these cases are an infinitesimal fraction of the total business run by the Post Office, and that you must have an Amendment on these lines unless you are to reduce the work of the Post Office to chaos. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) seemed to think we could get over this difficulty by regulations. We could not possibly get over it unless we established a postal censorship, unless every telegram and every letter were censored, and the House must realise what an enormous proposition that would be. With all deference, I submit that the ordinary everyday work of the Post Office is totally outside the objects the promoters of this Bill have in view, and, therefore, the sensible and reasonable course is to exclude the officers of the Post Office from the operations of the Bill.
§ Mr. AMMON
I am afraid I must press the Noble Lord, who has not answered the point which my hon. Friend has put up, and which is of importance to the Amendment. As I read the Amendment 1980 it has reference only to young persons. The point of my hon. Friend is that under the Bill the person to be prosecuted is not the messenger who carries the message but the person who causes or procures or attempts to cause a young person to carry the message.
§ Viscount WOLMER
Imagine the case of a man who sends a betting telegram. He hands the telegram into the Post Office in code, and that telegram is sent off to its destination and is then carried by a messenger boy under 16 to the bookmaker's place. Does the hon. Member say that that man is not procuring a boy to carry a betting telegram, and yet when he is sending the telegram how is he to know the age of the boy?
§ Mr. AMMON
If the Noble Lord had waited he would have seen that that was a point I was about to bring out. It seems to me that it would not concern that individual at all, but would concern the Post Office, and the Post Office as such, from what I know, and I do know a little about it, cannot be proceeded against except by petition, and I cannot imagine any petition being granted to allow anyone to proceed against the Crown in this manner. That is the point upon which I desire satisfaction from the Noble Lord. I know something of this matter, because, further back than I care to remember, I was a telegraph messenger, and I know that those boys have no knowledge, or should have no knowledge, of the contents of telegrams; they cannot be held to know what is in them. The whole point seems to me to be that it is unnecessary to insert the Amendment because the operative Clause of the Bill aims at other persons. The person who sends the telegram does not send it knowing that a messenger boy under a certain age is going to deliver it, and, therefore, I should think he could not be held to be procuring that boy. The action must lie against the Post Office, and, as far as I can see, it would be a very difficult job to succeed in any action against the Post Office.
§ Sir WILLIAM ALEXANDER
I would like to give my views to the House very shortly. The real object of this Bill is to prevent the employment as agents of 1981 young persons running for street bookmakers who in the majority of cases are betting illegally. We have not yet in this country had prohibition against betting on certain lines, neither have we had prohibition against drink. We believe that drinking is bad for the youth of the country, and we also believe that the encouragement of young children to carry slips for bookmakers cannot be good for their morals. The object of this Bill is to cover the whole field, and it has been introduced in order to deal with the growing evil which has been brought to the noitce of the public by education authorities. I have to admit quite frankly that sometimes I have a bet, and I use the Post Office for betting purposes,
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."1982
§ but I am quite within my legal rights, and so long as the messengers of the Post Office are carrying messages which are in code and of which they have no knowledge whatever, I cannot see that any harm can be done by passing this Amendment. I therefore suggest that we should accept the Amendment, and get through with this Bill, which I am sure will do a considerable amount of good in the way of protecting the youth of Scotland.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 103; Noes, 32.1981
|Division No. 177.]||AYES.||[2.0 p.m.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Paling, W.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Fremantle, Lieut-Colonel Francis E.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gllmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertlliery)||Gosling, Harry||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Barnes, A.||Griffith, F. Kingsley||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Rose, Frank H.|
|Berry, Sir George||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Harris, Percy A.||Scurr, John|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon, Vernon||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hayes, John Henry||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Hilton, Cecil||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U.M. (Hackney, N.)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.Sir J.A.(Birm.,W.)||Kennedy, T.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lansbury, George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Lawrence, Susan||Varley, Frank B.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Loder, J. de V.||Vlant, S. P.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Lougher, Lewis||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Luce, Maj.-Gen, Sir Richard Harman||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Wells, S. R.|
|Cope, Major Sir William||Mucdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Couper, J. B.||MacIntyre, I.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Macquisten, F. A.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Edge, Sir William||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Edwards C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. S. M.||Mr. Penny and Major The Marquess of Titchfield.|
|Ellis, R. G.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Baker, Walter||Kelly, W. T.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Barr, J.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Lee, F.||Snell, Harry|
|Broad, F. A.||Lowth, T.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Bromley, J.||March, S.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Dunnico, H.||Montague, Frederick||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N)||Wright, W.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson end Colne)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Oliver, George Harold||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Mr. Westwood and Mr. Groves.|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Scrymgeour, E.|
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I should like to say that the Amendment which has just been inserted in the Bill has a significance 1983 pointing to the real necessity of this House gripping the question from the standpoint of thorough-going principles. The Amendment makes it permissible for these messages to be carried by certain boys because they have a uniform and formally re-present the Government which backs this betting evil and taxes it. That is the issue that has to be faced. It is the duty of the Opposition in particular to challenge it in a thorough-going fashion, and it is the duty of the Front Bench not only to speak against these things but to act against them in the Lobbies.
§ Mr. GROVES
I rise for a few minutes mainly because, when we challenged the last Division, it was put to me that our opposition in this matter would contribute towards the view that the Government, through the Post Office, should establish a sort of censorship of telegrams and letters. I put a question to the Assistant Postmaster-General, which, of course, he did not answer, and I want to put it to him again. The Bill to which we are now, I hope, going to give a Third Reading, makes it illegal for any person to procure or cause to be procured certain young people to be used in connection with the transmission of betting slips. The words are:Any person who causes or procures or attempts to cause or procure any young person to convey or deliver any slip, note or message, verbal or written, which relates to any bet or wager, or to convey or deliver any information, advice or money for the purpose of making or procuring the making of any bet or wager.I respectfully submit that, while these are matters for lawyers to wrangle over later on in the Courts, we mean here that a man who procures is a man who wilfully, with deliberate knowledge and forethought, uses a young person in a direction that is known to convey a message, which message is connected with betting; and that person alone would come within the ban of this Bill. I would ask the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he will reply to the question that I put to him a quarter of an hour ago. He stated that the tens of millions of letters and tens of thousands of telegrams in question would be in code. While I am not catechising him, because, no doubt, he is speaking without detailed information, I would point out that he said, in reply to 1984 my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), who knows a good deal about the Post Office, that they are not all in code.
§ Mr. GROVES
He said that there was a certain proportion in the case of which the Post Office people did know that the message on the telegram or on the piece of paper in the envelope was connected with betting. Are we to take it that in this country the Post Office deliberately, and with knowledge, enters into betting transactions? Yes; we do not deny it. The hon. and gallant Member who is in charge of this Bill not only says that it is legal, but says that he himself uses the services of the Post Office for this purpose. I object to this imposition of a penalty upon private people, namely, street bookmakers, only because they are poor and cannot stand up for themselves, if they engage a young person under the age of 16 to do something which the State itself is prepared to do under State supervision and authority, and which involves the use of State servants. More hypocrisy I never met with, and, therefore, I say that the 32 who, at my instigation, voted against this Amendment, and are proud to have done so, will know, when they read this discussion, that they did not go into the Lobby to vote for State censorship of these letters and telegrams.
I feel seriously and keenly on this question, and I was the first, I think, to rise in my place and call attention to this apparently innocuous Amendment. I want to protest against this Bill, as I had to protest against the apparently innocuous Bill which preceded it. I protest against this Bill because it gives to the nation the right to do what we object to private individuals doing. We are going to make illegal for the individual that which we, as a nation, accept as legal. That in itself is not only contradictory and farcical, but, in my opinion, very wrong, and, while I am prepared to vote for the Third Reading of this Bill, I should have been more pleased to vote for it as it was this morning, without the Amendment which has just been inserted. Whoever is employed by the Post Office, when they read this discussion—and I shall take care that it is read by those who are in my district—will see that 1985 they are being used, as State servants, in order to do what the nation objects to individuals in their private capacity doing, and they will then realise to what lengths certain Government Departments are prepared to go. The effect of the Amendment that we have just accepted is that, if we are going to take any action against the person who procures, that action, in the case of the Post Office, will not be taken against an ordinary postmaster or sub-postmaster who engages a person to carry out the work of the Post Office. Our pleasure in taking any such action would be that the person who procured would be the Postmaster-General or his Assistant. You are the people who are ultimately responsible for everything that takes place in the Post Office, and, therefore, legally, you would be the people who procured—
§ Mr. GROVES
I apologise. What I wished to say was that it is a great pleasure to realise that we should not take a poor, humble, private individual engaged, say, in a local post office at West Ham, in which office a youngster under the age of 16 had been engaged for this purpose, but we should have the pleasure of indicting the Postmaster-General, because, under the Constitution and the law of this land, he is responsible for all the acts committed in that Department, with the exception, perhaps, of the action of a driver of a Post Office van. When we come to discuss these matters of legality or illegality, we shall find to what lengths or depths they will go. I realise with pride that 32 Members of this House have protested against the Post Office of this country, a State Department, engaging in transactions connected with betting. We feel that the nation itself should set the lead, not in the wrong direction, but in the right direction, and should not do collectively that which it objects to the private individual doing separately.
§ Mr. ELLIS
With regard to the hon. Member's allegation that we are persecuting the poor street bookmaker and not bothering about anyone else, if he had paid the least attention to the subject he would know very well, from the many convictions and fines, that street bookmaking is an organised profession covered by a good many very well-off 1986 people, and that the men who are prosecuted for it and fined always have their fines paid by the rich people behind them. I am very glad that this Bill is going to pass, because it is one of the most evil forms of betting that we have. On the other point of the Post Office, if you believe that present forms of betting which are illegal ought to be abolished, you ought not to do it by a little Bill of this sort as a side issue. You ought to attack the whole question root and branch, and not, just because the Government wish to protect their innocent servants, make use of the opportunity to bring up the whole question of betting here and now.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I am afraid the hon. Member has not realised exactly how the Bill came in. He suggests that we ought not to go for the Government for bringing in a Bill for the purpose of dealing with what is a recognised evil. The Government did not bring the Bill in.
§ Mr. ELLIS
I did not suggest that they did. I was arguing that, the Bill having been brought in from outside, it was not fair to attack the Government for protecting their own servants in case they might be charged with doing something which to-day is perfectly legal, and they are quite right in bringing forward this Amendment to protect these persons, because they ought not to be charged with doing an illegal thing by a side issue.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
The hon. Member has come in for the Third Reading and was not present when the Bill was being considered on Report. We are not discussing an Amendment now, but the Third Reading.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
No one is more pleased than I am at the progress that the Bill has made. For four months last Session it was kept on the Order Paper. I have thanked the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow (Sir W. Alexander) on behalf of the executive of the education authorities for having chosen the Bill, having been successful in the ballot. My complaint is that, after all these months, at the very last moment, this Amendment should have been sorung upon us. I am one of 1987 the 32 who protested against the Amendment, but I have now to accept the decision of the House, and I am going to vote for the Third Reading, because I believe the Bill will do some good. I know it does not deal with all the evils of betting. I wish we could discuss freely all the evils of betting. I believe betting is almost, if not quite, as bad an evil as drink. I believe it is undermining the well-being and the stability of our people. But the education authorities of Scotland are not responsible for suggesting Bills dealing with the evil. All we were responsible for was our work in connection with the administration of the Act. As administrators, we realised that boys of five, six, seven and eight years of age were being used in connection with betting transactions. We knew there was a weakness in the 1906 Street Betting Act.
This Bill is not so much to deal with problems attached to betting and with the evil of betting as with the strengthening of the Street Betting Act. A weakness has been discovered in dealing with those who were merely conveying messages instead of money, and carrying slips instead of actually taking part in the betting transactions. We shall be strengthening the Act in its relationship to Scotland—I hope England will follow suit—by doing something to remove the temptations that stand in the way of many of these children who have been used for this purpose. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow has pointed out that even in his own house he has discovered milk boys and butcher boys acting as betting messengers. Many others have had the same experience, and we know it is an evil. While I would rather have seen the Bill without the Amendment which is now part of it, not being able to get the whole Bill as it was originally, I am prepared to take the three-fourths advantage which will come our way in helping us to deal with the evil, and I hope that we are going to get the Third Reading.
§ Viscount WOLMER
May I say a word in reply to what fell from the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves). In the first place, may I correct a misapprehension. I think he misunderstood something which I said in regard to the traffic carried by the Post Office. I said 1988 that the Post Office had millions of telegrams and thousands of millions of letters. That, of course, is perfectly accurate. I said that in a fractional amount of this vast traffic the messenger boys themselves might know they were carrying betting messages. I said a large proportion of the betting telegrams are in code, but I do not wish the hon. Member to be under any misapprehension. There is a very heavy betting traffic which is not in code.
§ Viscount WOLMER
No; what was infinitesimal was the number of messenger boys who knew that they were carrying betting telegrams—not the operators who work the telegraph instruments. Of course, the operators are outside the scope of the Bill altogether, being over the age of 18. I do not propose to enter into the legal argument on the word "procure." I have no doubt that there is a good deal in what the hon. Member says, but we are advised that in certain cases it might be possible to prove that individuals were procuring messenger boys within the meaning of the term, and, on the general ground that the object of the Bill was not to interfere in the ordinary everyday work of the Post Office, my right hon. Friend asked that an Amendment should he put down which would take the Post Office out of it altogether. The hon. Member for Stratford waxed very eloquent on the anomaly of the Post Office carrying betting transactions and not allowing other people to do so. He has been aware of the fact, as I suppose every other Member of the House has, throughout the whole of his life. Ever since the telegraph was invented, it has been used for betting purposes. If Parliament ever decided that that traffic ought to cease altogether, then, of course, the Post Office would have to carry out the decision. We should lied it an extremely difficult thing to do. At the present moment, the Post Office tries to prevent the passage through the post of indecent matter. We find very great difficulty in enforcing that, but it would be infinitely more difficult to prevent the transit of betting messages, for the simple reason that you could send a betting message by code and in regard to the other matter to which I refer yon could not. If hon. Members think of this position, they will 1989 see that the difficulties with which the Post Office is faced in this connection are really very great indeed.
We have this vast amount of business to handle. There is no sort of censorship in the Post Office. We have to treat every message that we receive on a strict basis of equality and deliver it to its destination as soon as we possibly can, and the postal servants who are carrying out those duties must be given a fair chance in the matter. I therefore hope that hon. Members opposite will not think that the Post Office is asking for privileges or unfair treatment. We have a very difficult task in regard to this question, and hon. Members like the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) who desire and hope by legislation to put an end to the betting evil altogether will really have to address their minds as to the way in which the difficulties which exist can he overcome. These difficulties are not what may be described as departmental difficulties, and anyone who wants to deal with this matter by legislation on broad lines so that it will apply not only to the Post Office, but to everybody, not only in Scotland, but in England, I can assure him, will have very great difficulties to overcome. I hope very much that hon. Members will study the question from that point of view.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
May I suggest to the Noble Lord that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is well qualified to advise him whenever he is ready for any advice.
§ Sir HENRY CAUTLEY
I welcome this Bill, and I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Sir W. Alexander) upon having succeeded in carrying it through the House. My only regret is that its provisions are not made to extend to this country, and that it should be limited to Scotland. Of all the pernicious forms of betting, I suppose that street betting is the worst. It has only one redeeming quality, and that is that for the main part it is cash betting, and the evil of credit betting does not come in. Anybody who has troubled to read the evidence before the Betting Commission of which I was Chairman will remember that nearly all the streets in our big towns are perambulated by betting men openly defying the law by carrying on betting in the streets. When I hear hon. Members opposite talking, 1990 as they continually do here, of the evils of betting and desiring prohibition without lifting a little finger to obtain the prohibition of betting it makes me rather disappointed with this House of Commons. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) has uttered fine sentiments on the evils of betting, but looking back on the whole of his Parliamentary career I cannot recall that he has done anything to prevent this evil of betting or to curtail it in any way or shape.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
What is the use of coming here and having these sentiments when the hon. Member does nothing. The remedy that I suggested, which was to recognise the evil of betting and to curtail it, was opposed by his party before the Committee on which I presided.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
May I correct the hon. and learned Member. I do not belong to the Labour party. My position on this question is on a different basis from that of that party.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
I am sorry. That was rather a misrepresentation on my part. But the party with whom the hon. Members acts have opposed the remedy that I suggested, which was to deal with the evils of betting rather on the lines on which we deal with the evils of drink, namely, to recognise betting but to limit its operations, limit the facilities for it, control it, and tax it. That was my remedy. That was opposed constantly and is opposed now by Members of the party with whom the hon. Member acted and still acts. He knows perfectly well, because he has studied this question, and the evidence from all parts of England—Scotland and Wales confirm it—that to prohibit betting is, among the Anglo-Saxon race an impossibility.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
He knows, if he has read this evidence, and if he reads the newspapers, that, in spite of the continual prosecutions to try and prevent street betting before our magisterial courts, street betting continues now in as large a volume as ever it did. What is the remedy? When we have a law to stop one portion of betting and we can- 1991 not enforce it, what is the good of getting up here and saying: "Oh, you ought to take steps to prohibit betting altogether." Hon. Members should bring themselves down to the existing state of affairs. I welcome this Bill as a. small Measure that will tend to make it more difficult to carry on street betting. Street betting is pernicious for this reason, not because men bet—I do not object to poeple betting—
§ Mr. W. THORNE
On a point of Order. I would like to ask whether the hon. and learned Member is entitled to discuss the general question of betting from all its aspects on the Third Reading of this Bill?
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
No, that is just what, it is not. It provides that juveniles shall not carry betting slips to street bookmakers. It. is the street bookmaking evil with which I was dealing; that bookmaking is a great evil. At the beginning of my speech, I said that street betting had only one redeeming quality in that it was for cash and did not include credit betting. I was pointing out the great evil of street betting, because we had bookmakers perambulating our streets with touts and runners inducing all kinds of people to bet, and I was going on to point out that this Measure does one good thing. It does stop the employment of young people under 16 from carrying betting slips to these bookmakers to facilitate this pernicious form of offence. Hon. Members opposite must agree that that is a very good object. It will have the effect of making it more and more difficult for the street bookmaker to carry on his business. Otherwise, I do not think that it is going to put many penalties on to the street bookmaker, because, as I understand it, the street bookmaker, although he is liable, if he receives the slips from young persons, to a penalty under this Act, will have to have the same evidence brought 1992 against him as is required for the purpose of obtaining a conviction against him for carrying on a business in the street under the Street Betting Act. There is an additional offence that the slips might be taken to the home of the bookmaker or given to him somewhere else than in the street and in circumstances which were not those of betting in the street. The object of this Bill, in that it puts an obstacle in the way of one class of betting, is wholly desirable. With respect to the Post Office, had it not been for the Amendment which has been moved by the Assistant Postmaster-General, it seems to me that the whole business of the Post Office might have been held up. One hon. Member referred to the meaning of the word "procures," and I think he was right, but the Bill says not merely "procures" but "causes or procures," and "causes" is something different from "procures" The Bill says:Any person who causes or procures…any young person to convey or deliver any slip, note or message, verbal or written, which relater to any bet or wager.is to be liable to a penalty. That would apply to any bet whether a bet made in the street illegally, or a bet made legally, a bet made in an office by letter, which is perfectly legal. Any person would be liable for carrying a letter or a note relating to any bet, whether legal or illegal. That would have put the Post Office in a position which would have made it impossible for them to carry on their business. I think the Bill is wholly desirable and wholly advantageous and I am glad that it has reached its Third reading.
§ Mr. BARR
In supporting the Third Reading of the Bill, I wish heartily to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Sir W. Alexander) on the fact that his Bill is about to receive its Third Reading. One hon. Member opposite twitted us that this was a very little Bill. He asked why we troubled about matters so small and why we did not go to the root of the matter. When one brings in a small Bill there are those who object to it and say that if it had been something bigger they would have given it their wholehearted support, whereas when one brings in a large Bill that does go to the root of the matter, they say that it 1993 is all very fine and they admire it but that it is altogether impracticable and impossible. There is no inconsistency in our advocating wherever we can a small Measure and accepting a small Measure, or advocating wherever possible a large Measure. I associate myself with the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) in this respect. It was said by the hon. Member opposite, "You have never lifted a little finger to get at the roots and to destroy the betting evil." I can say for my hon. Friend and for many others on this side that we constantly oppose the whole evil of betting and are willing to take part in any legislation that will bring it to an end; but we are content also to take a small Measure like this and to accept the utmost that we can possibly get.
The hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) said that whatever the hon. Member for Dundee might do, we had not shown an earnestness in resisting this evil. I would point out that in connection with the Bill to put an end to the betting evil in connection with dog racing, there was not a single Member of this party who did not go into the lobby in favour of it, and I might say the same about the Totalisator Bill, of which the hon. Member for East Grinstead is a defender.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
Is the hon. Member correct? Was there a Division on the Dogs Bill? My recollection is that there was no Division on that Bill.
§ Mr. BARR
It may be that I have confused the two Bills, and that I mean the Totalisator Bill. For my own information I went through the Division list. I believe I am in error and that it was the Totalisator Bill to which I should have referred. The hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead wishes to tax betting and to control it. I will not say more on that point, except that he has not helped us in regard to the betting trouble by the proposal to tax betting. In regard to the Post Office, the hon. and learned Member put before us a spectacle of the Post Office being held up and unable to get through their business. I should not object to the Post Office being held up in 1994 this matter, or to any difficulty being created if it would lead to progressive legislation on the subject. The Assistant Postmaster-General is not in the House, but I should like to put to him this point, that there are not a few countries, some parts of Australia and other countries, where they prohibit the Post Office from handling betting letters, circulars or telegrams. In some eases they condescend to the individual names of those who are well known to be prominent bookmakers. If other countries can make an attempt to destroy the evil of betting or to restrict it, why cannot our Post Office do the same?
The Noble Lord the Assistant Postmaster-General said that a great many betting telegrams were in code. That showed that he knew they were betting telegrams; that he knew the betting code and that consequently it would be easy comparatively to distinguish. I do not think that we have been acting amiss in raising this question on the lines of resistance to the Government Amendment. I agree with what was said by an hon. Member opposite that you cannot settle this question by a side issue and that it will he necessary to come forward and take a more comprehensive view of legislation on the subject. Nevertheless, our proposal would have been a beginning, and I do not regret that some of us today made a stand on it. I am confident that in Scotland there will be great satisfaction that this Measure has received a Third Reading. I saw the Secretary of the Scottish National Anti-Gambling Association the other day and he seemed to be more concerned about this little Measure than about the larger Measures dealing with betting that are before the House or Committee. I believe it will be a matter of great satisfaction in Scotland not only that this Measure has passed the House of Commons, but that to-day we have raised the question of the connection of the Post Office with this evil; a connection which cannot rest where it is, but which must be met by further and more comprehensive legislation.
§ Mr. MARCH
I am very pleased that the Bill has got so far and am only sorry that it is not to apply to England. It is brought forward in order to discourage parents sending their children with betting slips to the street bookmaker, Those 1995 parents will be able to say that the Government are protecting children when they are using them for their own purposes but if they happen to be in the Post Office as telegraph messengers it will be quite legal for them to carry these betting slips. They will be able to say that they are not to be allowed to use their own boys to take messages for them. It will set people thinking as to the way the Government are acting in this matter of betting. The Government want to legalise their own misdeeds: they are satisfied that betting is right if done in the proper way. The hon. Member who is promoting the Bill admitted quite openly that he bets occasionally. He can send his bets through the Post Office. If working men and working women could send their betting messages through the Post Office it would be quite legal, but many of these people are unable to write a note properly, much less address an envelope to a bookmaker. It is quite possible that the bookmaker will find ways and means of getting behind these regulations if he wants to. If the Government wants to be fair they should prohibit betting for everybody and not legalise it for those who have the facilities for transacting betting operations. A great number of children are engaged as messengers in other offices besides the Post Office, and it seems to me that they run the risk of being convicted for doing exactly what Post Office boy messengers are allowed to do. It is one-sided legislation, and I do not agree with it. We should treat other people as we would like to be treated ourselves.
§ Sir PATRICK FORD
I should just like to reply to one point raised by the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. March). It is quite obvious that the object of the Bill is to keep children of a tender age from coming into contact with betting, which is dangerous to those who have not reached the years of discretion. The fact that any messenger boy may carry a telegram does not subject him to any danger because I have never yet been aware that he knows the contents of the message he carries. That puts the matter in a nutshell.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.