§ "As from the thirty-first day of October, nineteen hundred and twenty-eight, Part II of the finance Act, 1926 (which imposes a duty on betting and on certificates required in respect of bookmakers' business and premises) shall cease to have effect."—[Mr. J. Brown.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. JAMES BROWN
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This new Clause labours under none of the disadvantages of many of the questions that have been discussed tonight. It goes straight to the mark, and its object is to abolish the Betting Duty altogether. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to welcome this new Clause, because it gives him an opportunity of getting rid of what, from the very beginning, many hon. Members in this House and a great many of the inhabitants of the country saw to be a proposal which could not prosper, had no right to prosper, and, as a matter of fact, has not prospered in the country. From the moment that this duty came into force, those who were chiefly interested, the bookmakers and commission agents, began to evade the tax, and I can assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who knows it already, and does not need an assurance on this point, that however clever he may be in imposing taxation, they are much more clever than he is in evading it. Therefore, I think that the Government ought to welcome this new Clause, and get rid of this thing altogether. Say what you will about it, betting is a business that very few in the community care to meddle with as a profession. It is true that 645 many hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen may have their little flutter when they go to the Derby or Ascot, or any other course which they may honour with their presence, but address it how you will, the business of betting as a means of livelihood is not one of which the community can be proud. The one thing that was expected from this duty has not materialised. It was expected to give so much revenue, and it has given so very much less than was expected. Not even the modest sum that the Chancellor expected to get from it has come from the duty.
I will tell the Committee what has come from the duty—a vast amount of anxiety, a considerable amount of distrust and disquiet, not to say disgust, even from the supporters of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's own party. I cannot believe that the people of the British Empire or of these islands can view with equanimity any such Duty as this. The Debate which took place in this House not long ago on a religious matter ought to prove to the right hon. Gentleman that the heart of the people in these islands is sound where morals are concerned, and I have never heard yet anyone who dared get up and say-that this was a business in which he would like to see his son engaged. None of us would care to see that, and I would advise the Chancellor that, seeing that he has not even got the wages of sin, it would be better to abolish it now when he has the opportunity, because he is bound to have many representations made to him by many of his own supporters that this is a duty in which we ought not to engage, and that we ought to get rid of it at the earliest moment. It cannot help the revenue or the morals of the country, or the industrial conditions of the country. It is bound to hurt every one of them. It is calculated to do so. Therefore, I do trust that on what ever side of the House Members may sit, they will be at one in this, that the Betting Duty is a bad duty, that it should never have been taken into consideration even to raise the few millions which the Chancellor expected of it, and that the supporters of the Government ought to advise their Chancellor to get rid of it now.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am afraid that I am not in a position to accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for South 646 Ayrshire (Mr. J. Brown). It is quite true that the Betting Duty, which has been in operation for something like two years, has not yielded the full financial results to the revenue which were expected of it. It is also quite true that a great deal of evasion is undoubtedly in progress, and I think that I must admit that a good deal of discontent and unpopularity towards the Government has been excited among the bookmaking confraternity. These are the evils. On the other hand the Measure was most carefully considered by Parliament; it was supported by an overwhelming amount of public opinion in the country; and even among those who on religious grounds used the moral argument that you should not touch the unclean thing, there was a considerable under-current of opinion in favour of making the person who felt that he could indulge in betting as a practice pay something for the luxury of the excitement that he enjoyed, or hoped to enjoy. Nevertheless the revenue has been substantial. Nearly £3,000,000 a year is being gathered in. Half the yield of the duties on tea, including the chicory group, half the amount that would be required to revert to penny postage or almost the revenue derived from matches—this is the gain from a Duty which, although it causes some political disadvantage to the Government of the day, although undoubtedly it is not working as satisfactorily as we had expected, nevertheless, in no way burdens the productive energies of the nation, and in no way affects its sources of moral or material strength.
I believe that if I were to accept the new Clause, there would be a very considerable outcry, a movement of disappointment, and indeed of resentment, from a very large class of sober and solid persons throughout the country, who feel that betting ought to be made to contribute to the revenue, and now that the duty has yielded such substantial sums, ought Parliament of set purpose to repeal it merely because of the difficulties which beset the duty in the early years?
There is another reason why I am not prepared to withdraw the duty or to modify it in the present year. I do not know yet what is going to be the fate of the Racecourse Betting Bill which is now before Parliament. I have no doubt whatever that, if that Measure 647 becomes law, and when that Measure becomes law—and I am sure that such an institution will in any case be adopted in the course of the next few years—a very considerable reform in British racing will have been effected, and a process will have been set on foot which is bound in the course of years to reduce and eliminate that undesirable personnel which we have incubated in this country to an extent which no other country can show, which is a disgrace in many ways to our islands, and tends to vitiate the noble and national sport of horse racing, to emphasise its undesirable features, and to check the legitimate development which we might naturally expect. I do not know what will be the result of that Measure. It is now about to pass from its chequered career in the Standing Committee, and we shall soon have it upon the Floor of the House, and I must certainly see what is the position of that Measure before I could enter into a discussion of any other proposals for mitigating the Betting Duty or shifting its incidence from the turnover basis to the licence duties which are pressed upon me. Once we know that the Totalisator Bill is going to become law, the question of giving further shape to the present Betting Duty will come into the field of practical politics.
In the meanwhile it is clear to me that the immediate duty of the Customs and Excise is to pursue their efforts at detecting and punishing evasion of the duty. Evasion is going forward on a very great scale. As I have said, bookmakers who are paying their taxes are continually informing me of the evasion which is practised, but when I press for examples and for information which will enable investigations and prosecutions to take place, there is a very singular and rather sinister shrinking from furnishing accurate and detailed facts. Statements are made to Members of the House of Commons of the enormous scale and the open and flagrant manner in which evasion is being practised, but at the same time when one asks for evidence which will enable the law to be set in motion, one is met with what is virtually a complete blank and silent negation. I am told, and I believe there is a good deal of truth in it, that persons whose business is being injured because, while they are paying the tax, others are taking 648 their custom from them through evading the tax, and who have every incentive that business interests can give to induce them to come forward and aid the law—as other traders do when taxes are being evaded by their competitors and rivals—are deterred by physical fear, not merely by fear of trade retaliation or the opprobrium of their colleagues, from giving the information which would enable these practices to be suppressed. That, again, points to the great importance of our setting our racing system on a basis which gradually, over a period of years, will tend to put a stop to this incubation of a crowd of exceedingly undesirable citizens who are growing up at the tail of this great national sport. Therefore, so far from receding from the betting duty or advising the Committee to lend support to the new Clause which is being proposed, I urge that we should give further consideration to making this duty effective by the prevention of evasion, and that we should review the matter when, as I trust, the Totalisator Bill has become the law of the land. If that should occur I hope that I may be able to deal with the position next year, and to make proposals which will place this tax upon a basis more satisfactory to those who are chiefly concerned. But whether it is possible to devise such proposals or not, whether the inconveniences of the present system can be mitigated in any way or not, and whether the evasion which is taking place can be restricted and prevented or not, I am still of opinion that it is an exceedingly sound, practical and useful step for the Government of this country to add £3,000,000 to its revenue by taxing the luxury of betting.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
The Committee has just listened to a very remarkable speech, and one which goes a long way to justify those of us who said weeks ago that the reason for the introduction of the Race-course Betting Bill was the utter failure of the Betting Duty. I wish to draw the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the sentence in his speech in which he said it was the duty of the Customs and Excise authorities to go on with the detection and punishment of evaders of taxation. I am not going to enter into a discussion of the morality of the Betting Duty. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has just told us in so 649 many words that when the Racecourse Betting Bill was introduced the intention was that in course of time it should supplant the Betting Duty, or in other words that when the Racecourse Betting Bill was debated on the Floor of this House it was in the mind of the Government that they should be associated with the organisation of betting and the collection of money from betting. If that fact had been more widely known during the Second Reading Debate on the Racecourse Betting Bill it would never have had a ghost of a chance of passing.
We like the Chancellor of the Exchequer because of the vast entertainment he gives us, and because of the scrupulous care which he always takes when addressing the House to give us his very best. Those of us who appreciate the right hon. Gentleman for these reasons will appreciate that his humble, contrite, penitent attitude, uttering excuse after excuse for the Betting Duty was iself the most complete condemnation of his own tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer knows perfectly well that every forecast he has made about the Betting Duty has been falsified, and every figure which he has given has proved to be incorrect. If hon. Members who support the Government encounter unpopularity in their constituencies owing to the Betting Duty, they will have only to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, beside being very brilliant, is also very obstinate. Those hon. Members who have read the books which were written by the right hon. Gentleman about the War will remember that he was never wrong, but the most remarkable thing was that nobody else was ever right, and that has been exactly the case with the Betting Duty. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was told at the very beginning that a tax on turnover was bound to be futile and was bound to fail. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted to-night that wholesale evasion of the tax in all sorts of ways has taken place, and he says that the yield of the duty is nearly £3,000,000. Hon. Members know that the value of a tax is not only in the amount yielded but in the amount that was expected.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
I am not going to deny that the land taxes proved less efficient than they might have, but even if we admit to the full the implication of that interruption, namely, that the land taxes were ineffective for their purpose, is that any reason why we should go on with another ineffective tax?
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
I am always ready to admit error. What I am longing for is to see the right hon. Gentleman admitting his error; that is what we are all waiting for. The right hon. Gentleman was told exactly what would happen in connection with this tax. It is known that evasion has been practised, and we know most of the methods by which it has been practised; but the right hon. Gentleman himself has gone a step further, because, through his own Department, he has introduced a very novel feature into the taxation of this country. As long ago as December of last year I asked the right hon. Gentleman this question:If he is aware that ready money betting is now taking place on licensed bookmakers' premises in respect of which an entry certificate has been issued; and will he explain why duty is collected on this form of illegal betting and not upon betting through a wholly illegal business such as street betting…?The right hon. Gentleman was not present on that occasion, but his able assistant, as he has on other occasions, deputises for him and gave me the answer provided by his Department. Then I asked a supplementary question, and I would particularly ask the right hon. Gentleman to pay attention to that supplementary question. I said:May I ask if the authorities are endeavouring to collect the duty upon all betting, whether it takes place in a legal or an illegal form?The answer I received was as follows:Yes, that is so. All illegal betting, if discovered, is punished, and the Revenue tax imposed. The Finance Act provides that all betting, legal and illegal, shall he taxed, and the authorities try to enforce the law."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1927; col. 2309, Vol. 211.]The Finance Act, 1926, provides as follows:On every bet made with a bookmaker a duty….651 shall be imposed. I had that in mind when I asked that question; but the right hon. Gentleman himself, three months before that question was put, had already, through his own Department, made what I venture to say was a very novel departure in the treatment of people in this country who are taxed. He gave definite instructions that some people on whom this tax is sought to be imposed should have it collected from them, while others were to be allowed to go scot free. It seems to me to be a very remarkable thing that any Chancellor of the Exchequer, after imposing a tax in the face of great criticism, and finding that the tax was breaking down and that there was evasion, should have deliberately said to his officials that they were to give up the attempt to collect the tax from a certain set of people and concentrate upon collecting it from another set of people. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman or the Financial Secretary has any defence of that position, but I do think it is most important that a Committee of this House should ask for an explanation why, when consent has been given to the imposition of a tax, the fiscal authorities of the country should go back on the decision of this Committee and deliberately give instructions that no attempt is to be made to collect the tax from certain persons, while the whole of the tax is to be collected from another set of persons. If that is what the Betting Duty has reduced the Chancellor of the Exchequer to, then I think there is every reason for our supporting this proposed new Clause and voting for the abolition of the Duty.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
I agree with the last speaker in admiring the way in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer defended his tax. With long knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman, I have never heard him put forward a more reasonable argument in its defence. What I think is wrong with the tax is that it is incapable of collection. I am not here to defend the bookmaker or to say he should not be taxed. I do not have very many dealings with bookmakers, so I can speak with a certain amount of detachment. I understand that, while there is very little evasion of course betting, there is a great deal 652 of evasion of credit betting. I have heard on reliable authority that estimates of credit betting are from £200,000,000 a year up to £800,000,000 turnover. Tax is only collected on £90,000,000 a year. Another thing we have heard is that if the amount of taxation were divided equally up among bookmakers according to their returns, it would give to each a gross income of something like £115 a year on which to attend all the race meetings, live and keep their homes going, which is perfectly absurd. It is a wrong thing to have a tax which can be so easily evaded. It was introduced, and I supported it, as a tax on turnover. It was likened to the Entertainments Duty and the tax on patent medicines, but the whole thing is entirely different because it is a tax on debits as well as credits. A man who invests in a patent medicine business or a theatre expects to get value for his investments and he knows exactly where he is. He expects to get a profit on every seat he sells in his theatre. In this case, a bookmaker may lose £5,000, and he pays duty in addition. It does not seem to me to be exactly fair. I am not here to stand up for the bookmaker as such, but I think it is wrong, from the point of view of the country as a whole, to introduce a tax which is a premium on dishonesty.
I admired the right hon. Gentleman's defence of the tax. I listened to his pious hope, and agreed with it, that in the future there will be the totalisator, which will be made legal. It is only in that way that the general public can be defended against the depredations of bookmakers who give unfair odds. Also it would be advantageous to the Exchequer. I do feel most strongly that it is a serious thing to allow people to evade the duty on betting in the way they do. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said there were frequent prosecutions. I know that there are prosecutions. I have forgotten the number of prosecutions my right hon. Friend mentioned, but there were a considerable number every month. I should like to ask on how many occasions have licences been permanently suspended owing to the evasion which has taken place? I have never seen in the paper the announcement of any case in which the licence of the bookmaker has been permanently 653 suspended owing to evasion of this duty. I should have thought that when you are putting on a penalty of this kind, and when the opportunities for the evasion of the duty are so evident, the mere fact of fining a man up to, I believe, £1,600 is quite insufficient when you take into consideration the profits which can be secured owing to the evasion of the duty. I welcome the Chancellor's statement that he intends to review the position, but I think it is a blot on our method of taxation at the present moment. I cannot support this new Clause, because I feel sincerely that this tax ought not to be imposed in its present form, and that the whole method ought to be reorganised and the people taxed in a fair and an equitable manner at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I want to say one or two words in support of the Clause which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. J. Brown). I make no point about the evasion of this duty. Other Members have done so. I make no point about the small sum which has been raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the course of the last two years, but I would draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the arguments used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night in defence of the present position, the argument that the sum he has got is equivalent to the Match Duty—
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
—almost equivalent to the Match Duty, and about half the sum that would be required to restore the penny post, are arguments which could equally be applied to a tax upon brothels. They are arguments which could be applied to the taxation of any other unclean or immoral business in this country. It is quite true that for many years the State has cast its mantle of protection and encouragement over this business. It is quite true that the Postmaster-General provides facilities for betting telegrams, runs up special post offices to facilitate the business, but for the first time in the last two years the Chancellor of the Exchequer, apart from the Postmaster-General's Department, has deliberately—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The profits of bookmakers were subject to Income Tax before this duty was introduced.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Certainly, but two years ago, for the first time, the Chancellor of the Exchequer set out deliberately and openly, by means of a special duty upon this business, to show that the business had in it definite State recognition. Despite the fact that a very considerable proportion of the time of our magistrates and our police is taken up in prosecuting poor bookmakers, street runners and victims of one kind and another, at the same time every other newspaper placard flaunts the fact that millionaires are making profits out of the business. Besides the fact that the Postmaster-General provides facilities, the Chancellor of the Exchequer throws his mantle over the business; a business which brings ruin, degradation and misery to millions of our poor people. I agree that on moral grounds alone the State should take every possible step it can to extirpate this business of something for nothing, this business of robbery, cheatery, Sabini gangs, racecourse gangs and one thing or another. I am very sorry that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not acceded to the plea made by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. J. Brown) and definitely decided to withdraw this duty.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I venture to say a word or two on behalf of the rank and file of the party to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer belongs. I do not mean merely the rank and file in this House but the rank and file outside this House. I get into as close a touch with the working men of this country as, possibly, any other hon. Member of this House. I have been up and down the country speaking on behalf of my party at by-elections, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that, contrary to his contention that there has been no great outcry in the country against this duty, so far as the working men are concerned there has been a great outcry against it, and I will give the reasons why. The British working man is, first and foremost, a sport. I say that in all sincerity. I believe he is a sport to the bottom of his heart, and he regards this duty as a very unsporting method of raising revenue, because it is a tax on turnover, 655 which is not an equitable form of taxation, and because it is making a differentiation between the working man and his little bets and the people who can afford to bet through the credit bookmaker. That is one of the great reasons why this duty is so unpopular amongst the working people. For instance, we have case after case where the working man puts his shilling on a horse and he goes to a street bookmaker or to one who is carrying on ready money business in a small shop. A raid is made on that particular shop or in the street, and the bookmaker is hauled up to the Court and also the person who is making the bet. The working men resent this very much. Can there be any wonder?
I have noticed in recent reports of cases that many magistrates are refusing to convict. To my mind, they are doing the right thing. I have been consistent in this matter. When I have had to sit as a magistrate on a betting case I have refused to adjudicate because I think it is wrong for me to fine a man for doing something which I myself may do with impunity by simply using the telephone. In regard to this ready money betting, you have this fact, that the revenue authorities are collecting this duty and are receiving, after the man has been prosecuted and fined, evidence as to how much he has been turning over and claiming their tax upon it. Can you have anything more unjust or inequitable than a system by which the State says that a man is doing wrong, for which he is fined, and then, on the other hand, taking their tax from him for doing it. That is one reason why the duty is unpopular amongst the working men of this country.
Again, the duty is easily evaded, and that has engendered in the minds of those who are honestly paying their taxes a feeling of injustice. It does not matter how many revenue officers are employed they will not be able to deal effectively with this evasion, even with the assistance of the whole police force of the country. Again, the yield of the duty has been most disappointing. When he first brought in this duty the Chancellor talked airily about £6,000,000. Then it came down to £5,000,000, to £4,000,000; and the yield last year was in the neighbourhood of £2,669,000. In view of these figures, I cannot see how the Chancellor 656 of the Exchequer can really feel any satisfaction as to the yield of the duty. I welcome the statement he has made that he will carefully consider, next year, I understand, a somewhat different method of receiving the revenue from this particular duty. Reputable bookmakers feel that they ought to contribute their fair share towards the upkeep of the Government and the social services of the country. They are quite prepared to do that, but they suggest that the duty should be levied upon them in a way which will remove the various injustices to which I have referred. The Chancellor in his speech said:I have given a great deal of thought to the subject "—that is, the Betting Duty—and to the representations that have been made to me, and I am convinced that the new system would not yield the money which the Exchequer requires and intends to obtain. Moreover, the bookmakers are not agreed among themselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April, 1928; col. 838, Vol. 216.]The suggestion made by certain of the representatives of the bookmakers was that there should be a duty on the bookmaker in the form a heavy Licence Duty rather than a tax on turnover, and it was worked out in such a way that it would bring in to the Exchequer a sum of money very little below that which has been brought in during the last financial year. I ask the Chancellor whether it is possible to evolve a duty which would be acceptable to everybody. He gave the answer yesterday during the course of the Debate to the effect that it was not possible to evolve a tax which would be acceptable to everybody who had to pay it. He quoted some Latin in support of his statement. He said:I do not think it is possible to evolve a scheme which will suit all the bookmakers, but if you can find a scheme which you believe is indeed a sound and fair scheme then you have something you can work' upon.Later he said that he wanted to see the result of the working of the Totalisator Bill before he dealt with the matter in any other form. May I suggest that there are certain anomalies in connection with this tax which could be dealt with almost at once? It would not mean any great loss to the Exchequer and would remove some injustices. For instance, take the case of a bookmaker having to pay tax on his turnover whether he him- 657 self—I am speaking now of the credit bookmaker—receives the money or not. Quite recently, as the Chancellor may know, there was a case tried in the Westminister County Court in which a firm of bookmakers sued one of their clients, who had defaulted, or rather had owed them a large sum of money, for £80 15s., which they had had themselves to pay as Excise Duty on the bets which they made with this gentleman, and which he had failed to pay when he found that he had lost. That sum represented the Betting Duty on stakes amounting to £3,131. They were not able to make their claim good and they received nothing. Thus it leaves the bookmaker between two stools. One of them points this out in a letter in which he says that, on the one hand, he must, to comply with the law, enter up every bet made, as otherwise his certificate, for which he has had to pay, is liable to forfeiture, or he may be heavily fined, or even sent to prison. Once a client is accepted, every bet must be registered, and, if a client defaults, the bookmaker is left to pay, and he gets no rebate from the Customs and Excise. I submit that that is a very unfair thing.
Take the ordinary trader. He is allowed to send his accounts to the authorities each year on which his Income Tax is computed, and legitimate bad debts are allowed as a set-off as against his profits. Would it not be a right and proper thing to allow these bad debts to be reckoned as a set-off against the amount of money which these men have to pay in tax? It might be said that it would be a very difficult way in which to deal with the matter. I submit that it would not. Just in the same way as you deal with tradesmen's bad debts, so you might deal with these bad debts, considering the fact that you have access to the bookmakers' books and know exactly the business which he has done. It would not be a difficult matter for any of the Chancellor's officials to bring out a scheme to deal with it. I do suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should consider the question of a heavier Licensing Duty in place of this tax on turnover. I agree that the country must have revenue, and that is where the difficulty comes in. If this new Clause passes, it means a loss of revenue without anything being proposed to put in its 658 place. If a tax in the shape of a heavy Licence Duty on the bookmaker could be put into force it would bring almost as much revenue into the Exchequer.
I think the Chancellor would be very wise to accept such a scheme as it would help him out of many difficulties. In spite of what we have heard from him this evening, I think he must really feel at the bottom of his heart that this is by no means a popular feature of the Government's programme. I say it quite honestly and squarely that I find it a most difficult thing to defend when defending the actions of the Government, because it is not an equitable tax and that is where the difficulty comes in. I am hoping to have a further assurance from the right hon. Gentleman before this vote is taken that he will seriously consider the question of bringing in a different system. Many of those who are his strong supporters are very much concerned about this, and I venture to say, if a free vote could be taken on this question, it would be in favour of the absolute abolition of this tax. I do not want to be annoying in any way to the people with whom I am proud to associate and work, but I do feel strongly because I know what the country feels about it.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
On the occasion of this tax being discussed, I must express my satisfaction that another representative of the City of Dundee (Mr. Johnston) has joined in the support of this new Clause. The last speaker has informed us that the country needs money. Is the Government to be driven to the limit of recognising a business in which, as has been said, the tax is evaded, and a business which is a direct incentive to wrong-doing, which inculcates immoral action, which cheats wives and families of earnings that have been hardly gained? The pursuit of such a course by the Government is evidence of a most deplorable situation. It has been said that the tax would have no appreciable effect on either the moral or material interests of the country. It that is so, the Chancellor's conception of the moral interests of the country have undergone considerable deterioration, for in the recognition of this evil of betting we are giving an incentive to a deplorable condition of affairs which leads to criminality.
659 11.0 p.m.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has declared that he did not for one moment make any attempt to minimise the evil of betting, for it was a great evil, and he said it was getting worse. We are bound to recognise the truth of the situation even in this House. To-night we have heard the results of the business that has been conducted. The Chancellor is looking forward to the establishment of the totalisator, a machine-made system for dealing with ill-gotten gains. My colleague in the representation of Dundee said it would be equally appropriate to tax brothels. I remember one hon. Member opposite recognising that fact. The Chancellor was in the position of having to admit that the trouble was deepening and the best he could do, as a Member of the Government, was to say: "Here is a great national evil and the Conservative party, with all its prestige as the defender of the country's institutions, cannot meet it. We are down in the gutter." The Chancellor was in the deplorable plight of not being capable of standing up to the moral issue; he had to drift along with the party which he represented. It is a large party, but, on the right hon. Gentleman's own admission, it is a helpless party. It cannot deal with the anomalies, never mind the enormities, of this situation. We are having this matter dealt with in a manner which is grossly unjust, treating people in the poorer classes of society most unjustly in comparison with those in high positions.
The deplorable fact is that the course which is being taken concerning betting on dogs has failed miserably in regard to betting on horses. That is because you have what is called the cream of Society supporting this sort of business on the racecourse where all sorts of troubles are liable to take place, affecting the prospects of our young men. Yet we find the so-called representatives of Society patronising all this wretched pollution. We are getting Judges of the land distributing honours that no man with self-respect would like to receive. What is happening now? An hon. Member who sits on the opposite side has in anticipation the introduction of a Bill to tax lotteries and to deal with matters of that kind. Having got 660 encouragement from the Government, it is a case of saying: "Let us go deeper into the trouble; let us go the whole hog," and possibly the next thing will be that this helpless Government will say, "Prostitution is a great evil, but we cannot stop it; it must go on, and the best plan we can adopt is to introduce the licensing system and get some more revenue for the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer out of the degradation of human lives." You have a very sorry party, supposing you have a Government with all the majority which is at your back now, and you go into the Lobbies in support of a tax which is being derived from gross immorality. It is a proof that our country is losing its moral fibre, its religious stamina and its spiritual fervour. We are surely going down, as other nations have gone down, because we have lost the narrow path of righteousness and principle. The Government, instead of safeguarding the law, tries to make the path easier for—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I was listening very carefully to the hon. Member. He referred to certain other matters as illustrations.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I am trying my utmost to keep to the question before the Committee. You have imposed a Betting Duty, and it is my duty to oppose it, and I should be failing in my duty if I did not do so on every occasion when such an opportunity was given. I thank the hon. Members of the Labour party for having again challenged it, and on every occasion every right thinking man and woman ought to be up and doing so in this House, and especially every lady Member of the House. Some of those who are associated with horse racing and such like business are not here, but this is where there ought to be a stand made by the womenkind in this House. The issue is one that is really a summons, a call, to every truly patriotic citizen. Although it may seem futile at present, I maintain that it is the duty of every man and woman of us to stand rigidly in opposition to every step of this kind and not only to declare against any Govern- 661 ment that fails in producing laws for the uplifting of mankind, but especially to condemn a Conservative Government that has abandoned all principle end stands by the forces of evil as prevalent in this country under licence. It is our bounden duty, individually and collectively, to stand up—[Interruption.] There is an hon. Member on the cross bench whom I have never heard address this House, and who never does anything but sit and laugh at others. I make that reference to him because I Have seen it done night after night for years back, and it is a pitiable spectacle. If the hon. Member is not able to stand up and face the ordeal of his colleagues in addressing the Committee, he should try to behave himself while others do so. I feel very deeply about this whole business, and I feel that the Labour movement will be doing its duty by every man, woman, and child that is involved in the imbroglio of betting and gambling to stand resolutely against it and lead the working class people to a higher standard of life than the so-called representatives of society have done.
§ Sir FRANK MEYER
I do not think that anybody will for a moment question the sincerity of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour), who has just sat down, but I must say that it is the first time in my knowledge of this House that it has been imputed as a crime to any hon. Member that he smiled during attendance at these Debates. I noticed that during the hon. Member's speech, he elicited a great deal of applause from the hon. Members sitting on the benches around and behind him.
§ Sir F. MEYER
I should believe more thoroughly in the sincerity of those hon. Members if they would follow up their applause by putting in the forefront of their election programme that, if they came into power, in the first place all betting should be made illegal, and in the second place all horse-racing, which we know could not exist without betting, should be suppressed. When they do that, I shall believe in their real sincerity. I have troubled the House on one or two occasions on this subject before, and I do not intend to discuss the pros and cons of the Betting Duty to-night. Last year, the Chancellor, when he replied to the 662 Debate, accused me of bringing forward in slightly different terms the same arguments which I brought forward on a previous occasion. That was probably true, but at any rate that is not an accusation which I can bring against the Chancellor to-night, because if his speech is compared with what he said last year, and still more strongly, if it is compared with what he said when he introduced the Duty, some grave inconsistencies will be found. It will be remembered that when he introduced this Duty he brushed on one side any suggestions that we made that it would be possible to evade the Duty on any large scale. He said that every clerk in every bookmaker's office would be a potential spy for the Treasury, and that the Customs officials wore not so simple as that. We now know that everything that was then prophesied has taken place, and that the Duty is being widely evaded. Other hon. Gentlemen who preceded me have gone into that and explained why this evasion makes the Duty so vicious, and why it is wrong. Everyone must admit, whether in favour of the Duty or not, that the honest bookmaker should not be penalised by the dishonest bookmaker. That is the reason I am against the Duty. I am not against a duty on betting or the Totalisator, but I am against a duty that cannot be equal as between one citizen and another. Before the Debate is concluded, we ought to hear some reply in answer to the very remarkable charge that was brought by the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. Orawfurd). He stated that he had evidence that discrimination as between one class of bookmaker and another in the collection of the Duty was encouraged deliberately by the Treasury. We are entitled to some answer to that charge.
I have thought for a long time very seriously as to how my vote should go to-night. I am strongly opposed to the duty. I have never made any bones about it. The duty in its present form is inequitable and if the vote were on an issue that I would present to the House, I would go into the Lobby against it. If I vote to-night for hon. Gentlemen opposite, I am committed to vote with a party who have opposed this tax on entirely different grounds, on grounds which I consider unjustified. I cannot vote with a party which brings an indict- 663 ment against the morals of millions of their fellow subjects. I cannot vote for a party which compares what I consider a very minor evil with prostitution. I cannot vote for a party which opposes the Betting Duty on those grounds. My grounds are entirely different. I make my protest against the duty in its present form.
§ Sir F. MEYER
I am perfectly certain the hon. Member does not want me, but I am equally entitled to explain why I cannot vote with his party, and offensive remarks exchanged across the Floor of the House never assist debate. I cannot join in what I conceive to be the muddled thinking of half-baked Puritanism of hon. Members opposite. I protest against the duty in its present form, and I most earnestly ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see before next year if he cannot put it on a basis which will not have the unfortunate effect of penalising the honest, and letting off the dishonest. For the reasons which I have as briefly as possible put before the Committee, I do not intend to vote for the tax, which I consider wrong in its present form, but I cannot vote against it, because I cannot be associated with the arguments which hon. Gentlemen opposite have put forward.
Captain ARTHUR EVANS
As one representing an industrial city which might be called upon to bear a heavier burden of taxation if the present Betting Duty were removed, I would like to add my words to those of the hon. Member who asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to accept the Amendment. The Chancellor has been asked to withdraw this tax on three grounds; on moral grounds, on the grounds of political expediency put forward by the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley), and also on the grounds of maladministration of the duty. I think it has been shown to the satisfaction of the Committee that the claim on moral considerations falls to the ground. If by relieving the betting fraternity of this duty we did away with betting altogether, there would be a lot to say for its remission, but those who oppose the duty on those grounds surely do not think that if those who bet are relieved of 664 this taxation altogether they will cease to bet. I think, on the contrary, that betting would increase rather than decrease. As has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Sir F. Meyer) the Labour party are particularly inconsistent in the line they are taking on this subject. I do not remember that the Chancellor in the Labour Government said that on moral grounds he was not prepared to collect Income Tax from betting firms, and I do not remember at the last election, or any of the three elections in which I have taken part, that this question of the Betting Duty has been placed in the forefront of the Labour party's programme. As far as the question of workmen's votes are concerned, the hon. Member for Grimsby invited the Chancellor of the Exchequer to withdraw this duty because he said it was not acceptable to the vast majority of working men.
I do not think taxation in any form is acceptable to any class of working man, whether he works with his hands or brains; but, after all, what is the alternative? Is the working man who objects to this duty prepared to pay an additional penny a pint on his beer instead of a duty on his bets? Is his wife prepared to pay an additional penny on a pound of Lea or extra taxation on other necessities of life? Because we have to realise, in view of the regrettable state of the country at the present time, that the Chancellor would be forced, whether he liked it or not, to raise this revenue of £3,000,000 in some other direction. As one who represents an industrial constituency which is bearing a burden of taxation far too heavy, I hope the Chancellor will stick to his duty instead of placing extra taxation on the shoulders of those who can ill afford to bear it. I think there was considerable force in the criticisms put forward by various hon. Members regarding the maladministration of the duty, but I do not believe that it is beyond the wit of any Government Department or the Chancellor of the Exchequer to formulate means and ways of overcoming the evasion of this duty. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he relied upon the officers of the Customs and Excise 665 Department to deal with evasion. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer should seek the aid of the Secret Service of Scotland Yard whose agents are in the habit of mixing with the betting fraternity and I am sure they would find means of dealing with the matter very effectively. I think the right hon. Gentleman would be more than justified in asking for the assistance of Scotland
|Division No. 216.]||AYES.||[11.23 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Grundy, T. W.||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Scurr, John|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Haslam, Henry C.||Sexton, James|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hayes, John Henry||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Batey, Joseph||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Bethel, A.||Hirst, G. H.||Shinwell, E.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Briant, Frank||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Sin on, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Broad, F. A.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Bromfield, William||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Slesser, sir Henry H.|
|Bromley, J.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham. Silvertown)||Snell, Harry|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Cape, Thomas||Kelly, W. T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kennedy, T.||Strauss, E. A.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kirkwood, D.||Sullivan, J.|
|Compton, Joseph||Lansbury, George||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lawrence, Susan||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lawson, John James||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Tomlinson, R. P.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Mackinder, W.||Townend, A. E.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Varley, Frank B.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||March, S.||Vlant, S. P.|
|Dennison R.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, M.)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Duckworth, John||Murnin, H.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Dunnlco, H.||Naylor, T. E.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|England, Colonel A.||Oakley, T.||Westwood, J.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Owen, Major G.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Fenby, T. D.||Palln, John Henry||Whiteley, W.|
|Forrest, W.||Paling, W.||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Gardner, J. P.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Garro-Jonet, Captain G. M.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Gibblns, Joseph||Ponsonby, Arthur||Windsor, Walter|
|Gillett, George M.||Potts, John S.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm, (Edin., Cent.)||Preston, William||Wright, W.|
|Greenall, T.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Rlley, Ben||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Ritson, J.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. A. Barnes.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Groves, T.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanc., Stretford)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Brass, Captain W.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Albery, Irving James||Brassey, Sir Leonard||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Briscoe, Richard George||Couper, J. B.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.|
|Apsley, Lord||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)|
|Ashley. Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)|
|Balniel, Lord||Buchan, John||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Buckingham, Sir H.||Curzon. Captain Viscount|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Campbell, E. T.||Davies, Maj. Geo.F. (Somersel, Yeovil)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Carver. Major W. H.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Dawson. Sir Philip|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Dixey, A. C.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Drewe, C.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Eden, Captain Anthony|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Chapman. Sir S.||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vanslttart||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Elliot, Major Walter E.|
§ Yard on this question. I hope some means will be found of overcoming the evasion of the duty which falls so unequally upon the shoulders of the people concerned.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 128; Noes, 182.
|Ellis, R. G.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Rye, F. G.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Looker, Herbert William||Salmon, Major I.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Lougher, Lewis||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Falie, Sir Bertram G.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Fielden, E. B.||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Lumley, L. R.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Savery, S. S.|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Maclntyre, Ian||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||McLean, Major A.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Goft, Sir Park||Macmillan, Captain H.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Grace, John||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Grant, Sir J. A.||Malone, Major P. B.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Grenfell. Edward C. (City of London)||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Margesson, Capt. D.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Hacking, Douglas H.||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hanbury, C.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Harland, A.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Tasker, R. Inlgo.|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell.|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Hilton, Cecil||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Pennefather, Sir John||Waddington, R.|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Penny, Frederick George||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Holt, Capt. H. P.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Perring, Sir William George||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Plicher G.||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Ralne, Sir Walter||Wells, S. R.|
|Illffe, Sir Edward M.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Withers. John James|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Remer, J. R.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Kennedy, A. R. (Preston).||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Ropner, Major L.||Major Sir George Hennessy and|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Major Sir William Cope.|
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
I move this Motion with a view to getting some indication from the right hon. Gentleman as to how far he intends to go to-night.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
We have a good many new Clauses on the Paper, and they are not getting fewer as the days pass by. Most of them deal with matters which are either likely to be settled by agreement or are not likely to be settled in a way which will alter the legislation which the Committee have already practically completed. Nevertheless, they may take a considerable time to discuss. There is the question of the Brewers' Licence Duty and half-bottles, and there is a Clause in connection with the Income Tax provisions, which can easily be disposed of. I am afraid we cannot hope to be able to complete these Clauses to-night, but, on the other hand, I am doubtful whether what is left need necessarily occupy a whole additional day. Perhaps it might be a matter for discussion through the usual 668 channels whether we could not resume and conclude our discussions in less than a whole day. In all the circumstances I will not ask the Committee to sit to an inconvenient hour to-night. We will proceed with business for a little longer, but we will report Progress and terminate our proceedings at such an hour as will not be inconvenient to Members who live some distance away.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The right hon. Gentleman's statement is rather indefinite. My friends are not responsible for many of the New Clauses chat remain. There are three or four pages but they have been filled up by supporters of the Government and it rests with that side of the House as to the length of time to be occupied in concluding the Committee stage. The three New Clauses that stand in the name of my hon. friends need not take very long. Therefore, though I make no definite pledge—it will be a matter of arrangement—I see no reason at all why the length of time on another day than the right hon. Gentleman suggested should not be sufficient. I am making this plea for closing the 669 sitting now almost wholly out of consideration for the right hon. Gentleman whose health is a matter of Parliamentary and national concern. He has been undergoing a constant and rather severe strain almost continuously for the last two days. My hon. Friends are quite willing to sit all night again, but it is cut of consideration for the right hon. Gentleman, who is entitled to a long night's rest, that I make this plea.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his solicitude but I am not making any personal appeal. We might continue our proceedings, I will not say till the extreme and extravagant hour we reached this morning but up to the small hours, but I think it would be undesirable to take that course and I will accede to his proposal and discussion will take place in the usual manner as to when the remainder of the Committee stage shall be dealt with.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.