HC Deb 28 April 1933 vol 277 cc397-482

Order for Consideration, as amended (in the Standing Committee), read.

11.3 a.m.


Before we proceed to discuss this Bill, if we do discuss it this morning, I desire to ask for your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, on a matter of some importance. I wish to submit that this is not the Bill which passed its Second Reading in this House. The changes made in Standing Committee have been both numerous and drastic, and I believe that I am right in saying that only four lines of the original Bill remain. The whole of the operative Clauses of the original Bill have been placed in one new Clause, and a series of other new Clauses, not originally contemplated when the Bill passed Second Reading, have been added. These are points affecting the structure of the Bill, and would not in themselves, I think, constitute so grave a change as to make it a different Bill, but there are differences in points of principle incorporated in the Bill on which would submit to you that this is not the same Measure. The Bill which passed Second Reading proposed to grant comprehensive powers to local authorities for dealing with this question. The Bill was given a Second Reading because, rightly or wrongly, Members understood that it would be possible for the question to be considered in every aspect by local authorities. An Amendment has been inserted limiting the powers of local authorities in such a way as to make it practically impossible for the situation to be dealt with comprehensively. The limiting provisoes under which the local authorities have to take certain facts, and certain facts only, into consideration, make the Bill completely different in purpose, in intent and in effect.

Further, a vital Amendment has been introduced which revolutionises the whole principle of compensation for confiscation as it has been laid down by this House from time immemorial. That new principle has not only received no approval from this House, but, owing to an unfortunate incident, with which I need not trouble the House now, we were not able to take a Division upon it even in Standing Committee. I submit that such a revolutionary proposal ought not to be smuggled through Parliament in the form of an Amendment passed in Standing Committee, because I understand that it will not be possible, or it will be extremely difficult, to raise the point now upon Report stage, since it would involve the question of imposing a charge on the taxpayers and on that ground would probably be ruled out of order. I would repeat that in Standing Committee the promoters of the Bill with, I regret to say, the assent of my right hon. Friend, have introduced an entirely revolutionary proposal changing the whole principle on which we have given compensation for loss of property, a, change which may serve as a precedent in matters of far greater import than dog race tracks. I submit that it is not treating the House right, and is not in conformity with the practice of the House, to ask us to accept such Amendments on Report stage. On previous occasions the Speaker has ruled that a Bill so altered has become a different Bill, and has advised that the Bill should be withdrawn and another Bill presented, and I submit that in view of the very wide structural changes in the Bill, and revolutionary changes in principle which have not received, and which cannot now receive, except on Third Reading, the sanction of this House, this is a case in which you might well rule that this Bill, being a different Bill, should not be proceeded with at this stage.

11.10 a.m.


If I may be permitted to do so, I would like to support the contention of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Beaumont) regarding this Bill. The number of words in a Bill may not mean very much, but I would point out that whereas the original Bill contained about 370 words, the Bill which has now come to us from Committee runs to 2,320 words. Words may not say a great deal, but in this Measure they do. In one or two points there is a fundamental difference between the present Measure and the one which secured a Second Reading on the Floor of the House. The proposal in the original Bill was that local authorities should he given the final power to deter- mine whether they would have a dog-racing track within their territory or not. That provision has been whittled down to such an extent that in a very large proportion of the townships of this country such power would no longer be possessed by the local authorities. In the case of some townships the power would rest with the county council, and where the decision of the local authority was challenged the matter would go to the Court of Quarter Sessions, which would then have the power to determine whether a dog-racing track should exist within a given area. These are points of fundamental importance, and I suggest that what has been done in Committee upstairs is a violation of the understanding reached on the Floor of the House when the Bill was given a Second Reading. Therefore, I support the hon. Member for Aylesbury, though I fear that I may find myself in disagreement with him on other issues.

11.13 a.m.


The original Bill which secured Second Reading carried my name upon its back, but I confess that I was astonished when I saw the Bill which has come down to us from Committee to find that my name still remained on the hack of it. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Blackburn (Sir W. Smiles) acted in good faith in putting my name on the Bill, but I do not think he acted with that degree of intelligence which the Almighty has given him if he did not realise that the new Bill differed so much from the original Bill that it might be necessary for an hon. Member to reconsider his position in relation to it. I gave my support to the original Bill without hesitation, on account of the proposal that the question of licensing dog tracks should be left to the local authorities. The Bill now takes away from local authorities the power which it originally gave them. I could not support the Bill sinless it were so amended as to restore the original purpose of it.

11.14 a.m.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Douglas Hacking)

I do not wish to delay the House in coming to a decision, but it is only right that I should say a word, because of the pledges given by my hon. Friend the present Minister of Transport when he was Under-Secretary for the Home Office and spoke in this House on the Second Reading of this Bill. He made it quite clear that there would have to be many changes made in the Bill if it was to have the support of the Government and if it was to be allowed to proceed by the Government. It is true that when the Bill was originally introduced it did give unlimited powers to local authorities to close down dog racecourse tracks for any reason whatever, including the moral issue, but it was made clear by my hon. Friend the Minister Transport on the Second Reading that unlimited powers could not be granted to local authorities. He said: It is obvious that no one is competent to decide as to the general morality on a question of this kind except the Imperial Parliament— in other words, the Government. It is the duty of the Government to deal with the particular moral issue. As regards compensation the hon. and gallant Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) says that compensation has been placed into this Bill and that it was not in the Bill when it was before the House on Second Reading. My hon. Friend the Minister of Transport said this on Second Reading: No one can seriously suggest that under Clause 1 a local authority, without any reason being given, without any opportunity for appeal or for a presentation of the case, shall revoke a licence to a track which has been established for five years, and thus confiscate the whole of the undertaking without compensation of any kind. Then, in another place, my hon. Friend said, after having dealt with a lot of alterations that would be necessary: I hope I have said enough to show that if the House decides to give the Bill a Second Reading there will be very difficult problems to be solved in Committee and that considerable changes will have to be made before the Bill can be allowed to proceed through its further stages."—(OFFIcIAL REPORT, 2nd December, 1932; cols. 1176, 1180 and 1181, Vol. 272.] It was upon those statements, made by my hon. Friend, that the House itself decided to give this Bill a Second Reading. I submit that all that has happened in Committee, so far as I know, has been to place into the Bill the promises and the undertakings which were made clear to the House on Second Reading. Therefore, I submit, with due respect to you, Mr. Speaker, that no alterations have been made in this Bill to make it any different from what the House anticipated it would be when it came down from the Committee stage.

11.17 a.m.


Lest too much weight be given to a Minister on a Friday, may I counter the submission that has been made by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department with a reference to the Amendment that he himself has on the Paper. The title of the Bill is now a Bill to provide for the licensing of dog racing courses and the short title of it is "Dog Racing (Local Option)." The Minister has put down an Amendment to change this title to the "Dog Racecourse (Licensing) Act, 1933."


I have no Amendment down to change the title of the Bill.


The right hon. Gentleman has a new Clause which begins: This Act may be cited as the Dog Racecourse (Licensing) Act, 1933.


That is the short title.


Exactly. I think that the point I am making is a good one. Private Members are always at a disadvantage in not having had legal advice on the Bills that they submit. The Home Office in this matter is presumably being guided by the proper authority which says that the Bill which is down for consideration to-day, as it has come down from the Committee, should no longer be called the "Dog Racing (Local Option) Act" but that it should be called, as the right hon. Member suggests in his Amendment, the "Dog Racecourse (Licensing) Act." That seems to me to give the whole case away, from his point of view. The authorities admit that the description "Dog Racing (Local Option)," as applied to the Bill as sent down from the Committee, is wrong, and if that is wrong as its description we may assume that it is not a local option Bill any more. It was a local option Bill when it left this House, but it is so changed that I think that the submission of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) is perfectly correct, and that the Home Office has admitted that by their official Amendment.

11.20 a.m.


As I understood the Bill which received a Second Reading by the House, it was one to provide for the licensing of dog racing courses; as I understand the Bill that is now before the House, as it has come down from Committee, it is still a Bill to provide for licensing of dog racing courses. I have studied the original Bill side by side with the Bill as it left the Committee—not to the extent of counting the words but with a view to ascertaining the object of the two Bills and whether there is any difference between them. I must say that I see nothing in the amended Bill to lead me to the conclusion that it is not the same Bill in an amended form as the one to which the House gave a Second Reading. I remember some five years ago that I had to give a Ruling on another Bill, and that the same kind of point was raised. Curiously enough, that Bill was also one to do with racing, the Racecourse Betting Bill, and, in giving my Ruling, I said then that the Bill was the same Bill as the original skeleton Bill to which the House gave a Second Reading, but that since it had been in Committee it had been clothed with flesh and blood. I might say the same thing in regard to this Bill. What has really been done in Committee has been to elaborate the conditions under which the licence may be granted. Nothing, so far as I can see, has been inserted in it which is outside the scope of the Bill.

11.22 a.m.


I beg to move, That the Bill be re-committed in respect of the new Clause in the name of Secretary Sir Godfrey Collins. You, Sir, have just pointed out that the Bill as it left the House was a skeleton Bill and that it has been clothed with flesh and blood in Committee. The Secretary of State for Scotland apparently wants to give it a little more flesh, and he proposes a new Clause dealing with the application of the Bill to Scotland. Though I personally was not a Member of the Standing Committee, I understand from certain proceedings, and from what I have been told, that practically no consideration was given to this aspect of the subject, and that this new Clause, of which notice was only given on Wednesday, was apparently not satisfactory to the right hon. Gentleman who gave notice of it, because I see by the asterisk on the Paper that it is presented to us in a different form this morning. It is a long Clause which raises issues in respect of Scotland which are to be the subject of Amendments so far as England and Wales are concerned, during our proceedings this morning—if you decide to select certain Amendments—as to what authority is to deal with these matters. With such short notice of a Clause of this length, dealing with the curious complexities of Scottish legislation, which none of us who sit for English constituencies ever understand, because, as a rule, we are careful to be out of the House when they are under discussion—we usually find that it is the safest place to be, when they are under discussion—there ought to be a proper opportunity for considering in Committee all the serious implications. Some of those implications are serious, such as the method of control in Scotland, where it is identical with the method proposed for England and Wales.

My familiarity with Scottish law is insufficient, but a Clause which occupies half a page of the Order Paper, and the interpretation of which may give rise to a good deal of controversy, in respect of which there is no practical opportunity in the circumstances of proper consideration of the Amendments, does not seem to me a fair proposition for this House. In those circumstances, I strongly urge upon the House the desirability of recommitting the Bill in respect of this Clause. I see from the Order Paper that it is desired to recommit the Bill in respect of other Clauses. Whatever the fate of my Amendment may be, and if my proposal is rejected, one of the other proposals may be accepted, and my end will be achieved. There is some indication from the promoters of the Bill that they are prepared to accept a general recommittal. If so, there will be no necessity for me to press the proposal which I am now putting to the House.

11.25 a.m.


I beg to second the Motion.

I venture to suggest that neither the House nor the Standing Committee has been treated throughout with scrupulous courtesy in this matter. After all, when the House sends a Bill to a Standing Committee, it does so, presumably, with the intention that the average run of Amendments shall be dealt with there. The Report stage of the Bill is meant, either for getting the decision of the House on matters too important for the Standing Committee, or for clearing up odds and ends which have been left over from the Committee stage. When, however, an important question like the whole application of the Bill to Scotland is left over without a word having been said about it in Committee, I think it shows scant courtesy both to the Rouse and to the Standing Committee. I can see no reason why the question, if it was to be discussed, should not have been discussed in the Standing Committee; I do not think it is a matter for the Report stage at all.

11.27 a.m.


Before the Secretary of State for Scotland replies, may I ask him one or two questions which appear to me to be pertinent? Paragraph (b) of the proposed new Clause says: The expression 'public nuisance' shall mean nuisance. Does that mean that what is a public nuisance in England and Wales is only a nuisance in Scotland? I hesitate very much to intervene on Scottish affairs, because, when I did so on a previous occasion, I had my knuckles rapped by the Duke of Montrose. I should also like to ask what is meant by the expression "Act of Sederunt."


Had we not better leave these points until the Clause is discussed?

11.28 a.m.

The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir Godfrey Collins)

I will give a clear reply to the hon. Member's questions if and when the Clause comes before the House. The Seconder of the Motion has suggested that a lack of courtesy to the House was indicated by the placing of this Clause on the Paper when the matter had not been considered by the Committee upstairs; but it was thought well, whether rightly or wrongly, to leave this defining Clause until the Report stage of the Bill, in view of the fact that during the progress of the Bill we were unaware as to what the exact Bill would be which would come before the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I may remind you, Sir, that only a very few lines of the original Bill remain. The Mover of the Motion stated that the proposed new Clause standing in my name would give more flesh to the present Bill, but may I point out that the Clause is a purely defining Clause, making it clear that, if the Bill is applied to Scotland, the proper machinery to carry into effect the views of the House of Commons will be provided? For these reasons I submit that we were in order in placing the Clause on the Paper at the time that we did.

11.30 a.m.


I should like to point out that later on the Paper there are many Amendments on the question of what shall be the controlling licensing authority—whether it shall be a county borough council or some other type of local authority; and I would submit that, until we have decided on those matters, we are, from the point of view of Scotland, deciding in advance what is the right thing to do. That this Bill should be re-committed would, I believe, be advantageous to the Government. When the Bill was first introduced, the whole position of dog racing was very different from what it is now. It will be remembered that at that time it was held that the totalisator was legal, and, consequently, there was an urge up and down the country to start dog racing tracks, which were profitable, not by reason of the attendance at the track, but by reason of the revenue that it was possible to get from the totalisator. As soon as the High Court laid it down that the employment of the totalisator was illegal, the whole position up and down the country was altered, and no one can say that there is now a rush anywhere to establish dog racing tracks. Consequently, there is no hurry or desire throughout the country that this Bill should be got through, as there was when it was first introduced.

The Minister has already told us that on high questions of policy and on moral issues this House, and only this House, is to decide. Obviously, later in the year, we are going to have recommendations from a Commission, upon which legislation from the Government will become inevitable, and it seems to me that from their point of view, if from no other, it would be well to give a certain time, to put the Bill back and see what the recommendations of the Commission are, and then, if possible, to wed the Bill up with the proposed legislation to be introduced by the Government at a later stage. By going on with the Bill now, we shall possibly introduce legislation making it more difficult for the Government to legislate after they have received the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The Government could quite easily say that they would find time for further consideration of the Bill, and to send it back to a Committee for reconsideration of several of these points would not, I believe, be a bad plan from the point of view of the Government themselves.

11.33 a.m.


I should like to support what has just been said, because it seems to me that there remain some difficult points to clear up. Anyone looking at the Order Paper must realise that there is a great deal of mixed feeling on this Bill, and it seems to me that the simplest way of dealing with a very difficult position would be to recommit the Bill to a Committee that would go into it and deal with it in a proper way, really making up their mind as to what they want and how they want it. I have grave doubts as to whether the proposed new Clause dealing with Scotland is really only a definition Clause. Since that statement was made, I have looked at one or two points in the Clause, and it seems to me that one paragraph in particular goes a good long way. I do not pretend to understand from the legal point of view what is a definition Clause, or all the various points with regard to Scots law which are involved, but the Clause is certainly immensely complicated. Indeed, it almost looks like one with which the Scottish Grand Committee might deal. I believe that the great proportion of moderate opinion in the House would like to see the Bill recommitted and really reorganised in order to meet the different points of view, so that, when it came back to the House, it could be dealt with in a short time, without the necessity for an Order Paper of such length as that with which we now have to deal.

11.35 a.m.


I have been one of those who have supported this Bill all through, because I have felt that it was necessary that local authorities should have control, but I am very much impressed by the arguments which have been put forward this morning. A considerable amount of the value of the Bill has been lost and, as all this matter is, so to speak, in the air and the Royal Commission has not yet reported, it seems rather a waste of time to try to force the Bill through at the moment. Even if we pass it, we shall have to reconsider the whole thing when the Royal Commission reports. Therefore, while supporting the Bill—


The hon. and gallant Gentleman is making a general criticism of the Bill. He is confined to discussing its recommittal in respect of one par-particular Clause.


I apologise if I went beyond the scope of the Motion. I hope the Government will consider the views which have been put forward from all sides of the House.

11.36 a.m.


I was extremely surprised to see this Motion on the Paper this morning. As a matter of procedure, it is very unfortunate that a Clause of this importance should only be brought before the House on the Report stage. It is obviously one that ought to be considered in Committee and, as a Scottish Member, I must protest against it being brought in now.

11.37 a.m.


I wish to join in the protest. I also was surprised to see this on the Paper. The complete alteration that there is in the Bill as it stands now and as it was sent to Committee would be conclusively shown if the Secretary for Scotland had explained what an Act of Sederunt actually meant and how it would have to be obtained before it could be put into operation. It would have shown the real character of the new Bill, that the whole Court of Session procedure in Scotland would have had to be employed in getting an Act of Sederunt through the House before an appeal could be heard.


It was no act of discourtesy that I did not explain. I thought a suitable opportunity of doing so would be when the Clause came before the House.


Some Members were asking for an explanation of what this actually meant, and I am putting to the House, composed of Members who do not understand Scottish legal procedure, what would actually be meant, that there would have to be a regulation to lie on the Table for a certain number of days before there could be put into operation any of the legal formalities that would have to be gone through in order to have an appeal taken to the courts in Scotland. I think I am interpreting, though I am not a lawyer, what the Solicitor-General would have said if he had given the explanation. To English Members it would have seemed a rather roundabout and curious method of getting at a point which could be obtained under the English law without having to come to the House for further regulations. To put a Clause of this kind through all its stages without Members having an opportunity of reading it and getting to know what it actually means and putting down Amendments to it, while not, perhaps, treating the House with discourtesy, because this sort of thing has been done before, is one of those things which Members have always objected to and protested against. I also object and protest against this new Clause being brought up on Report.

11.40 a.m.


I think it was understood, when the Bill left the House, that it was to apply to Scotland also, and it was naturally agreed, or supposed to be agreed, by most people that the actual legal changes to bring it on to the right lines of legal procedure in Scotland would at some stage be made to the Bill. It has been pointed out to-day that in England the totalisator is not now legal, while in Scotland it is legal. I do not think it much matters to the subject matter of the Bill whether the totalisator is legal or not. I do not think that change has made much difference. The Clause simply defines the meaning of the Bill as it now is, giving it the same meaning as it had when it went to Committee and using the appropriate legal terms.

11.42 a.m.


The hon. Lady says the purpose of the Clause is to bring Scottish procedure into line with English. There is a very important Amendment to Clause 4 in the name of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) and, if that is passed, unless I am wrong in my interpretation, we shall have inserted the Scottish Clause and shall find, when we finish, that the English Clause is different. We ought to settle the main structure of the Bill before we insert the Scottish Clause.


I ought to have explained that the new Clause in my name was placed upon the Paper before the House rose for the Easter Recess. It is necessary to make provision for the proper working of the Bill in Scotland.

Question put, "That the Bill be recommitted in respect of the new Clause in the name of Secretary Sir Godfrey Collins."

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. M. Beaumont and Mr. H. Williams were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but there being no Members willing to act as Tellers for the Noes, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.

Bill re-committed to the former Committee in respect of the new Clause standing in the name of Secretary Sir Godfrey Collins.

11.46 a.m.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be re-committed to the former Committee in respect of Clauses 1 and 4."

I am not quite sure what the situation now is, Mr. Speaker, in view of the Motion which has just been passed. The Motion which I am making is that Clauses 1 and 4 should be re-committed to the same Standing Committee as has already discussed the Bill. I should like to know as a, matter of convenience—I do not know whether you can give a ruling off-hand—whether the Scottish Clause will be automatically re-committed to that Committee or not, because it may rather alter the Motion which I am making.


As the Motion did not specify re-committal to a Committee of the whole House, the matter will naturally go before the former Committee.


I am obliged to you, because I was not quite clear about it. Therefore, that being so, it will be simple for the same Committee to reconsider Clauses 1 and 4 of the Bill. I suggest that the House should send back Clauses 1 and 4 to be discussed again because there are very important Amendments put down on the Report stage which alter in effect the constitution of the local authority which is to exercise the local option. I do not wish to delay the House more than a minute or two on the point—because I have made it incidentally already this morning—that the Home Office so far considers this to be a different Bill that it has put down a new Clause in the name of the Under-Secretary altering the citation of the Act to be passed to the "Dog Racecourse (Licensing) Act," instead of "Dog Racing (Local Option) Act." You ruled earlier this morning that it is the same Bill to all intents and purposes as that which passed Second Reading, but, owing to the fact that the Bill which passed Second Reading is called the "Dog Racing (Local Option) Bill" to provide for the licensing of dog racing courses, it was to that extent limited so that Amendments could not be accepted on the Committee stage setting up a form of control board or any other method of licensing dog race courses, except the method of local option, which is understood to mean a method of licensing by some local authority but not by some ad hoc board. Therefore, all the Amendments dealing with ad hoc boards were not within the scope and title of the Bill.

If we go on later to accept the Home Office Clause altering the citation of the Bill and call it "Dog Racecourse (Licensing) Act," to provide for the licensing of dog racing courses, it seems to me that it would then be in order—with all humility I make the submission—to discuss alternative systems of licensing dog racing courses because the whole reference in the description and title and the apparent object of the Bill, in spite of the speeches on the Second Reading, local option, would disappear. I state that to show what an absurd muddle this piece of legislation is getting into. The best and soundest advice of all Governments is "to send it to a Committee." I put it to the House that on this occasion it would be very well advised to throw back to the original Standing Committee, which has already discussed and therefore knows something about the difficulties of the problem, both Clauses 1 and 4, which are the authority given to local authorities to license and describe what such local authorities should be. Remembering that the Committee has already to deal with Scotland and therefore must be re-set up, it will not be asking too much that it should go into these further questions as well.

11.51 a.m.


I beg to second the Motion.

The only obvious thing to do at this stage is to re-commit the Clauses. The Bill with respect to the Scottish Clauses is to be re-committed to the old Standing Committee, and, as there seems to be such an enormous amount of confusion existing at the present time, quite apart from what my hon. and gallant Friend has said, the only obvious thing to do is, not only to re-commit the Bill with respect to these two Clauses, but with respect to the whole of the Bill.

11.52 p.m


I and other Members of the House spent days upon days in Committee dealing with this Bill. Nothing was said by the Mover of the Motion to-day as to what we should be asked to do if these two Clauses were re-committed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Read the Order Paper!"] Yes, but it does not follow that what appears on the Order Paper is what is in the minds of hon. Gentlemen. We have now reached a crisis on the Bill and we had better face up to it at once. If the Bill is to be re-committed to the Committee upstairs, I will support the Motion if it means that all the local authorities suggested in the original Bill, without the intervention of Quarter Sessions, are entitled to determine whether they shall have a dog racing track within their district or not. Every Member in this House must have his own Parliamentary Division in his mind. I represent a County Division comprising five urban district councils situated 20 to 25 miles away from the county town of Preston, where the Lancashire County Council holds its gatherings and has its public offices. Out of the five local authorities in my Division only one of them has over 20,000 inhabitants. The representations which I have received from those local authorities is that they feel more competent to decide whether they shall have a dog racing course within their own district than either the Quarter Sessions or the Lancashire County Council.

I come to another phase of the Bill which baffles me, and I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman and his friends will help us on this point. In referring these Clauses back to the Standing Committee, will they tell the House now that they want the Bill so altered as to give power to the type of local authorities which I have mentioned? If the House gives an indication of that kind this morning we can easily take the Bill back, including the Clauses referred to as well. On the other hand, if it is the intention of hon. Members, as some of them did upstairs, to decry the local authorities and say that urban councils shall have no locus standi at all in relation to dog racing tracks I, for one, shall vote against them on the Motion for recommittal of these Clauses to Committee upstairs. The House, I think, has to decide to-day on that one principle. It is no use without such instructions sending the Bill upstairs to the same Standing Committee. We shall have a division of opinion upon that fundamental issue exactly in the same way once again. Without offending anybody, I believe that there is a feeling in connection with this Measure that the public welfare has not received the attention which it deserves. I will add another word, without offending anybody I hope, and that is that I find there is too much vested interest shown in connection with dog racing. If there is a means of finding out this morning what the view of the House is with regard to the powers of local authorities I will support the Motion to send the two Clauses back to the Committee, but it is no use sending them to the same Committee to have the same haggling once again and to bring them back to the House as they stand to-day.

11.56 a.m.


I want to make it clear what it is that the hon. Member is suggesting. He has suggested that the Clause could be referred back to the Committee with instructions from this House to reconsider the point as to who is to be the licensing authority. The only reason why I have risen is to tell the hon. Member that this House can do that just as easily as the Committee. There is no reason why we should revert to the Committee on an issue of that kind when we could deal with the matter now on the Report stage.


That is exactly what I meant, but I could not put it quite as intelligently as the right hon. Member.

11.57 a.m.


On a point of Order. The hon. Member has raised a matter of very considerable importance. He has said that when we come to Clause 4 we can raise these matters on the Report stage. The information that I have received, and I should like your Ruling on it, is that the Amendments in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills), the hon. and learned Member for Lowestoft (Sir G. Rentoul) and myself, which have been put down at the instance of various associations representing corporations and urban district councils, cannot be moved unless the Bill is recommitted. That is the sole reason why I have on the Order Paper a Motion dealing with Clause 4. I should like your Ruling as to whether the advice given to us is in accordance with your view.


I may inform the hon. Member that I was intending to call the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Ripon.

11.58 a.m.


I can only speak for myself, but, I feel that the Bill in its present shape is quite impossible. The Clause I should imagine has been drafted by someone who has no idea of what local government means. You have urban district councils and county boroughs with populations of 30,000, 40,000 and 50,000 who have their own education and health services and their own police, and to say that they are to lose their local control, which they can best exercise, is to go back on all the recent history of local government. We all know our own cases. The town of Harrogate., for instance, which is well known to a good many Members of this House, has little community of interests with the West Riding County Council sitting at Wakefield. By all the rules that have always guided this House these bodies ought to have the control in a, matter which intimately affects the social life and well-being of their districts.

Whether the matter is to be decided by the House or the Committee I do not mind so long as it is quite clear from Mr. Speaker's ruling that we shall not be told that by including the smaller local authorities we are increasing the charge on the rates and that, therefore, this Amendment cannot be moved on Report. For that reason, and also because the new Scottish Clause gives a different system of local control in Scotland from the one that I think the House will give in England, I think the Bill ought to be recommitted in respect of Clauses 1 and 4. Thereby it will be clear that the Committee will be able to reconsider the whole question. I was not on the Committee. If I had been on the Committee I should have supported the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), and I think that a different atmosphere would have prevailed.

12 n.


I desire to associate myself with the Motion moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), if for no other reason than that the recommittal of the Clause is virtually the only way in which we can get the Scottish Clause in conformity with the English Clause. In Committee the Scottish Clause would come after the English Clause, but on Report the reverse is the case. Otherwise, you will have the possibility that the new Scottish Clause will not be in conformity with the later alterations that may be made in the English Clause. Dealing with the point raised by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) in regard to the effect in the Committee if the Bill went back, I am very largely in agreement with him that in the consideration of the Bill sufficient attention was not given to the interests of the public. The reason for that was that the Committee had no guide as to what were the wishes of the House in the matter. We had one Bill passing through the House and we had an Amendment raising a totally different point, which was not raised on the Second Reading of the Bill, and we had to decide on it.

I regret that the local authorities should be mixed up in this matter, but I am entirely with the hon. Member in thinking that if you are going to have the local authority as the licensing authority, it is absurd to have quarter sessions as the court of appeal, and vice versa. Therefore, I suggest that the only way that we can straighten out this very complicated matter, which has been allowed to get into a state of hopeless confusion, is by recommitting Clauses 1 and 4 to the Committee. In regard to the question of compensation, it is true that it was foreshadowed by the present Minister of Transport, but it was not in the entirely novel form that was put before us. That will come up on Clause 1. We had an unfortunate incident in the Standing Committee in that we had no opportunity of coming to a decision as to whether this form of compensation or some proper compensation should be granted. We cannot come to such a decision on Report, because the only way of doing it would be to impose a charge, which would not be in order. That is an additional reason for sending the Clause back to the Committee, where the matter may be thoroughly thrashed out and decided.

12.4 p.m.


I should like to say a few words in regard to what was said by the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills). He is anxious to give the power of licensing to the smaller local authorities, who are the people who really know the needs of their own district. In order to do that he suggests that the House should recommit the Bill in respect of Clauses 1 and 4. I was a member of the previous Committee and I would point out what was the vote on an Amendment of a precisely similar nature in the Committee. It was rejected by 12 votes to seven. Therefore, I do not see what security we have that the same Committee will not arrive at the same decision next time. Now that this question has been ventilated in the House, even to the small extent that it has this morning, there is a great probability of the House showing reason and giving to the local authorities what they expected to get in the Bill which was given a Second Reading, namely, power of control over their local affairs. It is for this House, I think, to do that. While in entire agreement with my right hon. Friend, I regret that I have come to a precisely opposite conclusion as to the merit of sending these particular Clauses upstairs to be considered by the same Committee which sent them down to this House in the unsatisfactory state in which we find them. This is subject to the one over-riding condition that we shall be in order in moving this Amendment, and that we shall not be told we cannot do so under the Standing Order which prevents us imposing a charge. If you are going to call that Amendment, Mr. Speaker, I presume that it has had your consideration and, therefore, my right hon. Friend may have no anxiety. I am entirely opposed to referring back to the same Committee matters which, in the general opinion of the body of the House, they have settled unsatisfactorily.

12.7 p.m.


I support the recommittal of these two Clauses. If the Government wish to change the name and title of the Bill from the Dog Racing (Local Option) Bill to the Dog Racing (Licensing) Bill, they can do so. There is also the possibility, adumbrated in the Order Paper, of setting up a Dog Racing Control Board. That would become a possibility. We never considered that in Committee, and it may be a very valuable suggestion to the Government. It does not cut across local authorities, and it may be a very great help to the Government if we recommit these Clauses. We ought to consider the proposals, adumbrated in the Order Paper, of which we never thought before.

12.9 p.m.


When the proposal was made to recommit these two Clauses to the Committee I was very much inclined to support it, because I, like others, while in accord with the principle and purpose of the original Bill, have very great misgivings about the Bill now before the House. The discussion which has taken place has, however, clarified the issue very considerably. We have found that those who are dissatisfied with Clauses 1 and 4 desire further consideration for precisely opposite purposes. Some desire recommittal in order to safeguard investments of capital and the ownership of property. Others, of a different school of thought desire further reconsideration of the principle of local government, as applied to the lives of the community and the well-being of the community, which should be paramount.

Consideration of vested interests is the issue, and it seems to me that the reconsideration would be better, in the, public interest, if we could vote upon the Floor of the House, in view of what has taken place. Although, at first, I was anxious to support this recommittal Motion, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot do so. Those of us, whose minds are working in that direction, are entitled to have some assurance that the issue we desire to fight out on the Floor of the House is going to be allowed to be fought out there, and that we are not to be circumvented by rules of procedure and points of Order. The issue raised by the various Amendments is a simple one—a statutory body, deriving the whole of its authority from the votes of the people, to establish a really free government and administration within the area over which it has been given authority.

12.11 p.m.


As a Member of the Committee, I am rather inclined to think that there is a little bit of the game of chess being played in the House of Commons. There is a hiding of thought and action for the purpose of achieving an end. I feel convinced that the recommittal of Clauses 1 and 4 would achieve exactly what I would desire, and what may be the desire of other hon. Members. It is in my mind to get rid of this Bill. I believe that the recommittal of Clauses 1 and 4 would be the death of the Bill—as far as I can judge the effect of Parliamentary procedure. I am convinced that legislation must be brought in at an early date for the proper supervision and control of dog racing tracks. Any action we may take now with regard to a Bill of this description is going to make further legislation very complex. I am one of those who believe in being constructive, and I do not think this House ought to be harassed with any legislation which is going to make it more difficult to deal with this matter later on. Local authorities have a right to have their views expressed in this House by hon. Members, and they have a right to consider local amenities. Hon. Members have also the right to consider the question of the jurisdiction of local authorities. There is also a moral issue and, because I feel it would be more constructive, I would say, from the point of view of the game of chess, that I support the recommittal of these Clauses.

12.13 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir WALTER SMILES

As the Mover of the Bill, I speak for the first time. There seemed to be any number of hon. Members ready to speak before me, and I did not think I would be helping the Bill if I intervened earlier. I am in favour of local authorities deciding for themselves. I am in favour of urban district councils, even if they have a lower population than 20,000, deciding for themselves whether they will have a dog racing track or not, and how many they shall have. I am prepared to meet those who hold these views in every possible way that I can. With regard to the licensing justices, I cannot accept an appeal to the Quarter Sessions. I would rather see the local authorities dig their own grave. If they want to have a dog racing track, let them have it.

12.14 p.m.


As a Member of the Committee, I agree that the Bill, as we see it this morning, was not the intention of the promoter who has just sat down. When the House gave a Second Reading to this Bill, many of us fought for it, because we thought the time had arrived when some control by a licensing authority should be created for dog racing tracks. The original Bill made it perfectly clear that its promoter desired local option. Now, whether we like it or not, it is true to say that the hon. Members who have taken part in the discussion this morning have, in the discussion of the Bill upstairs, sought ways and means to prevent local authorities from having the right of control. That is what caused the tremendous division upstairs in Committee. It is pretty evident that those who are moving the re-committal of these two Clauses have no intention of altering their view regarding local authorities.

I think that I am expressing the sentiments of the country along with my col- leagues when I say that this issue will sooner or later have to be finally settled. I think that the country as a whole is totally in favour of the local authorities themselves deciding this issue, and unless we can get some guarantee that a changed view is now established in the minds of some of our Friends opposite who have taken part in this morning's discussion, we cannot agree to the re-committal of these two Clauses. Many of us feel that the local authorities who are controlling the destinies, not only of town planning but public health and everything in connection with the amenities of their districts, are the right and proper bodies to have control of these dog-racing tracks, and ought to have a definite say in licensing them. I cannot support the re-committal of these two Clauses unless there is a very changed outlook on the part of the Members of the Committee who stated from the start that they did not believe in local authorities having a say at all. That is what divides us, because we contend that local authorities, whether large or small, ought to have the principal say as to whether or not a dog track is to be established in their district.

12.17 p.m.


I rise to support the recommittal of these two important Clauses, for the reason that I honestly believe that the House is so uneasy over this Bill because it realises that the Bill deals with a very important subject in a rather piecemeal fashion. Although I was not a Member of the Committee which examined the Bill in detail, nevertheless one realises from the Debate this morning that all parties are in favour of adequate control of dog-racing in this country, and I am one of those who believe that it is the duty of the Government to present to the House for its consideration an official Government Bill wherein a controlling body and the local authorities find their proper place. It is obvious that there are at least four important outstanding features which have not received the consideration they deserve by the Committee upstairs. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) has pointed out the all-important question of compensation. For one reason or another it was not considered by the Committee. Another ques- tion which the House, I think, ought to consider is that of appeal to Quarter Sessions.

In addition to that, the real fundamental reason why the House is unhappy about the Measure is that they know perfectly well the whole country is awaiting the final report of the Royal Commission. Although it is true to say that the Commission is concerned only with forma of betting which might take place on dog tracks, nevertheless it is impossible to believe or conceive of the Government dealing with that question by legislation unless they have regard to the whole moral issue of dog racing as such. I venture to think that the wishes of the House would be met best if these two important Clauses were recommitted to the Committee upstairs, and by the time that Committee had an opportunity of considering them it is reasonable to suppose that the Royal Commission would have reported and that their recommendations would be borne in mind by the Committee when reconsidering the whole question.

12.20 p.m.


It must be clear to hon. and right hon. Members in all parts of the House that the notice sent round in the names of six hon. Members wherein they say that unless the series of Amendments on 15 pages of the Order Paper are accepted and the Bill wholly transformed to What they think it ought to be, is a suggestion to be present this morning to kill the Bill. That is clearly the intention of several hon. Members. They are quite entitled to their point of view, but hon. Members who really would like local authorities to have some control over the licensing of dog-racing tracks ought to know exactly for what they are voting when this Motion goes to a Division. The right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) has indicated his point of view. He wants local option. I entirely agree with him, but he is already satisfied I think, after listening to the Debate, that to recommit Clauses 1 and 4 means the death of the Bill. Clearly, should the Motion be carried it would be the end of this Bill, and the end of the hope of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.

There has been a very big effort made to transform completely the intention and purpose of the Measure. By a side-wind there has been an attempt to set up some national control board on the lines of the Betting Control Board for horse racing, in the hope, as some hon. Members have said this morning, that that will be a preliminary to what they hope will happen when the Betting Commission make their report. Hon. Members who put down Amendments filling 15 pages found yesterday that the Amendments were all to be ruled out of order, and clearly they are in full force this morning to kill the Bill, for recommittal certainly means killing the Bill, and no one ought to be in any doubt on the point. Mr. Speaker has very kindly suggested that an Amendment to Clause 4 can be moved if the House proceeds to discuss the Measure. That, at all events, will give some hope that the Government will consider sympathetically the desires of local authorities in whose districts there is a population of 20,000 or less, and because there is still a chance of effect being given to the original intention of the promoter of the Bill, I hope that the Motion to recommit the two Clauses will be defeated.

12.24 p.m.


I support the proposal to recommit the Bill from, perhaps, a point of view which has not been expressed by anyone else, and that is the point of view of hostility to everything to do with dog racing. I should like to see the whole thing abolished, rot-and-branch, and if the proposal to recommit the Bill will have that effect, it will have my complete support. I cannot help feeling that it is the duty of the Government to await the report of the Royal Commission, and for the Government to bring in a Bill which will give the House an opportunity of deciding, in the interests of the whole community, whether dog racing should be abolished altogether, restricted or dealt with by some form of local option.


I think that the Motion to recommit the Bill would give us a double chance, but that depends on the attitude of the Government. I want to express complete agreement with what was said by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills). He and I have been asked by the Non-County Boroughs Association to table certain Amendments giving them the power of dealing with this question. The local authority, the urban district council or the rural district council, is near and on the spot, but the county council is far away. This matter is vital to the districts concerned. The Bill as drafted is one more attempt to curtail the powers of the smaller local authorities, and I put it to the House that it is not good for the local political life of the country that these powers should be taken away and over-ridden by the larger authorities. For these reasons I think that by recommittal we shall have a double chance of obtaining what we wish, that is the preservation of the powers of the smaller local bodies. That chance will come in Committee upstairs and again on Report.


I am a Member who originally had put down Amendments to give powers to local authorities The House may remember that when we went into Committee the promoter of the Bill produced an Amendment which altered the whole Bill. That met the views of the small local authorities. Unfortunately, the promoter's good intention was upset one day in Committee, curiously enough, as far as I can see, when there was no longer a quorum present. I believe that we ought to recommit the Bill. My hon. Friend opposite when he used the word "we" in regard to local authorities, did not mean it in any party sense, because many of us on this side and on the other side are as keen as the hon. Member on giving powers to small local authorities. But we ought to face facts, and the facts, I understand, are that with the recommital on the Scottish Clause the Bill is practically dead. Therefore, it would be very unwise, if the Bill is to die, that it should die in its present form.

I believe that the House is not satisfied with the Bill as it left the Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Beaumont), the only Whig left in the House, who hates all local authorities, large or small, has made an admission, and we now know what to expect if we should have the misfortune in future to be on the same Committee as the hon. Member. He says that the House has now got guidance. I hope he has noticed that the whole House has spoken, with almost one voice, in favour of the smaller local authorities having control. When this Bill comes up in future, or any future Bill comes up, it is on record that my hon. Friend and his friends will be prepared to abide by the guidance of this House. For these reasons and in the interests of local authorities I hope the House will recommit the Bill.


We have missed two absolutely first-class speeches, and that has been a disappointment. One of my right hon. Friends had Amendments on the Paper and they have been controverted by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto). I have for a long while been meditating what to do on this matter. On the whole I have come down on the side that probably it would not be quite wise to recommit the Bill. I am not absolutely decided yet. It does seem that the Standing Committee on the Bill was not very well attended. We gather that from figures that we have heard. That being the case, as the House is obviously interested in this subject on this Friday afternoon, perhaps it would be better if we proceeded to deal with the Bill.

Before I decide on this matter I want to get the authority of two people. In the first place, of course, there are authorities on dog racing, very great authorities, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon). But he is not the supreme authority on dog racing in this House, and before we decide it is obvious

that we should go to the fountain-head, the man who really knows this job inside out. Needless to say I refer to the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot). No one knows more about dog racing than he does. If he would decide where his mind is, that would help me and I might be able to make up my mind. But there is one other person who quite clearly is brimming over with speeches and a flow of words, such as we seldom have the opportunity of hearing, and before we decide so many important points—what is constitutionally best, what the Government want, whether we are really doing the best thing in the interests of private Members and things of that kind—he really ought to appear. The right hon. Gentleman quite clearly is desirous of making a speech. He can decide this question. I feel sure that this is one of the occasions when his rule of silence should be broken. We must hear the Patronage Secretary. He is dying to make a speech. This is one of the subjects dear to his heart. I do entreat him on this occasion to get up and tell us all about it.

Question put, "That the Bill be recommitted to the former Committee in respect of Clauses 1 and 4."

The House divided: Ayes, 72; Noes, 104.

Division No. 149.] AYES. [12.33 p.m.
Adams, D. m. (Poplar, South) Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Newton, Sir Douglas George C.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas North, Captain Edward T.
Applln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Gritten, W. G. Howard Nunn, William
Apsley, Lord Groves, Thomas E. Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bllston)
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Gunston, Captain D. W. Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.) Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Hartland, George A. Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Hornby, Frank Remer, John R.
Broadbent, Colonel John Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Levy, Thomas Storey, Samuel
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley) Liddall, Walter s. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Logan, David Gilbert Tate, Mavis Constance
Clarry, Reginald George Lyons, Abraham Montagu Thompson, Luke
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro) MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil) McCorquodale, M. S. Wayland, Sir William A.
Dawaon, Sir Philip Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Weymouth, Viscount
Denville, Alfred Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Dickie, John P. Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T, C. Wills, Wilfrid D.
Donner, P. W. Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.) Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)
Doran, Edward Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.) Wise, Alfred R.
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Morrison, William Shephard
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Munro, Patrick TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Murray-Philipson, Hylton Ralph Mr. Michael Beaumont and Mr.
Herbert Williams.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Boulton, W. W. Burnett, John George
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Briant, Frank Cadogan, Hon. Edward
Attlee, Clement Richard Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Cape, Thomas
Banfield, John William Browne, Captain A. C. Caporn, Arthur Cecil
Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Clarke, Frank
Clayton Dr. George C. Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)
Cobb, Sir Cyril John, William Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Selley, Harry R.
Cooke, Douglas Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Crossley, A. C. Lawson, John James Shuts, Colonel J. J.
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Leckie, J. A. Slater, John
Curry, A. C. Lewis, Oswald Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Daggar, George Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick Soper, Richard
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Davies, Rhys John (Weathoughton) Lunn, William Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Dobble, William Mabane, William Spans, William Patrick
Duggan, Hubert John Magnay, Thomas Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Edwards, Charles Maltland, Adam Summersby, Charles H.
Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Sutcliffe, Harold
Falls, Sir Bertram G. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Thorne, William James
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Tinker, John Joseph
Fremantle, Sir Francis Parkinson, John Allen Touche, Gordon Cosmo
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Pearson, William G. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Goff. Sir Park Penny, Sir George Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Goldie, Noel B. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Wells, Sydney Richard
Gower, Sir Robert Picktord, Hon. Mary Ada Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Price, Gabriel Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Grundy, Thomas W. Procter, Major Henry Adam Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwlch) Womersley, Walter James
Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd) Rankin, Robert Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Hirst, George Henry Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Holdsworth, Herbert Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.
Horsbrugh, Florence Hosbotham, Sir Samuel TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney,N.) Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Captain Elliston and Lieut.Colonel
Hume, Sir George Hopwood Runge, Norah Cecil Sir Walter Smiles.

Bill as amended (in the Standing Committee) considered.

  1. NEW CLAUSE.—(Short title, commencement, and extent.) 15,397 words, 2 divisions
  2. cc463-79
  3. NEW CLAUSE.—(Resolution of local authority putting Act into force.) 6,363 words
  4. cc479-82
  5. CLAUSE 1.—(Local authority to license.) 912 words, 1 division