15. Captain ARTHUR EVANS
asked the Home Secretary if he is now in a position to state whether the Government has decided to introduce legislation at an early date to regularise the position of totalisators on dog tracks throughout the country?
With my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, and with Mr. Speaker's consent, I propose to make a statement at the end of questions.
(by Private Notice) asked the Home Secretary whether the Government have considered the recommendations of the interim report of the Royal Commission on Lotteries and Betting, and what decision has been reached with regard to the use of the totalisator (a) in tote clubs and (b) on greyhound racing tracks?
My right hon. Friend regrets that owing to illness he is not able to be in his place to answer this question.
As regards the use of the totalisator in tote clubs the Government accept the recommendations of the Royal Commission who were impressed by the spread of the organised facilities for betting and gambling and of the habit of betting and gambling. They clearly state that the use of totalisators for transactions, which in their view are in substance betting transactions, whether in clubs or on greyhound tracks, leads to an enormous growth of facilities for continuous betting and to an increasing exploitation of the gambling instinct of the population at large by persons for their own financial gain. Regarded from this point of view, the totalisator appears to the Commission to be a grave social danger, and their unanimous recommendation is that 19 totalisator betting both in clubs and on greyhound tracks should be brought to an end as soon as possible.
The Government are advised that the use of the tote in clubs is illegal under the existing law, and they propose to put into force the law with a view to die suppression of these clubs. Should changes in the methods of conducting betting operations through the totalisator in these clubs be adopted, and should it be found that the existing law is inadequate to deal with them, the Government will introduce any legislation which may be found necessary to effect the complete suppression of these clubs.
The Government are further advised that the use of the totalisator on greyhound racing tracks is contrary to the existing law, which it is the duty of the authorities to enforce. At the same time the Government recognise that, as pointed out by the Royal Commission, the facilities afforded by the totes are only one form of the betting facilities provided on these tracks and that the Royal Commission will be dealing in their final report with the general question of betting facilities on these tracks. The Government do not propose to come to a final decision as to the legislation, if any, which may be necessary to deal with the use of the tote on greyhound tracks until they have had an opportunity of studying the final recommendations of the Royal Commission with regard to other forms of betting. When those recommendations are received the Government will be in a position to review the matter in all its aspects.
I should add that as regards Scotland, the position is at present different. The High Court. of Justiciary in Scotland in 1930 decided that the use of a totalisator on a greyhound racing track was not in contravention of the Betting Act, 1853. That decision, however, did not proceed upon an interpretation of the part of Section 1 of that Act upon which the English decision was based. I am informed that there is now pending in the Courts in Scotland another case which will enable the law as laid down in the 1930 decision to be reconsidered in the light of the English decision, and until that case is finally determined it is not possible to say whether there is any real divergence between the Courts of the two countries as to the interpretation of the Statute.
Arising out of the latter part of the answer, regarding totalisators on greyhound racing tracks, in view of the fact that the decision, one way or the other, with regard to greyhound tracks, will have an important effect on employment, will the House be afforded an early opportunity of debating this question on a Motion for the Adjournment?
§ Sir BASIL PETO
For the sake of clarity will the Under-Secretary say whether that implies that no more of these totalisators will be allowed to be erected, pending the Government's consideration of the final report and their final decision in the matter?
I would point out that it is the existing law which my right hon. Friend will enforce, and that that does not deal with the erection but with the operation of totalisators.
§ Sir NICHOLAS GRATTAN-DOYLE
Can the Under-Secretary give any indication of the date of the final report which has been so long expected?