§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Captain NORTH
I beg to move,That this House approves the action of the Government in postponing any legislation which may be necessary for dealing with totalisators on greyound racing tracks until the final Report of the Royal Commission has been received, but urges the Government to give very careful consideration to the interests of all those who will be affected by their final decision, be they owners, employés, or frequenters of such tracks.The primary object of this Motion is to give hon. Members an opportunity of having a free and frank discussion on the question of totalisators on greyhound racing tracks. There are some people, I know, who strongly disapprove of any form of gambling or betting whatever it may be, and the recent decision of the Courts with regard to totalisators on greyhound racing tracks will be regarded by those people as at least a step in the right direction. But I do not wish to enter to-night into an argument about the merits or demerits of betting as a whole and in passing may I say that so 1095 far as I and the constituency which I represent are concerned, neither of us have any interest whatever in greyhound racing. My sole reason for raising this question to-night is because I feel that the present position is both impossible and illogical and is one regarding which legislation ought to be introduced on the earliest possible occasion. Whether this House will agree or disagree with the proposals which I shall presently make those proposals at any rate will have this merit that they come from an unprejudiced and I hope an impartial mind.
Even at the risk of repeating facts already known to hon. Members it is necessary to give a short history of the circumstances which have brought about the present position. For many years it was believed that the Betting Act of 1853 made totalisators illegal. I think it is no exaggeration to say that this belief was shared by the public and by this House alike. When Parliament decided to legalise totalisators on horse-racing courses they considered it necessary to introduce special legislation for that purpose and the Racecourse Betting Act of 1928 was passed. There is little or no doubt in my mind that that Act was responsible in some degree for the legal proceedings which ensued. Before that Act had been long in force, the case of the Attorney-General v. The Luncheon and Sports Club was brought in the courts and it was held in that case that the totalisators were legal under the Act of 1853. Owing to that decision, or at any rate shortly after that decision, totalisators on greyhound racing tracks and in what are known as tote clubs first made their appearance. For some time that position continued. Then there was the case of Shuttleworth v. The Leeds Greyhound Association in which it was held that the totalisators were illegal. For a short time it was thought that totalisators might—I say "might" though I think there was not much doubt felt about it—be legal provided that they were operated on a non-profit basis. But in a recent decision the Cardiff stipendiary magistrate has ruled that that is not so.
That is the position as far as England and Wales are concerned. Any totalisator is illegal in this country other than 1096 those upon horse race-courses. The position in Scotland appears to be different. I do not think however that I can attempt to fathom the mind of the Scotsman and whether it is now legal or whether it will be illegal in a few weeks time in Scotland has not I think any particular bearing on the case with which we are dealing. I only make one comment on the legal position. If the learned judges and counsel whose business it is to interpret the law, at one moment hold that totalisators are legal, and the next moment that totalisators are illegal, it is difficult for the ordinary citizen to know what is right and what is wrong. Further, it is my opinion that legal decisions of that nature have not the effect of creating that respect for the law which it is essential to maintain in every well-ordered country.
I come now to the question of the greyhound racing tracks as they are. Before proceeding to discuss that subject I would like to say that although, in law, there may be no difference between the totalisator operating in a tote club and the totalisator operating on a greyhound racing track, in fact, the difference is considerable. I venture to express the hope that the Government will not fail to differentiate between these two entirely different sets of circumstances in any future legislation which may be found necessary. As I see greyhound racing tracks, they are by no means perfect. I divide them into two categories. There are those which, for organisation and efficiency and for protecting the interests of the public against unscrupulous and undesirable persons, will compare favourably with the best racecourse in this country. There are also those where almost every kind of undesirable practice is of daily occurrence. I do not wish my words to be misunderstood. I speak, of course, of the two extremes. Perhaps I ought to say that I greatly regret that the Royal Commission in their report have not emphasised these facts more clearly.
What are the principal objections in the mind of the average person to greyhound racing tracks? I think the first and principal objection is that there is no controlling body over the sport as a whole. Everyone will probably agree that the fact that there is no controlling body allows undesirable practices, which 1097 would be stopped if such a body were in control. Then there is the question of betting. It is, of course, most undesirable to have a greyhound track which merely exists through profits which are made by betting. Betting ought to be an incidental part of the proceedings and not an integral one. Then some people object to Sunday dog racing, and that, I think, is definitely undesirable. I know that there are a great many other arguments that might be well advanced against greyhound tracks, but those are the three main arguments. For instance, it is said that the operation of totalisators on greyhound racing tracks has enormously increased the volume of betting, but I do not take that view. Since totalisators have been set up on horse racing tracks, there is no real evidence to prove that the volume of betting has increased and, even if it has, there is no reason to believe that it is through the totalisators. If you study the financial position of the Betting Control Board, you will come to the conclusion that, certainly as far as the totalisator is concerned on horse racing tracks, that is not the case. I therefore see no reason to suppose that it should not be so on greyhound racing tracks.
The question that this House has eventually to decide is what action should be taken to deal with the present position, because it is clear that you cannot stop now. You have definitely to go on. The position that we are in at present is both impossible and illogical, and, if we were to leave things as they are, it means that you are not stopping betting at all. You are only handing over the public to the tender mercies of the bookmakers. I think it is undesirable that there should be any large increase in the facilities offered to the public for betting and gambling as a whole, and I strongly approve of the action the Government-have taken up to now, because I think it was inevitable. At the same time, providing a sport like greyhound racing is properly controlled and regulated, there can be no fundamental difference between operating a totalisator on a racecourse track and operating it on a greyhound track. I do not suggest for a moment that there is not a difference between the horse-racing industry and the greyhound industry, but, whatever may be said for or against greyhound racing, it 1098 has become an industry of very considerable size and importance and, as such, I think it merits the consideration of the House.
It is with these facts in mind that I suggest that the Government should consider the following proposals. I suggest that all dog racing tracks should be controlled, that a Betting Control Board should be established, that totalisators should be legalised on greyhound racing tracks subject to licence from the courts, that all profits from totalisators should vest in the board, that the board should allow promoters of dog racing tracks to deduct reasonable working expenses, which would include the interest on the capital which they had invested in the totalisator machines, that the number of races per meeting and the number of meetings per week should be limited, that a minimum entrance fee should be charged on all dog racing tracks and, finally, that Sunday dog racing should be prohibited. I am aware that these proposals are quite opposed to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and it is only reasonable to say exactly why one differs from their general conclusion. In paragraph 75 of their report, referring to the establishment of a Board of Control, the Royal Commission say:There is no reason in the public interest why such a board should be set up and, in view of the considerations set out in paragraph 72, we consider it definitely undesirable that such a step should be taken.In paragraph 72 they say they have already referred to the increase in the number of these tracks,an increase which is still continuing, without any control.If you say it is an awful thing that these tracks are springing up here and there and it is entirely because there is no control, the only way to regulate it is by having some form of control, and that is the reason why I differ in one of my recommendations from the conclusions of the Royal Commission. Neither I nor any of my colleagues who are associated with me on this question wish to embarrass the Government. We realise that the action that they have taken was almost inevitable. At the same time, we want to urge upon them that it is impossible to leave matters where they are. This House is and always must be divided on questions of party politics, but when it comes to a plain straightforward issue 1099 which requires ordinary logic and swift justice, I know of no better judges in the whole world than the House of Commons.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Mr. WISE
I beg to second the Motion.
I am sure the House is grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend for his lucid explanation of the problem of the totalisator on the greyhound racecourse as it stands to-day. The House appears to be mainly in agreement with those of us who feel that some degree of latitude should be allowed to the comparatively new sport of greyhound racing. After all, it is an agreeable spectacle, and it is an entertainment for people of all classes. I cannot see any essential moral difference between racing with greyhounds and racing with horses. Both are run for the public amusement, in both cases people bet, and both animals proceed at very much the same speed. If there is no moral difference, it is very difficult for us to understand why a distinction should be drawn and why betting should be legalised for one form of racing contest and not for another. The old argument that has always been put forward in favour of horse racing is that it is necessary in. order to preserve the breed of livestock. I never believed that people raced horses to preserve the breed of livestock. They race horses because they like racing horses. That argument, which was advanced by no less weighty an authority than the "Times" some time ago, is in these days weaker than it ever was in the past. In the past the horse was necessary to us both for military and commercial purposes. The commercial purpose, unfortunately, is disappearing daily, and the military purpose has almost entirely disappeared. In fact, if it is necessary to subsidise or encourage any form of racing for military purposes, the racing that should be encouraged is that of the dirt track.
If, then, we admit that this is a harmless spectacle and that, as such, it should be encouraged as an amusement, what is the objection that is generally raised to the sport of greyhound racing? It is that people actually make bets on the relative efficiency of the dogs that take part in it. This may be. a hideous thing. It may be in some way immoral to make bets on anything and in any place, but betting, as far as we know, is to a large 1100 extent engrained in the composition of the human race. The earliest bet that I can recall in history is that between Apollo and Marsyas, a singing contest—the first known example of a man putting not only his shirt on an event but his skin as well. I think people will wager, whether you supply greyhound races for them or whether they have to provide crown and anchor for themselves at the street corner. Therefore, I think we must assume that betting will continue whatever action is taken. I will go further and say that from the national point of view it is desirable that betting should continue. In these unenterprising days, when the citizen has very few responsibilities and almost no rights remaining, I think anything that will encourage some spark of that old spirit of enterprise is a desirable thing. If they gamble, it is at least some evidence of enterprise.
Then we come to the point that betting within limits is a desirable thing. Therefore, I think it would be germane to the issue to consider what limits, if any, are necessary, and surely the first limit that is necessary is that betting should cease to be the hole-and-corner business which it is on many occasions now and should be permitted in the proper places at the proper times without any unnecessary hindrance on the people who desire to make their wagers. Another necessity, if betting is to be accepted either as a necessary evil, a harmless pleasure, or a slightly desirable asset, is that those who make their bets shall get the largest possible return from the money which they risk. I submit that by the use of the totalisator for betting purposes the public who make their bets do in fact get a larger return than they would or did under any old form of betting, and the proof of that seems to me to be that the whole problem that we have recently had over the totalisator was started by the people who were feeling the effects of its competition. The bookmaker, who may be, and sometimes is, a good and worthy citizen, was undoubtedly having to offer longer odds in order to compete with the totalisator, which was working on a 10 per cent, gross profit, which is a gross profit on which no bookie can profitably work.
The advantages, then, of the totalisator are that betting takes place under more 1101 pleasant conditions than it does in the case of betting which has to be done with a bookmaker; I think the totalisator tends to reduce in size the sums of money wagered, and that possibly is again a desirable thing; and another of its great advantages is that, being 'a large and very cumbersome machine, it is not liable to be absent at the end of the race when you go to collect your winnings. Further— and this should appeal very much to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—it is impossible for the totalisator not to return an accurate account of its takings and profits throughout the financial year, whereas it is not only possible for a bookie to defraud the Inland Revenue, but it is in fact frequently done. I have known very few bookmakers in my life. Some of them, I think, possibly do fill in a reasonably correct Income Tax return, but they cannot help themselves, because they are paid by cheque, and it is very difficult to conceal the receipt of a cheque.
So we have an industry now which we have allowed to grow up without suppressing it, as it should have been suppressed, if it was undesirable, the moment it started; we have very considerable interests involved, and not only the interests of capitalists; we have a very considerable industry in the manufacture of the totalisator; and we have a very considerable staff employed at the various greyhound racing tracks. I think we must assume that the intention ultimately must be, if it is to be held that the totalisator' is illegal on the greyhound track, to make the bookmaker illegal as well, and I do not think anyone who is a supporter of greyhound racing or of betting in general would be either so foolish or so hypocritical as to claim that any sort of attendance of the public would be found on a greyhound track if they were not able to bet on the races which they go to see. I think that must be admitted. Therefore, the adoption of proposals for the prohibition of betting would in fact mean the closing of greyhound racing courses all over this country, whether or not they were well conducted and whether or not the public actually enjoyed visiting them.
So far, for very many years, this House has regrettably been an instrument for the curtailing of the liberties of the people. Among hon. Members on all 1102 sides of the House, and even regrettably sometimes among right hon. Members as well, there has been an epidemic of what might be called the Prohibition mind, and I think this is one occasion when this House, while approving of the Government's reserving its decision until the Royal Commission has finally reported, can urge upon the Government, first of all, not to do, as has been done with some reports of Royal Commissions, namely, delay their presentation for a very long period, but to bring some form of pressure on the Royal Commission to-report as soon as they can, and, further, that whatever that report may be, not to be too pedantically attached to carrying out its provisions if those provisions mean a further restriction of the pleasures and the liberties of the Englishman.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I do not think anyone can complain of the fairness of the manner in which the case has been put by the two hon. Members who have just spoken. That is a great advantage on all occasions in discussing an issue of this kind. I want to make it quite clear that I speak entirely on my own behalf to-night. This is a private Member's Motion, and everyone on such an occasion is entitled to speak his own mind. This Motion ought, for clarity's sake, to be divided into two parts, and if I had a complaint at all, it would be that the hon. Members who moved and seconded it did not do that. I will attempt to do it myself. The Motion reads:That this House approves the action of the Government in postponing any legislation which may be necessary for dealing with totalisators on greyhound racing tracks until the final report of the Royal Commission has been received.If the Motion stopped there, I do not think I would have got up to criticise it, but it goes much further than that, and it appears to me that there has been more than one mind, and even more than two minds at work, in drafting the latter portion of it. I would not be a bit surprised if the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans) were able to explain the latter portion of the Motion, which reads as follows:but urges the Government to give very careful consideration to the interests of all those who will be affected by their final decision, he they owners, employés, or frequenters of such tracks.1103 If the Motion had been worded to include the community as a whole and the well-being of the State as well, then I still do not think I would have criticised it. But when the mover and seconder confine their attention to these persons— owners, employers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Employés !"]—I meant employés then, I must protest. Hon. Members are always very jealous of the employés of every concern in which they are interested financially, but when we put the ease of the employés in any industry or amusement business for better wages and labour conditions, we never see those hon. Members on our side then. They use the employés, as a rule, just in order to support their argument for something else. That is their history, so far as I remember it.
I have taken a little interest in this problem of betting, gambling, lotteries and the totalisator. I was on the Committee upstairs which considered the Racecourse Betting Act of 1928, and there are other Members present to-night who will remember what transpired then. I do not think I am wrong in saying that it was understood by everybody in that Committee that in giving the Betitng Control Board authority over the totalisator, it was with the deliberate intention of using the profits from it for the purposes of horse-breeding. That was the argument, and I think that it was understood by everybody, and so far as Parliament itself was concerned, and so far as it could speak then, the totalisator was to be limited absolutely to the horse-racing business.
§ Major HILLS
I have always said the contrary, and I think that the hon. Member will remember that I did. I always said that if you granted the totalisator for horse racing, you could not refuse it to greyhound tracks.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I thought that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman used that argument because he was on my side against the totalisator being installed at all. That was surely his argument against the use of the totalisator anywhere. I am sorry to find such a paradox in the House to-day. At 7.30 to-day we finished a discussion which went to show that the countries of Europe including our own are more or less on the 1104 brink of economic and financial disaster. Yet a little later the same day we are arguing in favour of granting more facilities for spending money on a mug's game. That is what the report of the Royal Commission on Betting said. In their official documents they said that betting was a mug's game and that nobody benefited on such transactions but the bookmaker himself. I am therefore rather irritated that we should descend at once to deal with a foolish problem like this when we spent the rest of the day on an issue that is of vital importance to the State and to our people. As stated I have no complaint against the first part of the Motion, although there are some people who argue that we should secure legislation on this issue alone in order to clarify the situation, but I am not very much impressed by that argument. We must thank the mover of the Motion for clarifying the legal position as he did, but I think that it is understood by everybody that there would be no dog-racing tracks in this country at all were it not for the incentive of profits from the totalisator.
Dog-racing was a commercial success in this country long before totalisators were introduced.
§ Mr. DAVIES
Am I not right in putting it the other way, that as soon as totalisators became established on a profit basis on dog-racing tracks, the tracks multiplied enormously merely because of the profits gained from totalisators? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear !"] Both my arguments are right then. Let us carry the point a stage further. The seconder of the Motion mentioned that there is, after all, a difference between horse-racing and dog-racing. I can see very little sense in putting forward the argument that you must breed dogs to run after an electric hare in order to produce better dogs. Really that argument will not stand.
§ Mr. DAVIES
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman himself will be able to enlighten us later as to how dogs and horses fall into the same category for the purposes of the bloodstock of the country. I have yet to learn that anybody puts forward the argument that there is the same necessity for breeding dogs as for breeding horses. I should have thought that the breeding of horses was much more important than breeding dogs. I am astonished that a Motion of this kind should be brought forward immediately after the interim report of the Royal Commission was published, for every word uttered by the two hon. Gentlemen who supported the Motion to-night is contrary to the report of the Commission. The Commission consisted of a body of representative people, and, as far as I know, they are not men and women who themselves object to betting and gambling. They are drawn from all sections of the community, and they listened for months to evidence from witnesses of all kinds. The Government and the House will be bound to take greater heed of their report than of the speeches of the two hon. Gentlemen, however eloquent they may have been. This is what the Royal Commission said on page 14 of their report:We have been impressed by the spread of the organised facilities for betting and gambling, and of the habit of betting and gambling. The weight of the evidence shows that serious social consequences are ensuing. The gambling instinct of the population at large is being increasingly exploited by persons for their own financial gain.There was never anything more true in connection with the use of totalisators on dog racing tracks than that. The Commission goes nearer to the point which we are arguing to-night when they state that:Regarded from this point of view, the totalisator appears to us to be a grave danger. As a method of betting it is easily understood, and its appeal is widespread. Experience has shown that totalisators provided only that they can be operated continuously on several days a week in large centres of the population, rapidly attarct to themselves a large volume of betting transactions which prove extremely profitable to the promoters. This leads to a rapid increase in the opportunities for organised betting.I entirely agree with one observation which the hon. Gentleman made about betting. I confess that I have no tendencies of that kind, although I do 1106 not claim to be a saint. The hon. Gentleman argued that there is a tendency in all human beings to bet. What I object to is that a group of capitalists come along to organise facilities and to exploit for their financial gain this obvious weakness in human beings. That is the whole of my case.
§ Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS
Do I understand that if this method of betting were run on a non-profit basis the hon. Member would not object to it?
§ Mr. DAVIES
I not only object to betting on a non-profit basis, but I object to betting because I have seen a number of families in want through the foolishness of the father in spending his money in gambling.
§ Mr. DAVIES
That is one of my strong points. The hon. Gentleman is half a Welshman himself, and ought to understand me better. The totalisator on dog racing tracks is, as I said, definitely condemned by the Royal Commission; and, further, let me read what Lord Askwith said recently in addressing a meeting:We want to see the law rationalised. What we advocate is the reasonable limitation and control of greyhound race-courses, with statutory approval and control of the totalisator on these courses. Last year '20,000,000 people went to the dogs.So far as I can judge, 20,000,000 going to the dogs means that this nation is metaphorically half-way to the dogs. He then said that:The Exchequer received nearly £250,000 in entertainments' tax, and £17,000 went to charities.How familiar the last sentence sounds— £17,000 to charity ! A sort of conscience money! I appeal to hon. Gentlemen to consider a point of view which was put to me by an eminent American some time ago. I said to him: "I hope you will let us off our debt." He said: "It is my duty to look round to see what is happening here. Every dog racing track is full, all your cinemas are crowded. You spend, so it is said, £200,000,000 a year on drink, £200,000,000 on entertainments and amusements and about £200,000,000 on betting. In those three directions you spend very nearly the total revenue necessary to run your country." It is very difficult for Americans to say: "We will forgive you your debts" when we can 1107 still find £600,000,000, £700,000,000 or even £800,000,000 a year for what they regard as wasteful expenditure.
I will say this finally. I am not acquainted with the technicalities of betting. Up to now I have not touched betting at any angle. If hon. Gentlemen will read the history of nations they will find, at a casual glance, that when commerce declines and industry falls into ruin the people are very often told by their leaders to turn to amusements and other diversions as a relief from their anxieties, but the end of the nations who have done so is the story of their ultimate decline and fall. Although I am a Socialist, I am proud of most of the institutions of this country, and I would not raise my hand in this House to do anything for the owners of dog tracks, the frequenters of dog tracks or the employés of dog tracks if I thought that by so doing I should be destroying the fibre of the nation. Therefore, I oppose this Motion.
§ 8.40 p.m.
Captain A. EVANS
I feel the House ought to be truly grateful to the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) for the very entertaining manner in which he has endeavoured to make bricks without straw. If I may say so with respect, he did it with far more success when he was such a distinguished Member of the Committee upstairs which considered the Racecourse Betting Control Bill some years ago. In view of the fact that the hon. Member has hinted at financial interests, I would like to take the first opportunity of telling the House quite frankly that I do not possess and have never possessed any financial interest of any kind whatsoever in any greyhound track in Great Britain; but, as chairman of the British Totalisator Manufacturers' Association, I am empowered to do, and propose to do, what little I can to prevent at least 5,000 highly-skilled and highly-paid artisans being thrown out of employment, as we think unnecessarily, in addition to many thousands who are engaged in the operation of totalisators.
The position to-day is this, that, as a result of the Interim Report of the Royal Commission, betting with bookmakers on greyhound tracks has not only been favoured but, in fact, made imperative, 1108 whereas betting by the alternative mechanised form of the totalisator has been totally prohibited and made impossible. Many hon. Members, not to mention the Press and the public at large, fail to see why the Royal Commission have gone to such lengths to differentiate between these two forms of betting. Only two means of betting are available to the public. If they wish to place a bet they have to do it either through the human agency of the bookmaker or through the mechanised form of the totalisator, which latter, I think, is rightly recognised as being specially designed to protect the interests of "punters." Not only is the profit of the totalisator on betting transactions limited, but that profit, which is deducted from the turnover of the totalisator, is clearly shown to the public, whereas the basis on which the bookmaker works is an uncertain one, and there is nothing to tell the investor what percentage of profit he is rightly entitled to enjoy.
The Government have told the House that before they can deal with this very important subject they must await the full findings of the Royal Commission, and although it is unusual for hon. Members to criticise the findings of a Commission until its report has been published, I feel that in view of the importance which the Home Office has given to the findings presented in the Interim Report we are entitled to make one or two observations on those recommendations, and particularly on the basis on which they were founded. In the first place, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that any unbiased person reading the Interim Report of the Royal Commission would come to the conclusion that it is special pleading from beginning to end, and that it can in no wise be termed an unbiased and unprejudiced argument. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I am expressing my own opinion, and am speaking on behalf of nobody except myself, when I say that I feel it is special pleading in favour of betting with bookmakers as against betting with the totalisator. It has been alluded to in the Press as nothing more nor less than a bookmakers' charter. I shall produce arguments to-night to show that that criticism is based upon a fair and just foundation. To justify betting upon horse racing and to condemn betting on greyhound racing because they 1109 believe, and state definitely, that the former sport is of national importance, is nothing more nor less than sheer humbug. No hon. Members are anxious to do or to say anything to-night which would have a detrimental effect upon horse racing in this country. It is a sport which has been recognised for a number of years, and which is enjoyed by many people. We are entitled to observe that the number of people who feel it worth while to visit a racecourse for pleasure is only 4,000,000 a year, whereas the people who frequent greyhound racing for the same reason number 20,000,000 a year. It is an absurd deduction to say—
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Oliver Stanley)
May I interrupt the hon. and gallant Member to say that I do not think we can accept those figures. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggest that 20,000,000 different people visit greyhound tracks annually?
Not at all. I would not venture to do that. Nor would I venture to say that the 4,000,000 who frequent a racecourse annually are 4,000,000 different people. The hon. Gentleman knows full well that the vast majority of the 4,000,000 people who frequent race tracks throughout the country are made up of a professional class who go there for the purpose of making money. We have to remember that we are not debating, and that the Government are not considering—in fact, the House of Commons has not been invited to consider— whether greyhound racing is legal or illegal. All that we are debating to-night, and all that we are asked to consider, is the question of the alternative form of betting on greyhound racing tracks. The figure of 4,000,000 people, as against 20,000,000 people, is a comparison which should be given very serious consideration by the Under-Secretary of State, and by other hon. Members.
The Royal Commission say that totalisators on dog tracks are bad because of the vast amount of money which changes hands on those courses, and because of the inducement to betting provided by the alternative form of mechanised betting. The House, when considering that statement, should bear in mind the figures. I do not think it will be challenged from any side of the 1110 House when I say that the amount of money which is alleged to pass on racecourses—meaning of course horse racecourses—as against greyhound tracks is in the vicinity of £200,000,000 a year. That is the figure which was accepted by the Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) when he was chairman of the Betting Commission. We also know, from the figures which were published last year, that the amount of money which changed hands on the greyhound track was £18,000,000 as against £200,000,000 on the horse track, of which 75 per cent. was credit betting. I suggest to hon. Members that, in the light of those figures, the whole case, based upon that wrong premise, immediately falls to the ground.
If the Royal Commission thought it right to allude to the amount of money which passes and changes hands on the greyhound tracks, they might also have mentioned the fact that £30,000,000 is attributable to street betting in this country. There are some who feel, and feel rightly, that, if you allow betting to be above board and recognised by the authorities, it can be better controlled than by the subterranean form which is indulged in by street betting and among bookmakers' agents. The hon. Member for Westhoughton, who hails from the Principality, will, I am sure, bear me out when I say—
He has the honour to represent a Manchester constituency, but he has the greater honour to hail from the principality of Wales.
What is known as street betting has reached alarming proportions. In certain parts of the country, the milkman and the tradesmen who deliver goods to the householders of modest means are in many cases the agents of bookmakers.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I do not wish to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but he has made a statement. How docs he know all this? [Interruption.] I am quite serious. He comes here as a Member of Parliament with a certain responsibility, and he says that that is 1111 happening. It is a serious thing to say about decent working people. We ought to require some evidence when he makes those statements about decent people.
Certainly, I shall be very happy to deal with that question immediately. In the first place, I do not share the view that those people are doing any wrong.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
If they are milkmen receiving an income as milkmen for delivering milk, or if they are unemployed people, and they are doing what the hon. and gallant Member says they are, obviously they are committing a grave wrong against the State and would be dealt with if discovered. I do not agree that it is done.
I am putting this point to the House of Commons for its consideration. It is not unusual to find in very big factories that on certain floors and in certain departments is a local bookmaker's agent who is only too pleased, for a small commission, to take the bets of the factory workers to the bookmaker for registration in the hope of successful results. The attitude of mind which says that we must discourage betting in all its forms would be more persuasive and more telling in its argument if, at the same time, it ventured to express the opinion that you could put down betting as a whole by legislation. Hon. Gentlemen know full well that, in spite of whatever legislation this House might consider and pass, betting would continue to take place in this country.
I share the view that if people bet within their means—I think that the vast majority of people do that, although you will always find a minority who exceed the bounds, but they subsequently regret it, as I have done on many occa- 1112 sions—there is little wrong. We have to realise those facts, because the House of Commons should to-night consider the facts of the case, apart from the theoretical recommendations of a Royal Commission. If we do that, we shall be in a position to decide whether there is any justification in differentiating between one form of betting and another. Since we know as a fact that that object cannot be achieved, it is most singular that in an interim report the Royal Commission, while referring to the activities of bookmakers, refrain from criticising their industry in any way whatsoever, and yet single out an alternative form of mechanised betting for their disapproval. I venture to say that the danger and menace which faces this country to-day is not the question whether a working man is running a grave risk by investing 2s. in a totalisator. A far greater menace is the inability of the country to absorb at any rate the larger proportion of the 3,000,000 men who are unemployed today, and, as representing an influential group of manufacturers in this country, that is the point of view that I desire, if I may be permitted to do so, to submit to the House of Commons for its consideration to-night.
I am not speaking on behalf of a number of unimportant firms of mushroom growth, but of people like the Automatic Electric Company, Limited, of Liverpool; the Bell Punch Company; Bell's Asbestos; British Automatic Totalisator, Limited; British Insulated Cables; Drake and Gorham; Ericsson's Telephones; the General Electric Company—not a small company; Hall's Telephone Accessories; Henley's Telegraph Works: Lightning Automatic Totalisators, Limited; Opperman, Sons and Tasker; the Phoenix Telephone and Electric Works; Siemens Brothers, of Woolwich; Small Electric Motors; Totalisators, Limited, and the Union Totalisator Company. These are companies which are at the present time, or were until a few days ago, employing upwards of 5,000 highly skilled and highly paid artisans; and, at a time when the Prime Minister and His Majesty's Government are imploring everybody in authority in this country to do everything in their power to encourage employment, I am surprised to find that they are even considering a policy which would immediately have the effect of throwing out of employment at least 15,000 men— 1113 because that is the total including the whole of the operators employed at the same time—and telling them to join the already dispirited army of 3,000,000 unemployed. The House listened with considerable interest this afternoon to a very important Debate on unemployment, and many of us were much impressed by the facts brought out in that Debate. Here is an instance in which the House of Commons can take a practical step, not only to prevent people from being thrown out of employment, but also to give a vast number of highly skilled men employment who are not employed to-day.
The hon. Gentleman asks me how. He will surely realise, as I do, that it is impossible to capture a foreign market in the absence of complete support from the home market. I should like to give the House one or two instances. It was not until eight High Court decisions had been given in favour of the legality of totalisators in this country that manufacturers such as those I have just enumerated decided to invest large sums of money, not only in plant and machinery up and down the country, but also in research work, and I do not think it is any exaggeration to say that, as a result of their work and research, the most perfect form of adding machine and the most perfect form of totalisator equipment has been produced in this country, the like of which the world has never seen before. My hon. Friend need only consult the Racecourse Betting Control Board in order to bear out what I say, namely, that, subject to proper control and to proper and expert examination by chartered accountants, it is absolutely impossible for the modern fully mechanised electric totalisator to defraud the public in any manner whatsoever. If I may say so with great respect at this stage, I do not think that the Royal Commission has any right whatsoever to make a statement of the kind that they made in their interim report, that totalisators are subject to fraud, unless at the same time they tell us exactly how and why they have arrived at that extraordinary opinion. As a result of the market which has been created in this country, vast endeavours have been made to capture the world market, and I am very pleased to say that, as a result of the existence 1114 of the home market and of the reduction of production costs in Great Britain, a certain firm has been successful in obtaining a very important contract in America.
Only this afternoon the Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and other important speakers alluded to the necessity of doing all we can to obtain foreign trade. In view of the fact that, if the recommendations of the Royal Commission are accepted, many thousands of men will be thrown out of employment, I feel that the House will be interested to know of the activities of this industry, not only in the home market, but abroad. Lately a firm which has its factory at Uxbridge was fortunate in securing a contract, in the face of very intensive competition, for the supply of the necessary parts of a totalisator equipment for Miami, Florida, and also another important contract for Chicago. I have here an extract from an American paper, which, I think the hon. Gentleman will agree, pays an enormous tribute, not only to British ingenuity, but to British enterprise and commerce. Mr. Mortimer Mahoney, the generalissimo of pari-mutuels at Miami, who is recognised as America's outstanding authority on pari-mutuel operation, after seeing the British machines at work, is reported, according to the "Baltimore Sun," as predicting that within the next year every major track in America will be equipped with its automatic totalisator, a visualisation which, in view of the number of race-courses in the United States, would mean a notable addition to British exports. He is stated to have declared that he had seen nothing comparable with these machines for ingenuity and efficiency, recording, as each of them does, the number of tickets issued on each horse, thus furnishing a cross check on the totals of the operators' records and the indicator board, and likewise affording the betting public absolute protection against mistakes or manipulation.
I say on my own personal authority that it was only possible for this firm to obtain that contract because they had a home market to cater for, and were able to spread the Vast amount of money which they invested in plant, machinery and research over a far wider area than they would otherwise have been in a position to do. There is not the 1115 slightest doubt that, if you nip in the bud, or, to use another expression, strangle in its infancy, a vast and important industry of this kind, there is no likelihood of our being able to compete with America in the future, especially when we have to jump a tariff barrier of no less than 27½ per cent. I know that other Members desire to speak in the Debate, and I will conclude by saying that there are two alternatives facing the Government to-day.
If the Government accept the first alternative and bring in legislation to effect the recommendations of the Royal Commission, they will throw out of employment permanently many thousands of people. They will strangle at its birth a new and an important industry which stands a very good chance of catering for a world demand. They will also deprive the Chancellor of the Exchequer of a vast amount of money annually, because it must be realised that even at the present moment the greyhound tracks throughout the country pay no less than £250,000 annually to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not to mention Entertainments Tax and a similar amount of money paid to local rates. They will create a position which, I suggest to the House, could not be defended even by facts or by arguments. I say, as a very resolute Conservative, that they will be indulging in class legislation of an order such as I would not be a party to defend on a public platform in the country.
On the other hand, they have the opportunity of giving practical support and encouragement to an industry and to a sport catering for no less than 20,000,000 people annually, and paying at the moment £250,000 to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and prepared to pay far more. It is an industry which contributed no less than £14,000 to charities last year. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton rather lightly criticised that contribution. We all know full well what very good work the Royal Veterinary College is doing at the present time in the face of the very gravest difficulties, and I think that if the Government consulted Professor Hobday they would find that that very distinguished gentleman in veterinary circles was indeed very indebted to the National Greyhound 1116 Society for the amount of money received for the college last year. It will result in the employment of many thousands of people and will afford a healthy and normal form of entertainment for a vast number of our people who, in the absence of the sport, will be forced to frequent places of a less desirable character.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Sir ALFRED BUTT
It is a case for great regret, I think, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Cardiff (Captain Evans) should have suggested that the Royal Commission were biased in their judgment. It is very difficult in these days to secure eminent people to give up their time to sit on Royal Commissions, and in this particular case we have no reason to believe that any of the members of the Commission, none of whom is personally known to me, have done other than give their time and judgment for the benefit of the country. Whatever one may think in regard to the conclusions which they have reached, I do not think that it is possible to read the interim report without feeling alarmed at the evidence which is produced therein of the rapid growth of facilities and incentives to gambling in this country. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that he regretted very much that the Royal Commission had not dealt with the question of bookmakers. I think that that is probably due to the fact that the Government asked the Royal Commission to make an interim report solely in regard to the operations of all totalisators on greyhound tracks, and in some respects it is to be regretted that we are discussing the question of totalisators on greyhound racing tracks before we have the full report of the Royal Commission.
I do not think that any hon. Members will in any way disagree with the Motion which is now before us. They will approve of the action of the Government in delaying any legislation until they have in their possession the full report of the Royal Commission. I think the House would wish, as the Mover said in a most moderate and fair speech, the Government to give the fullest consideration to the interest of everyone now engaged in the greyhound industry. I can only say that I regret exceedingly, ever since the issue of the Interim Report, that the propagandists on behalf of grey- 1117 hound racing have been so very intensive and aggressive in their activities. They are doing their case a disservice. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman refers to class legislation, and to one law for the rich and one for the poor, he is endeavouring to create prejudice, which is not justified.
It is probably well known to most Members of the House that I, at all events, am interested in horse racing both as an owner and as a breeder. I not infrequently visit racecourses, and I not infrequently have a bet on a race horse, and I have had a bet on dogs. I do not wish to deny to anyone else, of whatever station in life, the same facilities which I enjoy, but I wish to point out to the House the great difference which exists between horse racing and greyhound racing. I was one of those who had the honour of sitting on the Select Committee on Betting in 1923, and the evidence at that time was very convincing that the amount of betting which was taking place in this country was appalling. We came to the conclusion at that time that, while it was practicable, it was undesirable to tax betting, because if we did so it meant recognising it and probably increasing the facilities for it. Subsequently a Private Member's Bill was introduced into this House for the purpose of establishing totalisators on racecourses for use for horse racing only. I have been consistent throughout. I opposed it because I thought that ultimately we should not be able to deny those facilities to other forms of sport. I opposed it because I did not think that in our existing conditions totalisators would be successful in this country.
However, I think it appealed very much to the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time as a probable means of securing his Betting Tax. I believe that the authorities who govern racing conscientiously thought at that time that it would have the effect of not only improving racing but providing funds which could be used for the benefit of racing. Ultimately, a Measure was passed through this House creating a statutory authority to control totalisators on racecourses, and on racecourses only. The ultimate destination of any profits was clearly defined. It was definitely laid down that no profits of any kind what- 1118 soever should accrue to private individuals. The result of totalisators on racecourses has been a disastrous failure. According to the last published report of the Racecourse Betting Control Board, there was a capital expenditure of £2,300,000, a revenue of £370,000 in the year 1931 and an expenditure of £415,000.
Is it not true to say that these unfortunate financial results are due to the fact that the Racecourse Betting Control Board have financed and paid for the setting up of the totalisators out of bank loans, because they had not any capital at their disposal?
§ Sir A. BUTT
I do not think that it would be relevant to the present discussion to enter into a lengthy explanation of why the Racecourse Betting Control Board has failed in its objective. I do not agree with the explanation interjected by my hon. and gallant Friend. I have no doubt that during the year we shall have an opportunity of discussing the finances of the Racecourse Betting Control Board. What I want to point out is that whilst the totalisator was specifically limited to racecourses, the Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time said that if it had been proposed that they should be extended to the greyhound racing tracks that were then in existence, he would have opposed it. The greyhound racing tracks at that time were declining. The novelty had fallen off considerably and the tracks were rapidly declining. The proprietors of the tracks saw in the totalisator a new and attractive addition to their courses and they installed totalisators on the greyhound racing tracks. The result was that, in consequence of the fact that they had an unlimited number of meetings, the totalisators became extremely profitable on the greyhound racing tracks and their multiplication has only been a question of the rapidity with which they could secure suitable sites, develop them and procure plant from my hon. and gallant Friend.
I understand that the great outcry to-day is that if you have greyhound racing tracks and race-courses for horses and you permit a totalisator for one, you ought not to deny the totalisator for the other. There arc two substantial reasons why you are justified in differentiating. First of all, because racing has been a 1119 national sport for many centuries in this country. Certainly, since the year 1750 it has been controlled by the Jockey Club, which is not a statutory body.
§ Sir A. BUTT
I am sorry to differ from the hon. Member, but I do not think the Jockey Club is a statutory body.
§ Sir A. BUTT
I am very much indebted to you, Captain Bourne, for your intervention. The Jockey Club, which, as far as I understand, is not a statutory body, has grown up as the result of 250 years of tradition, and everyone associated with racing—owners, jockeys and the public—have the utmost confidence and belief in it, and its decisions and regulations are accepted not only without criticism or discussion in this country but all over the world. Those gentlemen have no pecuniary interest whatsoever in racing. I have never heard it suggested that any member of the Jockey Club is interested financially in any way whatsoever so as to make profit out of racing.
In the best interests of this country the Jockey Club have strictly limited the amount of racing which takes place. I believe I am right in saying that, after many centuries, there are at the present time only 105 race-courses in this country, but the greyhound racing enterprises, after seven years, according to the figures of the Royal Commission, have at the present time 190 tracks, with 55 projected or in course of erection. The proprietors of the greyhound racing tracks have thought fit to endeavour to create their own Jockey club for the purpose of controlling greyhound racing but, apart from their own affiliated groups, which I think number about 50, they have obviously not inspired the unanimous confidence of greyhound racing enterprises, because there is a competitive organisation and a very large number of organisations which are not affiliated. 1120 These enterprises are being run wholly and solely for profit and wholly and solely for the purpose of exploiting the public.
Perhaps it may be very illuminating if I give the House some figures that I have prepared, which are almost unbelievable. If I was not in a position to substantiate them, I should say that they were totally unbelievable. I have mentioned that the Jockey Club allows a maximum of 331 flat racing days this year, and the National Hunt, which controls steeplechasing, allows 283 racing days this year. For greyhound racing, including Scotland, there are 21,000 racing days. In the London area, within a radius of 15 miles from Charing Cross, there are 63 race meetings during the year and in the same area there are 4,000 dog track races. I have drawn a circle round three or four other areas and I have found that, in the Manchester area, there are 17 race meetings during the year and 624 dog races. In the Midlands area, round Birmingham there are 18 horse race meetings and 1,646 dog race meetings. Lastly, in the area of York there are eight race meetings and 590 dog races.
I know that the argument is that dog racing takes place in the evening and therefore it is very much easier for people to go to it, but I would put the reverse position. There are still some people in this country who prefer horse racing to dog racing. I am not drawing any comparisons between the two sports. I should have thought that the unbiased imagination of the House of Commons would be sufficient to differentiate between horse racing and dog racing after a mechanised hare. Coursing, so far as greyhounds are concerned, is, I believe, truly carried out by the National Coursing Association. What I would like to point out to the protagonists of greyhound racing is that it is quite conceivable that there are many people in Manchester who can only afford to go racing in Manchester and who go racing for the love of the sport. They are permitted 17 days during the year, whereas the greyhound racing enthusiasts are permitted 624 days. I hope the House will not accept the statement that it is one law for the rich and one law for the poor. It seems to me that the poor have far the best of it as far as the numbers of meetings go.
1121 I am opposing this Motion, first of all, because, if we are to have greyhound racing with totalisators, it should be under Government control. It should be controlled by a statutory body which is not composed of the present financial interests behind greyhound racing, but is a totally independent statutory body. It should also be severely curtailed. If you lay that down as a principle, you are going to be up against the great difficulty of how you can deny to Wolverhamption what you give to Sheffield. In practice you will be bound to permit dog racing all over the country. I am one of those who believe that at the present moment the poorer classes frequent racecourses quite as often as the so-called richer classes—if there are any left. Whenever I go to a race meeting I find the cheaper enclosures are much fuller than the dearer enclosures. While I do not want to deny anyone the right to normal enjoyment, I feel very strongly—and I am risking passing unpopularity in my constituency, which is less important to me than saying what I conscientiously believe—that the totalisator is the most seductive and attractive form of gambling.
A great deal has been said to-night about the volume of betting. It is obvious that the amount of betting at greyhound racing can never compare with the amount of betting at horse racing, because on horse racing the average bet is very much greater. But the person who bets £10 or £20 on horse racing is probably much more able to afford to lose—and in the long run he will lose— than the person who bets 2s. or 4s. at a greyhound racing meeting. There is no doubt that it is the attraction of the easy method of betting by the totalisator which is so pernicious. I am not standing here to hold any brief for the bookmaker, and indeed 11 years ago I expressed the view that I would like to see it a criminal offence to have any gambling away from racecourses in this country. There are, however, an enormous number of people who will go to a greyhound racing track because there is no inconvenience, no embarrassment, no rudeness in going to a totalisator. If they win, no one knows how much they win, and, if they lose, no one knows how much they lose. If you confine it to the bookmaker, greyhound racing will decline and will be extinct in the next four or five years. On that point, perhaps I may quote from a paper 1122 which has been sent to me in no friendly spirit. The "Greyhound Express" says:There appeared to be fewer women present last night than is usually the case at White City, and one of them stated if she could not bet with a ' tote ' she preferred not to bet at all. That appeared to be the general attitude of most women present who were unaccompanied by men.The quotation I have read is one of the best justifications for opposing the totalisator on greyhound racing tracks. I do not know what will be the final recommendations of the Royal Commission. I hope they are going to deal fearlessly with the question of gambling in this country. I do not know what will be the decision of the Government in regard to totalisators and greyhound racing, but I am convinced that, if we allow mechanised roulette wheels—because they are very little else—at every street corner, we are going to undermine our national character, and to jeopardise that economic recovery which all well wishers of this country are anxious to see. France is looked upon as a country of gambling, but they are far more logical. They do permit gambling and allow chemin-de-fer, baccarat and various other games. They do not permit roulette in France; it is permitted at Monte Carlo. But they are sensible in France; they do not allow casinos in their industrial towns. You cannot name one industrial town in France where they have a casino. They put them in seasonal watering places and have strict supervision in regard to admittance. The only people who can get in easily are visitors. Finally, they are logical; they deduct no less than 60 per cent. penal taxation, which is used by the State for various purposes. I hope the House will not be carried away by false sentiment in regard to greyhound racing. It appeals to the worst instincts of people who have the least money and can least afford to lose it, and it will be one of the greatest tragedies for this country if a National Government, put here with the overwhelming confidence of the nation, is going to allow gambling to run amok.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Major the Marquess of TITCHFIELD
When I read this Motion I realised that the skill and wisdom of the Whips room had by no means diminished since I left it, and I congratulate my hon. Friends in the Whips room on the tactful manner 1123 in which they have worded this Resolution. It says that all the interests concerned should be carefully considered. The report of the commission is hardly as sympathetic. In fact, it threatens the annihilation of everything for which the dog totalisator stands. I do not wish to say anything to-night, even if I ever could say anything, to embarrass any Government, which might embarrass my hon. Friends below me, nor will I follow the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Cardiff South (Captain A. Evans), which reminded me more of a meeting of commercial travellers than the House of Commons.
I do not think that the commission has written a very wise report, and I should advise the Government to take very little notice of it. They advise that the totalisator should be abolished on all greyhound courses, and they say that later on they will give advice on the matter of the bookmakers. Why all this hesitation in giving advice about the bookmaker? If gambling is wrong on the totalisator, it is surely wrong with the bookmaker. You cannot get away from that fact. Surely there are some logical people on the commission, and they might have said that several weeks ago when they issued their report. Of the two forms of gambling, totalisator gambling is surely the better. It gives fair odds, and, if properly controlled, cannot welsh. I do not resemble Apollo nor do I know anything of Marsyas, two people who have been mentioned, nor, indeed, have I ever put my shirt on a horse, but I am proud to say that I spring from a famous racing family, like my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office. I am assured by my family that bookmakers on the whole are a very decent set of people, but bookmakers do not give such fair odds as the totalisator, and, as we know, welshing is not unknown.
Nor can the question of right or wrong come in. We as a House of Commons have decreed, rightly or wrongly in our wisdom or in our unwisdom, that betting on the totalisator on racecourses is right and proper, but the Commission says that to bet on a greyhound totalisator is wrong. What is the reason that the Commission gives for this statement? They say that if you bet on the 1124 totalisator on racecourses you are helping horse racing, which helps horse breeding. By sin, I suppose, we shall produce virtue. I wonder if William Wilberforce, many years ago, would have used that argument when he was working so hard to abolish slavery all over the Empire and all over the world. The argument which the Commission uses is sheer humbug. One word about betting generally. I think I am right in saying that everything that is nice in life is bad for us if we over-indulge in it. I will go further and say that everything we do in life is bad for us if we do it too much. There are, I understand, some people in this world who overwork. I realise that my hon. Friends opposite and I have never been guilty of that, but because some people overwork that is no argument for abolishing work altogether. No one, or very few people, in this House, except perhaps the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) would abolish beer or wine because a few people over-indulge in those two commodities. Wine is one of God's greatest gifts. It makes us forget our troubles and does not spoil our health if we take it in moderation.
Gambling in moderation can do no harm. A fool and his money are soon parted, whether it is on a racecourse, or on a dog course, or on the Stock Exchange, or anywhere else. That is an inexorable law of humanity. It is the advantage of the wise, and, therefore, it is obviously a very good thing. There is a greyhound track not far from my home, the clients of which are the most sporting crowd in the world, the Nottinghamshire collier. These men live 600 yards underground for seven and a half hours a day. I have never heard a complaint about their behaviour when they go dog racing, nor have I ever heard of a miner who ever ruined himself by betting more than he could afford.
The point is that you cannot stop gambling in this country, and for these reasons: First, because people love gambling; and, secondly, because the majority of people see no harm in gambling. But that is no reason why we should not control the dog totalisator as we control other things at the moment. We might easily decree that there were to be no more greyhound racecourses 1125 built. We might easily say that there should be fewer races per day. I understand that under National Hunt Rules only six races are allowed during a day. We have every right in this House to say to the totalisator owners, "You are making large profits and we must have some of them," but for goodness' sake do not let us say that what is right at Epsom is wrong at Harringay. When the sins are identical it is sheer humbug to try to differentiate between them, and if we do "We deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."
Let me say a few words to the Conservative party. That party has always been the defender of private property. Dog totalisators, I understand, are legal in Scotland and are illegal in England. What a Falstaffian position to have got the whole question into. Many people in perfectly good faith have spent large sums of money in this business. If the Government follow the views of this Commission many of these people will be rained, and a certain number of people will be added to the unemployment list. If that happens it will be the fault of the House of Commons and Parliament generally and not the fault of the people who lose their money. Do let us take the common-sense point of view. Do let us turn deaf ears to the Grundys and the Doras and the Dismal Desmonds, not only in this House but outside—those people who would ruin without reason a clean and healthy outdoor amusement.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Major HILLS
The speeches have been so comprehensive and the time is so short that I shall not detain the House for long. I would like to refer to the admirable speech to which we have just listened. I would say of its humour and its wit, sharpened by very acute common sense, that behind the apparently humorous remarks of my Noble Friend there were very shrewd thrusts at those who oppose the totalisator on greyhound courses. I agree with the hon. Member for Balham and Tooting (Sir A. Butt). He and I both opposed the totalisator on racecourses, but I think we both said —I certainly said—that if we did grant the totalisator on racecourses it would have to be granted to the dog tracks. I confess that I did not follow the reason why my hon. Friend was not led to the 1126 same conclusion as I reached. He said that he realised that if we did grant the totalisator to racecourses it could not be denied to the dog tracks, and yet to-day he pleads with the House in eloquent and moving words to deny the totalisator to the humbler pursuer of the dog racing sport.
I do not believe that the question here is really a question of gambling or no gambling. The House does not mean to put down betting altogether. It never has done and never would do that. What is more, the report of the Royal Commission never said that. It advised against extra facilities for gambling, the exploitation of gambling and private profit from gambling. I could deal with all those points, but I merely say now that surely they can all be dealt with by regulations. They had been dealt with in the racecourse totalisator, and there is no reason why they should not be dealt with on the greyhound tracks. Those things are not the fault of the system' itself, but the fault of the misapplication of the system. If you had a proper authority for the government of greyhound racing similar to the Jockey Club in horse racing I believe that all these evils would be abolished.
In attempting to distinguish between the horse race and the dog race it is said that racing by horses is an old and honourable sport. Greyhound racing, of course, is a new sport, but new things are not all bad. Greyhound racing would never have come in but for new conditions. It is necessary to have flood lighting, electricity and cheap transport. All those facilities did not exist 150 years ago. We are not out to condemn gambling. If we are not, if we admit that betting is allowable, why in heaven's name is hot the man who goes to a dog race to be allowed to bet on the totalisator? By implication you allow him to bet with a bookmaker. I have no quarrel with the bookmakers. The few times I have come in contact with them they have always got the better of me, but I bear bookmakers no grudge. But why are you to exclude the totalisator and allow the bookmakers to take bets on the dog courses? You cannot possibly stand on that ground, except by stating that the totalisators are run for profit and that the owners exploit the public. All that you could meet by proper regulation.
1127 I really got up to state the simple fact that a Parliament which has granted the totalisator to racecourses cannot refuse it to dog tracks. I objected to the original Totalisator Bill; I did not like legislation that was limited to one section of the community, and I did not think it would succeed. An hon. Friend who has spoken to-night has said it is a big failure. But since it is the law of the land, since no one talks of repealing the horse race totalisator, since it could not be repealed without harm to a great many people, and since there has been no general corruption of public morals arising from the totalisator on racecourses, I do not see how you can say that it should not be extended. It is a question of social justice. I do not say that all the people who go to racecourses are rich, and all those who go to dog tracks are poor, but the only person who uses the racecourse is the man or woman who can afford to spend all day in going to a race meeting whereas the dog track is accessible in the evenings. Therefore, it is a leisured class that go to the race meetings and an occupied class that go to the dog races and one may be leisured whether one is rich or poor.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Why stop at the greyhound race track? Why not have it in a shop? Why should only the person who can afford to pay 6d. to get into the dog-racing track be allowed to bet? Logically, why not have it in a shop for anybody?
§ Major HILLS
Because there is reason in all these things and because you can push anything to an absurd extreme. If you have a reasonable sport which millions of people enjoy like greyhound racing and if these people wish to stake money on the dogs I think they should have the same advantages as other people have in the same respect. The Government will be called upon soon to review the whole betting system. As a matter of fact, the tax on betting put on by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) gave a shake to the whole crazy system of our betting laws. The whole system will have to be reviewed. I am not sure that the most logical Member of this House in regard to this question will not turn out to be the hon. and learned Member for East 1128 Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley), who was chairman of the committee on betting and who wanted to legalise all betting. But I hope that the Government will take a reasonable, a right and a human view of dog racing. We are apt toCompound for sins we are inclined to By damning those we have no mind to.I hope that we shall not, as Parliament sometimes does, think that we can make the people good by making their lives dull, or that what is right for the rich is wrong for the poor. There is no thought or idea of restricting the large sums which go on betting on horse racing as compared with the comparatively small sums which go on greyhound tracks. Dog racing is a sport which attracts millions of people and will attract more, and I can see no possible harm in it. As long as this Parliament has sanctioned betting, and I do not think it ever declared betting illegal or tried to put it down, it cannot resist the demand for the totalisator on greyhound racing tracks.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
I intervene for a few minutes to put a Scottish point of view on this question. To my mind our view of it must depend very largely on the importance which we attach to recreation. Personally, I believe that second to food and employment, there is nothing more important than recreation to keep people happy and contented. The greyhound race track provides many thousands of people with healthy and regular and, to my mind, innocent recreation. This it does in districts where there are peculiarly few opportunities for amusement. The totalisator at these greyhound tracks is a facility which certain people have shown that they enjoy. It is a facility which those people demand and which they have now come to regard as a right. Further, the totalisator as an alternative to the bookmaker has a great deal to recommend it. First and foremost credit betting is not possible on the totalisator and it may be remarked that a great many of the tragedies which have occurred as a result of too much betting, have been as the result of credit betting. With the totalisator there is only cash betting.
Another advantage is that it is possible to have control. If these numerous grey- 1129 hound racing tracks are-to exist throughout the country it is essential that some statutory body should exercise definite control. That is more easily done by control of the totalisator than by any other means. Yet a further advantage of the totalisator over the bookmaker is that there is straighter running of the dogs. There is less temptation to corruption. I do not wish to weary the House with details of the tricks of the track, but it is evident that if a large sum is placed on the totalisator the odds will at once be swamped. If a person wishes to put heavy money on a dog and to ensure the dog winning he will only put that money on with a bookmaker at odds which make it worth while. A further reason in favour of the totalisator is that from it the country can draw revenue. I agree that it is impossible to contemplate as satisfactory the present state of affairs in which large sums are passing daily from the poorest districts into the pockets of speculators. But if a proportion of this money were going to some good cause, were going to the Exchequer or to the benefit of the community, then I should be the last to declare it wrong that people should pay a small proportion of the money which they set aside for gambling, in helping the community.
I am not saying that gambling on the totalisator is a good way of spending money. If I were convinced that preventing the totalisator on greyhound courses would ensure the money which is now spent there being spent to better purpose, I should be the first to agree that there is a strong case against the totalisator. But the contrary is the fact because if the totalisator is banned on greyhound courses, it will only mean a greater proportion of money going to the bookmaker, and if it does not go there, it may be spent in public-houses and cinemas or in street-comer betting. It seems to me that it is no worse to allow it to be spent on the totalisator on the greyhound track. By nature I very much resent any Government dictating to a private individual how he may or may not spend his own money. There is, of course, the one proviso that while one has liberty that liberty must not interfere with other people. It may be that in some districts the suggestion to erect a greyhound course and with it a totalisator will offend the majority of the 1130 inhabitants. In that case it might well be a matter for considering local opinion, and even considering the question of local option on the subject.
In urging the Government, as I do, to consider the people who derive much amusement and enjoyment—and, believe me, there are only too many people who get little enough amusement and enjoyment in all conscience—I also find myself in the most hearty agreement with the Motion, which suggests that the Government should wait until the full report of the Commission is published, because it will show us whether they take the extreme "pussyfoot" view of gambling and racing as a whole or whether they take a moderate and rational view of every other phase of betting and sweepstakes and only nail down this one point of the totalisator on the greyhound track. Upon that will depend the weight we attach to their recommendations in the Interim Report. Further, in delaying until the full report comes, an opportunity will be given to see whether the greyhound racecourse is dependent entirely on the profits it makes from the totalisator, and that I believe to be a very important point. In coming to their decision on this I ask the Government not just to consider individual cases of hardship where foolish persons have ruined themselves, as those people would be gamblers and are hopeless in any case. I ask them to consider the enormous majority of level-headed men and women who look upon, the greyhounds and the totalisator as an innocent form of amusement where they can spend the money that they have set aside for their recreation. I think the Government must think very carefully indeed before they come to any decision which might deprive those people of the benefit of the totalisator on racecourses which they have now, rightly or wrongly, come to regard as their right.
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I am afraid I rise to detain the House only for a few minutes. In the circumstances in which the Motion is moved the House will have realised already that there is nothing that the spokesman of the Government can say in reply to it. It is only a few days since I gave the decision of the Government on this matter that we should await the final report of the Royal Commission before 1131 coming to a final decision. But, if it is impossible for me to contribute anything either novel or useful to the Debate, it does not mean to say that the Debate has in any way been a waste of time. On the contrary, I think it has been of great value certainly to the Government in enabling us to get at the various channels of thought in the House and the relative strength of various opinions. I should like to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Motion on the very clear and able speech in which he did it. I have a quasi paternal interest in my hon. and gallant Friend, who is a constituent of mine. However, I am unselfish enough to hope and believe that, owing to pressing engagements elsewhere on polling days, he will be for many years unable to cast a vote for me. I do not agree at all with the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) when he attempted rather to ridicule the Debate by contrasting it with the important subject that was discussed on the earlier Motion. It came certainly rather oddly from the hon. Gentleman whom I recollect only 48 hours ago covering with adulation an hon. Member who was detaining the House at a late hour in the evening in a discussion whether the cinema interests were using too big posters in the elections. It is true that there are subjects far graver than this and far more important in their results, but, at the same time, this is a subject which interests, which affects and which may well annoy a great many people, and I do not think the House is at all wasting the three and a-half hours that it is spending this evening in discussing it.
Hon. Members will remember the terms of the Government statement. I would point out to the Mover of the Motion, who begged the Government to differentiate between tote clubs and totalisators on the greyhound racing track, that with regard to tote clubs there are no extraneous circumstances and no alternatives once the totalisators in those clubs have been dealt with, and that we were not only enforcing the law as it stood but were prepared to strengthen it if the necessity arose. But we pointed out that the question of greyhound racing tracks stood on a rather different footing and that there, unlike the tote club, there were alternative facilities for betting available and, if you closed the totalisa- 1132 tors on the greyhound racing track, you did not thereby close betting. We told the House that we felt that in those circumstances it was impossible, properly and fully to consider the question of the totalisator unless we were in a position at the same time to consider all the alternative forms of betting that might be available on the greyhound racing track, and that we proposed, therefore, to wait until the final report of the Royal Commission was received before we came to a decision.
That report, as I said in reply to a supplementary question, we hope to receive within a reasonably short time, and it is, I am sure, a report to which the public and Members of the House will give full weight. I very much regret that the hen. and gallant Member for Cardiff, South has seen fit to use such an epithet as "biased" against these gentlemen. We do not accuse the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who quite frankly and properly told the House that he has a large financial interest in the production of totalisators, of being biased by that when he supports on quite other grounds the use of totalisators on greyhound racing tracks. I think he might extend the same charity as we do to him to these ladies and gentlemen who are performing this public service, with whom of course any of us are at liberty to disagree but whose good intentions we all recognise.
If I said anything that might be understood as a criticism against the individual members of the Royal Commission, I beg leave to withdraw those remarks absolutely and entirely. The point I wished to convey was that the opinion had been expressed that, while they had dealt with the case of the bookmakers on the one hand and the totalisator on the other, they had only singled out one form of betting for criticism while leaving the other without any remarks, and that opinion has been expressed by the Press throughout the country.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I am sure the House is glad to hear the explanation of the hon. and gallant Member, but when he refers to the absence from this report of any mention of bookmakers, he knows as well as I do the reason for that absence. It is that when the House assembled last autumn the sudden and rapid growth of 1133 tote clubs was causing anxiety to a great many people, and, in view of that anxiety, we particularly asked the Royal Commission to present us with an interim report on the question of totalisators. The hon. and gallant Member knows quite well that it was because of that fact that the report deals with totalisators and with nothing else. As I said, the Government have declared their intention of keeping an open mind on this subject until the final report is received, and I personally hold the view that the best complement of an open mind is a closed mouth. I do not therefore propose to pursue the subject further to-night.
It might, however, interest hon. Members if I gave them some account of what has happened since the Government made their announcement. We declared our intention of enforcing the law strictly, with regard to both tote clubs and totalisators on greyhound racing tracks, and when those instructions were sent out to the police of the country, we asked them at the same time to forward us a report as to how the matter stood in their localities. I have not yet received reports from, I think, about 26 police areas, but most of them are comparatively small and will not affect the total very largely, and with those exceptions the figures I give to the House are accurate. On the 16th December there were 240 tote clubs in the country, and 15 were opened subsequent to that date, making at one time a total of 255. To-day I understand there are only 13 in operation, and of those, 10 are in London, two in Birmingham, and one in Durham County. Against all those 13, proceedings are pending. With regard to greyhound tracks, on the 16th December there were 101 totalisators in operation. There are now four—one in Essex, which I understand will probably not be used again, two in Liverpool, and one in Lancashire—and against those too proceedings are pending.
Here I think it is only right that I should call the attention of the House to the action of some of the responsible authorities in the greyhound racing world, who, immediately the decision of the Government was announced, publicly advised all courses over which they had any control, whatever their own views might have been as to the Tightness or wrong-ness of the decision, to abide by it, not to attempt to defy the law, but to close 1134 their totalisators in accordance with the decision of the Government. I think the House will agree that that was a very proper course to take.
This Motion calls for our earnest consideration of the interests which will be affected by the final decision—the interests of the owners, employés, and frequenters—and I do not think the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) was altogether ill-advised when he called attention to the fact that there is one very important interest which has to be considered also, and that is the interest of the community as a whole, an interest which outweighs in importance the interest of all the others. I can assure hon. Members that when the time comes for the Government, in the light and with the assistance of the final report and with the knowledge that they will have gained of the opinions and views of this House, to come to a decision on this matter, they will most certainly consider all those interests which are mentioned in the Motion, as well as the paramount interest of all, the welfare of the population as a whole.
I want to point out to hon. Members the dangers which lie in arguments which one sometimes hears advanced on this question. They were advanced in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff, who asked us not to strangle in its infancy a vast and important industry which was going to capture the markets of the world, and he asked that quite properly, because he was concerned for the welfare of those who were employed in the industry. Important as those considerations are, they are difficult to reconcile with a great many speeches of hon. Members who, while expressing a desire for the continuance of some form of totalisator under control, have one and all urged its restriction, its limitation and its control. They cannot at the same time limit and restrict the use of the totalisator, and foster and encourage an industry which lives, not on the stabilisation of the present position, but on its continuous increase. I should like to repeat my thanks to the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Captain North) for the opportunity he has given to the House to have this Debate, and to say that my right hon. Friend, who is prevented by illness from being present, will undoubtedly study carefully the points of 1135 view expressed during the Debate and will no doubt find them of material help to him when he has to make a decision on this important point.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman a question in respect to the last part of his statement. Like other sections of the House, some of my friends feel one way and some another on this subject, but none of us wish to challenge a Division on the last words of the Motion, and we do not want the fact that we have not chellenged a Division to be taken that we are in favour of a continuance—or a reversal—of the present position. If we do not challenge a Division, we do not want to be told afterwards that the House was unanimous.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I can only speak for myself, but it would never occur to me, if the Motion were allowed to pass without a Division, to say that hon. Members opposite thereby tied themselves favourably to a continuance of the present system.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I am pleased that the Under-Secretary has taken this Motion so well to heart. I want to draw the attention of the House to one or two aspects of the question that ought to be considered in any future arrangement. I am not like my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) without vices. I have many vices. I come from a city which has some race tracks, and where some people gamble, and where, if horse racing is allowed to have certain facilities, they cannot understand why dog race tracks cannot have them too. I know nothing about horse racing or dog race tracks. I went to Wembley to find out how it was done so that I could have some knowledge when I came to the House. It may seem strange that after having been invited to visit a dog track in Liverpool and having declined, I should visit a track in London.
As regards the mass of the people in my division I am fully convinced that nothing under the sun will stop them from gambling. I am not inclined to gambling myself, but I quite realise that there is a large body of people who want a certain form of recreation, whether it 1136 be in the form of having a "bob double" or backing a second or a third. I know from the street corner people whom I see that the game of racing goes on and that each day people back horses. I think it was Carlyle who said there was a fool born every minute, and in my view people ought not to engage in betting unless they can afford to lose the money. When I went to Wembley I was very much struck by the order that prevailed and the way in which things were conducted. Having had some experience in getting things out of a hat and changing two-shilling pieces into pennies—as I have done in the course of my life—it amused me very much to think that people could find enjoyment in watching an electric hare chased by dogs, but it was clear that they were getting great fun from the sport. There is this much to be said for this particular form of sport, that it was straight and above-board; there was nothing with which anyone could find fault. Anyone who wanted to pass a pleasant evening could do so there, and if they put a shilling or two shillings on what they thought would be the winner then it was just a question of their luck.
This is the point that interests me more than anything else. I am glad that consideration is to be given to the report, because I raised a question in this House in connection with a dog racing track in the Liverpool Division. Against the wishes of the people, a dog racing track was about to be opened next to a church and next to a public institution, and I learned that under the law it was not possible to take any action to stop it. The people in the district could not exercise local option. I feel that the fact that dog tracks cannot have a totalisator in operation will mean that they will become bankrupt, and that in the near future there will be some scheme for regulating this sport. Sport can be legitimate or it can be illegitimate. There can be faked sport, as anybody knows who has anything to do with running— either over the hurdles, or the 100 yards or the 240 yards or the half-mile. As regards dog racing, a case came before me in the police court concerning the running of two dogs from the North of England. On four occasions they lost, and on the fifth occasion they ran away with the spoil. When the matter was investigated it was found that on several 1137 occasions the dogs had been fed on tripe and were not able to run, on another occasion they had had their feet fixed with wax, and on the last occasion they had been left perfectly free and had won the race. There was litigation over the ownership of the two dogs between "bookies" from the North of England and a man who was strange to the business in Liverpool but was making it a financial success. They made a clean, sweep and went away with the money.
It is my opinion that unless people are prepared to lose their money—and they ought to know whether they are or not; I do not know what a person's means are—they ought not to engage in such a sport. Otherwise, they are fit only for a mental home. If a man goes to a sport he ought to know that it is open and above board, and that the organisers are playing the game. There ought to be proper regulation. There ought to be a governing body that will be able to license and to take away licences from people who are not carrying on properly. I am convinced that if the sport were properly regulated, with a control board such as I am suggesting, it would be all the better.
I have seen these tracks, and I am of the opinion that for a night's outing and for enjoyment in the open air there is nothing with which to find fault. I have more enjoyment on the football field to which I go every Saturday and I do not think that I would be attracted to dog racing. Nevertheless, there are thousands of people who go, and they have a perfect right to do so. From the point of view of the police, these people instead of being at street-corners become large bodies of well-conducted people. They certainly go to have a flutter and win or lose a shilling or two. I daresay that most of them lose a bob or two, but they get the pleasure, and if they are able to win, all the better for them.
The question of regulation is what must be considered. When the Government come to frame the regulations in regard to these matters, the question of entrance fee must certainly be dealt with. I do not think that the organisers should send round to the poor districts and give away 300 or 400 free tickets to permit people to go to the greyhound courses. Those people will only be attracted by the free entrance. They 1138 ought to pay for entrance and for their sport. If other people are willing to go to the expense, as I have seen, to give entertainment, those organisers are entitled to the revenue that they get. I am also interested in this matter because of the electrical machinery. It is remarkable machinery, really wonderful and foolproof, and absolutely essential for the making of the calculations. This week I have received letters from a firm of automatic-machine manufacturers in Liverpool. They are doing a great deal of work in the making of the machines and they call my attention to the fact that many hundreds of their workpeople will be put out of work.
Proper control is needed. We ought to see that the sport is really legitimate. We ought to give every opportunity and facility to those who are making the machines, so that the craftsmen may remain at work. The stoppage of this work may, on the other hand, do great good to a sport that is now in its infancy. The attitude the Government have announced is a satisfactory one, although I fear that it may mean that we shall see some bankrupt tracks. It will be for the public good if there is a governing body that will provide legitimate sport for the people of this country, and will be of benefit from the scientific point of view.
§ 10.35 p.m.
§ Mr. LEVY
At the outset I should like to refer to an observation which was quoted by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), as having been made by an American who came over here, with regard to the law. I say definitely that, if we are to take America as an example, any legislation that is against the sanction of the people lacks permanence, and only brings the law into contempt. My object in intervening in this Debate is two-fold. In the first place, I take a very deep interest in this subject, and, secondly, I had the honour, with another Member of the House, of giving evidence before the Royal Commission. The only question that was asked of us with regard to totalisators was as to what was our opinion in regard to tote clubs; and we said unhesitatingly that they ought to be rigorously suppressed.
I have taken soundings in my own constituency, and in a large area north of 1139 the Tweed, to ascertain what is the real public opinion on this question, and the result has been to indicate agreement that the indiscriminate construction and maintenance of greyhound tracks all over the country should not be allowed; secondly, it was felt that there should be proper and adequate control and regulation; and, thirdly, opinion was emphatic and almost unanimous that, if the totalisator were disallowed on greyhound tracks, it would be considered as class discrimination. Therefore, I took great pains in endeavouring to prepare what I considered to be a comprehensive constructive policy for control, and, as a back-bencher, I submit, with great respect and humility, this constructive proposition to the Government. I would ask the indulgence of the House while, for the sake of accuracy, I read its seven points, simply because a misplaced word may be misinterpreted. The seven points are as follow:
§ 1.There shall be established a Grey hound Racing Betting Control Board which shall consist of an independent chairman and eight other members. The chairman shall be appointed by the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the other members shall be appointed as follows:
|By the Home Secretary||1|
|By the Secretary of State for Scotland||1|
|By the Chancellor of the Exchequer||1|
|By the Minister of Agriculture (or such other Departments as the Government may select)||1|
|By the National Greyhound Racing Society||2|
|By the National Greyhound Racing Club||2|
§ The composition of the Board is, therefore, weighted in favour of Government control.
§ 2. The board may appoint officers, servants or agents, and prescribe their duties and fix their remuneration.
§ 3. The board may regulate their own procedure, and make Standing Orders governing the conduct of their business, whether by themselves or by committees of their number.
§ 4. The board may issue (subject to such conditions as they may impose) and revoke certificates of approval for the conduct of betting by totalisators on greyhound racecourses and ground adjacent thereto.
§ 5. A certificate of approval shall only be granted by the board (a) after consulting the views of the local authority concerned; (b) after being satisfied that the following conditions will be complied with by the racecourse: 1140
- (i) not more than four meetings per week shall be held on a racecourse, nor more than eight races per meeting,
- (ii) no racing shall be held on any Sunday, Christmas Day or Good Friday,
- (iii) there shall be a minimum charge of 6d.—no free admission.
- The object of that is to safeguard the Entertainments Duty.
§ (6) Notwithstanding any rule of law or enactment to the contrary it shall be lawful, whether in a building or not, for a totalisator to be operated at any Greyhound racecourse which received the certificate of approval of the board, subject to the following conditions, and upon no other racecourse:
- (a) all rules drawn up by the board for the operation of the totalisator must be observed,
- (b) there may be deducted from the total pools a sum not exceeding 10 per cent of such total pools at each track. Any sums received by such deductions shall be applied to the following purposes:
- (I) Totalisator operating expenses, including wages of staff, maintenance costs, cost of current, and other items to be specified.
- (II) Amortisation and costs of in stalling the totalisators. All proceeds remaining after such apportionments shall be controlled by the Statutory Board which, after providing for its own expenses, may make grants for improving amenities of the track, for the benefit of veterinary establishments, for charities, or for other purposes."
§ In other words, I have eliminated private profit from the operation of the totalisator on greyhound racecourses. Therefore, the totalisator on the greyhound racecourse becomes an amenity to the course. The biggest attack, and the only attack, as I see it, against totalisators, is the facility said to have been given for betting, and the volume of betting. I have heard it said that the volume of the betting has increased even greater than it has on horse racing. I have taken the trouble to look up the reports of the Betting Committee of 1923, and I find that the amount which the Chairman of the Betting Committee accepted was £200,000,000. That item of £200,000,000 was also accepted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) as Chancellor of the Exchequer in respect of his Betting Tax. It was also accepted that £30,000,000 was street-corner betting. 1141 I have ignored the £13,000,000 which went to Ireland on sweepstakes. The amount which was accepted by the Royal Commission for totalisators was £8,000,000, and not £18,000,000, as was stated by the hon. Gentleman opposite. Therefore, it is only about 27 per cent, of the £30,000,000 of street-corner betting. I contend that you have not increased your betting by £8,000,000; you have diverted £8,000,000 from the £30,000,000 of street-corner betting, because those people who go to dog races would have had their shilling on a horse in any case where the race would not have been seen, whereas they now go to dog racing. It is estimated that 20,000,000 people see dog racing in the course of a year. A sum of £8,000,000 is spent. The most that it can be said that one person bets out of this is 30s. per year. If this system is adopted, or some other similar system, I say that the sport will be clean, that it will be properly controlled, and that there will be no further fault to find with regard to the facilities for betting.
§ Let us examine the Motion. I am only concerned with the last sentence, which asks the Government to consider the owners, the employés and the frequenters of the greyhound racing tracks. When the Motion refers to the owners, I assume it means those thousands of people who have invested their money in, these large undertakings. Certainly, they are entitled to consideration. I assume that the employés are the direct employés. They are entitled to consideration. I do not know where they will get jobs if they are put into the ranks of the unemployed. When we talk of the frequenters, it is accepted that 20,000,000 people go to see greyhound racing. Surely, they are entitled to consideration in regard to a harmless recreation. There is a further relevancy that ought to have been included, and that is those indirect employés who are employed—whether the dogs are of national importance or not—in making dog biscuits and things of that kind, and in the manufacture of the totalisators.
§ I have no time for the spoil-sports who would be anti this, anti that and anti the other. There are people who would say that I commit an offence if I play auction bridge for 2d. a 100. There are people who are anti everything. So long as they can mar the enjoyment and 1142 pleasure of others, they feel they are justified in doing it, because other people are doing something contrary to that which they do themselves. With regard to the Government, may I say that if a charge is brought against them of class discrimination, that is an argument which is very difficult to overcome. If a charge is brought against them that they will increase unemployment instead of decreasing it, that also is a charge that will be difficult to overcome. They may be able with eloquence to excuse such a course, but what they will have to do will be to justify it and not to excuse it. I do hope, and I feel convinced, that the Government will legislate to allow the totalisators on the greyhound racing tracks, because the horse racing course is identical in principle with the greyhound racing course and in equity it will be impossible for the Government logically to make any discrimination.
§ 10.49 p.m.
§ Sir PHILIP DAWSON
I rise to support the Motion that has been moved in so elequent a manner by my hon. and gallant Friend, and, in doing so I should like to express the thanks of the non-party committee with which I am associated for the courteous and prompt way in which the Government allowed us to put our views before them. I am expressing the views of the great majority of the members of that committee. We consider that dog racing should be properly controlled by a body which has at least equal authority and standing to the Jockey Club. We consider that no dog racing should be allowed unless authorised and controlled by them and that they should control the number of races to be held in the year, the number of races to be held on any one day, and the number of events at any meeting. Obviously, they will have regard to the question of racecourses not being too close together. We believe if such proposals were carried out it would immediately reduce the existing number of greyhound races by two-thirds. We believe the regulations should be such that in no circumstances should there be any free admission. We consider that totalisators should be allowed by this organisation which will be controlling them, and that a dog racing track should not make its living by gambling or receipts from the 1143 totalisator. Obviously in fairness any capital that has been expended on the totalisator should be properly remunerated. The remainder should be spent on charities or such other purposes as the association which controls dog racing may decide.
We consider the totalisator is a very honest way of gambling from the point of view of giving anybody who gambles a proper and fair chance. It is a piece of machinery which can be absolutely relied on, and it has the great advantage that you cannot gamble unless you are on the racecourse. With horse racing we have been told that on the comparatively few horse meetings in the year some £200,000,000 or more is spent in betting every year, and that that is mostly composed of large amounts. I venture to suggest that the contrary is the case, and that out of that amount the majority of the bets are for small amounts. It is not on the racecourse that the betting takes place or the greater part of the money is spent. It is outside the racecourse at the street corners. I have nothing to say against bookmakers. They are a perfectly honest class as far as I have ever had anything to do with them, and that has not been very frequently. As far as I know, the majority do business in a perfectly straightforward manner. At any rate, anybody can bet at any time, day or night, by calling up a bookmaker without having to go to a racecourse, and that is the worst part of betting. If you have the totalisator, you have to be on the course in order to place your bet. I think therefore that so far from increasing the number of bets, the totalisator will rather reduce them. The figures quoted as regards the amount spent on betting on dog racing courses show that these amounts are very inconsiderable having regard to the total amount of betting, and I consider they will not be largely increased, but on the contrary that they may be decreased by allowing the totalisator. I see no reason why there should be any differentiation between horse racing and dog racing as far as allowing the totalisator on the racecourses is concerned.
Reference has been made to the fact that some associations have issued propaganda in regard to dog racing. I should like to express my thanks to the Greyhound Racing Association especially, not 1144 for any propaganda from them, but because they have given important facts and have stated what they are after. I have been told by them that their anxiety is that all dog tracks should be under properly-constituted statutory bodies who have authority to deal with everything regarding dog racing. I am all for limiting betting wherever it is possible and, in any case, where betting takes place to see that a man who bets gets a fair chance and gets his money's worth. I am against, and I understand the Greyhound Racing Association is equally opposed, to free admission and Sunday racing and Good Friday racing, and against having too many races day after day or to giving free transport to people in order to enable them to attend dog racing meetings. All these regulations will control dog racing and remove the greater part of the objections mentioned by those few opponents in the House to-night.
Reference has been made to the fact that this is a new sport as compared with horse racing. Coursing is an old sport, it has been known for generations, and if scientific progress had been as advanced 100 years ago as it is now we should probably have had greyhound racing then. It has only been rendered possible by the aid of science, which has enabled greyhounds to show their paces and give exhibitions which, I am told, can be extremely interesting and exciting. Dogs, moreover, are very intelligent animals and take quite as much interest in the actual race as horses; and they have this advantage, that there is no possibility of a dog being pulled by a jockey, which enables more confidence to be placed in dog races than sometimes is the case in horse races. I have been to horse races and have enjoyed myself, although I have enjoyed myself more when there has been a totalisator on the course. There can be a great deal of deceit and cheating on improperly conducted dog racing courses, and the object of the Motion is to ensure that they shall be properly conducted. I am convinced from what we have heard from the Government that they will exercise a fair judgment on this matter. All we ask them to do is to give proper consideration to all interests concerned, manufacturers, employés, and the public gene- 1145 rally. The fact that the Government say they will not be in a position to put any proposals before this House before they have received a complete report from the Commission shows that we can rely on them not coming to any quick decision.
§ Captain NORTH
rose in his place, and claimed to move" That the Question be now put," but Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined "Then to put that Question."
That this House approves the action of the Government in postponing any legislation which may he necessary for dealing with totalisators on greyhound racing tracks until the final Report of the Royal Commission has been received, but urges the Government to give very careful consideration to the interests of all those who will be affected by their final decision, be they owners, employés, or frequenters of such tracks.