§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I beg to move, in page 3, line 18, to leave out "councils," and to insert "justices of the peace."
The Amendment shows to Members of the Committee quite plainly what is really intended. If we were to take the question of licensing out of the domain of the councils, and put it into the hands of the justices of the peace, the matter would come before a judicial body which was used to dealing with licensing matters. Most hon. Members must be aware of undesirable matters being raised in cities and boroughs at council elections, and from that point of view the magisterial bench would be the better body to deal with this question.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
In Committee upstairs many of us, on what was the major discussion on Clause 1, urged very strongly the undesirability of the licences for these tracks, whether they are greyhound tracks or any other tracks which may require licensing under this Bill, being granted by local authorities. Many of us thought that the right solution of the problem was that which was urged so eloquently on the Second Reading by the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) when he said that there ought to be a national betting control board to deal with greyhound racing analogous to the one which deals with horse racing. For reasons which seemed to him to be good but which to most hon. Members seemed to be inadequate, the Home Secretary rejected that proposal. He was only enabled to reject it through the votes of those who ordinarily opposed him politically. The majority of Conservative Members of the Committee were against the Home Secretary on that occasion. Seine of us were animated with the desire to set up some body which would make it certain that any abuses 727 connected with this extension of gambling—because frankly the legalisation of the totalisator is an extension of gambling, although it is an alternative form of gambling which many of us think is a desirable alternative—should be safeguarded by the existence of a body which would be technically competent to safeguard it. We felt that in any event the local authorities were not the most suitable persons for that technical supervision, but to my profound regret the Home Secretary did not accept the proposal which stood in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Aston (Captain A. Hope).
We desired to exclude these matters from consideration in local council elections. This is the second occasion that the Home Office have been concerned recently with a Bill raising the question of local option. It will be remembered that the original Bill legalising the cinema on Sundays contemplated the decision being taken by the local council. Ultimately, as a result of the obvious feeling in the House, that proposal was abandoned, and the Bill which finally became law merely made the council the initiators and left the decision to a referendum of the local government electors. That obviously is an expensive method and not one that one wants to introduce generally, but for a variety of reasons it was thought to be good on that occasion. Here we are proposing in this Bill something which the House very definitely would not have in connection with Sunday cinemas, namely, introducing something that might disturb local politics.
The Government ought to think very carefully indeed over the Amendment which stands in the name of three Conservative Members and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) who has actually moved it. I used to be a councillor in the borough of Wimbledon where there is now a greyhound racing track. Though the track was actually established after I ceased to be a councillor, I well remember, when living near Wimbledon, as I did at the time, the tremendous agitation, the fears expressed, rightly or wrongly, and the general disturbance which for the time being existed in local politics. As far as I am aware, now that the track is there, the objection has vanished. I have never 728 heard any residents in Wimbledon, and I know many, complain that there was any issue tending to dominate the local elections. In that case, there was no power on the part of the local council to stop them.
Under this Bill we are going to authorise local authorities to grant licences. It is true that the local authorities will not be too local, because it is to be the county councils and the county borough councils. In the case of county councils the decision will be taken or may be taken very largely by people who have no very immediate concern. But in the county boroughs, which are very much smaller areas, I have not the slightest doubt that if there be a question of granting or refusing to continue a licence to a greyhound track, it may become a very acute and undesirable issue in local politics. It is because I wish to avoid the introduction of what might be an undesirable factor into local politics, that I think it would be very desirable, if the decision could be referred to a judicial tribunal whose position as magistrates could not be affected by the decision they took, whereas the position of councillors might be affected by their decision. Here is a case where, clearly, we ought to protect, as far as we can, those councillors from any form of pressure which may, in some circumstances, be undesirable in form. I hope that the Government on this occasion will give their best consideration to the proposal to transfer the responsibility from the local authority to the magistrates, who would be able to deal with the matter in a far more judicial way without the risks I have indicated.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. HANNON
I wish to add a few words in support of the Amendment. I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) has said, and think that it would be deplorable if matters affecting the licensing of greyhound tracks were to be dragged into local municipal affairs. It would be far better from the point of view of the sound administration of this Measure after it becomes an Act if these matters were referred to the justices of the peace instead of to the local council. We are all familiar with the variety of subjects which arise in the process of an election for municipal councils. I see 729 the Solicitor-General is on the Front Bench and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough, the Under-Secretary at the Home Office is sitting beside him. They must be familiar with the difficulties and embarrassments which beset local municipal elections. If we are now to add to the difficulties of local elections the question whether a licence should be issued in the case of a greyhound track we shall add one more difficulty and trouble to the administration of our municipal councils.
The Amendment has real substance in it. I am not anxious for one moment, I assure the Solicitor-General, to embarrass the Government in getting this Measure through. I believe that a Measure of this kind is necessary in order to co-ordinate and regularise betting in this country, but, at the same time, I hope that His Majesty's Government will not do anything which will bring into conflict with really sound administration on local authorities matters which may cause disturbance in many of our districts. I can easily imagine in my own city a councillor standing for a particular ward in which he would be continually questioned by the advocates for a particular greyhound racing track, whether he would vote for the licensing of the track or the termination of its licence. This sort of question ought to be kept outside local politics. Nobody knows better than those responsible for the administration of His Majesty's Government the burden which at present rests upon local authorities in this country, the immense activities on which they are engaged, and how necessary it is not to overload the machine, and those concerned with the conduct and direction, of local administration. It will be wise, with any limitation it is desirable to impose and any re-arrangement of the machinery of the Bill, to take this matter out of the administration of the local council and give it to some executive authority, and not throw into the maelstrom of local politics the question of whether or not the licensing of tracks is to he carried on successfully and efficiently in this country.
§ 7.30 p.m.
All these questions are decided by the local authorities on the balance of advantage or disadvantage. Everyone would concur in the view that it is undesirable 730 to bring these matters within the ambit of local elections, but the Government have considered the matter very carefully and have come down on the side of making the councils of the counties and county boroughs the authorities for granting licences. It is true that they are elected bodies but, on the other hand, their establishment as licensing authorities must be read in conjunction with Clause 6, which deals with the points that the licensing authority has to consider before it grants a licence. I cannot anticipate the discussion which we may or may not have on Clause 6, but it may be for the convenience of Members to remind them that the licensing authority has to decide the question on certain very definite issues. It is not a question whether they think it is a good thing to have a track or not in their area. That question does not arise. It is suggested that a candidate might be asked whether he thought it would be a good thing to have a dog racing track in the area and whether he would vote for it. Of course, we cannot prevent silly questions from being asked. That certainly would not be a relevant question, because under Clause 6 the licensing authority has to consider the amenities of the locality, the traffic problem, and the comfort and health of those who live in the district.
It would not be a case of fighting elections on the moral issue of dog racing tracks. That does not arise, nor does the question of revocation arise. Clause 15 carefully lays down the grounds on which a licence may be revoked, and there is provision for appeal if the occupier whose licence is revoked has a grievance. There is not the fear of local politics being poisoned, as some hon. Members think, at any rate not by this question, although it may be poisoned in other directions. The Government have tried carefully, and I think successfully, to define the issues that have to be considered in the granting or refusal of a licnce.
§ Mr. LOGAN
Is it not possible that on local government bodies that a certain committee, it may be the town planning committee or some other committee, may express views and certainly that would have influence in regard to the question of the granting or refusal of a licence? Would not a judicial body be more impartial? Influence could be 731 brought to bear on the committees of a corporation, but that objection would not arise if the matter were dealt with by a judicial body.
I am afraid that we are getting on to rather dangerous ground. I would not like to say what kind of bodies may or may not be influenced. The councils are composed of responsible people. When the question arises whether the licensing should be in the hands of justices or the councils, I would point out that we have restricted the grounds on which a licence may or may not be granted to very narrow issues, and those issues are well within the province of the councils. The responsible body on the council would be able to make up its mind whether the amenities of the district, or the traffic or the health of the district are going to be affected. I do not think that the justices would have as much information on these points as the members of the council.
Then why should not the authorities use the information first hand? I admit there is a great deal to be said on both sides. The Government have to make up their minds one way or the other and they have made up their minds to leave it to the councils, and their decision has met with general approval so far as I know, except for the moving of this Amendment, which we cannot accept.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I am in agreement with the Under-Secretary in approving of the Government's decision. Some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon) may have been relevant, but there is no point in them now. With regard to the question of the relative merits of the justices and the councils, I would point out that there are many justices who have no knowledge of local administration and very little interest in it. They are not in possession of the knowledge which is possessed by the popularly elected councils on such questions as health, interference with educational institutions, town planning, etc. The popularly 732 elected councillors have all the information at their disposal, and they are the right body to determine whether or not a licence should be granted. The Amendments which stand in the name of the Home Secretary ought to give satisfaction to those hon. Members who think that the councils ought not to have the responsibility. The councils would be able to delegate their authority to the standing joint committees, who are in no way influenced by local elections.
If the local authorities do delegate their functions to the standing joint committees, I think that would be a better arrangement than allowing the matter to be dealt with by the justices. I am not aware that a man becomes a member of a standing joint committee because his wife has been able to give a large donation to party funds. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or he is leader of the local Labour party!"] I do not care whether he is leader of the local Labour party or the Conservative party. The people who serve the interests of the district have the power in the first instance to grant or refuse a licence, and they will have the alternative power to delegate their authority to the standing joint committee. That is perhaps the best solution that the Home Secretary could find. Those who fear that it is going to be an annual squabble at municipal elections whether or not a greyhound track shall be started or whether certain people shall be elected, need not fear. We have a huge horse racecourse in Doncaster and we have just passed through a municipal election, but I never heard the racecourse mentioned. The racecourse is owned by the municipality, and any profits derived from it come to the municipality. Nobody ever mentioned the racecourse at the municipal election. They are not interested except that they would like it to be a little more profitable. I do not think that people will be particularly interested in the question of dog racing tracks.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I think the Home Secretary's series of Amendments meet the case, and I hope that he will stand by them.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. M. BEAUMONT
I will not say that I was disappointed by the reply of 733 the Under-Secretary, because I knew more or less what it was going to be. As there was no valid reason for the proposal in the Bill, I knew that it would tax even his ingenuity to give one. My views on this question are well known to anyone who was in the Committee. The placing of the power in the hands of the county arid borough councils is without exception the worst feature of the Bill. To me it makes the difference between a good Bill and a bad Bill. With that feature in it I must oppose the Bill. If the Amendment were carried I should be prepared to support it. Before advancing the main reason why I think the councils are not a proper body for this purpose, I should like to reply to the argument advanced by the. Under-Secretary. He may not know it, because I do not think he has ever sat on a local authority, but most people in this House know perfectly well that Clause 6 is not worth the paper on which it is written. Whatever regulations are laid down to restrict the reasons for the local authority granting or refusing a licence for a greyhound track, they will decide the matter on the question of principle and they will adjust their reasons Afterwards to fit their decisions.
I am not saying this in any derogation of the councils. If they do not want a greyhound track in a certain place, or, alternatively, if they do, it is quite easy to find reasons, either of health, scenery or that much abused word planning to suit their object. What is going to happen—whether Clause 6 remains in the Bill or not does not matter in the least—is that you are going to have a dog fight between those who want dog racing 1:racks and those who do not. When the Authority have settled the matter on the question of principle they will find reasons under Clause 6 and later, if necessary, under Clause 15, to square in with their decision. I hope the Home Secretary will not think that I am overstressing the point when I say that I do not believe that many members of local authorities in this House, even those who differ from me entirely in my views, would differ with me vitally on that point. That was the only justification which the Under-Secretary thought fit to put up.
Coming to the question of what the authority should be, I think that local government in this country—and I have never concealed my opinion—is in a 734 parlous state very largely because it is overworked with the machinery at its disposal. If you are going to pile more and more tasks on to the councils, whether they are borough councils, county councils or district councils, you will find that the time will not be far distant when the machinery will break down, and still more when you give them administrative work on what is, in effect, decisions of policy. I frankly admit that I do not think the, magistrates are an ideal authority, but I think they are a shade better than the councils. I made it perfectly clear upstairs that as this was a national problem and a National Government were setting up a national scheme in regard to organised gambling, there should be a national tribunal to deal with it. That suggestion was turned down.
I do not think the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) was doing his own abilities and his own knowledge of this subject justice when he tried to bring in the analogy of the Doncaster racecourse. He knows that that course has been there for years and years; it is a standing feature of that part of Yorkshire, recognised and accepted as such, and there are no interests playing on one side or the other. It is not an analogy. These new greyhound tracks are the playthings of large moneyed interests. It has been hinted, indeed even more than hinted, that these large moneyed interests are not always too scrupulous as to how they employ their money. Do hon. Members mean to tell me that they are not going to use every form of log rolling, lobbying and pressure on local councillors? When anyone condemns the local authority as unsuitable, someone asks, "Do you accuse them of wholesale bribery?" Of course not.
There have been unfortunate incidents, not justified by the name of bribery, where money does have an influence which all sections in the country regret. Where you have large vested interests of this kind and a, matter which has to be decided at popular elections, I beg the Government to disabuse their mind of any idea. that it will not be an issue at the election. When you have moneyed interests free to do what they like and bring what pressure they like on electors you are bound to have undesirable incidents and decisions. The argument in favour of giving this duty to the county council will not hold water. It is not in 735 fact going to be decided on any question of the amenities of the area, the traffic problem or the educational facilities. If you have an outside tribunal, non-elected, all these matters can be put before them, and it is not necessary for the people who are in closest touch with them to be the deciding authority. You should have an impartial body.
The hon. Member for the Don Valley was not complimentary to magistrates. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), in another connection, was even less complimentary. I agree that there is a great deal in what is said against magistrates. They have deteriorated since both parties began to make political appointments; when politics not ability is the guiding factor in the appointment of magistrates you are not going to get a perfect tribunal. But that applies still more to county and borough councils. This is a matter which should be taken out of party politics; indeed, it is not a party question, and it should be taken out of all forms of politics. You want a judicial and impartial body, as far as you can get it, who will hear the evidence on both sides and will of be affected by the fear of votes or any pressure which might be exercised.
I sincerely believe that if the Bill goes through as it is in this respect you will be dealing a severe blow at local government in this country. I shall not mind that much because reform is long overdue, but you will also get this particular thing into such a muddle—different local authorities will have different ideas and regulations—that you will make confusion worse confounded. In all seriousness, I beg the Government—I know they have said that it is useless, that we may plead and talk or do anything else, and they will pay absolutely no attention to what any of us say on this or any other subject—still I beg them to consider whether there is not some way of modifying this most obnoxious proposal and of putting in some body capable of doing this work adequately and efficiently.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Captain DIXON
I would not waste much time on this Amendment were it not for the fact that it is one of the greatest importance. I was surprised to hear such a good judge of racing as the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. 736 Williams) compare a question of the tote in dog racing to the great meeting at Doncaster, which he so often frequents. There is one great difference between the case we are discussing and the Doncaster meeting. The Doncaster meeting is run under the Jockey Club. It is the Jockey Club who sees that things are carried out properly, and, if the corporation or anyone else in Doncaster wished anything incorrect to be done, the Jockey Club, as the hon. Member well knows, would stop the licence and the thing would end. The real mistake which the Government have made in this Measure is that they ought to have insisted on the greyhound people setting up a body similar to the Jockey Club. If they did not then the Government could have said, "We will have nothing to do with you, you are not a sporting institution, you are merely a commercial institution."
This is a most serious Amendment. We are dealing with big money in the greyhound business, and anyone who has been through a municipal or borough election knows that where there is big money it sometimes talks. You cannot convince me that attempts will not be made on councillors and local bodies dealing with this matter, and I am afraid that in some cases members of a local body will unfortunately be corrupted. If the Government cannot set up a body like the Jockey Club, let them set up a judicial body. I will not say anything about magistrates, although in my own experience I have found corruption in magistrates who on the one side wanted you to have too much drink and who on the other side would not allow you to have a drink at all. I am satisfied that there can be corrupt magistrates. I would go further than the Amendment. Where such big money is involved, as in dog racing, the county court judge should be the arbitrator. I ask the Government whether they cannot meet us halfway and allow the county court judge to be the authority. It would save local councils a great deal of trouble and certainly save a great deal of corruption and work for lawyers afterwards. I feel so strongly that if it goes to a Division I shall certainly vote for the Amendment.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Captain HEILGERS
I do not regard the appointment of county councils as a serious error on the part of the Govern- 737 ment. I have been a member of every body which has been referred to in this discussion for more than 10 years. I should like to know what justices of the peace are referred to. Is it the borough justices of the peace or the petty sessional division justices? Surely the area they have to watch is far too small for them to have any picture of the conditions of the whole county. There is a body called the Licensing Committee of Quarter Sessions. I do not know whether the hon. Member has that in view, but it might be a possible alternative. The Government, however, in deciding to give county councils the control, and in particular the Standing Joint Committee, are doing the right thing. Half the Members of the Standing Joint Committee are non-elected and are justices of the peace; therefore, the Government are going half way to meet the Amendment. Further, the other half do supply the necessary knowledge about health, amenities, traffic—
§ Mr. M. BEAUMONT
The hon. and gallant Member must bear in mind that the proposal does not give the power to the Standing Joint Committee. It merely says that the county council, if it thinks fit, may delegate this power to the Standing Joint Committee.
§ Captain HEILGERS
I agree that in actual terms it does not direct the county council to remit their power to the Standing Joint Committee, but I think it can be taken that generally that will certainly be the ease. But if the county council decide to remit the power to a committee of their own elected representatives, surely men who spend their lives in dealing with problems of health and education, and everything else which comes before them, are better qualified than men like justices of the peace, who are only concerned with the actual administration of the law.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Sir RICHARD MELLER
I am at a loss to understand the observations made by one or two hon. Members with regard to local government authorities. The county council might decide this matter in the first instance, or it might refer it to the general purposes committee, who could determine the sort of committee to deal with it. Whether it is the Standing Joint Committee or some other committee of the county council. it seems to 738 me that the proposal gives every opportunity for avoiding any attempts which might be made by the so-called moneyed people who have come into this business. I have no doubt that the Government are right in the proposal embodied in the Clause. Magistrates have but a limited area; the county council has a wide area; and any Member of this House who has ever had an opportunity of being present at Brewster Sessions, when it is alleged that money talks, will no doubt remember not only those who were presenting applications for licences but those who were opposing, with all the prejudices which apply in those cases, and would desire that the matter should be removed to an atmosphere where none of these things could happen. When you have taken a course of presenting a matter before the local government authority you have taken the best means of getting a decision which takes into consideration the amenities arid general advantage not of one particular district but of the county as a whole. Therefore, I shall have very great pleasure in supporting the proposal in the House and without.
§ 8.0 p.m.
Mr. G. BRAITHWAITE
I have listened with interest to the speeches of the last two hon. Members, who have practical experience in this matter. But in spite of those speeches I am unconvinced and I should like to see the Amendment accepted. Frankly I say that I shall be accepting something which I regard as second best, because hon. Members who sat in the Committee upstairs will remember the very lengthy Debate which we had on the first Amendment in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Aston (Captain A. Hope), in which we suggested the setting up of a control board. In that discussion there were advanced many of the arguments for and against licensing tracks by local authorities.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of State said to-day something with which I found myself in disagreement. He said that he did not think it was a particularly relevant or strong point to hold that local elections were going to be wrongly influenced or influenced at all by the raising of the issue of the licensing of greyhound tracks. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that such questions would not be relevant that Clause 6 is the Clause which would 739 govern the attitude of local authorities, and indeed of local candidates, to this question. But how often are all the questions which may be relevant dealt with at election meetings? A candidate will not be asked, "Do you consider that the amenities in this district will be adversely affected by the setting up of a track in this area? Do you think the effect upon education and health will be bad? Do you think there will be traffic congestion if a track were established at this or that point?" Candidates will be asked, "Are you in favour of a greyhound track, Yes, or No?" It will be of no avail for the candidate to launch forth into an exposition of Clause 6 of this Bill. In the first place there will be very few candidates who would be aware of what Clause 6 says, or what their duties are in that connection.
We have been told that the county councils should not carry out this work. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) is often accused of being adverse to local authorities or frequently critical of them. That is quite true. It is, however, relevant to remind the Committee of the views of a local authority which will be listened to with respect here. I refer to the London County Council, which recently expressed itself in no uncertain terms on this very matter and endeavoured by resolution to relieve itself of the duty which would be imposed upon it by this Bill. Again, hon. Members who were not with us upstairs when we were considering Clause 1 would do well to read the Debate upon the first Amendment. They will read there an extremely grave speech delivered by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who, in far stronger language than anyone has used here on this side, said he believed that local authorities could be corrupted in this particular matter. He went on to quote certain instances in his own city and the city of the Home Secretary, Glasgow, to strengthen his point in that connection.
The hon. Member for Mitcham (Sir R. Meller) told us, I think truly, that if the councils have to perform these duties the matter will first of all be referred to the general purposes committee of the council, who will decide what is the best procedure under which this licensing work can be carried on. But that does not re- 740 move our main objection that local elections are likely to have an undesirable element introduced into them. Everyone knows that when a councillor is submitting himself to the electors at the end of a three years' term of office, if he is asked A. question about housing in his area and he replies, "Oh I am not on the housing committee, and I cannot answer," that is regarded as no excuse whatever by the electors. It will be quite futile for any Member to try to get out of his responsibility by saying that this licensing work has been delegated by the local authority to some committee or sub-committee.
This House wisely decided, when we were discussing Sunday cinemas, that it would be undesirable for that question to enter into local council elections. I think it is equally undesirable that this matter of track licensing should do so. I know that it varies from one area to another, but there are at least some areas in the country in which dog tracks are situated, attended very often by 2,000 people all of whom live in one ward, who could swing the election in that ward on that one issue. It is far better that local elections should remain to be fought on such great matters as housing and health and social problems generally. To introduce this cross-current into local politics, undesirable as it will be from the point of view of the cleanliness of local government, is the more undesirable because it will put yet further burdens on an administration which has great responsibilities already.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. EVANS
We appear to have discussed this matter rather in vacuo, because there are already established a number of dog-racing tracks. We were told in the Standing Committee by those who were competent to express an opinion that in their judgment there were already twice as many tracks as there ought to be. Therefore this matter will irrupt itself into local discussion simply on the occasion of the first granting of a licence. Subsequent to that the conditions laid down in the Bill give guidance in the matter of revocation or renewal of the licence, and in the matter of revocation there is always the possibility of an appeal to quarter sessions. The issues that are going to arise, the conditions which are going to determine whether or not a licence be granted, are essentially 741 those conditions which appertain to the functions of a county council or borough council—questions of health, of amenities, traffic, the question of planning, and the probable requirements in the matter of land for development in the future. Those questions have been entrusted to certain bodies and the only conditions which can concern them in the granting of a licence is whether those conditions are going to be infringed. There may be a slight irruption into local politics but it will Le only once. The revocation or continuance of a licence will be determined by conditions set up in the Bill, and there is an appeal to quarter sessions. There is a great principle involved here. If it is a question of corruptibility, why trust the local authorities with any responsibility at all? This is rather a sham fight, and I hope we shall come to the decision without further delay to support the Government.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. PIKE
I appeal to the Government to reconsider their position, not because I believe that the local council will be any more corrupt or that at council elections the issue will be whether dog tracks should exist here or there. In fact what we are doing here is discussing for the first time certain conditions of permitted betting. By this Clause we are putting into the hands of the local authority the right to say whether or not certain additional betting facilities shall be provided for the public in any given area. In the past we have always allowed our magistrates to say whether or not the grounds for the granting of a licence are sufficient. We have always placed this power in the hands of some judicial authority, whether small or large. I believe that to put this matter into the hands of a local council or body of councillors, probably elected with no qualification of knowledge of the law but sometimes because of their ignorance of it, will be a very dangerous precedent to set up. I am convinced that once you give that power in this matter you will in future have great difficulty in denying power in directions of much greater importance. My reason for that argument is the very document which in my submission has convinced the Government more than anything else of the necessity for these words. That is the document signed by Mr. Harry Pritchard, Secretary of the Association of Municipal Corporations, in which it is stated: 742That this Association, representing the councils of boroughs throughout England and Wales, has for several years urged the importance of legislation giving to these councils further control over the establishment and continuance of dog-racing tracks, particularly over the protection of amenities, and they regard it as essential in the public interest that the administration of the Bill, as far as it relates to these matters, should be in he hands of such councils.That may or may not be true, but one thing certain is that the matter was never discussed by any local authority throughout the country. These orders were merely received by the local town clerks and they were despatched to their respective Members of Parliament under the instructions of the national secretary, Mr. Harry Pritchard, and did not conform to any decision taken by the local authorities as to whether or not the licensing of dog tracks should come under their supervision. I am convinced that if the Home Secretary dealt with the matter on the basis that he is for the first time introducing legislation which is permitting certain betting facilities under certain conditions, he would not under any circumstances allow that power to be vested in the hands of councils. It is a judicial matter and should be decided by judicial authorities.
§ 8.15 p.m.
As one who does not-very often trouble the Committee I would like on this occasion to ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary to stand firm on this matter. I know nothing about the work of the county borough councils, but I have been a justice for 31 years and a member of a county council for 27 years and I have no hesitation in saying that the county council is far the better body for this purpose. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Sir It. Meller). I need not repeat what he has said, but I should like to emphasise the point that the benches of justices, if there is any difference of opinion in the locality, are very much in the middle of the trouble, whereas the county council is drawn from a very large area and will be able to give dispassionate consideration to the problem. Further, there is the point already made by the Under-Secretary, though not particularly emphasised, that the county councils have at their disposal the advice of experts. They have experts 743 on roads, on health, on town planning, and all these people will be at their disposal when they are considering the question of whether a track should be permitted or not. The magistrates have no such help. I, therefore, sincerely hope
§ that the Government will remain firm in resisting this Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the word councils' stand part of the Clause.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 243; Noes, 9.745
|Division No. 382.]||AYES||[8.17 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Gibson, Charles Granville||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Adams, D. M (Poplar, South)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Goff, Sir Park||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)|
|Albery, Irving James||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Gower, Sir Robert||Meller, Sir Richard James|
|Apsley, Lord||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Milner. Major James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Greene, William P. C.||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Moison, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middiesbro',W.)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Banfield, John William||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Batey, Joseph||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Grimston, R. V.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Bernays, Robert||Groves, Thomas E.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Grundy, Thomas W.||Morrison, G. A (Scottish Univer'ties)|
|Blindell, James||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Morrison, William Shepherd|
|Bossom, A. C.||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Munro, Patrick|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Hail, Georgs H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald|
|Braithwaite, Maj, A. N. (Yorks, E.R.)||Hammersley, Samuel S.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Harbord, Arthur||Orr Ewing. I. L.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks..Newb'y)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Paling, Wilfred|
|Burghley, Lord||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Burnett, John George||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Peake, Osbert|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Pearson. William G.|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Hepworth, Joseph||Penny, Sir George|
|Cape, Thomas||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Petherick, M.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Holdsworth, Herbert||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Horobin, Ian M.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.Sir J.A.(Birm.,W.)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Pybus, Sir John|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh,S.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney,N.)||Radford, E. A.|
|Clarke, Frank||Hume. Sir George Hopwood||Ramsay. capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Cobb. Sir Cyril||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel. J.||Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe)||Ray, Sir William|
|Cook, Thomas A.||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Copeland, Ida||Jamieson, Douglas||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Jenkins, Sir William||Rickards, George William|
|Crashley, Brig.-General A. C.||Jesson. Major Thomas E.||Roberts. Aled (Wrexham)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||John, William||Robinson, John Roland|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Curry, A. C.||Ker, J. Campbell||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Daggar, George||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lawson, John James||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Leckie, J. A.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Davies, Stephen Owen||Liddall, Walter S.||Sassoon. Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Denville, Alfred||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Despencer Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Dickie, John P.||Loftus. Pierce C.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Dobbie, William||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Doran, Edward||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Drewe, Cedric||Lunn. William||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Dunglass, Lord||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Edwards, Charles||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Soper. Richard|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Spender-Clay. Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Fleming, Edward Lascelles||McKie, John Hamilton||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Stevenson, James|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Magnay, Thomas||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Mainwaring, William Henry||Storey, Samuel|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Maitland, Adam||Strauss, Edward A.|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Making, Brigadier-General Ernest||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Summersby, Charles H.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Tate, Mavis Constance||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Wilmot, John|
|Thorne, William James||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)||Withers, Sir John James|
|Tinker. John Joseph||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Touche, Gordon Cosmo||Watt. Captain George Steven H.|
|Train, John||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Whyte, Jardine Bell||Sir Walter Womersley and Major George Davies.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Gritten W. G. Howard||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n,S.)||Mr. Michael Beaumont and Mr. Pike.|
Bill read a Second time.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I beg to move, in page 3, line 36, at the end, to insert:If a county council elect under the foregoing provisons of this section to delegate their functions under this Part of this Act to the standing joint committee, it shall be the duty of that committee to discharge those functions so long as the delegation is in force.This Amendment is intended to meet a criticism made in another place. The county council is to have the right to delegate functions to the standing joint committee and it was thought that there might be some cases in which that arrangement would not work. It is only right that we should make clear the intention of the Measure in this respect, and it is in those circumstances that I ask the Committee to accept this Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 4, line 5, insert:
(3) Any expenses incurred in the execution of this Part of this Act by a standing joint committee shall be defrayed by the council of the county and any expenses so incurred by any other joint committee shall be defrayed by the appointing councils in such shares as may be agreed."—[Sir J. Gilmour.]
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I beg to move, in page 4, line 10, at the end, to insert:() A standing joint committee to whom the functions of a county council under this part of this Act arc delegated under this section shall have such powers as are conferred on councils of counties and county boroughs by paragraph (b) of the proviso to sub-section (1) of this section, and accordingly references in that paragraph and in sub-sections (2) and (3) of this section to a council or councils shall be construed as including references to such a standing joint committee as aforesaid.
§ This Amendment will allow the standing joint committee to confer with the neighbouring authority, though it may not be the standing joint committee but the county council. It is only to make the machinery clear, and I do not think any question arises.
§ Amendment agreed to.