HC Deb 06 November 1934 vol 293 cc935-8

I call on the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division (Mr. Pike) to move the Amendment in his name in page 13, line 4.


On a point of Order. Is not the Amendment in my name—in page 12, line 27, to leave out from "If," to "shall," in line 38, and to insert: the occupier of any licensed track permits any person apparently under or known to him to be under the age of eighteen years to have access to the track during a time when sporting events are being carried on, he"— to be called?




Perhaps it is not usual for any explanation to be given, in which case I should be wrong in asking for the reason.


I might inform the hon. Member in this case that I have come to the conclusion that his Amendment is out of order.

8.16 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 13, line 4, at the end, to insert: or that the person had wilfully presented himself or herself to be over the age of eighteen years. This Amendment has been tabled with a view to removing a difficulty with which not many persons in this country are able to cope. We probably all remember having heard of the gentleman who pursued a, to all intents and purposes, nice young lady for a long way, only to discover at the end of his journey that he had been following a Gordon Highlander, and it is very difficult to have inserted in a Bill like this the words: Upon a charge under this Section in respect of a person apparently under the age of eighteen years. It will mean, if the words stand as they are, that every person who makes a bet with a bookmaker will have to be subjected to personal scrutiny, and possibly, if he or she looks a little on the lighter side of years, to cross-examination. We know how unpalatable that can be, under some of our licensing laws, when authority begins to cross-examine a young lady. As an instance, a young lady was subjected in Sheffield a few weeks ago to cross-examination on the question of whether or not she was 18, because she happened to be on licensed premises enjoying a glass of port, and she took action against the police. Here we shall have the same position. Every person who appears to the bookmaker or those in charge of the totalisator to be under 18 will have to be cross-examined, and the trouble is that when the answer comes in the affirmative, that they are over 18, there is no guarantee that they are, and if it is discovered that that person is under 18, both the bookmaker and those responsible for the operation of the totalisator will be guilty of a contravention of this Sub-section. It strikes me that the Home Secretary does not intend that to take place, but the danger is that if these words stand and my Amendment is not inserted, people will be guilty of contravening the Sub-section, although they may have taken the word of the person concerned on the question of age.

I always claim, despite the appeal of a large number of Members in this House as to the despoiling of juvenile morals, that the younger element, the youth of this country, to-day is as keen on betting as some of the seniors. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame!"] It may be a shame so far as the future of the manhood of the country is concerned, but it is nevertheless a fact, and those youngsters will adopt any and every method by which they can succeed in placing a bet. It will not be a great penalty to them to tell an untruth temporarily and tell the bookmaker who wants to keep within the law that they are over 18 years of age when in fact they are not. I am convinced that the best way to tackle that possibility is by inserting my Amend- ment. You will then automatically put a stop to contraventions of this Subsection, because I believe that at that age, once an example has been shown, the youth of the country will be very cautious before they wilfully enter into the net of crime.

8.20 p.m.


If this Amendment were accepted, it would really make it quite simple for the bookmaker to carry on betting transactions with a child or young person who was obviously of very tender years. The truth is that the provision in this Sub-section is based on a similar provision in Section 4, Sub-section (2) of the Racecourse Betting Act, 1928, and I have no reason to suppose that that is working unfairly or unreasonably to either party. In the circumstances, I cannot accept the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

8.21 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 13, line 8, after "made", to insert "with a bookmaker or".

In moving this Amendment, I want to make the Bill a little more practical. The Sub-section affects only the totalisator, and I submit that if bets are to be received and transmitted directly or indirectly with a view to their being placed on any event, it should be equal as between the bookmaker and the totalisator. We assume that they are in competition with each other, and I am anxious to avoid any differences or any favours being enjoyed by one which are not enjoyed by the other. It strikes me that if you ignore the bookmaker, you will find that a large volume of business that might otherwise be directed towards the totalisator will be directed to the bookmaker. I am not satisfied as to whether it is the right hon. Gentleman's intention that that should happen, and if it is not his intention, I ask him to accept these words and so strengthen his hands in the matter of administration.

8.23 p.m.


I do not think the hon. Member need have any fears in this matter, because I understand that the Amendment is unnecessary. If he will look at paragraph (a) of Sub-section (1), he will find that it refers to any bookmaker or commission agent who has a betting transaction with a person apparently under 18. Sub-section (4) merely extends it to cover the case of a man who negotiates a bet to be placed with a totalisator. Therefore, so far as I understand it, what the hon. Member really desires is achieved.

8.24 p.m.


Yes, but I want to make sure. I want the Home Secretary to realise that he is dealing with a problem which at first is bound to give rise to great controversies, and any addition or omission of words from the Bill upon which these persons who may be charged with contraventions can hang their case will be chosen for the purpose of bringing the Measure into ridicule If the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman can sufficiently protect him against that ridicule, I have pleasure in asking leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.