§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I beg to move on page 9, line 29, to leave out from the beginning to "as," in line 31, and to insert:
"Not later than the end of May in each year, every licensing authority shall, subject to the provisions of this section, fix one hundred and four days in the year which begins on the first day of July next following."
I said yesterday that the year would run from July and not from January. It is in order to meet that promise that I move this Amendment.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Mr. PIKE
On a point of Order. If we accept this Amendment, am I to understand that the various Amendments on the Order Paper with respect to the question of days will be out of order? Will there be no discussion? Am I right in the assumption that the acceptance of 870 the Home Secretary's Amendment will eliminate discussion on all the subsequent Amendments dealing with the point?
§ The CHAIRMAN
There is a definite Amendment before the Committee. If the hon. Member or other hon. Members do not agree with the Amendment and wish to alter it, it is for them to raise their point here in this discussion. It will depend entirely upon the fate of this Amendment what will happen to certain Amendments to the later part of the Bill.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
On a point of Order. Inasmuch as the Amendment now submitted by the Home Secretary refers to the number of days and seeing that in Clause 1 the number of days was definitely fixed at 104, is it open to any Member of the Committee to seek now to have that number of days altered?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Report stage is not a matter with which the Chairman of Ways and Means has to deal.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
On a point of Order. I understand that this is the first time that we have had this procedure and the first time that you have had to rule on the point. I understand that this Committee, which is a Committee of the whole House, is definitely debarred in this Committee stage from coming to any decision which conflicts with a decision in Committee upstairs. I am not certain whether the right procedure would not be to recommit Clause 1 so that it could be made to read in accordance with what this Committee of the whole House may desire. It seems to me a strange decision that a Committee upstairs, consisting of something less than 60 Members, should take a Bill to a certain stage and then it should come to a Committee of the whole House to continue the procedure.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It seems to me that the hon. Member is reflecting upon 871 decision of the House. The House has decided to refer to a Committee of the whole House consideration of the Bill other than Clause 1. The hon. Member must not reflect upon that decision.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I was not meaning to reflect on the House but to argue as far as I am permitted on the Ruling that you have given. It raises rather an important principle, because it means that we are only allowed in this Committee of the whole House to consider from Clause 2 onwards, and if you persist in your Ruling, apparently, we are not free to discuss or amend the Clauses from Clause 2 onwards in the way we might desire because of what has happened on Clause 1. If I understand your Ruling aright, we can only discuss from Clause 2 onwards in the light of a decision already taken by an inferior tribunal in respect of Clause 1. I want to know whether that is a correct interpretation of your Ruling?
I doubt whether the hon. Member is strictly accurate in referring to a Committee upstairs as an inferior tribunal. The fact is that the Bill having had its Second Reading has to go through the Committee stage. Part of the Bill, namely, Clause 1, has been through the necessary Committee stage. That is an accomplished fact, and whatever the Committee may be which considers the rest of the Bill it has to recognise the fact that Clause 1 has been through the Committee stage and has been reported to the House, as amended.
§ 4.28 p.m.
As my name is down to one or two Amendments, I should like your further Ruling. Am I to understand that on the Amendment now before the Committee there is no power vested in this Committee to move an Amendment to it in respect of the number of days, because Clause 1 has been dealt with?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Yes, that is correct. That is the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. I. Foot). It would be out of order to move an Amendment which is inconsistent with the Clause that has already passed through the Committee stage.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have said that hon. Members can deal with the Amendment before the Committee, but they can only deal with it according to the Rules of the House. Hon. Members will realise that the position is exactly the same on this particular point, as if Clause 1 had been passed by this Committee. The Bill has to go through a Committee stage and Clause 1 has been already passed by the Committee which dealt with it.
§ Mr. HANNON
Are we to understand that in the peculiar circumstances in which this Bill has been brought back to the Floor of the House the decisions of the Committee upstairs affecting a part of the Bill are in the same category as further proceedings on the Bill in Committee of the whole House?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Certainly. Clause 1 has been through the Committee stage. It really does not matter for our present purpose what Committee took the Committee stage; the Clause has gone through Committee stage. And the Committee stage is now proceeding with regard to the other Clauses.
§ Mr. LOGAN
We are being asked to accept an Amendment submitted by the Home Secretary, and I am trying to ask the Committee to reject it. That is plain and simple. Hon. Members who have any knowledge whatever of the Debates which took place in Committee will understand that as regards this particular Amendment we have either to accept it or reject it. On the merits or demerits of the number of days it may be a question of the ruling of the Chair as to whether I should be within my province in moving a greater number of days, and it would appear that I should be entirely out of order to do so. Therefore, the Debate in regard to this particular Amendment is confined to a very narrow point. But there is no doubt that the 873 limitation of the number of days is a matter of great concern to many hon. Members, it is definitely unpalatable, but as it is inserted here it is going to be binding until we reach Report stage. All the Amendments on this point on the Order Paper are non-debatable, simply because the present Amendment will close down all debate on the question of the number of days.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now attempting to discuss a question which has been decided in Committee. If he cannot move an Amendment to the effect he desires, he cannot discuss it. He can oppose this particular Amendment, but he cannot discuss the question of the number of days because that has been already decided by the Committee.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I bow to your ruling. I am anxious to oppose the Amendment without contravening any Rules of Order, and I am trying my best to get over the difficulty. I am told that I cannot do so without mentioning the number of days, but I think that I can object to the Amendment without giving my reasons. I hope that we shall get the Committee to reject this Amendment without giving reasons—no reasons are possible under your Ruling, Mr. Chairman, to which I submit willingly—but none the less I am anxious to take the little time that is allotted to me to state my opposition to something which appears to me to be in a watertight compartment. That being so oppose the Amendment and I hope a Division will be taken. I shall certainly go into the Lobby against it.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ 4.37 p.m.
Captain ARTHUR EVANS
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 2, after "days" to insert "for each track in its licensing area."
If my proposal be accepted, the Home Secretary's Amendment will read in this way:Not later than the end of May in each year, every licensing authority shall, subject to the provisions of this Section, fix one hundred and four days for each track in its licensing area in the year which begins on the first day of July next following.874 The effect of my Amendment is tins. At the moment the Committee have decided, under Clause 1, that we shall only be permitted to have betting on greyhound tracks on 104 days in the year. My Amendment would have the effect of allowing individual track owners to select the two particular days which are most convenient to them. Some of us regret that the number of days has been limited to 104, but we feel that if the Government go further and say that those 104 days shall be days decided by the local licensing authority, it is an unjustifiable interference with the rights and liberties of the people. I am sorry to hear some groans behind me. We have heard a lot about liberty since the House reassembled, and some of us recall that only two short weeks ago the Prime Minister referred to liberty, not in this House, but on a very important occasion, at the National Labour luncheon at the Trocadero Restaurant. Let me quote briefly from the speech of the Prime Minister:We have seen liberty disappear in nation after nation in Europe. I believe in liberty. Some people say that I have gone outside the bounds of law and order to maintain it. If it is necessary I will do it again. So long as my colleagues and myself can produce legislation which deprives no citizen of his liberty and prevents no man or woman from defending liberty, we are not going to stand by and refrain from taking such steps as we consider necessary to protect the liberty of the whole. They tell us that we shall not be able to quote the Bible in the House. I shall continue to quote it. The Attorney-General by accepting Amendment after Amendment to the Incitement Bill has proved beyond any shadow of doubt that our intention is not to strike at those who believe in liberty, but at those who are using liberty in order to destroy our liberty.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
Will the hon. and gallant Member remember that dogs are not allowed to run loose, but are kept on a track?
I quote that important extract from the Prime Minister's speech in the hope that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill will follow the excellent example of the Attorney-General and accept reasonable Amendments to the Bi[...] 1. I realise, of course, that political liberty is affected by the Incitement to Sedition Bill and that the kind of liberty which we are now 875 discussing is of a more domestic nature, but I think that it is a kind of liberty to which the average person pays more heed than he does to any other kind of liberty. It would be easy to quote the Royal Commission in support of my case and just as easy for those who oppose it to quote the Royal Commission in opposition. I do not think that we are furthering the discussion by pursuing that course. I feel that on this particular question the House of Commons is just as qualified to discuss and determine questions of personal liberty as any Royal Commission. Liberty, as my friends and I understand it, is liberty, if we can afford it, to have a drink when we want it; to go to the movies if we can afford the time and the money—
Unfortunately, I have not got a wife—to play a game of golf, if time affords and have half-a-crown on the result if we are so inclined. On this particular Amendment our view of liberty is that if we want to go to a horse race or greyhound racing we can do so if our work or time allows. That is the kind of liberty to which I propose to address my argument. What the Bill says at present is that you cannot bet on greyhound tracks except on two days a week. In effect, the Bill says it is legal, it is moral, it is right to bet on greyhound tracks on one day, but it is illegal, immoral and wrong to do so on another day. That is not an argument or a policy which can be justified by any occupant of the Front Government Bench. If the Home Secretary and the Government insist on passing this Amendment, they will go far in following the example of the United States of America. In that country—the Noble Lady will agree with me in this—they have passed laws which have not been respected by the citizens who are called upon to observe them. That implies not only to prohibition but to betting laws. Up to a few months ago it was illegal to bet in any of the States with the exception of two. In the State of New York that law was evaded by very subtle means. You could go to Vernon Park and bet on a credit system. A bookmaker would approach you and, having found out your wishes in regard to a particular horse or race, 876 would make a note of it. No money would pass, but the following Monday you would get either an account or a cheque as your luck might determine. That was a law passed against the wishes of the majority of the people, and the result was that it was evaded and brought into disrespect. The same thing applies to Prohibition. My submission is that the same thing exactly will happen in this country, unless we take adequate steps to prevent it. Our chief objection to the Clause as it stands is this: Without any apparent good reason it differentiates between horse racing and greyhound racing. It allows betting on horses on every day of the week and it allows betting on greyhounds on only two days a week, and those two days are to be determined by a local authority. The Noble Marquis, Lord Londonderry, who was responsible for introducing this Bill in another place, in the course of his speech used these words:Betting is a matter for the individual conscience.If it is a matter for the individual conscience, why do the Government in this Clause endeavour to place restrictions upon that individual conscience? If people have any consciences left in these days I hope to goodness that the Government will allow people to enjoy them. As far as the licensing area is affected and the appointing of two specified days per week, under the Clause as it stands there is nothing to prevent London, Surrey, Essex, Middlesex, Kent and Hertfordshire county councils forming one joint licensing committee, and if they did that it would mean that all greyhound tracks within that vast area would have to arrange racing on the two days decided by the joint councils. The town of Ramsgate would be placed in exactly the same position as Watford. The White City at Shepherd's Bush would be regulated by the same decision as the dog track at Maidstone. And if we take the matter to an absurdly logical conclusion there is nothing in the Clause to prevent the whole of the licensing authorities throughout the country joining together and forming one licensing authority.
Let us take a more concrete example; let us take the example of the county of Kent. There is a track at Ramsgate which for obvious reasons is open for only four months of the year. Ramsgate is a seasonal town which caters, and I 877 think caters very well, for a vast holiday population. That means that Ramsgate could race on only two days of the week irrespective of the holiday season, and would have to comply with the same conditions as apply to urban areas near the City of London. It will not be suggested that anyone would travel specially from Dartford to Rochester in order to make a bet on a dog. It is wrong to suppose that people will travel from one part of Cardiff to another part in order to make a bet on a dog. The purpose of the Home Secretary, I understand, is to curtail facilities for betting. But if a man is so fond of betting as that he will not even go out of his house; he will send a telegram to his bookmaker or send an errand boy to a street bookmaker, a procedure which is still overlooked by the law, and have a shilling or two on the 3.30. Therefore, the object of my right hon. Friend is not safeguarded in any way at all by this Clause. In Birmingham, for instance, it would be foolish to suggest that anyone would go from Perry Barr to Hall Green as a matter of habit for the purpose of patron[...]sing a greyhound track. The lines of communication are most difficult and it could be done with convenience and comfort only with a private car.
There is another aspect of the case which I hope my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will consider. That is the question of a greyhound racing track which is debarred by local agreement from racing greyhounds on specified days. Let us assume for argument's sake that a local authority decided that Wednesday and Saturday are suitable days for greyhound racing. It might well be that one of the greyhound racing tracks situated within that licensing area has an agreement with a football club or a dirt racing track which would debar it from racing on the days specified by the county council. It might well be that in the same area there is another track which does not suffer from the same disability. Therefore, you will have an unfair differentiation between the track which is debarred by agreement with the football club and the other track, and it would be unable to compete with the track that is free from that obligation.
I am very surprised that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has not supported the principle laid down by the Jockey Club. He has told us on many 878 occasions, and I think chiefly in reply to our arguments advocating a national board of control for greyhound racing, that any body we mig[...]t set up to give effect to that principle could not enjoy the same prestige or standing as the Jockey Club or the National Hunt Committee enjoy. I do not think that anyone would quarrel with that statement in so far as it affects the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee. They are two bodies which earn and enjoy the respect not only of a sporting public but of the vast majorit[...]r of people in England. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman having that great respect for that body, it surprises me that he does not take a leaf out of the book of the Jockey Club? What is it that the Jockey Club is at great care to do? It goes to special pains to see that racecourses which are near to each other do not raee on the same day. Regulations are made to prevent that state of affairs. Imagine for one moment if the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee allowed Sandown Park, Kempton Park, Hurst Park, Alexandra Park, Epsom, Northolt, Gatwick and Lingfield to race on the same day. Obviously it would be impossible from an economic and logical point of view for those racecourses to exist.
We feel that if the Home Secretary persists in this Clause without Amendment he is supporting a principle of class distinction in sport which cannot be defended by any hon. Member. If my Amendment is accepted it will enable my right hon. Friend to allow track owners to choose the two days most convenient from all points of view, having regard to the nearness of other tracks and other considerations. I ask my right hon. Friend in all seriousness whether this is an extravagant request to make at this time. Let us look at the problem from a practical point of view. In endeavouring to persuade the right hon. Gentleman to take what we think is a reasonable point of view on this matter we must remember that his one object is the curtailment of betting facilities and the curtailment of the number of greyhound tracks within an area. My submission is that in the towns the number of tracks situated within any urban district will solve itself. If there is not sufficient public demand to justify two tracks being operated, two tracks 879 will not be operated, but only one, or none at all. As to counties and vast licensing areas, I think I have illustrated, even to the satisfaction of the right hon. Gentleman, that such a regulation as he suggests in his Clause is not necessary.
I freely admit, of course, that there is moderation in all things. I feel sure that most of us realise that any Executive or Cabinet must be wholly responsible for legislation that it introduces into this House. Although the Government have turned down the many requests which has been made from all parts of the House for a free vote on the principle of the Bill, yet I do feel that on matters of detail of this kind my right hon. Friend will perhaps be able to, take a more generous view. He has the reputation, and I think the enviable reputation, of being a very able statesman. I put it to him this afternoon that he should be an able politician too. Let us remember that the people whom this Bill will affect are the people who, we hope, will support the National Government at the next General Election. I am not ashamed at all to bring that point of view into the Debate. After all, we are entitled to do what we can to represent the views of the people, as we interpret those views. We have to realise that owing to the very generous action of the Conservative party every man and women over 21 years of age has the vote. They have the right to feel that if the Government of to-day consider that they are fit enough to judge of the difficulties of their own country, then indeed they are fit and proper people to judge of their morals and their own behaviour, without any unnecessary direction from any Government Front Bench.
You cannot legislate against a born gambler. He will gamble in any case, and if he is a gambler at heart it will be much more convenient for his purpose to gamble on horses than on dogs. I suggest, as a very junior back-bencher, that my right hon. Friend in introducing legislation in this House should endeavour to legislate for the majority of people and not for the minority who have to be safeguarded against themselves. This final appeal I desire to make to my right hon. Friend. This Amendment is 880 put forward in the sincere belief that in this way the Government will be enabled to satisfy a very large body of normal opinion in this country, the opinion of people who fear that it is a very bad precedent for any Government to come to this House and to dictate to them the days on which they shall enjoy the recreation that they deem best for their leisure. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to accept my Amendment, in view of the fact that against the wishes of a very large number of his supporters in this House he has fixed the number of 104 racing days instead of 150.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
If the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans) had made that speech to-day for the first time, I am not sure that the Home Secretary would not feel himself obliged to reconsider his position, but I think I recollect having heard that speech about 15 times in the Committee upstairs.
Does my hon. Friend not recollect that the Committee only got as far as the end of Clause 1 and that on that Clause we were not permitted to discuss the question of the fixing of the days?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
It may have been that I only heard it 14 times and not 15, but the hon. and gallant Member will also recollect that Clause 1 dealt with the number of days and that almost the whole of the Debate on that Clause centred around the question of whether the number of days should be limited to 104 or 156 or should be 208 or 300. [HON. MEMBERS: "No"] Now, the hon and gallant Member has made an appeal to the Home Secretary, an appeal so moving that it almost removed me from the Front Opposition Bench. He talked about liberty and the rights of the people. Were it not for the fact that the hon. and gallant Member voted on Friday last for a Bill which in our view affects the liberty of every individual in this country, we might be inclined to say that there was some point in his claim that he wishes to preserve the liberty of the individual. But when we look at the OFFICIAL REPORT we find that he voted for the Incitement to Disaffection Bill 881 which would rob the ordinary individual of liberty to do and say what he conceives to be right—
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
It may not interfere with the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) or the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff, but it certainly restricts the liberty of other people and the hon. and gallant Member voted for that Measure. It is only—and here I do not refer to the hon. and gallant Member in any personal way—when questions of profit or private interests are at stake that the hon. and gallant Member submits such a fervent appeal for the extension of a liberty which most people in the Committee upstairs, when they were considering this matter, thought was licence. The hon. and gallant Member made some reference to subtlety. This Amendment to the Amendment is a very subtle move to restore the Debate on the question of the 104 days, but I am not at all dissatisfied that an opportunity should be given to Members generally to hear that question debated. I would prefer that the Committee of the Whole House should at any rate get the chance of listening to a full dress Debate on the question and then taking a decision than that that decision should rest with the smaller number. The question is one of limiting to 104 the number of days on which the owners and occupiers of these tracks are to be allowed to exploit the general population. It is not that the general population in all cases are unwilling to be exploited. I can conceive that, but, in almost every case, in which the development of a new means of gambling or any other social evil has reached a certain point, all through history it has been the duty and the obligation of Parliament to limit facilities for it once liberty began to develop into licence.
§ Mr. HANNON
On a point of Order. We are not now discussing the question of the number of days, but the question of allowing the local authority in consultation with the local track owners to fix certain days of the week for racing.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I think that probably I appreciate the point as well as the hon. Member but the object of this Amendment, as we shall doubtless learn from the hon. Member when he addresses the 882 Committee, is to ensure that instead of the same days being fixed for the tracks in Birmingham, or any other centre, each track is to have its racing days fixed differently. The result will be that in any large city with a population of 1,000,000 or a little less where they have three tracks, they can so arrange the days that there will be six days racing each week. When the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary suggests 104 days in the year that obviously implies the intention that not more than two days per week shall be allowed on which greyhound track owners can induce and encourage people both young and old to go to their tracks.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
That is perfectly true, but the Clause with which we are now dealing is concerned with the fixing of the 104 days and it seems to me, without going back to the Second Reading Debate or the Debates in Committee, that the intention of the Amendment to the Minister's Amendment is obvious. Its intention is to extend facilities for gambling. The right hon. Gentleman would not be doing himself justice or the vast majority of people justice if he were to concede this point, and because of the Royal Commission's recommendation on a growing social evil I am obliged for once in a way to support the Home Secretary. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will stand to his guns because only by doing so has he any possibility of carrying the Bill at all.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. HANNON
I rise to support the case made in such an admirable speech by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans). In many discussions that we have had recently affecting particular Measures of this kind I do not think we have heard a clearer exposition of a case than that which has just been given by my hon. and gallant Friend. Having examined all the elements of the appeal which he has made to the Minister I do not feel that there is much to be added in support of his statement. What we ask for in the Amendment to the Amendment is that 883 there shall be liberty in each district, in consultation with the local authority, to vary the days upon which greyhound racing is to take place. We have heard a great deal recently about liberty, and my hon. and gallant Friend has given an illustration from a very high authority of the acceptance of that principle in high places in the administration of this country. Take my own city of Birmingham. Will it not be embarrassing to the local authority who will be charged with the administration of this Measure if they should be unable to concede to the two or three racing tracks there—each of which is administered in a most efficient way—the right to carry on meetings on different days of the week, if it is the wish of the people, in pursuance of the principle of civil liberty, to enjoy their recreation upon those particular days? I would like to ask the Home Secretary, who has been so considerate to us in relation to this Measure, whether he has had an opportunity for further consultation on the suggestion made in another place by a very eminent statesman that there should be further consideration of this point when the Bill comes to this House. The people who frequent dog-racing tracks are the ordinary plain people of this country. They have not private cars, and they cannot travel from one track to another.
§ Mr. HANNON:
do not like making any retort to the Noble Lady, because she stands alone in this House in her peculiar conception of these matters, and it would not be kind to retort to her when she makes an interruption of that kind. Here we have in a great city a large number of people who desire to take their recreation at these dog-racing tracks. Take the two tracks in my own division, in which I may say I have no personal interest whatever. Is it to be suggested that the people who go to enjoy the dog racing at King's Heath would rush from there to Hall Green, which is about four miles away, in order to take part in racing or in betting on both courses. I suggest that it would be a very generous concession, and would be consistent with the wishes of the masses of the people, were the Home Secretary to agree to this modification, 884 namely, that the local licensing authority in consultation with the local dog-racing people should be able to agree to the distribution of the days as between various tracks instead of fixing certain specified days in each week for all tracks.
We in the Midlands have a very congested population. They like to have their evening recreation and it seems an interference with their liberty that they should be obliged to have their dog racing on two specified days of the week instead of having freedom to attend on whatever other days might be fixed under such an arrangement as is here suggested between the various tracks. I do not agree with the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) that there would be racing on six days of the week under such an arrangement. Those responsible for the management of these tracks have just as high a sense of moral responsibility as any Member of the House or any member of public. In Birmingham at all events this industry, as the Home Secretary has called it, or this recreation as somebody else has called it, or this sport, if it is entitled to that designation, has been conducted on lines which challenge examination from the moral point of view. I think it would be unfair to impose on a great community where there are two or three tracks the obligation of having these meetings all on the same days.
My hon. and gallant Friend has referred to the case of London where there will be a joint committee administering this matter over an area as large as a German principality or as large as Yorkshire and making arrangements for meetings which are to be held in different localities affected by entirely different circumstances. Surely some provision ought to be made in a far-reaching Measure of this kind for taking into account the peculiar circumstances of each district in fixing the days for dog racing. In this projected law, we are entering, in view of public opinion, upon a very dangerous experiment. How far are we differentiating between the rights of the mass of the wage-earning classes and the rights of those who attend race meetings under the auspices of the Jockey Club? I speak with a full sense of responsibility, as one who has been in the public life of this country for 30 years and has taken part in a great many electoral contests when 885 I say that it is a dangerous thing to suggest to the masses of the people that one set of electors are to be placed in a different category from another in relation to the sports and recreations which they have the opportunity of enjoying.
I do not want to make any electoral or party capital out of a Bill of this kind. believe that this is a Bill which ought to be presented to the House as a nonparty Measure and discussed upon its merits apart from any political differences or feelings. As it has been taken up by the Government and as my right hon. Friend is carrying it through this House, with his usual ability and steadfastness in resisting any kind of pressure from time to time, I, as a loyal supporter of the Government, must act with him, but surely in future, when history comes to record his acts as a Member of this Government, it will be a terrible thing for him to reflect that class legislation is to be associated with his administration. I would appeal to my right hon. Friend not to be responsible for bringing class legislation into the arena of the public and social life of this country, but to give the man in the street, the wage-earner, the same opportunities of enjoying his recreation as members of the Jockey Club have. Let him not allow people to say, when he comes to appeal to them to support a National Government, "You have placed the privileges of the Jockey Club on a higher level than those of the people." I think my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, whom we all welcome back to this House, would say of the Home Secretary, after this Bill goes through, "What is the protagonist of the policy of the National Government doing? He is placing one class of citizens in one category and another class in another category, and the Government have resisted the desire of their own supporters to give equal fair play to those who belong to the working class and to those who belong to the rich Jockey Club."
I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that he will be acting wisely and consistently with the fine qualities for which he has always stood if he accepts this Amendment to his Amendment. We who are supporting him in this House and are determined to support him in the future would not put forward our Amendment if we felt that it was inconsistent with the best 886 interests of the country and of the party to which we belong. I do not care how he modifies the Amendment so long as it gives a fair and reasonable measure of liberty to local rackcourse owners, in consultation with the local authorities, for the enjoyment of this sport in the different localities. If he takes that decision, he will throughout the country command a large measure of support and appreciation for a statesmanlike decision.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
I beg hon. Members to turn to Sub-section (2) of this Clause, which has been in the Bill from the beginning. It reads:The appointed days fixed by a licensing authority shall be the same for the whole of their licensing area, and shall not include any Good Friday, Christmas Day or Sunday.Those are the vital words in the Bill, and if this Amendment to the Amendment were passed, it would mean that that Subsection would have to be taken out, and the Bill would be a wholly different Measure from the one put before the House on the Second Reading, inasmuch as the purpose of the Bill was to deal with an acknowledged social danger. We are dealing with dog tracks because of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and if they were not a social danger, we should not be discussing the Bill at all. According to the hon. Member for the Moseley division (Mr. Hannon), our time is being wasted on this Bill. If so, the time of the Commissioners also was being wasted, and they were misled in their recommendations, but the whole basis of our discussion is that we have here something that has grown up of recent years that is causing grave social consequences, and it is to deal with an acknowledged evil that the Bill was introduced.
One thing recommended was that we should limit the time for the facilities for this gambling, and that is why we decided on the 104 days in Clause 1. Those 104 days would be a worthless decision if this Amendment to the Amendment were accepted, and al] that we did in Clause 1 would be undone, because obviously the big interests that are searching their possibilities, the interests that are out, not for national good, but for their own advantage, will look for the opportunity of as many days as possible. I wonder what limit could be put 887 upon their appetite or their demands as far as the facilities for gambling are concerned. Would any Member of this Committee like to leave it to the manufacturers of totalisators as to how many totalisators should be put on the courses? Would any Member of this Committee like to leave it to the promoters of these greyhound tracks as to how many tracks there should be, and on how many days they should be open? They would only know one limit to their demand, and that would be the exhaustion of the resources of the people who attend.
The Amendment to the Amendment, if accepted, would mean that you would not be helping the small track, the individual track; you would be helping the tracks that are owned by the big multiple concerns. They would survey this country just as a conqueror looks at a territory, and they would plant their flag here and there with here territory to be acquired, and there another district to be brought in, just as the big multiple firm very properly does. The big multiple firm looks around and regards every city and town in which it has not got a strategic position as being a challenge to further effort, and you will have the same with the big multiple concern dealing with your greyhound tracks if you pass the Amendment to the Amendment. Two nights would not satisfy them, and as far as they could with the tracks under their control they would make them run from Monday to Tuesday, to Wednesday, to Thursday, to Friday, and to Saturday; and they would be entitled to do it on the hon. Member's argument.
His argument, and that of the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans), was that when he British working man wanted to go to a track, the track should be opened for him, that if he wished to invest his sixpence or his shilling, who should stand in his way? The totalisator people say, "We are out to meet and to concern ourselves with the liberty of the people of this country." The whole Bill is gone if the Amendment to the Amendment is carried, and that is very well known by the hon. and gallant Member who moved it. I am not concerned about his argument for liberty. I remember that when Demetrius in Ephesus found that his trade was in danger, he did not go out to the public to ask the public to sup- 888 port him in the making of silver shrines, but he went out and made the cry "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." Whenever a trade is affected, the man never claims for his trade, but goes out and says, "Great is the liberty of the subject."
The claim is now made by one who very plainly and very honourably declared his position in this matter on the Second Reading as the Chairman of British Totalisator Manufacturers. He, quite obviously, is asking for the liberty of the subject pretty much as Demetrius cried "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." The British people know this, that there is no greater injury to liberty than loose living, and we come back to the point that was emphasised yesterday, not that it is a broad academic question of liberty, but a social evil. We are concerned with the people being exploited for financial advantage, and we are concerned with the temptations to the young. That-is the justification for this Bill, and because the Amendment to the Amendment would destroy the Bill that is based upon that idea, we shall vote against it.
§ Mr. HANNON
The hon. Gentleman referred to Demetrius and Diana of the Ephesians. May I say, in view of the inference that might be drawn, that I have not a shadow of interest of any sort or kind in any race track in this country?
§ Mr. FOOT
I am making no accusation against anyone, but the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff, on the Second Reading, very honourably stated in this House that he was the paid chairman of British Totalisator Manufacturers. Therefore, the plea for the liberty of the subject, I think, might come better from some other Member.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. CLARRY
I want strongly to support the very able speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans) and his very reasonable request. I do not agree with the last speaker, that this Amendment to the Amendment would wreck the Bill in any way. I think it would improve the Bill greatly, because the vast numbers of people who attend greyhound race meetings are drawn from purely local sources and are people who cannot afford to spend money on travelling from one 889 point to another. The point of this, proposal is to make the days prescribed in the Bill flexible so as to suit the convenience of the local public, and that is not, to my mind, an unreasonable request. I should like to draw attention to the only two speeches that have been made to-day in favour of the Home Secretary's Amendment. They come from the Front Bench of the Opposition and from one of the Leaders of the Liberal party. The Home Secretary knows very well that in Committee upstairs, if it had not been for his co-operation with the Socialists and the Liberals, he would not have been able to get a number of things through which he did get through, and that proves that *we on this side, [...]ather than the hon. Members opposite, are looking after the interests of the poorer classes.
§ Mr. CLARRY
I did not ask for it from beginning to end, and I think I should have been able to do without it, and never since the election have I definitely asked for it. I would like now to draw attention to one other point. Although the analogy between horse-racing and greyhound racing is not complete in a number of particulars, I would like to show the illogical nature of the case for this Bill, because horse-racing takes place in this country on every day of the week except Sunday, and later in the Bill we shall be asked to approve of certain measures to facilitate betting on horse-racing, for Totalisators, Limited. Therefore, there is a great deal of humbug about this talk about a social evil that is taking place, because with the greyhound public the betting is purely local, whereas betting on horse-racing is of a national character. I cannot see the logic, on the one hand, of increasing facilities for betting on horses and, on the other hand, in the same Measure reducing facilities for betting on dogs. There is only one conclusion to be drawn: There is more influence behind the horse-racing.
We desire to give the poorer people, those who are not able to spend a large amount of money, reasonable facilities for their amusement. I ask the Home Secretary to consider most carefully the Amendment to the Amendment, as the 890 total number of days is restricted in the Bill to a margin which is stated to be below subsistence level for quite half the tracks in the country, and I think it is reasonable that, having fixed those days at such a level, we should give facilities for track owners, in collaboration with the local authorities, to cater for their public and the best convenience of that public.
§ 5.30 p.m.
The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Captain Crookshank)
This Debate is mainly a repetition of the Debate which we had upstairs on Clause 1, and I will bring the matter back to its proper proportion. One might think, from some of the speeches that have been made, that there is no evil to be dealt with. The reason why the Bill has been introduced is the definite opinion expressed by the Royal Commission and supported by a great body of public opinion in the country that this is a problem that had to be tackled; and it had to be tackled, if at all, on the basis of limiting the existing facilities for organised gambling on racecourses. That is the essential principle with which we are concerned. The position under the Bill is that by the first Clause there is to be betting on tracks for only 104 days, and the Amendment of my right hon. Friend is that the 104 days are to be fixed by the licensing authority for the area over which they exercise their jurisdiction.
It is not a question, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans) said, as to whether we think it right to bet on Monday but wrong on Tuesday. It is a question for the licensing authority to allocate the days in the year, not necessarily twice in the week, but to choose the days in the whole year on which they will allow betting to be carried on in their area, bearing in mind, as they have to do, the conditions which we discussed last night. To suggest, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman is doing in the Amendment to the proposed Amendment, that each track should be allowed to have separate days, of course stultifies the whole Bill. If that is going to be pressed on my right hon. Friend, he will take a different view in regard to the progress of the Bill from that which he has taken so far. The object is to limit 891 the facilities for betting, and I would say in all kindness to my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon) that if he would go to the pains of explaining to the electors what this Bill does, instead of denouncing it in those magnificent periods about the liberty of the subject, they would see that the Government are dealing with the matter in a very reasonable way.
I resent most strongly the attempt to bring in prejudice as between horse racing and dog racing. I repudiate entirely the suggestion that we are not dealing with horse racing because those responsible for it have more influence with the Government. There has been no influence in any shape or form and the hon. Member who made the suggestion knows it. It is an accusation which should not have been made. The hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff said that one anticipated that the Jockey Club and other racing authorities would consider having all their racing on the same day. Let us look at the question. Here is a statement from the Royal Commission which will bring the matter into its proper proportion:On the seven horse racecourses within a radius of 15 miles of Charing Cross there were 187 days' racing a year, whereas in the same area there were 23 greyhound tracks and over 4,000 days' racing. In the city of Glasgow there are no horse racecourses, but there are five greyhound tracks with about 1,400 days' racingThat is the problem with which we are called upon to deal.
Captain A. EVANS
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman admit that in Glasgow, where there are no racecourses, the people are at liberty to bet on horse races in any city and on any day when horse racing is taking place? As the end of the Government is to curtail facilities for betting, the number of racing days is not important.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled to think it is not important, but we take the contrary view. We are dealing with the problem of dog racecourses being set down in the middle of industrial areas and racing taking place every afternoon and evening, and sometimes on Sundays. After all, we are doing something to meet the claims of the greyhound track occupiers by the subsequent Amendment 892 which my right hon. Friend has tabled, and by which they will be able to agree on the days. That cuts away a great deal of the argument against the present Amendment that days inconvenient to a particular track may be fixed or that days may be fixed for a track on which, for some reason, the greyhound people could not use it. It only remains in circumstances of that kind for the track occupiers to agree among themselves. The hon. Member for Moseley said that it would be a very generous concession on the part of the Government to accept the Amendment. It would, indeed, because it would entirely wreck the Bill. For that reason we stand firm to our Amendment. We cannot accept this differentiation in the fixation of days for tracks in one area, but stand by the proposal that has been made. As regards the 104 days, that particular proposition has been settled on Clause 1.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. PIKE
May I ask the Under-Secretary whether the Government have considered the position that will arise, if this Amendment be accepted, in many parts of the country where four or five different licensing districts join one another in an area of two or three miles? There are three tracks in Sheffield, one in Rotherham, one in Doncaster and none in Penistone. All those places converge on the licensing district of Sheffield, although they are all separate licensing authorities. What will be the position if each of these authorities decide to fix two days different from those which are granted by their next door neighbours? The result will he six or seven continuous days' racing within a tram ride, or at least within a private ear ride, of each other, with full betting facilities over the whole area. What is the position of the Government when that anomaly arises?
The hon. Member knows perfectly well that the licensing authorities are the county councils or the county borough councils. It will be possible for them to join and do the licensing by a joint committee.
§ Mr. PIKE
Are we to understand now that, where there is a possibility of these differences arising, the wording of the Bill will be used to make the areas that converge on each other have the same days for racing, and that Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield will be compelled 893 to have a joint committee in order that there shall he no different facilities in their respective areas? Is that the case?
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. WISE
My hon. and gallant Friend has failed entirely to answer the case put up by the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans), because, with his usual masterly sidetracking of the discussion, he put up a defence against a case which was not in any way proposed by the Mover of the Amendment to the proposed Amendment. He refused to answer the query as to what would happen in one of the cases quoted by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Cardiff. It was the case of Ramsgate, which is in the county of Kent, and which would be under the same licensing authority as another track on the border of the Metropolitan area. One track might want to keep open for four months a year, and the other to have the 104 days distributed over the 52 weeks. That case has not in any way been answered. All that the hon. and gallant Member told us was that the Government wished to get back to the first principles of the Bill to limit the facilities for organised gambling. If that was what the Government wanted to do, they need not have brought in this Bill at all. They should have brought in a Bill to deal with organised gambling, but not a Bill which is an interference with legitimate recreation.
They have had the figures of the Royal Commission's report showing that gambling on dog races is one-half that on football, and one-twelfth that on horse racing. If they wanted to limit the facilities for organised gambling, it would have been more rational and courageous, and more in keeping with the policy of the Government, to have dealt with the greater evils before dealing with the less. One is forced to the conclusion that this is not a question of limiting organised gambling at all, but of giving effect to a prejudice which has been created—no one knows how—in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman Against one particular form of amusement. At all costs he is determined that his fellow-countrymen shall be protected against any possibility of being 894 able to enjoy themselves. In the pursuit of that end, he is refusing to accept an Amendment which would only carry out in many ways the spirit of his own Bill.
Both upstairs and here we have been told that the local authorities are the most trustworthy and admirable licensing bodies, and any attempt to transfer the authority from these local bodies has been met with a blank refusal by the right hon. Gentleman. Clearly, he approves of the local authorities, but apparently he does not trust them far enough to use reasonable discrimination in their own areas. He does not seem to think that the London County Council, say, would be sufficiently alive to the danger, which he alleges, of six days' racing a week in its area. He does not seem to think that the corporation of Liverpool could be trusted to see the wiles of these cunning owners of dog tracks and to reject their claims to race on different days.
All we are asking him is to allow the local authorities, of whom he so fervently approves, a little latitude and discretion in allotting the 104 days. I suggest that, if the local authorities cannot be trusted to do that, they cannot be trusted to issue licences at all. If, on the other hand, they can be trusted to issue licences, they can be trusted to issue them for 'a reasonable number of days and under reasonable conditions. The difficulties which have been pointed out by my hon. and gallant Friend have not been answered yet by the Government. There is time for the Government to put up a case even now. I feel sure that if they would examine this matter a little more carefully and with a little less of that unflinching refusal ever to give way on any point whatever, they would find it perfectly easy to allow this discretion to the local authorities. It is not a very wide discretion. They are limited to 104 days, anyhow. All they may do is to allow one track to have different days from another. They are elected bodies, and presumably they will represent the will of the people in their areas. Surely the people themselves must be allowed to have some say in their own amusements, even indirectly, and if the Government do not allow them to go racing when they like, surely they might allow the elected representatives of the people to select the days for them.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I am afraid I shall have to differ from many of the other speakers this evening. This Amendment to the proposed Amendment is very subtle and carries with it matters of vital importance. The question was well threshed out in Committee. There are conflicts of interests among those engaged in racing and up to now those various interests have not been consulted. There are ways and means of consultation which could have been adopted with a view to securing unanimity of opinion in regard to this Bill, but the great and vital matter on which there is a difference of opinion turns on the subtlety of this Amendment. The Home Secretary is wise in having unanimity in regard to the fixing of days. I can see, from a business point of view, the possibility of a tendency not to secure an agreement one with another on the question of days, on the off chance that some provision such as this might be inserted in the Bill. I do not give a toss of a button for all the race tracks in the country, or any of the people concerned, but where certain interests are concerned, and different points of view are put forward, I try to see whether conciliation can be effected, and if I am not able to bring about that conciliation I intend to try to get my point of view put into execution.
Is it not quite patent that if there is to be non-fixity of days, and if the provision as to 104 days racing becomes operative, it will be to the advantage of large business interests to get hold of the whole of the dog racing and have a six days week—each track with its two days—over the whole of the country? This is not only possible but, in my humble opinion, it is what lies behind the action of those who are not interested in coming together to see whether an arrangement can be arrived at. I believe there ought to be regulations, and that by the common consent of those interested we could get an agreement which might shorten these proceedings in Committee, but do not let us try to fool each other with the idea that a particular body does not know what it is trying to get at. The sooner the interests concerned recognise that people are able to see what is going on the better it will be from the point of view of this Committee pursuing a straightforward policy.
896 I do not believe in juggling, I believe in straightforward dealing. I believe in making a deal if that be possible, but we are not able to find that any effort is being made to come to an agreement, and I do not think we ought to be forced to accept the proposals of this description which are put forward, as it were, by stealth. Many people in this country would stand to lose all that they have invested in these undertakings, and I am not prepared to give any syndicate any power of monopoly which would crush the others out. If this is to be good for one it must be good for all. There will have to be a common policy. An hon. Member interrupts me with a reference to Nationalisation. I am not in favour of nationalising dog racing. I regard the nationalisation of dog racing much as I regard the National Government.
I am concerned to prevent the exploitation of the public. If dog racing on six days a week can be secured by a syndicate, then the property of other track owners in this country will be depreciated. Let all those who are concerned with this Bill meet together and decide what they are really prepared to go in for, decide upon a minimum, which can then be brought before the House. Let us get a common understanding, which up to now we have not been able to arrive at. If we did that we might be able to get a Measure that would give all a chance to exist, but we ought not to support a proposal which would get the better of the smaller men in such a subtle way. I am concerned to secure a fair and square deal for all concerned, and I support the dour, solid, stubborn, egotistical Minister in the attitude he has taken up.
§ 5.52 p.m.
It must have struck the Committee that it is a most extraordinary thing to find that nobody-is speaking from the point of view of special interests. Everybody says, "I am not concerned with vested interests. I am not interested in the little dogs or the big dogs." But I do not suppose there is any Bill before the House where it has been more flagrant—the vested interests concerned with this Bill. And it is always the same thing. Whenever those who support a vested interest want to exploit the people they always 897 begin by talking about the liberty of the working man. It is enough to make the House—well, I do not know what to say. They wax eloquent about the liberty of the working man, the same old vested interest group who fight every social reform, and always in the name of liberty. But every one of us knows what they are speaking for and why they are speaking. I am grateful to the Government for standing so firm. We are not taken in by any of the speeches. We know where they come from and where they want to go.
§ Mr. HOLFORD KNIGHT
On a point of Order. I wish to ask whether it is within the Rules of this House for any Member to launch allegations of financial interest? [HoN. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am putting my own point and I shall do it again in regard to this Amendment. Is it in accordance with the dignity of the House of Commons that any Member should get up and say that another Member is taking part in the discussions because of some financial interest?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The point which the hon. and learned Member for South Nottingham (Mr.Knight) raised is, of course, a correct one in the words in which he put it, but I have not at present noticed that the Noble Lady has transgressed. Perhaps I might ask her to devote herself more closely to the Amendment.
I was talking about vested interests, and I did not say a word about financial interests. I am a little suspicious about Members who are so nervous when vested interests are mentioned. I have always found that an honest woman did not mind what anybody called her.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think it would be well if we turned to the Amendment—if there be anything more to said about it.
I only want to say that I am delighted that the Government have stuck to their purpose, in spite of the pressure brought to bear here and the threats from outside, and I would reiterate that people who are honest do not have to explain. People who are not representing vested interests are not nervous about themselves. The Govern- 898 ment certainly are not representing vested interests, or any interests except the general welfare of the public. We find that when we go to the country, in spite of what an hon. Member from Birmingham said—that when he goes to the country he will find the people saying the National Government have let down the national welfare. I think the National Government are well represented, and I once more ask Members not to get up to explain that they are honest or virtuous.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
I shall not detain the Committee, but I am not going to allow the Noble Lady the Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor) to get away with the last word in a discussion of this sort.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have already asked the Noble Lady to discontinue that particular discussion, which had nothing to do with the Amendment and on which the hon. and learned Member interposed. I cannot allow the hon. and learned Member to go on with it.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
Then I am going to address myself, under the Rules of Order, and with your permission, to the Amendment.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and learned Member rose on a different point altogether—one of Order. If he wishes to make a speech on this particular Amendment, that raises another position. I call on Mr. Gurney Braithwaite.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
On a point of Order. I began to address the Committee, under your Chairmanship, and am I to understand that because you thought I was going to take another line I am not to continue the speech I had commenced?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Yes. I distinctly asked the hon. and learned Member not to continue the speech he had commenced to make. I may explain that I understood that he was rising in pursuance of the point on which he did so previously —a point of Order. Mr. Gurney Braithwaite.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
On a point of Order. I had already started to address the Com- 899 mittee, and I desire to continue for two or three minutes to address the Committee on the question which is before the Chair.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have already explained to the hon. and learned Member that I allowed him to address the Committee because I thought he was continuing the remarks in which he had raised a point of Order. I may have been wrong, but it does not alter the fact that if the Debate is to be continued on the Amendment it is for me to choose which hon. Member I will call upon to speak, and I called the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Braithwaite), who had risen several times in the course of the Debate, and I do so again. Mr. Braithwaite.
§ 6.0 p.m.
Mr. GURNEY BRAITHWAITE
While realising that the Committee are anxious to arrive at a decision upon this Amendment, which has been debated for a considerable time, I shall be grateful if hon. Members will allow me two or three minutes in an attempt to prevent that decision being arrived at upon what I believe to be a misapprehension. The Under-Secretary of State, when replying on the Amendment, rested himself with considerable comfort upon the Recommendations of the Royal Commission, and said that this was a wrecking Amendment, and that if it were carried the result would be to wreck the Bill. The Bill was brought in, he tells us, because the Royal Commission pointed out that greyhound racing constituted a social danger. I should have listened with considerably more respect to that argument had I not been present in the Committee yesterday, when we were told from the Front Bench with equal emphasis that the Government were busily engaged in throwing over a Recommendation of the Royal Commission with respect to what was regarded as a social danger, the football pool, and that the Government declined to give any explanation of what was being done. The Bill owes its presence in the House to two reasons other than those which were given by the Under-Secretary. The first reason is the finding in the High Court, which 900 declared the totalisator illegal upon greyhound tracks, and the second is that the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) succeeded under the Ten-Minute Rule in carrying a Bill in favour of lotteries.
§ The CHAIRMAN
This appears to be another discussion which is becoming irrelevant. I have not heard the hon. Gentleman say anything yet about the Amendment to the proposed Amendment.
I am sorry. I was endeavouring to reply to the Under-Secretary's reasons for resisting the Amendment. The Debate has run rather upon the theory that we have to discriminate, in legislating on this matter, between liberty and licence. I think those words were used by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). They have certainly been used by the Home Secertary on more than one occasion upstairs, and they have been used in the country. The Committee must be very careful when it lays down this discrimination between liberty and licence, especially when it comes to a question like this of fixing the days when tracks have to run on the same day. I suggest to the hon. Member for Don Valley that it is a little unfortunate if the House of Commons should lay down that a man who is able to get off from his work on Wednesday is exercising his liberty by going to a greyhound track, but that if he wishes to go on a Thursday, which may be another man's night off, he becomes licentious. I am anxious that the Committee shall not incur complaints of that kind by the working class, and I hope that the Home Secretary will find it possible to reconsider this matter between now and the Report stage.
There are many cases where a track is used for other purposes during the week. There are cases where a football ground or a dirt-racing track exists upon the same premises. There is a track in London where it would be impossible for greyhound racing to be held on a Saturday night. It would be unfortunate if something were laid down by the Committee in a fixed and rigid manner which would create anomalies. I do not think my suggestion conflicts with the views of the hon. Member for Don Valley who, I know, is anxious to confine greyhound racing within definite limits, but it would 901 be unfortunate if we were to set up machinery of this sort. We may take an analogy from another popular sport—football. Were it to be laid down that the Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Queen's Park Rangers, Crystal Palace and all the London professional clubs should play at home on the same Saturdays, and on other Saturdays should all play away from London where no one could watch them, the football-going public could justifiably complain that Parliament was making them and itself a little bit ridiculous. In Clause 17, Ice shall extend the facilities for betting upon horse racing, but now we are engaged in restricting the facilities for betting on greyhound racing. There should be no such discrimination between one form of entertainment and another, and I shall be very grateful if the Home Secretary can find it possible to consider this matter once more between now and the Report stage.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
I am very sorry if I appeared to come into conflict with the Chair because of a misunderstanding, but I am most anxious that no innuendo against Members shall get into currency. We are discussing what facilities shall be given to this pastime of the people. No one who understands this matter does not know that there will be assembled to-night throughout this country more people at this pastime than at any other. We are not dealing with something remote, but with something which affects a very large number of people, and it is proper that we should consider the terms upon which that pastime should be con-
§ ducted. It is carried on upon such a scale that some limitation is necessary. I urge the Home Secretary to listen to the plea which has just been advanced by the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Braithwaite), who, like myself, is unconnected with any interest in this matter and has a purely dispassionate attitude. I beg him to reflect that he is dealing with a matter which affects many hundreds of thousands of ordinary people, who are becoming suspicious that Parliament should interfere with a simple pastime. Facilities ought to he granted for this pastime, but they are objected to in the name of Liberty. What is the sort of liberty which is prayed in aid? I reflect that this appeal to liberty comes from the same quarter which has rejected the plea of the people to enjoy a larger use of Sunday, to get a glass of beer when they want to, and would prevent a person putting 6d. on a dog if he wants to. I beg the Home Secretary to remember that he is dealing with a very popular pastime, and that it is in the interests of the House of Commons that people should not get a suspicion that we are, for some reason or another, unduly hampering them.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there inserted in the proposed Amendment."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 38; Noes, 315.905
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
The next Amendment that I select is that standing in the name of the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay)—in page 9, line 33, after area,"to insert:provided that betting is not permitted upon more than three days in any one week.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
I have consulted my friends about this Amendment and although we have put it down, we now think that local authorities ought to have full power to do what they choose, and, as we understand that there may be inserted in the Bill a Clause which might make a difference in this respect, I do not propose to move the Amendment.
Further Amendment made:
In page 9, line 37, leave out calendar."—[Sir J. Gilmour.]
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I beg to move, in page 10, line 7, to leave out Sub-section (3), and to insert:(3) The following provisions shall have effect in relation to the fixing of appointed clays for any year—
- (a) at least one month before fixing appointed days for the year, the licensing authority shall publish in at least two newspapers circulating in their licensing area a notice of their intention so to do;
- (b) if, within the period of one month from the date of the publication of the said notice, the licensing authority receive a written notice signed—
stating that the signatories unanimously desire that the appointed days in that year should be the days specified in the notice given under this paragraph, then, if those days are days which might lawfully be fixed under the foregoing provisions of this section as the appointed days for the year, the licensing authority shall fix as those appointed days the days so specified;
- (i) in the case of the fixing of appointed days for the year beginning on the first day of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, by all the persons who have given to the licensing authority notice in writing of their intention to apply for licences in respect of tracks in the licensing area; or
- (ii) in any other case by all the holders of licences in force in respect of tracks in the licensing area;
- (c) unless the licensing authority fix the appointed days for the year in accordance with paragraph (b) of this sub-section the authority shall, before fixing those days, consider any representations which may, during the period of one month from the date of the publication of the notice required by paragraph (a) of this subsection, have been made to the licensing authority in writing by the chief officer of police, or by any person who is the holder of a licence in force in respect of a track in the licensing area, or who has given to the licensing authority notice in writing of his intention to apply for a licence in respect of such a track;
- (d) the licensing authority shall, on being requested by any person so to do, inform that person as to the latest time by which a notice under paragraph (b) or a representation under paragraph (c) of this sub-section must be received by the licensing authority if it is to be effective."
§ This Amendment, although it occupies a good many lines of print, is really a very simple proposal. It is to provide that, where occupiers of licensed tracks in a licensing area reach agreement among themselves about the facilities to be provided in the area, the licensing authority shall fix the days agreed upon as the appointed days. I do not think I need say much more about this problem. I hope that there will be a great measure of co-operation among these racing authorities, and, if that is so, there will be imposed upon the local authority the duty, if they agree, of appointing the days agreed upon.907
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. PIKE
May I ask the Home Secretary, before we agree to this Amendment, whether he has considered the possibility of a certain number of tracks in any licensing area, owned by different interests who have not, at the time the application is made, any unanimous opinion on the question of days? Would this Amendment provide that the majority shall rule? For instance, supposing that there are three tracks owned by three different interests who have agreed upon certain days, and two others owned by other interests who disagree, will the majority be allowed to rule, or will those who are in the minority have a right to be heard in the same sense as the majority?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
The minority will have an opportunity of putting their case, and the local authority will decide.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I was proposing now to call the Amendment to the proposed Amendment, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon)—in line 19, to leave out paragraph (c), and to insert:(c) Where the persons who have given notice as aforesaid or are holders of licences in force as aforesaid are not unanimous the licensing authority shall so far as possible, and after considering the representations of the chief officer of police fix the days proposed by the majority of such persons.
§ Does the hon. Member move? [HoN. MEMBERS: "He is not here."]
§ Amendment agreed to.