§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Mr. GUY
I beg to move, in page 21, line 41, at the end, to insert:(c) any other competition for which any form of entrance fee other than the purchase and return of a single coupon or entry-form is required.The purpose of this Amendment is to rule out certain competitions run mainly by newspapers which are, in effect, lotteries. It will be well known to the Committee that many of these competitions although apparently competitions involving a certain measure of skill are merely lotteries. Clause 24 provides that a certain element of skill in such a competition shall be legal, and, in so doing, the Bill follows the recommendations of the Royal Commission, set forth in page 156 of the report, but in my opinion the Bill does not go quite far enough, because although the Clause rules out any competition which does not contain a certain element of skill, it does not adopt the recommendation of the Royal Commission that there shall be only a single entry and that there shall be no entrance money. The point of this Amendment is to rule out the entrance fee and to make it legitimate only to send a single entry 1152 unaccompanied by any money. The reason for that is that one of the essential features of a lottery is a fee. If you rule out the entrance fee the remaining feature of the lottery will disappear and the newspaper competitions will revert to their original character of competitions involving a substantial measure of skill quite apart from any lottery.
In this Clause the Government are not engaged in regulating newspaper competitions generally. We are trying to regulate in some way those that contain a substantial element of gambling, where there is really no skill at all and they become in the nature of a large lottery. There are two ways of dealing with that problem. There is either the way laid down in the Bill, to make unlawful competitions depending on forecasts of future events and those which do not involve a substantial degree of skill, or the alternative which the hon. Member has in mind, namely, the prohibition of entrance fees and a limit en prize money. It so happens that we have chosen the first method. If the hon. Gentleman's Amendment were accepted, it would add to our criteria, which we already think adequate to deal with the problem. It would add further restrictions ruling out entrance fees to competitions, so that competitions of skill might be stopped. I think the Committee will agree that we are doing all that is necessary in this Clause in tightening up conditions governing newspaper lotteries. The Amendment might have the effect of making it impossible to compete in competitions in which there was a substantial degree of skill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in page 22, line 9, at the end, to add:(3) During the period of four years after the passing of this Act nothing in this Section shall prevent the conduct in or through a newspaper, or in connection with a trade or business, or the sale of an article to the public of a competition such as is referred to in paragraph (b) of Sub-section (1) of this Section by a body corporate established for a charitable purpose, which satisfies the Secretary of State that the greater part of its income during the period of five years prior to the passing of this Act was derived from prize competitions.1153 The object of the Amendment is to exempt from this Clause any body corporate which has existed for five years, and which has been in the habit of running competitions for charitable purposes. In order that the object of the Clause which has been introduced by the Tight hon. Gentleman into the Bill shall be protected, it is suggested that no body corporate shall be considered unless it has been in operation for five years prior to the passing of this Bill. To particularise, hon. Members may be aware that there is an association known as the British Charities Association, which has been operating over a period of 10 years running competitions which may be described as competitions of skill for the purpose entirely of raising funds for hospitals. These competitions have been very popular and they have been very efficiently run. The promotors of the competitions, through the British Charities Association, feel that these competitions would come within the meaning of the words "a substantial degree of skill." Another point the British Charities Association feel is that, though the competitions have had to advertise in newspapers for the purpose of attracting entrants, that has not been for the private gain of newspapers but in order to provide money for hospitals, and has also been valuable publicity for the hospitals. Therefore, the advertising of these competitions has really served a double purpose.
It is not felt there is any chance of the competitions, if they are carried on, being outside the law, but hon. Members will appreciate that as soon as the Bill is passed many competitions which have been run by newspapers and charitable associations will fear that they may not come within the terms of the law, until there has been a test case in court to define what is really a substantial test of skill. As they will readily understand, the British Charities Association have no funds available and do not feel that they will be able to run the risk of being brought to court. They do not wish to have to hold up competitions until such time as a. test case has been tried and we have a legal interpretation of "a substantial test of skill." The real object of the Amendment therefore is to make sure that we shall be in a position that will not involve a break in the continuity of the competitions, which 1154 have raised a quarter of a million pounds for hospitals.
I fear my right hon. Friend will put forward the difficulty of machinery in achieving the object of the Amendment. If, however, one puts the onus on the body corporate to apply for a certificate from the Home Office and put forward credentials that will prove that the body has been operating over a number of years prior to the introduction of the Bill, the work of the Home Office should not necessarily be increased to such an extent that more machinery will be needed. I hope, therefore, that, in view of the very hard work that hospitals have in these difficult times to raise funds to carry out their work, my right hon. Friend will respond to this appeal. If we have to break the continuity of these competitions, as will be readily understood we may lose a large number of clients. I hope it may be possible to persuade the Home Office to do something in the matter.
§ 9.35 p.m.
The hon. Member has put up a strong case. Naturally, any case which is based on the needs of a hospital will appeal to every Member of the Committee. I did not quite understand from her statement whether the competition to which she referred did or did not involve a substantial degree of skill. We have just passed a provision that a competition to be lawful must entail a substantial degree of skill. If the competition to which she refers does, it is all right. On the other hand, the suggestion that, although no skill is involved, that it is a glorified lottery, this Committee, this Parliament, should allow the competition to go on just because it has already gone on for more than five years, is quite out of the question and, therefore, I cannot accept the Amendment.
In view of the statement of the Under-Secretary, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.37 p.m.
Mr. G. BRAITHWAITE
I beg to move, in page 22, line 9, at the end, to add: 1155(3) Proceedings under this section shall not be instituted except by, or by direction of, the Director of Public Prosecutions.The Amendment raises a point of substance. As the law stands, and as it will stand if the Bill becomes an Act without the addition of this Amendment, it will be left to the police authority in each area to decide whether proceedings shall he instituted in relation to a particular type of competition. This has led to many unfair anomalies. The Home Secretary will remember that one night last winter, on the Motion for the Adjournment, we raised a question about a situation which had arisen under which newspapers published in Sheffield and Manchester were prosecuted, fined and compelled to abandon certain competitions they were holding, and that at the same time these newspapers were being prosecuted London newspapers on sale in Sheffield and Manchester contained precisely similar competitions. The Home Secretary will remember that it was not until considerable protests had been made in this House and outside that the Metropolitan and City Police issued a warning to the London newspapers to abandon these competitions. That was an unsatisfactory incident, and I am sure hon. Members will not condone a situation in which restrictions are placed upon newspapers published locally and at the same time newspapers published in London and on sale in these towns do precisely the same thing for which the local newspaper is prosecuted. If we pass the Amendment we shall be doing useful work in dealing with such anomalies. It is unfair that the administration of the law can only be corrected if these sort of prosecutions take place.
There is, I think, a strong case for such prosecutions being instituted by a central authority, and the proper person is the Director of Public Prosecutions. The hon. Member opposite jjust now made the interjection that it was the usual Tory custom. It would be more correct to say it is the usual House of Commons custom in Committee. If an hon. Member wishes to draw attention to such anomalies for the purpose of getting a declaration from the Minister there is no reason why we should tramp through the Division Lobbies on every small point of detail, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman 1156 will welcome the opportunity, even if he cannot accept the Amendment, of making a statement which may be of some value.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I support the Amendment more for the purpose of getting a reply from the Home Secretary than in the hope that the Amendment will be accepted. In Clause 20 there is a provision that the prosecution can only be instituted by the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Home Secretary said that where the Director of Public Prosecutions was not involved it was a question of fact, whereas in those cases where the Director of Public Prosecutions must institute proceedings it is a question of opinion. Under Clause 24 it will always be a matter of opinion, not a question of fact. It will be a question of the substantial degree of skill. Anyone who sets out to determine that has a difficult task. Clearly it is not a task which should be left to the superintendent of police, and as newspapers are involved it must in the nature of things be a very delicate question of opinion. Therefore, it is desirable that the Director of Public Prosecutions should institute the proceedings. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has a substantial reply or that he will accept the Amendment.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
The hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) has sought to relate this proposal to the provisions we have already passed in Clause 20. It is suggested that the Director of Public Prosecutions should be responsible for the prosecutions under Clause 24. It must always be a question of degree, as to whether the offence is of sufficient importance or of such a nature as to require the exercise of special discretion and to justify the Director of Public Prosecutions being brought in. After all, his office is in London, he has not offices all over the country, in Manchester, Birmingham and in Newcastle. It is difficult for him to look into matters which are proceeding in distant parts of the country except through agents, and that difficulty of course has to be met in cases of great seriousness, in murder cases and certain crimes under the Larceny Act, in which the Director of Public Prosecutions normally undertakes the prosecution. But there are a variety of offences which 1157 are prosecuted normally by the police. It will be quite impossible for the Director of Public Prosecutions to undertake the supervision of the multiplicity of offences which are committed from day to day, and the Committee will realise that if we attempted to put that responsibility on him it would be a pure farce.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, as I know, for he acts under my superintendence as the Statute establishing his office provides, does personally give his attention to the duties which he has to perform. It is very remarkable how, since the office was instituted, successive Directors have managed to keep personal control of the matters committed to their charge. He is not a mere figure-head who delegates the duties of his office to subordinate officials about whose activities he knows little or nothing. He is in constant touch with the Attorney-General, and in any matter of difficulty or special responsibility, he sees the Attorney-General and receives such advice and help as the Attorney-General is able to give him. In relation to these matters it would mean that he would have to delegate his responsibilities to some agent in another town, or the case would have to be conducted by some subordinate official in his department in London, and his personal supervision, still less his superintendence by the Attorney-General of the moment, would be quite impossible. This is a question of degree. The view which the Government take is that the offences under Clause 24 are not of sufficient importance to warrant bringing them under the personal direction of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
§ The ATTORNEY- GENERAL
Yes, automatically. I am obliged to my hon. Friend. It is always possible for the Director, either acting himself and assuming the Attorney-General's authority or by the authority of the Attorney-General, to take up any prosecution in the public interest. Nor are these offences which require the exercise of any special discretion. The other day we put the Director of Public Prosecutions into the Bill because the Committee was anxious in a particular class of offence that that should be done. It 1158 was thought that the decision to institute proceedings was one of some delicacy and difficulty and that the Director ought to be the responsible authority. I hope that what I have said is sufficient to satisfy the Committee. Generally speaking, if the police prosecute in matters of this sort and a decision is given, the practice is followed and adopted all over the country. A well-known instance was that in Sheffield of a football competition some five or six years ago, when a decision was obtained and was acted upon by police and newspapers all over the country. A decision of authority obtains currency very quickly and becomes universally adopted.
As to Clause 20, as I have said the decision in these cases is a question of degree. The Clause, the Government thought, was the other side of the line. They thought that the offences mentioned in Sub-section (3) were sufficiently difficult or of sufficient importance to justify the bringing in of the Director of Public Prosecutions. I do not think it will be possible to attempt any other defence of the decision to bring in the Director in one place and to leave him out in another, than that which I have mentioned. Considering the matter as carefully as they could, the Government thought that in one ease it was right and in the other case not necessary to bring in the Director. The principle is that it is undesirable to multiply the duties of the Director, having regard to the great public advantage which has been so far secured of getting his personal attention to matters that come under his control.
§ 9.51 p.m.
Mr. G. BRAITHWAITE
I may save time if I at once thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his statement. My chief reason for moving the Amendment was the delay which took place in the Sheffield case to which he referred—very considerable delay before action was take to stop the London newspapers from being on sale in that city at a time when the Sheffield newspapers were undergoing prosecution. But after having listened to the Attorney-General I am satisfied that there will no such delay in the future, and, that being the case, I think the Amendment has served its purpose, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1159
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I wish to draw attention to what seems to me to be one of the most extraordinary Clauses in the Bill. From the start it has been my object not to hold up the Bill for the sake of holding it up. I have, however, been very emphatic on one or two points, very largely points of omission from the Bill rather than inclusion in it. Clause 24 is extraordinary in that it sets out to make unlawful newspaper competitions unless there is a substantial degree of skill exercised by the competitors, and then it states:Provided that nothing in this Subsection with respect to the conducting of prosecutions in connection with a trade or business shall apply in relation to pari-mutuel or pool betting operations.It seems to me to be extraordinary to say in the Clause that it is unlawful to run newspaper competitions, which in comparison with football pool operations are a mere incident and which affect very few people, while the football pool, which the Home Secretary definitely legalises and gives his blessing to, is embodied in the same Clause. Really the right hon. Gentleman ought to offer some explanation. I know he told us that the reason why football pools were not dealt with was that they were not dealt with. He admitted that they were included in the original Bill, but that that provision was withdrawn. That was the explanation. It struck me as a very funny explanation. At any rate it did not involve the right hon. Gentleman in any long controversy. The explanation was so simple that I was aghast and could not say another word about it. But I think it is due to the House that the right hon. Gentleman should tell us how he can justify the exclusion of newspaper competitions and in the same Clause give a second blessing to football pools, the. most extraordinary form of gambling and legalised swindling in this country. The right hon. Gentleman is well served in almost every other particular by his Department, but I am not sure that he is being very well served in this particular. I cannot imagine that he is acquainted with the cases that have been taken to the Edinburgh courts. I am sure that if the right lion. Gentleman were aware 1160 of all the facts connected with the pool organisations he would not for one moment dare to give a second blessing to this sort of legalised swindling.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
Is it necessary that this provision should be retained? Cannot the Government refrain from making any reference of this kind at all? It is a very peculiar thing for the Government to ask this Committee to give even a qualified blessing to this sort of thing. I do not wish to divide against the Clause but I would point out that this is the first time that Parliament has ever been asked to give its sanction, even in a qualified form, to something which we regard as a financial ramp and one of the worst features Of the gambling system in this country. There is a new Clause later on the Paper—which I understand is not to be called—seeking to set up some system of control if no legislation is possible on this matter. If that new Clause is not to be called I would ask the Home Secretary to consider wrether the Bill will be any the worse if this Clause is left out. Why should he ask us to give even a qualified sanction to something which in our view only calls for the condemnation of this Committee?
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I had an Amendment down dealing with this matter which has not been called and I do not wish to refer to that but I am at a loss to understand why the legitimacy of competitions conducted by newspapers and other concerns should be questioned, having regard to the great concessions which are being made to betting pools and other combines of that description. Surely the same treatment should be given to all. It is beyond my understanding why the treatment which is extended in the one case should not apply all round. To say in effect that pari mutuel and pool betting is to operate but that forecasts in newspapers and other things of that kind are not to be allowed does not appear to be equitable. I should like the Minister to explain why the great interests concerned in these forms of betting are not to be touched although they are engaged in what is, I think, the worst form of betting I know. Why should they receive exceptional treatment? I do not wish to impute anything at all. I could not prove any imputation if I did make one. All I 1161 can say is that we as a Committee are in a quandary regarding this matter because we have had no explanation of it. How can the Minister have the effrontery to ask this Committee to take away this Tight from the newspapers and others and to allow these gigantic organisations to continue to operate unchecked? If there is an explanation we ought to hear it.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
The necessity for mentioning this problem of pool betting in this Clause arises following upon the decision which the Government took and also upon the decision at which the Committee arrived. Whatever one may think about the evils of pool betting, the fact is that it is not being dealt with in this Bill and in order that the terms of the Bill may be made clear to those who have to read it and to operate it afterwards it is essential that we should put in these words here. That is the only reason. I have done my best to explain the reasons why this matter was dropped out and I am afraid that nothing I can say now will add to the effect of what I have already said on that subject. I can only repeat that we are not dealing here with that very difficult and very serious problem.
§ 9.59 p.m.
Why not? We tried hard the other day to get an answer to that question out of the right hon. Gentleman and once more I would put it to him. I know that there are hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Front Bench who do not know why the Government are not dealing with this matter. I am not giving them away but I know that even some people in the Government are surprised that the Government are not dealing with this problem. We know that the Home Secretary is a bold and courageous man. I am not saying of him that he is going down to history because I think very few people are going down to history, but even if he is not, I think he ought to tell us why the Government are not dealing with what he himself has described as "this very difficult and very serious problem."
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I confess I could not understand what the Home Secretary said just now. I gathered his answer to be that he was not dealing with these matters in the Bill because he was not dealing with them, and, because he was 1162 not dealing with them, it was necessary to include these words. But surely in this Clause he is dealing with these matters and is making a definite provision in regard to them.
§ 10.1 p.m.
§ Mr. PALING
I have heard some defences offered from that Box but if one can flatter the Home Secretary by describing his statement as a defence, I have never heard one quite like it before. I have listened carefully to the discussions on this Bill and the supposed defence which the right hon. Gentleman put up on this point, both on a previous occasion and again to-night, is the most amazing I have heard since I have been a Member of the House of Commons. In the last part of this Clause pari mutuel and pool betting are mentioned and definitely excluded. Surely we are not asking too much when we ask to be told why that is so. The Minister simply says that he has found it necessary to put in these words and that is all he has to say about it. Is the reason so bad that the right hon. Gentleman will not, or dare not, tell it to the Committee? I do not care what the reason may be but I submit that the Committee has a right to hear the reason and also to have a much better defence of this Clause than the right hon. Gentleman has given and I hope he will face the situation whether it is pleasant or unpleasant.
I must remind the Committee that it is quite contrary to our practice that a subject which has already been debated and decided should again be debated on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. PALING
I was under the impression that I was asking from the right hon. Gentleman something which has certainly not been said in these Debates up to the present.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Mr. J. JONES
I was under the impression in my innocence that the Government in this Bill were going to deal with betting, sweepstakes and lotteries and cut the Gordian Knot in regard to this whole question. I thought that when the National Government had gone out of existence—as I hope it shortly will—everything in the garden would be lovely as regards the question of gambling. But what do we find here? Under 1163 their aegis a new form of gambling more insidious than all the others is to come into operation. This system of pool betting is worse than all the other systems that went before it, and now the Government say they cannot deal with it, and that if we carry on under certain restrictions, the meaning of which we do not know, the Public Prosecutor will not be called in, but the local police will have power to deal with the matter. I suggest that this is only playing with the problem.
You are legalising a form of gambling which is worse than all the other forms put together, and although I am not a kill-joy nor a spoil-sport, I hope that eventually some Government will have the courage to face the whole issue and allow us to face up to the gambling issue. A man in my constituency at a street corner, putting a shilling on a horse, is looked upon as a potential criminal, but if he is rich enough, he can go to Throgmorton Street and buy shares, and he is not a gambler; he is a gentleman. I am against this thing altogether. If we are going to deal with gambling, let us deal with it all round and not place one gambler in a privileged position as compared with another. I thought this Bill was to deal with all gamblers alike, but evidently that is not the case. The new gamblers will get off, but the old gamblers will be looked upon more or less as criminals before they are tried. I shall support the more respectable of my comrades and go into the Lobby in favour of the Amendment, to say that if we introduce anti-gambling legislation, we should treat all gamblers alike.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I think my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary should give some more effectual answer to this point than he has done. It is no use simply saying, "We did not mean to deal with it, and we are not going to deal with it, and it is not convenient, so we do not put it in, and we shall carry out our Clause, and, if you do not like it, we shall ring the bell and bring in our majority." That is not the way to deal with this matter. What is there behind it? I speak with complete ignorance of this matter. I am just an ordinary Member of the House of Commons who has never taken part in a football pool. I 1164 have at other times, I believe, been drawn into other forms of this particular vice, notably when I have been encouraged by the Noble Lady opposite to take an interest in the running of horses on the turf, but—
I ruled just now that we must not repeat the Debate which we have already had on this question. Therefore, although the question was pertinent up to a certain point, I do not think I can allow it to be continued.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
With very great respect, Sir Dennis, you have put the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," and the Clause contains a most important provision exempting from the scope of the Bill a particular form of gambling, which we are told is of a most vicious, injurious and detrimental character. No answer of any kind that I have heard has been given. We have to submit to that, but surely we are entitled to argue that no answer whatever has been given except that it is not convenient to deal with it. There are all sorts of suggestions that there has been some sort of deal, some sort of political pressure, that there has been voting strength behind this, that there is influence, and powerful influence, at work. Then we have to consider how that sort of talk, which I trust could all be dispersed—I hoped the Home Secretary would have dispersed it with a gesture—is all coupled up with the fine professions which the Government make, and made to us last night. We heard what a horrible thing it was for a man who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer to suggest that you might have a national sweep on the Derby. We must have some principle in this matter, and for my part one of the things which has led me to take an interest in this Measure is the smug hypocrisy which animates so many of its provisions, which on the one hand buys off people by riveting gambling in the most poisonous form on the people, and on the other hand pretends that this is an anti-gambling Bill.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I will only say one word, and I think I shall be in Order. This Clause is carrying out the decision which the Committee came to yesterday on this subject, and without it the decision of the Committee yesterday would be nullified.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Major COLFOX
I should like to call the attention of the Home Secretary to the fact that this Bill was in print a good many days before yesterday, and therefore, if this Clause is merely carrying out the decision reached yesterday, it is in a way a form of prophecy, because when the Bill was drafted and printed nobody knew what the decision of yesterday was likely to be. It seems to me that this Clause—and not only this Clause but a good many of the other Clauses which we have passed—
§ shows the absolute humbug and futility of the whole of this Bill, which is not founded on any sort of principle.
§ Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 187; Noes, 58.