HC Deb 07 November 1934 vol 293 cc1219-46

3.33 a.m.

Commander MARSDEN

I beg to move, in page 27, line 6, to leave out the words "a mechanically or electrically operated," and to insert "an."

This Amendment simply means that the hand-operated tote should be allowed in addition to the electrically or mechanically operated tote. The sole purpose is to allow dog racing to have a fair share with horse racing. In horse racing the hand-operated tote is allowed, and, as experience shows, the hand-operated tote has come into fashion in many cases where they cannot afford a mechanical tote. The hand tote is more easily manipulated, and I myself see no reason why dog tracks should not have the same advantage. It seems to me logical that the smaller tracks which the Bill allows to operate, when they wish to run things on a small scale, should be able to do so and not find, as they will now under the First Schedule of the Bill, that it is impossible for them to have the tote which it is the desire of the Committee that they should have.

I know it may be said that a hand-operated tote can be tampered with, but so can a mechanical or an electrical tote. There are plenty of safeguards, for you have the licensing authorities who can put in their own accountant and a. mechanic to see that no hanky-panky is going on. If the Home Secretary does not accept this Amendment he will not be showing very great confidence in the ability of the local licensing authorities. There is another reason why I do not think that the mechanical tote should have a monopoly in this country. Practically, every country in the world runs totes nowadays, and that they should have a monopoly in this country does not appeal to me at all. I do not think it is right that anyone should have a monopoly, and I do not think that the hand-operated tote should be abolished in favour of the mechanical tote. There is another point which I should like to put to the Committee. Under this Schedule, the totes set up can only continue if they comply with such conditions as the Secretary of State may by regulation prescribe. If the Home Secretary says "No hand totes," that is all right. If this Amendment be accepted, it will not say that hand totes must be used. It will give full power to the Home Secretary to permit them where he thinks they may reasonably be used for the benefit of the people who go to dog racing.

1.37 a.m.

Captain A. EVANS

The hon. and gallant Member for North Battersea (Commander Marsden), in his speech, really answered his own argument when he told us that a hand tote can be more easily manipulated. There is not the slightest doubt that the Home Secretary by legalising totalisators at dog tracks has incurred a moral responsibility, and as a consequence I suggest that it is up to him to approve of a type of totalisator on which fraudulent practices either by the owners or the operators cannot be effected in any way. My hon. Friend says that there is practically no difference in fact between a hand-operated tote and a fully mechanised tote. A hand-operated tote is worked by using a series of pre-printed coloured tickets which are sold from different booths between which there is no connection. On a track where there are some fifty or sixty booths it is not practicable to have supervising accountants in every telling booth, so it would be quite possible to have duplicate rolls of tickets in those booths, and once the race is over there is nothing to prevent a possibly dishonest operator removing a number of them and thus reducing the dividend to be paid to the public.


I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree that while it is possible it is hardly practicable, because the moment the dogs start it is a condition that the number of units must be posted on the slate outside the booth. After the dogs finish and the winner has been declared, the winning units are declared according to the position that each dog holds in the race.

Captain EVANS

My hon. Friend would be the first to appreciate that it is absolutely impossible instantaneously to collect the numbers of tickets sold by individual booths all round the course. Let me compare for one moment the operation of a fully electrically-operated, totalisator. The ticket which the investor receives as a receipt for the bet he is making is printed on plain paper at the time that the bet is made. As soon as the betting closes, just previous to the "off" bell being rung, these machines are automatically locked from a central control room. It is impossible for a ticket to be sold after the betting has officially closed. Likewise it is absolutely impossible for any individual operator working the machines to get a ticket for the race which is actually being run. It has been proved beyond doubt that if you had an accountant to check the calculation of the dividend, and a mechanician employed by the local authority who is on duty in the control room, none of these fraudulent practices can be exercised. The hand-operated totalisators are merely a system of pre-printed tickets. There is absolutely no control, and I submit that for practical reasons it would-be impossible to ensure that the dividend to be received by persons who were successful in their betting would be one according to the number of units invested on any one race.

1.43 a.m.


We have considered this problem very carefully. It is clear that unless it is mechanically operated a totalisator does lend itself to manipulation. It has served of course on horse racecourses, where the number of days racing is very small and where it does not pay to have mechanically-operated totalisators. But here we are dealing with a problem in which there are 104 racing days, and on four of these days afternoon meetings as well. There is another difference compared with horse racing, in that in horse racing there is no private profit. In this case, such rake-off as is permitted goes to those running this industry. In these circumstances the two cases are different. I understand also that there are a number of competing firms, and that there is no question of this becoming so circumscribed that there is only one firm; and in addition smaller tracks will require smaller and less costly machines.

1.45 a.m.


I am sorry to note that the Home Secretary is not prepared to consider this point. While this Bill gives certain facilities to the public in respect of betting on the totalisator, it seems to deny that same public the opportunity of betting on hand machines, which I understand are more suitable for double-event pools, and owing to their lower capital cost may be introduced on tracks which could not afford the larger expenditure on the electrically-operated machine. I am sorry to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South (Captain A. Evans) in this matter. He did not impress me very much on the question of fraud. I understand that the manual totalisator is in operation on a great number of horse-racing tracks, where it has displaced the more expensively operated electrical totalisator. The Home Secretary did not impress me very much with his argument that because he has taken the precaution to have accountants, appointed by the licensing authority, who are present during the time that the totalisator is operated, that should be sufficient to safeguard the public. I hope the Home Secretary will think on reflection that he should give the public the use of the manual totalisator under this Bill—a privilege now enjoyed by those who patronise horse-racing.

1.48 a.m.


I hope the Home Secretary will go back on what he has said. I have it on the best authority that the hand totalisator is reliable and is 100 per cent. true.

Captain A. EVANS

Will the hon. Member explain what check there is again fraudulent practices?


Yes, I will give the whole system. There are four booths where tickets are sold. The tickets have numbers, from one to 100, or one to 1,000. Just before the race is due to begin, down go the windows. The accountant is able to say the number of tickets issued. He knows there has been 57 tickets issued, or twice that number, 114, or 1,057 or 2,114. That kind of arithmetic is all right. It is an exact science.

Captain EVANS

If there is an extra roll under the seat it is 4,000.


It comes as a great shock to us to hear that you cannot have honest accountants to check the machines. A chartered accountant placed in supervision surely provides a guarantee of reliability. If you issue two rolls at 36, that would be 72 whether you are dealing with a tote or a hand-manipulated machine. You cannot see what is going on there, and I have not found anyone interested in business who can say what amount of money should be in the check. Whether it be a hand machine or a tote, the most illiterate people and the highly educated, would want to know when they came to the till how it was that there was not more money in it. There may be something wonderful in the tote and in its mechanical devices, but there is also a very peculiar phase in what has occurred to-night to which I want to draw attention. It may be that my remarks and strictures on the hon. Member for Balham (Sir A. Butt) have been a little past the mark. I was bound to rebut some of the things he said, but I did it in the heat of the moment, and I was going to apologise.


I accept that.


The House of Commons has agreed, and I, like anyone else, must abide by that decision. You have agreed to limitations, and now we have to consider the advisability of a hand totalisator or a hand machine. We are told by those who have to work the mechanical tote that it is a very expensive item. I am told by some small track owners that it costs £6,000 or £7,000, and that in one instance it cost £10,000. I believe that to-day some machines can be bought at about £2,000 or £2,500. But people are not to have the same power of operation. You have curtailed the days of operation and you have made it impossible for them to know whether they can carry on. I do not believe there is an unlimited amount of money or an Eldorado or that stocks will go up in connection with this business. Accountants are honourable men and Income Tax authorities will accept their word as being reliable. In a short time this particular trade or sport will disappear for there will be very few tracks left in the country. They will automatically disappear. If this sport comes along and can show a reliable formula whereby the Government are not going to be defeated out of any income, I think the Home Secretary should accept it.

May I point out from my knowledge and from inquiries I have made, with regard to fixing July, 1935, as the date for the Act to become operative, that it will be an impossibility for some tracks for they will not be able to put a totalisator on the track. The tracks will not be able to conform to the law by the proposed date of operation, July, 1935. I have found on inquiry that it will take six or seven months in many instances before these people will be able to get the machines, and there is also the question of the expense. It has been put to me in the last three weeks that it will be utterly impossible to get the machinery installed, because there will be a rush, and some of the smaller tracks which cannot afford to come along with ready cash will not be able to get their orders executed and will be left in a hole. I am wondering what the decision will be in regard to some of the tracks when the Act becomes operative in July. How will you deal with these bodies of people who must comply with the law? I know they need not have a tote and that they can have a bookie on the track. That is one of the peculiar anomalies, but, if a firm wants to carry on, it will want a mechanised or a hand tote. I suggest that because of the many difficulties the Home Secretary might be reasonable. A Scotsman at two o'clock in the morning should be the most reasonable-minded person, and I hope he will accept the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

1.56 a.m.


I beg to move, in page 27, line 11, after "operator," to insert: shall take all such steps as are necessary to secure that, so long as the totalisator is in use, it is in proper working order and is properly operated. 3. The operator. The object of this Amendment is to secure some supervision.


Is it any use asking the Minister for any concession? Is it worth while discussing anything Are we in this position, that in reply to whatever is said, the Home Secretary will say "No" Let us know where we are, because the whole thing is only a farce.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 27, line 11, after "shall," to insert: before receiving any bets in connection with any race, post in a conspicuous position on the track a notice showing the minimum stake (hereinafter referred to as the betting unit') which will be accepted at the totalisator from persons betting on that race, and shall. This Amendment and a subsequent Amendment deal with the problem of how much should be taken from the totalisator by the company who may be operating it.


Does the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment to line 11 deal with this subject? I thought it was a new one.


It is part of the same thing as that dealt with on lines 16 and 19.


In that case, I understand that these Amendments really form one composite Amendment, dealing not only with the percentage to be deducted but also with the question of breakage money. In that case, I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee that the Home Secretary should explain them together.


The Committee will remember that, as the Bill was originally drafted, it was stated that 3 per cent. was to be taken off. When the matter was being discussed in another place it was then decided that the 3 per cent. was rather narrow from the point of view of expenses, and the Government agreed. that it must be increased to 5 per cent. Then there was the further problem of what was known as the breakages. At no time, as the Government understood this problem, was it understood that these breakages added to the 5 per cent. would amount in the total to more than 6 per cent. at the very outside. It has since been ascertained that on some tracks the unit of betting may be altered and that may materially change the position. In these circumstances, the present Amendments are put down with the clear object of declaring in unmistakable language that the total to be taken off is only 6 per cent. It is rather a technical matter, and I hope I have explained to the Committtee its meaning.

2.1 a.m.


Would you, Captain Bourne, for the convenience of the Committee, indicate to us whether you propose to call the Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto)—in page 27, line 16, to leave out from "per-centage," to the end of the paragraph, and insert as will produce a sum equal to the cost of operating the totalisator added to five per cent. on the capital cost of the erection and equipment of the totalisator, as certified by the accountant to be appointed under the provisions of paragraph three of this Schedule"— Or either of the Amendments standing in my name—in page 27, line 16, after "cent.," to insert— or such lesser percentage as the Secretary of State may from time to time, by regulations, prescribe for any class of track. And in line 26, at the end, to insert— and (c) in the case of any totalisator which has been in operation for more than twelve months, when in any operator's financial year the total amount so deducted, less the certified costs of operation during the previous financial year shall equal seven per cent. of the capital cost of the totalisator as certified for the purpose of this Schedule by the accountant, no further such deductions shall be made in that financial year.


No, I do not intend to call them, because it is obvious that if five is left out and six inserted the other Amendments would not read. I propose to take the discussion on the proposals of the Government.

2.2 a.m.


I hope there is not going to be a general discussion on this question. The right hon. Gentleman has quite rightly explained that in the original Bill there was three per cent. taken off. In the terms of the series of Amendments it simply means that the total net rake off will amount approximately to 6 per cent. I think that that is perhaps better than the proposal in the Bill when it came from another place. May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman proposes to insert the. words of his Amendment on page 2000 of the Order Paper—in page 27, line 19—to leave out from the beginning to "and" in line 21 and to insert: (a) where the number of pence in the amount payable in respect of each betting unit staked by a person winning a bet is not exactly divisible by three, then—

  1. (i) if the remainder does not exceed three halfpence, it may be retained by the operator; but
  2. (ii) if the remainder exceeds three halfpence, the amount payable in respect of each betting unit staked by the said person shall be deemed to be increased to the next greater number of pence which is so divisible."
If it be intended that the operator can only take 6 per cent., why worry about the breakages? The words here seem to be so give and take that ultimately they may mean nothing to the operator, and nothing to the client. Would it not meet the same purpose if the whole of these words were omitted leaving the operator to share out to the least possible minimum on every race. He would not necessarily have to go to decimal points so long as the take off had been this 6 per cent. on the seven or eight races to the last common denominator.

2.4 a.m.


This is an interesting Amendment. I understand the object of the breakage is to avoid the inconvenience of paying out half-pennies and to give out the money in reasonably round sums so that the transaction can be done quickly. It has been worked out to 1½d. so as to retain the average. That becomes 1 per cent. on a dividend of 150 pennies. Taking the case of the 2s. unit, I should imagine that the case where it is 150 pennies is unusual because in most cases it must be less than 12s. 6d. It is a little difficult to find out what the breakages will be. I imagine that in general the present system represents a balance of more than 1 per cent. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has been studying what is the actual profit, and I would be grateful if he would tell me the result of his observations.

2.7 a.m.


I think the right hon. Gentleman has put down an Amendment which rather meets the position. As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman has been prepared to increase the percentage from 5 to 6 and he reduces the amount the operator will get from the breakages. On balance, it appears to work out at 50–50, and, if that be so, the Amendment meets the position more favourably than one which I have later on the paper. With regard to the calculation of the hon. Member, I do not think that it matters what the odds are. I think that the Amendment of the Home Secretary meets the point I had in mind.

2.8 a.m.


Some of us had some concern, and we expressed it in the earlier days following the statement of the noble lord in another place when he said that he was taking great care that there should not be a financial return to those who operated the tracks. He consented to the raising of the percentage from 3 to 5 per cent. later. When we heard that it was to be raised from 5 to 6 per cent. our apprehensions were increased. I am satisfied that the whole arrangement made in relation to the system of breakages is on the whole a fair arrangement and I associate myself in approving of the Home Secretary's proposal.

2.9 a.m.

Commander MARSDEN

I hope I am not chasing a rabbit instead of a hare. If I am, I hope that the Home Secretary will warn me. It seems that it depends on the unit. I see nothing to say that it shall be 2s. unless the Home Secretary has the power under Clause 1 of the First Schedule in which it states that the totes must comply with such conditions as the Home Secretary may lay down.


May I put a point to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The position is that it becomes a complete matter of indifference because on the average over a long period there is no balance at all.

Commander MARSDEN

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the explanation, but I should still like to know whether the question of the unit is one within the control of the Home Secretary. Supposing that a racecourse decides upon a minimum of sixpence, there will be a great many more bets made and the turnover will be greater. I should like to know whether in that case he controls the actual unit.

Brigadier-General CRITCHLEY

It is not possible to work actually to 6 per cent. and clear the thing up by the end of the day. On the present basis of the 6 per cent., breaking up or down at the end of the day's racing, it will work very closely to 6 per cent. or a little less.

2.12 a.m.


If I understood the ruling of your predecessor in the chair, Sir Dennis, we are now discussing generally what is in effect the most important matter in the whole of this Bill so far as it relates to Government policy in regard to tracks owning totalisators. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Measure has referred to the control of the profits from gambling as being his reason for not accepting other restrictions. I refer particularly, for instance, to the question of the minimum charge which had support in a number of parts of the House. His only objection to it was that it was unnecessary, because the profits of gambling were strictly limited. This control of Profits rests upon the assumption upon which the whole of the Government policy is based, namely, that there will be no profit from these totalisators going to the owners of the tracks and that this rake-off is merely a deduction that will balance their expenses and that nothing more is provided. That, I understand, is the basis of the whole of this section of the Bill. Surely, it is likely that a flat rate applied to large and small tracks will be such as either to drive the latter out of business or to give an equally larger profit to the big track. To the ordinary business man it would seem impossible to get the same rate of profit say frown Lyons on the one hand and a small tea shop on the other for 6 per cent. of the turnover. If 6 per cent. be sufficiently large to enable the small tracks to continue in business, what is going to happen to the enormous tracks represented by my hon. Friend opposite? We are, then, proceeding on the basis that very great profits will in fact be made from the gambling which takes place upon those tracks. It has been represented to me and to other hon. Members that the large tracks would have taken 3 per cent.

I am confident that the Home Secretary is determined as far as he can that no profit comes from gambling, but I cannot say that he has made out his case. We ought to be perfectly certain that the right hon. Gentleman has chosen the right method of ensuring that no profit does come to these dog tracks. I will go further and say that if the number of tracks does diminish it is obvious that there will be a greater amount of betting in the enormous casinos and there will be a bigger rate of profit upon their turnover and a bigger rate of profit upon their capital, and then you get the very dangerous position that they will by getting a profit out of gambling be enabled more and more to increase their facilities for betting and still further encourage it all over the country. That may be a false fear, but I submit it is not an unreasonable fear, and it is one which ought to be exercised by the Home Secretary before we leave this last chance of dealing with it. I understand, however, that Amendments are not to be called which would have the effect of lowering the rake-off. I do see danger in the way the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with this question by limiting the profit, and we should not leave it until he has explained to us that this method will have the results which he expects. I hope my right hon. Friend will intervene again in this discussion and argue at much greater length what he has seen fit to do.


I hope the Committee will not continue the discussion at great length. We have had discussion upstairs and on the Floor of the House for a very long period. The whole effort of the Government in drafting this Bill has been as far as possible to limit any undue profit on these concerns. It is a task of very great difficulty, and it is in an honest endeavour to put a limit on these profits that we have devised this Amendment. I have looked at it from many aspects, and I have come to the conclusion that this is the best. I hope it will be found to achieve the desired result.

2.22 a.m.

Lieut.-Commander AGNEW

When this Bill was originally drafted it was publicly stated on behalf of the Government that the object was to give such a rake-off as would pay the expenses of the totalisator only, leaving nothing for the promoters by way of profit. When the Bill was printed the figure deemed sufficient to satisfy that proviso was three per cent. Now we are told the figure is to be doubled to six per cent. We have had no explanation from the Home Secretary what mathematical reasons or figures there are in support of the enormous change of view by the Government. I had put down an Amendment, which you did not select, Mr. Chairman. It would have had the effect of giving a fixed return and would halve safeguarded that idea of giving no profit. As it is left now, the more people who go through the turnstiles to put money on the totalisator, the greater will be the profit, and there is no limit to the profit that these interests, who have so effectively stated their case to the Government and have met with such a magnificent response, may be able to reap. It has been worked out in one of the most prominent groups of tracks that the amount of money going through the totalisator in a recent year was £300,000. Under the Bill the amount of rake-off first provided, three per cent., would have yielded £13,000. Now that has been increased to £18,000. Against that there will be certain costs. The capital cost of putting in a totalisator is believed to be about £15,000. That is for one of the most expensive electrical totalisators.

Captain A. EVANS

If the hon. and gallant Member has in mind a totalisator capable of the turnover to which he has alluded, the cost would be far in excess of £15,000.


What is the cost?

Captain EVANS

The cost of the totalisator at Ascot, which passed through some 2,500,000 units is in the nature of £260,000. Totalisators generally cost anything between £2,000 and £260,000.

Lieut.-Commander AGNEW

I know the hon. and gallant Member speaks with great knowledge on this subject, and that he defended most effectively the Government's principle of having a mechanical totalisator.

Brigadier-General CRITCHLEY

A totalisator capable of putting through the amount of money you suggest would cost considerably more than £15,000. The totalisator at the White City cost £86,000.

Lieut.-Commander AGNEW

Those figures are at variance with mine, and only show how necessary it is for the Government to produce some figures. I have estimated that there would be total working costs of £6,000. If you subtract that from £18,000, you get a net profit of £12,000.


CRITCHLEY: the present number of 104 days per year, you would not begin to do anything like the sums the hon. and gallant Member has quoted. Cutting down the number of days has naturally cut down the amount of betting.

Lieut.-Commander AGNEW

The figures I am quoting, it is true, were worked out on a voluntarily imposed basis of three days per week. Although it is a fact that there are only to be two days per week, there are to be certain tit-bits. If I revised my figure of profit and put it at £10,000, one we would all be jealous of, it would still be far removed from the no-return we are told was going to be the principle for these courses. I can only voice my protest at the weakness displayed by the Government to the greyhound racing interests for the sake of getting their Bill.

2.29 a.m.


I have been feeling increasingly anxious in the later stages of this Bill, and it now appears that a concession has been made which may result in a very large financial gain to their large tracks. If the operation of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Balham and Tooting (Sir A. Butt), excellent in principle, and the insistence by the Government on the use of the mechanical totalisator on the smaller tracks, are to be financial obstacles, then it is true that more and more custom will be driven to the larger tracks. If at the same time an increase in the percentage of profit is allowed, then you are going to have very large profits made indeed. As far as I know there was, no limitation imposed on the dividends which dog racing tracks may pay. In that respect, they differ from horse racing tracks in which a limitation is imposed by the Jockey Club. A racecourse company cannot claim a licence to race except on condition that it does not pay a dividend exceeding 10 per cent. That is a wholesome regulation imposed from within the industry. Here, while the Government are taking a very large share of the responsibility for the running of dog racing, it seems not unreasonable that they should impose very strict financial conditions upon that industry. The fact is that for the last hour or so the right hon. Gentleman has consistently ignored the appeals made on behalf of the smaller industry. I ask him to consider between now and the Report Stage whether he cannot find some method of limiting the profits which he is allowing to stand under the Schedule.

It may not be unreasonable on certain figures to allow this specific percentage, but it is quite clear that the percentage cannot be any check on final profits. Should anybody make very large profits on dog racing tracks, I think it will be held that the Government have acted wrongly, in their responsible position, if they have not taken some care to give themselves an opportunity of checking the size of profits. As it is, they leave themselves no opportunity for doing so. I am sure it is not beyond the ingenuity of the Home Office draftsmen between now and the Report Stage to insert some words which will give them that chance, and I very much hope that the right hon. Gentlemen will do something of that nature. It has rather left a painful impression on a number of hon. Members that the interests of the larger tracks seem to be solely catered for in this Bill. It would do much to remove that impression if the right hon. Gentleman could devise some scheme strictly limiting the profits that may be made under the percentage which he is granting to the totalisator turnover on dog racing tracks.

2.33 a.m.


I do not want to detain the Committee very long, but many of the supporters of the Home Secretary have disliked this Measure from the outset. We have only given our support, because we thought that the Home Secretary was anxious at all events to give existing dog-racing tracks throughout the country an opportunity of continuing under reasonable conditions. But when we are told that there is to be a flat deduction of 6 per cent. and that that is to cover their expenses and to form their profit, and when we realise that in some of the smaller country places the turnover may be £20, £25, or £30 a day, whereas in large cities, and in London particularly, that figure may be multiplied by ten, we are bound to realize that it will not have the effect of allowing these small tracks to continue. It will drive them out of business and allow a large octopus to collect the remains and to obtain exceedingly large profits. I do not believe that is the intention of the Home Secretary, and I am perfectly certain that it is not the desire of this Committee.

I appeal to the Home Secretary to reconsider this question of the percentage, and to base it on the question of actual expenses, plus a reasonable percentage of profit. We do not want to be hypocrits and say that there has been no profit, but do allow us at all events to give them an opportunity for recouping the actual expenses plus a reasonable profit. From my knowledge of the industry—and have some knowledge—I am satisfied that 6 per cent., or 8 per cent., or 10 per cent., would work unfairly and would mean outrageous profits for the large tracks and only sufficient to exist for the very small ones. I do beg the Home Secretary not to be obstinate on this matter, but to reconsider it and to introduce a Clause on the Report stage which will be equitable and acceptable.

2.36 a.m.


I must ask the Home Secretary if he will adequately explain the present Section. We have been sitting here until late in the morning, and here for the first time a very serious argument is put forward by the hon. Member for Central Southwark (Mr. Horobin). We were perfectly prepared to believe that the Government would be able to give a full and complete explanation of their position and a complete and logical basis for this 6 per cent. I want to enter a protest on behalf of some of us, who are most anxious to support the Government, that the Home Secretary did not see fit to put forward a serious and reasoned defence of the Clause. I am confident that there is a sound case which can be put forward, and I hope that on a subsequent occasion he will explain to the House why he has taken up the attitude which he has adopted. I feel bound to protest, when a serious speech which obviously made a considerable impression on the Committee, has been made, that all that the Home Secretary was prepared to say was that he and his advisers had gone into the matter and the 6 per cent. was the best basis that could be found and that he asked the Committee to accept it.


I have one question to put to the Home Secretary if he is going to reply. Is it a fact that the statutory deduction in the case of the Racecourse Betting Control Board is 10 per cent. and even rises to 12 per cent.?

2.38 a. m.


I take no interest in the Debate because the Bill is a futile and ridiculous Bill, but having heard the speeches of the hon. Member for Central Southwark (Mr. Horobin) and others, which were quite serious and courteous in tone, asking the Home Secretary for information as to how he arrived at 6 per cent., I think he might at least inform the House what is the Government's policy on the point. It is an extraordinary thing that he takes no notice, but gives a fixed and arbitrary figure of 6 per cent. and asks the Committee to pass it through. He has some very warm supporters on the other side of the House and their inquiries call for an answer. This is a ridiculous Bill brought in for no reason apparent to me, but I do object, as a Member of the House who has no interest in dog racing or in anti-gambling regulations. The only defence of the Government's Measure comes from the hon. and gallant Member for Twickenham (Brigadier-General Critchley). I suggest that he ought to be Home Secretary and conduct this Bill. I appeal to the Committee to consider what has happened. The Government have been approached by a number of their most ardent supporters who have raised points of great seriousness, and the hon. Member for Central Southwark put up a reasoned case against the Bill. The Government have not condescended to give an answer. The only answer has come from the hon. and gallant Member for Twickenham, whom we are all delighted to see here. He is a newly-arrived Member, but, if he is the spokesman for the Government, then we know where we are.

I think the House of Commons makes a very great mistake. We have got very little from the Government who are quite determined to push through this Bill against any arguments. I hope that the Government will have some regard to the conditions of the House. I cannot understand the argument of the two hon. Members who have spoken. Are we to understand that two private Members are to engage in arguments between themselves to settle the legislation of this country. The Home Secretary fixes upon some magical figures and forces the Amendment through without explanation. I Am speaking quite dispassionately, because I consider that the Bill has been brought in to fill up the time until there is some more important legislation. I think that the Home Secretary should give the House some explanation and some reply to the points raised. If he does not condescend to give an explanation, I hope that an hon. Member will move to report Progress.

2.42 a.m.


I assure the Committee that I have no desire to show discourtesy. There are some in this House who come here and talk and make speeches as if this problem had never been discussed at all. Let us bear in mind that this question of 5 per cent. plus breakages, which was assumed to reach the point of 6 per cent., was settled in another place months ago. If hon. Members who have doubts about the proper working of that arrangement have another scheme to propose, why do they not put it on the paper. Let me say that it was discussed in another place. It has been common knowledge that the 3 per cent. which was proposed originally was thought not sufficient to cover the ordinary outlays and meet the necessary charges. Let me remind the Committee that we have limited the amount that they can get and by this Amendment which I have just explained to the Committee, there is a still further limitation on what might have happened if the arrangement in another place had been carried out. We are making provision in another Amendment by which the charges will have to be met by these people out of that amount of money after supervision and the like.

You can start on some principle upon which you are going to differentiate, taking in profits and circumstances of each. If you do that, you will set up a system which in my judgment will be impossible to work. We have adopted this method. I do not venture to express the opinion that each and every track will get the same advantage, but we are dealing with the thing in a broad manner with as little machinery to cause trouble to everyone as possible. I have never said that there shall be no profit at all. I have always said that it shall be limited. If hon. Members look up what I did say on the Second reading, they will see that I said "provided that the profit shall be limited as far as possible." That was the situation in which we started out to deal with this problem. I have tried to limit the profit as far as possible. While I appreciate and am ready to listen to the criticism and advice of members in ail parts of the House, I do beg them to remember that we have had to go into this problem, and that it has not been a very easy problem to settle.


In the course of the discussions with the various interests did they submit figures? If they did, may we have the figures for guidance.


There have been innumerable meetings and representations to show this or that or the other thing did not meet the case. We have had to take all these into consideration and to form our own judgment.

2.46 a.m.


I think that the right hon. Gentleman might have given one explanation. It does not affect the argument of the hon. Member for Central Southwark (Mr. Horobin). When the Bill went to the House of Lords, 3 per cent, was considered sufficient. In the House of lords, after representations from the interests, the 3 per cent. was raised to 5 per cent, with the breakages. No explanation has been given of the reasons for that increase, or the flat rate complained of. The hon. Member will appreciate that a fortnight ago in the "Sunday Dispatch" the Greyhound Racing Association intimated that they were not likely to establish a 2s. unit, which with the 5 per cent. and the breakages meant 61 per cent., but that they were prepared to adopt a 6d. unit which, with the 5 per cent. flat rate plus breakages, meant perhaps 11 or 12 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman has met them in time to prevent that extra run. He cuts out breakages and makes the 5 per cent., 6 per cent. It is perfectly obvious to the hon. Member for Central Southwark that the big tracks will get the benefit and the little tracks will go out of existence. That is strictly in conformity with the policy of the National Government. When they gave a subsidy for wheat they gave it not only to the efficient. It is so with every subsidy; they have not sought out efficiency.

2.48 a. m.


I have an amendment down to reduce the figure back to the original one of 3 per cent. I put down that Amendment to get some information from the Home Secretary as to why there was this figure of 6 per cent. After the explanation, and taking everything into consideration and as one who has heard the discussion right from the introduction of the Bill—I heard it introduced, and I do not think I have been out of the House for half-an-hour during the discussion; I have not left the House for a quarter-of-an-hour since three o'clock yesterday afternoon I claim that I know something about the Measure—I am satisfied that the Home Secretary has done his best in the circumstances, and I want to say, if there is to be any attack on the Home Secretary or the Under-Secretary, that I do not believe I have heard any other Home Secretary brave enough to tackle this problem and only a National Government would have tackled it. I am quite certain that a Conservative Government would not have done so nor a Liberal or Labour Government. I think it is rather late in the day to start attacking the Home Secretary because he has done something that no one else has done. I think he has given a perfectly satisfactory explanation and that he has done the best in the circumstances. I agree that there must be something in the way of a flat rate. I am satisfied that the Home Secretary has gone into the matter thoroughly, and I have pleasure in accepting the 6 per cent. and withdrawing my Amendment for 3 per cent.

2.52 a.m.


I do not think that the Home Secretary did in fact misunderstand my speech. I was a member of the Committee, and I have watched his progress throughout, and this was in fact the first opportunity we have had of discussing what is a most vital part of the Bill. My speech was used by one speaker as an attack on my right hon. Friend, but I do not think he takes that view. This is, however, a very important matter, and we must be reassured upon it.

2.53 a.m.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question? When he was replying, he said that he was satisfied that he had in this flat rate percentage a sufficient check. What is his intention supposing that owing to the very large increase in the turnover of the totalisators very large new profits are in fact made? Is it his intention to deal with it by fresh legislation if there is no provision in the Bill as it stands for him to check it.


If we are proved to be wrong in the method we have proposed, then obviously there will be further legislation.


Is it the desire of the Home Secretary to see that all the tracks are annihilated?

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 27, line 16, leave out "five", and insert "six".

In line 16, leave out from "may" to end of line 17, and insert "have specified in the said notice."

In line 19, leave out from beginning to "and" in line 21, and insert: (a) where the number of pence in the amount payable in respect of each betting unit staked by a person winning a bet is not exactly divisible by three, then—

  1. (i) if the remainder does not exceed three halfpence it may be retained by the operator; but
  2. 1240
  3. (ii) if the remainder exceeds three halfpence, the amount payable in respect of each betting unit staked by the said person shall be deemed to be increased to the next greater number of pence which is so divisible."—[Sir J. Gilmour.]

2.55 a.m.


I beg to move, in page 27, line 26, at the end, to insert: and a further condition that where the ticket, coupon for, or statement of such bet be lost, torn, defaced or unclaimed, the money represented or obtainable upon the presentation of such ticket, coupon, form or statement shall accrue and be paid to the occupier of the track. I do not wish to waste much time now, but will the Home Secretary kindly consider the points raised in this Amendment before the Report stage.


I do not agree with this Amendment, and I should like to ask the Home Secretary, with regard to the Amendment prior to this one, if he will agree that some reasonable time ought to be allowed to the man who has not claimed his bet. I hope between now and the Report stage he will look into the matter.


I am quite prepared to look into the matter, but I cannot hold out any hope.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

2.57 a.m.


I beg to move, in page 27, line 27, to leave out "operator" and to insert "licensing authority".

This is consequential and provides that the mechanician will be appointed by the licensing authority.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In line 30, leave out the word "operator" and insert "licensing authority".—[Sir J. Gilmour.]


I beg to move, in page 27, line 34, at the end, to insert: 5. The accountant and the mechanician appointed by the licensing authority under the last foregoing paragraph shall hold office on such terms (including terms as to remuneration) as may be determined by the licensing authority after consultation with the holder of any licence for the time being in force in respect of the track in connection with which the appointment is made, and the remuneration of the accountant and the mechanician shall be payable by the licensing authority; but so much of the remuneration paid to the accountant and to the mechanician, in respect of the performance of their functions under this Schedule in relation to the totalisator as is attributable to any period during which any person held a licence in force in respect of the track in which the totalisator is set up, shall be recoverable by the licensing authority as a debt due to them from that person. 6. The totalisator shall not be operated at any time when neither the accountant nor a servant of the accountant authorised in that behalf by him in writing is present. This Amendment makes provision for the payment of the salaries of the accountant and mechanician.

3.0 a.m.


I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 11, at the end, to insert: Provided that the total amount of such remuneration paid to such accountant and mechanician in any one year shall not exceed the sum of two hundred and eight guineas, or where the period of operation is less than a. year an amount calculated at the rate of two guineas per day for the days on which the totalisator is operated. I only want to make one comment with regard to this purely administrative matter. The Amendment already proposed provides for consultation with track owners on the appointment of accountants and mechanicians who have to be paid by the track owners. I suggest it is only right that, instead of "consultation", it should be "in agreement with" the track owner, who should have some form of control in the appointment. It would be unwise to make a monopoly of this, and that is why this Amendment to the proposed Amendment is moved.


I do not think any great difficulty arises in this matter. Local authorities regularly employ accountants, there are recognised fees which are paid, it is most unlikely that there will be any difficulty about it, and I think the Amendment is unnecessary.


In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment to the proposed Amendment.

Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question, "That the proposed words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

3.2 a.m.


I beg to move, in page 27, line 42, after "necessary," to insert: for the purpose of ascertaining whether the provisions of this Schedule are being complied with. This is a manuscript Amendment, but the Committee need not be alarmed. We had intended to accept the intention of the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon), but his wording can be improved upon. The object of the Amendment is to prevent the authority from demanding irrelevant documents.

3.3 a.m.


My name is associated with the Amendment, and my hon. Friend asked me to watch this matter when it came up. I am glad, however, to see my hon. Friend return in time to see the fate of his proposal. We do not pretend to be better draftsmen than the Government, and I gather that the manuscript Amendment will cover the point we had in mind, namely, that the inquiry should be limited to the operations of the totalisator. We were anxious to protect the tracks from having all their books thrown open for examination, which might have had undesirable results. I thank the Home Secretary for having met us in this matter.

3.4 a.m.


May I apologise to the Committee for my absence, and add my thanks to the hon. and gallant Gentleman? It is extremely kind of the Home Secretary. He has been making concessions all along the line. His generous attitude will go down to history in the records of the House for all time.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 28, line 17, after "require," to insert: for the purpose of ascertaining whether the provisions of this Schedule are being complied with."—[Captain Crookshank.]

3.6 a.m.


I beg to move, in page 29, line 15, to leave out from "Schedule," to the end of the Schedule, and to add: the expression 'qualified accountant' means a person being a member of one or more of the following bodies, that is to say:— The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales; The Society of Incorporated Accountants and Auditors; The Society of Accountants in Edinburgh. The Institute of Accountants and Actuaries in Glasgow; The Society of Accountants in Aberdeen; The London Association of Certified Accountants, Limited; The Corporation of Accountants, Limited.


I had an Amendment down to the Bill as originally drafted. May I be permitted to move it as an Amendment to the Home Secretary's proposed Amendment?


That Amendment is not in order.


On a point of Order. There must be some misunderstanding in regard to the Amendment down in my name.


I think it is a very small matter whether the hon. Member's Amendment is put as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment or as a separate Amendment. I gather the hon. Member was under the impression that it was to be put as an Amendment to the Home Secretary's Amendment and, as I see no objection to that course, I will call the hon. Member's Amendment as an Amendment to the Home Secretary's Amendment, but we must get rid first of the words that have to be left out.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule," put, and negatived.

Question proposed, "That the proposed words be there inserted."

3.9 a.m.


I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, at the end, to add: or being a member of a society of accountants incorporated not less than ten years prior to the passing of this Act. I am sorry that the important Amendment which I have been asked to propose to the Committee should come up at a time of such obvious disadvantage, after 12 hours' sitting. It is a non-controversial matter of business and administration. The Bill is to be administered by accountants, and the only question is who shall be the accountants responsible to the Ministry. To me, and to many hon. Members, this is a matter of fair play and justice to bring before the Committee. I have no complaint about the bodies and associations which are enumerated in the Home Secretary's Amendment, but I ask the committee why other associations and bodies are not included also? I ask the House to believe me when I say that there are other bodies and associations quite as good as some of those enumerated in the Bill as drafted. The Committee will want to know who decides to ask those on this list—those who are saved and those who are damned—who are the professional men who may continue to earn their livelihood and those who should not. Who is there who has been in the Civil Service who by a stroke of the pen can say whether hundreds of professional men who have earned their livelihood for many years should or should not continue to do their work?

Let me tell the Committee what has been the practice in the past. Not long ago one Society was of the elect; then for some years two others; when the Municipal Audit Bill was passed last year the list was four. Then the Goschen Committee considered the matter long and carefully, and only two years ago they said they could not define precisely what an accountant was. But does this Bill tell us? It is an amazing thing. [Laughter.] It is quite an easy matter for those who are not accountants to laugh and jeer, but this is a matter of bread and butter and a little jam to many men who are very good citizens and good at their business. The Milk Marketing Board recently reduced the list to two, and I suggest that this invidious and arbitrary distinction, without any right to be heard or any appeal, is unjust. I think the Amendment which I propose should be adopted.

3.14 a.m.


The societies which are specified in this Bill are those which have been approved by Parliament as recently as last year for the purpose of accountancy. The question of adding to the names of these societies was fully discussed during the progress of the Audit Bill last year. It was then pointed out that Parliament had always taken the line that the question of the status of bodies should be left to the Local Legislation Committee. That decision is now being carried out, and, in the circumstances, I cannot accept the Amendment.

Amendment to the proposed Amendment negatived.

Question, "That the proposed words be there added," put, and agreed to.

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Second Schedule 2 (Enactments repealed) agreed to.

Bill (except Clause 1) reported, with Amendments; as amended, to be con- sidered To-morrow, and to be printed. [Bill 195.]

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being after Half-past Eleven of the Clock upon Wednesday evening, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Eighteen Minutes after Three o'clock a.m.