HC Deb 21 March 1947 vol 435 cc806-9

3.27 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 42, to leave out "one in the afternoon," and to insert "twelve noon."

When he moved the Second Reading of this Bill, the Home Secretary told us that he had intended originally to fix the hour at two o'clock, but had then been in conversation with the greyhound racing authorities and that they had compromised with the hour of one o'clock.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

indicated dissent.

Sir C. Headlam

I may be wrong, but that is what I understood, and I am moving this Amendment because I am assured by many correspondents on the North-East coast that it would be a boon to workers in general if the hour Were fixed at 12 noon rather than at one o'clock, for various reasons, such as changes in shifts and the fact that some workers are able to get away earlier. I am also informed that in some stadiums which have football grounds attached it would make it easier to cater for the public at large if a little more time were allowed.

I move the Amendment, therefore, in order that the Home Secretary may explain to the Committee why he has fixed this particular hour and what the objection is to making it 12 noon instead of one o'clock. I have no doubt that he has reasons, but I should be very much obliged if he could give them to the Committee in order that we may be able to satisfy those who write to us as to the real reasons which are influencing the Home Secretary in this matter. I am not, myself, a frequenter of dog racing; I have never been to a meeting in my life, but there are so many people who ho do go and who appreciate them that I think that everything should be done to make the loss of them as light as possible for such people. If it would be better for them to make the hour 12 noon instead of one o'clock I hope the Home Secretary will see his way to gratifying their wishes.

3.30 p.m.

Mr. Royle (Salford, West)

I sincerely hope that my right hon. Friend will not accept this Amendment. The right hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir C. Headlam) suggested that this change would be a boon to the workers. It may be a boon to those who desire to attend a dog track, but it will not be a boon to those who do not desire to go to a track. I am concerned about the workers who wish to get home when the pressure on transport is at its heaviest on a Saturday, and I should have preferred to have seen the word "two" inserted, instead of "one," so that workers who did not desire to attend a dog track could get home in reasonable comfort.

Mr. Ede

I am sorry that I cannot accept this Amendment. As I explained to the House on the Second Reading, in the original draft of the Bill I had inserted "two o'clock," mainly for the reasons which have just been put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for West Salford (Mr. Royle). I endeavoured to meet the wishes of greyhound racing proprietors, because they had been generous to me in meeting the suggestions I made to them, but if I were to go back to 12 o'clock I should not merely be incurring the difficulties mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for West Salford, but it might also mean that people working the half-day on Saturday would be tempted to stay away altogether, or leave at 11 or 11.30 in the morning in order to be at the dog track at noon. For those reasons, I hope that the Committee will support me in my decision.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

I hope that the Home Secretary will reconsider this Amendment. He considers that this Measure is vitally important, and is trying to get it through in one day. I imagine it will have to go through in one day in another place. On this matter I have been approached by the proprietors of the greyhound track in my constituency, who feel strongly about it. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider this Amendment, with a view to inserting it in another place if he changes his mind. I would also like to ask him whether he consulted the Greyhound Patrons' Association. The adoption of this Amendment will not necessarily mean that people will get to a dog track earlier. In a way, it would relieve a certain amount of the congestion at one o'clock, and would also enable people to place their bets earlier.

Captain Marsden (Chertsey)

I take it that this is only permissive, and that if in some parts of the country it is found more convenient to open a track at noon it will be opened at that time, because the people concerned wish it to be opened at that time?

Mr. Ede

This legislation deals with betting, and not with racing. That is one of the anomalies about this matter. We appear to be dealing with racing, but we are, in fact, dealing with the facilities for betting. Acceptance of this Amendment would mean that betting could commence at noon, although racing may not start until two or three o'clock. I suggest to the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson), whose kindly references to me earlier I appreciate, that before he pledges himself too much to this Amendment he should consult the Aldershot and District Traction Company, who have to deal with bus traffic in his constituency. I regret very much that I am unable to accept this Amendment, for the reasons that I have already given.

Amendment negatived.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

I do not intend to trouble the Committee for more than a few moments, but, as hon. Members will see, Subsections (2) and (3) of this Clause contain a shifting of the onus in the case of possible criminal prosecution for breach. I appreciate that the proviso of Subsection (2) enables the occupier of a track to escape, if he proves his ignorance of the breach by some other person. I would be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would say something as to the necessity for this shifting of the onus. I am sure that the Committee will not wish a provision of this sort to be inserted in the Bill unless there is some good reason for it, unless it is clearly unenforceable by any other means. In the absence of any explanation from the Minister, it would be wrong for the Committee to pass this Clause, which would make the occupier of a track criminally liable for the offence of some other person. I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman can offer us some reassurance on this point.

Mr. Ede

I am advised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels)—and it has since been confirmed from another quarter—that this Clause re-enacts the same provision as was in the original Act. In so far as the onus is on these people, it was so in the original Act.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.