§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [29th January], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ 2.36 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)
I am glad, and I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House will be glad, that the promoters of this Bill have found an early opportunity of bringing it before the House again. As one who has considerable experience of Friday business, I had no doubt that they would find such an opportunity.
The fact that the House was not able to reach a conclusion a fortnight ago has had at any rate one advantage. It has shown that considerable feeling exists both inside and outside the House that that part of the Royal Commission's Report which is covered by the Bill should be dealt with apart from the other recommendations in the Report. The Royal Commission itself expressed the view that it was important that the question of gambling should be considered as a whole and not piecemeal. Hon. Members are familiar with the Report, and they will find numerous references to that, of which paragraph187 is perhaps the clearest.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) will be the first to recognise the importance of the point which I have just made. But he has spent a great deal of time and trouble in getting his Bill drafted, and I certainly do not wish to put this forward as an argument against the present Bill. This part of the Royal Commission's recommendations is more or less self-contained, and although separate legislation may add to the complexity of the law on gambling, it is certainly not impracticable to deal with this aspect of the matter on its own.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that there is at present no legislation at all covering this aspect of gambling. Therefore, it is not a case of adding a 1580 piece of legislation to existing legislation and making it more complicated. In a sense, it is completing the regulation of a separate form of betting, that is, pool betting, rather than fixed odds and other forms of gambling.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I would not say that it does not impinge on other forms of gambling. But I agree that it can be separated, and I consider it is practicable to deal with it in that way.
The Government do not object to the proposals contained in this Bill and they will assist in seeing that it receives a Second Reading today. That is not to say that it may not need considerable amendment in Committee. I think the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park recognised that. However, if the House does decide to give the Bill a Second Reading today the Government are willing to assist in its further stages, and, in particular, to make available the services of the Parliamentary draftsmen.
In saying that, I must not be taken to have committed the Government to finding time for the later stages of the Bill. If that question arises, it must be considered according to the form taken by the Bill when it emerges from the Committee stage. This is a Private Member's Bill and no Government could give such a guarantee in advance before the Measure had been through its Committee stage; about the Committee stage there should be no difficulty.
Owing to the events of a fortnight ago it is true that four other Bills have now received priority over this Bill in the queue of Measures to come before a Standing Committee. But I believe that those Bills, which we have considered today, will not, judging by the proceedings on them, hold up this Bill for very long.
I have not very much to tell the House about the proposals contained in the Bill which were fully and fairly explained by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park. They are largely based on the recommendations of the Royal Commission and no further information is available to me which I can convey to the House about this form of gambling, except that which may be gleaned from the returns of taxation. Perhaps I should say that the annual amounts staked on the pools have shown a steady increase.
1581 In 1950 the figure was £52 million; in 1951, £57 million; in 1952, £65 million; and, in 1953, £70 million. During the same period there has been a decline in the number of businesses concerned. In 1950, there were 42 and at the end of last year the number was 35.
The only other point I would bring to the attention of the House is that it may be suggested that further consideration of the Bill should be postponed until the results of the poll— which, as I read in the Press, is being organised by the Pool Promoters' Association— should become known. [Hon. Members: "No."] Well, that may be suggested: it has certainly been suggested outside this House. I would only say that the people who take part in the pools are not the only ones concerned. If the House should decide to go forward today with this Bill, the result of that poll can receive due consideration when it becomes known.
§ 2.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) expressed officially the attitude of hon. Members on this side of the House a fortnight ago, and, therefore, it would be wrong of me, on a Private Members' day, to do more than acknowledge the statement made by the Under-Secretary of State in welcoming the Bill and to express the hope that some of the misgivings he held out about its future course may prove not to be accurate prophecies.
I can only hope that when the Bill emerges from its Committee stage it will be in such a form that the Government may feel that they can continue to give it assistance in its further progress, and that, if its course be unnecessarily impeded, they may go even so far as to give it a friendly shove along the road to its place upon the Statute Book.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
This debate is an example, and a good one, of the adaptability of the Houseand of the machinery with which we conduct our business. After we were held up by an outrageous piece of obstruction a fortnight ago, here we are this afternoon, by mutual agreement, endeavouring to obtain the Second Reading of this Bill.
1582 I wish that I had noted a little more enthusiasm in the voice of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. We are a democratic assembly, but I do not see what any poll has to do with this matter at all. This has to do with justice and the observation of proper decorum and business methods in dealing with money supplied by the public. The pool promoters have put up a pretty bad exhibition by running their ridiculous public poll of opinion in order to try to hide their own responsibility. I will say to those promoters now— although the Bill has yet to become an Act before it has any authority over their activities—that they would be wise to announce that they accept the spirit of this Bill. They have lost face considerably since the Bill was first introduced.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Has my hon. Friend considered the figures which were given by the Under-Secretary? Do they not indicate that, in fact, there is little need for this Bill in view of the steady increase in the turnover of the pool promoters, which signifies that the customers are very satisfied?
§ Mr. Baxter
There are times when the "mugs" have to be cared for. My hon. and gallant Friend is mistaking liberty for "muggery." Liberty has responsibilities.
There is one other point and I hope I shall not be called to order if I endeavour to make it. There is more humbug about gambling in this country than in any other country in the world. Instead of all this nonsense— since we are a gambling people and nothing can stop us—I should like to see a national lottery out of which the State would do well. But I realise that I shall be called to order if I pursue that argument. I bless this Bill and urge the Minister to take it up with enthusiasm and help to make it into an Act as soon as possible.
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
What I have to say to the House will take some time but I assure my hon. Friends that I have no intention of opposing this Bill or of talking it out.
I happen to represent the biggest pools organisation in the country, which is in 1583 my constituency. I am a democrat, and irrespective of my own opinion I feel that it is very wrong indeed if a section of the community which also believes in democracy should not be permitted to have its case stated without interruption and without comments that those making that case are being paid to do so. I think it very sad indeed if those people cannot have their case stated fully.
I sat through the whole of the debate a fortnight ago and afterwards I was horrified at some of the comments made to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hull, Central (Captain Hewitson) by those people who are supposed to be his friends. If similar comments had been addressed to me, I should have asked for your protection, Mr. Speaker, and I am certain that I should have obtained it. I am not in any way condoning what the hon. and gallant Member did. That is his own business, but he is free to do it in a democratic country. When such opinions are expressed to an hon. Member who is accused of being paid by somebody for what he has been saying, we are coming to a very sorry pass in a democratic country and in any political party.
I have no interest of any sort either personal or monetary in the pools industry. I do not know how to start to fill in a pools coupon and I have no intention of finding out. It does not interest me, but it interests a lot of people. Certain sections of the community have taken advantage of this thing we in this country call "private enterprise" and have built up one or two big organisations. They have approached me or, I should say, my constituent has approached me.
In my constituency there are all sorts of types of businesses. The constituency is just as big as the City of Westminster. It is the main business area of the North. I have all sorts of approaches made to me. So long as I believe in democracy, I take the point of view, irrespective of what I may think myself, that if a constituent wants an opinion expressed on the Floor of the House I am the right person to put it for him. That does away with any possibility that some person outside may be making a statement for something that he may be able to get for himself.
1584 Having made that clear, I would say that in the Exchange Division of Liverpool there is the biggest pools organisation in the country. The head office is there. During the war I had the honour to do ambulance work under the leadership of Mr. John Moores. He was my senior in an ambulance division. I know the tremendous amount of assistance he gave to the Coalition Government and to the Labour Government which followed in using his services for the benefit of the country. That cannot be denied by anybody, however bitter he may be about pools organisations.
I had the honour to work under him and I found him to be a man of the very highest integrity. I like him personally. I know him well and I had to take directions from him during the war, in difficult circumstances, in the Liverpool area. It is the custom in the House, Mr. Speaker, that when the Queen's Speech is read you, for the purpose of greater accuracy, obtain a copy. I intend to read the copy of a document that the pools promoters themselves have issued in reply to this Bill. I make no personal comment at all.
All I do is to put their point of view so that it will be on record when the Bill is discussed in Committee after Second Reading. Then the whole story will be told from their point of view as well as from the other point of view. They say:Not unnaturally a good deal of weight is attached to the fact that the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming, which presented its Report to Parliament in March, 1951, recommended the publication of accounts and information by football pool promoters in much the same form as that proposed in the present Bill and equally naturally the supporters of the present Bill seek to pray in aid such recommendations.It is, of course, only right that the findings of the Royal Commission should be given the proper consideration warranted by the Commission's distinguished composition and the time and labour devoted by it to this very controversial topic of gambling. One says proper consideration because let us not forget that the recommendations of a Royal Commission are not sacrosanct. It is within the memory of the House that a previous Royal Commission, which reported in the early'30s, recommended the total prohibition of all 'off the course' pool betting which would, of course, have meant the total prohibition of football pool betting.
There may be moral issues involved; but we may well recognise the fact that there are millions in this country who believe in pool 1585 belting and do not think that any Royal Commission or anyone else has a right to interfere.
It may be said that this Bill is not, in that sense, an interference with what has become a very popular and very widespread pastime indulged in by millions each week of the season."
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
On a point of order. Is it in order to read a lengthy document prepared by outside sources for presentation to this House?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is in order to read anything that is relevant. I do not know how long the document is. The hon. Lady has not been reading for very long.
§ Mrs. Braddock
I mentioned that I did not want to express my point of view and that I felt that in a democratic assembly the view of some body outside should be put here if they could not express it themselves. I am reading it because it is their statement and nobody else's. It continues:The supporters of the Bill would have it believed that it is designed to protect the pool punter against himself; for there appears to be no very pressing public demand for such a Measure.The vast majority of pool punters appear to be perfectly satisfied with the way in which the pools are run. Indeed, it is generally accepted that the larger pools are honestly and efficiently run and those larger pools are responsible for upwards of 90 per cent. of the pool business in this country.In any case it has been said by the Royal Commission that it is not the duty of the State to take steps to ensure that the backer is afforded safe and trustworthy betting facilities.Let us, therefore, for a moment, consider whether the pool backer has any reason to be other than perfectly satisfied with the running of the pools.Accountants' decision final. Each and every one of the principal pool firms include in their rules this rule which, in terms if not in form, is common to all members of the Pool Promoters' Association, which comprises all the principal firms, with possibly one exception. The rule is this: 'Accountants' decision. In the interests of clients generally and of fairness and efficiency, independent qualified accountants (chartered or incorporated), supervise and control all computations of the amounts of pools and all dividends payable, the payment of winnings, and the observance of these rules. To prevent disputes from arising and delays in payment to winners it is a further basic condition that on all matters connected with the conduct of our pools and in particular the ascertainment of winners, the awarding and amount and payment of winnings, disqualifications, and the meaning and application of these rules, the decision of such accountants (or any one of their partners) 1586 on such evidence as they may require shall be accepted as final and in honour binding on all parties including ourselves.'Pursuant to this Rule the Accountants each week issue a Certificate in relation to the Pool with which they are concerned in much the same form as this:'We hereby certify that the Dividends printed above have been duly computed and that stated monies, commission and expenses have been properly accounted for under our supervision and in accordance with the current Rules.'One of the rules (in accordance with which the Accountants certify that the dividends have been duly computed and the stake monies, commission and expenses properly accounted for) is the one which contains the undertaking as to the promoter's deductions for expenses and commission. Again in the case of the larger promoters this is similar in form and reads as follows:'We pay Winners the total amounts staked on each Pool subject to our right to deduct our Commission.' "—
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
On a point of order. Is it to be inferred that when the hon. Lady assures us that she has no intention of talking this Bill out, it does not necessarily denote that she has not in mind the purpose of reading the Bill out?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is not a point of order, but perhaps I might say something about the general propriety of reading speeches. The reading of written speeches, which has been allowed in other legislative assemblies abroad, has never been recognised in either of our Houses. An hon. Member may read extracts from documents, but he should use his own language in giving the sense of longer excerpts. That is the practice and rule of the House. I think the hon. Lady is quite capable of putting, in her own eloquent and forceful way, the arguments in the document from which she is reading.
§ Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)
Further to that, is it not in order for an hon. Member to read a quotation or a document in this House? Is it not in order for an hon. Member to read any quotation to this House, whether it is long or short? The hon. Lady who is making this case has said that she wishes to put the case of her constituent. She has said that she does not necessarily agree with that case, but does feel that the case for the constituent should be put. She started off her speech in her own words, and she then went on to read 1587 the case which had been submitted to her by her constituent. With the greatest of respect, I do suggest that the hon. Lady is quite in order in reading to this House a letter or a document that has been prepared by her constituent.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
Would it be in order, with a view to clarifying the situation, to ask the hon. Lady how much there is of the document? Secondly, since it is normal usage to circulate documents for hon. Members to examine at Committee stage, would not that be the more convenient way of doing it?
§ Mr. F. P. Bishop (Harrow, Central)
Is there not another point, Sir? Is it not the rule of the House that Members addressing the House should take responsibility for the views they are expressing and for the facts that they are quoting? The hon. Lady has said, quite frankly, at the beginning of her speech, that she is not expressing her own views but presenting to the House a brief, as I understand it, for which she herself is accepting no responsibility at all. Is that in accordance with the rules?
§ Mr. Mulley
While I do not wish to query your Ruling in any way, Mr. Speaker, I should not like it to go from this House that we did not want to hear the case which the hon. Lady is putting. I do think it would be desirable to have the remainder of the case. I might say that I have not had an opportunity of examining the document.
§ Mr. Speaker
An hon. Member does make himself, or herself, responsible for what he or she says, but it is quite in order for an hon. Member to represent the views of his constituent, or represent a point of view which he feels ought to be represented, without necessarily pledging himself to full agreement with the position put forward. That is perfectly correct, and as long as the hon. Member is as frank about the matter as the hon. Lady has been, I see no harm in it at all.
With regard to the reading of speeches, what I have said is the practice of the House. Hon. Members frequently read extracts from documents which have been prepared by various interests, to 1588 summarise a case which they wish to have presented on their behalf. While that is quite in order, the rule against written speeches rather conflicts with it, if the extract is too long. It is a matter of balance between the two. I think the hon. Lady, on these Rulings, knows how to proceed.
§ Mr. M. Follick (Loughborough)
You did say "summarise," Mr. Speaker. Would it not be better if my hon. Friend gave us a summary of the pamphlet which she is reading?
§ Mr. Speaker
It depends. I have known some summaries, orally delivered, which were longer than the originals.
§ Mrs. Braddock
I am sorry to cause all this difficulty, but I think that I did state, at the beginning, that I am not making a speech. I believe I stated that in an assembly of this sort, if a constituent, representing a section of business or of industry or of trade unions, wanted a statement on record in the House—not a speech from an individual but a statement of the constituent concerned in relation to a matter which was to be discussed in the House—the best way of presenting it was to read the statement of the person, firm or trade union, in order that it could be used for discussion and debate at any stage, either in the House or in Committee.
I am not prepared to summarise this statement; indeed, I am unable to do so. I do not want to put a personal point of view. I have accepted responsibility for putting the point of view of my constituents—a business firm who are in a big way of business—and it is their case, not mine. I know of no other way in which their point of view may be recorded in HANSARD, and if I am not permitted to make their case as they desire it to be made, and I have to summarise it, I may find that I have put an entirely different point of view from that which they want to put.
It is only for that reason that I obtained a copy, and I was proceeding to read this document for the sake of greater accuracy. This is not a speech, but a statement prepared in answer to proposed legislation. If I am to be told that I cannot proceed, I must reluctantly 1589 sit down and let it be known that in this House of Commons, when a firm, a business, or an interest of any sort wishes its case to be put, it can be put only by somebody who agrees with it, or is prepared to summarise it rather than to express it in the way in which the interest concerned wishes it to be expressed.
I should like a Ruling in the matter, because it depends entirely on the Ruling which you give, Mr. Speaker, whether or not I am able to proceed. I commenced my speech by saying that I was not expressing a personal opinion but the opinion of constituents whose business is being considered as a matter for legislation. My constituents considered that the only way in which their case could be stated properly was by having their statement read, rather than my going through figures and facts which, quite honestly, I do not understand, and in which I have no personal interest. It is entirely up to you, Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. Baxter
I should like you to give a Ruling on this matter, Mr. Speaker. We all agree that constituents have a right to put a case. Where we believe that they have an injustice or a case to put, we can put it, but surely this is something new? If a Member of Parliament says, "I do not understand the case, but I claim, for my constituents, the right to be heard verbatim on the Floor of the House of Commons," that is virtually making the people in this case equal to Members of the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
If an hon. Member of this House thinks that a view that has been put to him is deserving of expression in the House of Commons, he is quite entitled to give it. The point of judgment is, not whether an hon. Member agrees entirely with the view expressed, but whether he thinks the view made to him is of sufficient truth and importance to warrant discussion in this House. Often we get, in the course of our Parliamentary duties, matters of a very technical character put to us, on which we are not individually able to judge, but that does not preclude us from putting the matter to the judgment of the House.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
Would it not be helpful to our progress if the hon. Lady divided her statement into two, gave the other half to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor), and allowed him to read it in his turn to speak, so that we could get on?
§ Mr. Speaker
I have ruled sufficiently on this point. I think we are losing time by trying to put a stop to the hon. Lady. I think she should be allowed to proceed.
§ Mr. Nabarro
May I revert to the original point of order I put to you, Mr. Speaker? With respect, I would submit that that has not been fully answered, and that it has been obscured in large measure by the subsequent points of order that have been made. The point that I put to you was whether it was in order for an hon. Member to try to read out a Bill. I have here a copy of the document that is being read. I have followed one and a half pages of it so far, but the document is 21 pages long, and if we are to listen to the whole of it, it must be clear to everybody in the House that this Measure has no chance at all of being dealt with today.
§ Mr. Speaker
We have it from the hon. Lady herself that she is not trying to talk out the Bill. Whether the Bill is talked out or not has nothing to do with me. However, if the document is as long as that, I think I must now ask the hon. Lady to summarise it.
§ Mrs. Braddock
Doubtless this is very unusual, but I am one of those peculiar people who do unusual things from time to time, and, obviously, people who do unusual things make regulations and Standing Orders very much more elastic than they have ever been, perhaps, in the past—and much more necessary, maybe.
I feel that I have read sufficient already to prove that the document has been very carefully prepared in answer to the Bill. I think it is unfortunate that there is no possibility of the whole of it being read to be recorded in HANSARD. I think that that is unfortunate because it will give an impression outside very different from the impression that the promoters of the Bill desire to exist outside. I do not know if the position is that every hon. Member has received a copy of this document or not?
§ Mr. Mulley
The promoters of the Bill would like my hon. Friend to put her case, even though she must do so briefly. However, I think it would be convenient if the pool promoters would circulate to every Member of the House a copy of the document. As the first promoter of this Bill, I have not received such a document. It will be a help during the Committee stage if all hon. Members have a copy. Then we could consider it.
§ Mrs. Braddock
It is quite obvious that I have not time to read this document as the representative of my constituents because there has been continuous interruption. In view of the fact that there is not time, I shall take the responsibility of asking the pool promoters, when they understand what has happened in the House, to circulate copies of this document. Whether they do so or not is up to them completely.
I leave the quotation and will not say any more about it except for this. It has been said that the pool promoters themselves are conducting an inquiry among the people who take part in the pools to learn what their opinion is. I do not know to what extent that will have any influence on any legislation which is to be put into operation. I leave the matter there until whatever decision they themselves take or whatever decision is taken here. [Interruption.]
I think some hon. Members, on this side of the House at any rate, are just attempting to make fools of themselves in their interruptions when they know perfectly well what the position is; for I have been perfectly honest with them and told them that if I were asked by a constituent, the biggest pools concern in my constituency, to make a statement, I should do so. I told them what the position was. I think some hon. Members are being most uncouth and unkind in the way some can be— and I know they can be— when they make the comments which they make.
It is quite possible that when the Bill has passed its Second Reading I shall be accused by some of them—I know I shall by one person whose name is on the Bill—of having some monetary interest in relation to it.
§ Mrs. Braddock
I know what is being said and I know the comments that are being made on certain things I was going to do. I shall sit down because I consider—
§ Sir C. Taylor
I also have a copy of the statement, which is only eight pages long. Three pages have already been quoted by the hon. Lady. Would it not be right for her to quote the other five pages? It is not 21 pages long. If the hon. Lady wishes to quote the other five pages, surely she should be allowed to do so?
§ Mr. Speaker
I think the hon. Lady should be left to direct the course of her own speech. She has come to a certain conclusion, which I think is probably a wise one.
§ Mrs. Braddock
I have decided, owing to the peculiar noises that have been going on here while I have been speaking, that it would be in the interests of the House and of everybody concerned if I did not pursue the course of reading the whole of the document.
I think it is most unfair and I think it is revealing, in the House, a great attack upon the ordinary democratic rights of the ordinary business man or individual in this country. Obviously, some other repercussions would flow from the fact that I should be continually interrupted if I continued to read the document, and so I leave the matter there, with this comment: I have made an attempt to satisfy my constituent, to satisfy those who have asked me, as their representative, to put their point of view. They will see how it has been obstructed in certain ways and they will possibly come to their own conclusions.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ Mr. William Teeling (Brighton, Pavilion)
About a year ago—perhaps a little less—I had the privilege of bringing in a Private Member's Bill and the sorrow of seeing it talked out by an hon. Member opposite. It took a considerable time to get that Bill back to its original position and, finally, to get it passed, an achievement which gave me great pleasure. In those circumstances, I can assure the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) that I will not try to talk out this Bill. I know 1593 exactly how the hon. Member would feel if I did.
Nevertheless, I am deeply suspicious of the Bill and I hope that it will be thoroughly vetted when it reaches Committee. I am not at all sure that I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State sounded a little lukewarm about the Bill in considering what might happen to it afterwards, because I cannot understand what is the particular reason for the Bill.
Many hon. Members who were in a previous Parliament, if their memories are not too bad, will recall that the pools were very strongly attacked at that time by an hon. Member who is not in the Chamber today, as well as by many others. I myself was strongly opposed to increasing the tax on the pools, by 30 per cent., in the Finance Bill of 1949. I had extremely strong support from the late Mr. Oliver Stanley concerning the great unfairness that was being shown to one particular form of gambling. I think that this matter was so well thrashed out in the House at that time that those who are the enemies not only of the pools, but of gambling generally, and of many other things as well, saw that there was no likelihood of making a fresh approach on those lines.
Therefore, I am wondering whether this Bill, which is on slightly different lines, is not possibly a new method of attack. Why exactly are the pools being attacked in this way far more than other forms of gambling? I remember that in 1949, in the debate on the Finance Bill, Mr. Oliver Stanley said, "Why do we not wait until we hear what the Royal Commission has to say?" Then the idea was that whatever Government was in power would bring up the whole question as recommended by the Royal Commission, not only with regard to betting pools, but with regard to all other forms of gambling, and that something big and impressive would be brought forward.
Did that happen? Not a bit of it. We just get piecemeal proposals attacking this one form of gambling. Most of us know that what will come of this Bill, if it goes through in its original form, is that the turnover of the different pool companies will be shown and the average man, unless he is a complete fool, will 1594 see that the best thing for him to do if he wants to put his money in and to get something really big out is to go to the biggest companies, and so, bit by bit, the smaller ones will be eliminated, until we find ourselves in the position that there will be only one or two big companies left.
Are we to say that the hon. Gentleman who has brought this Bill forward is doing this to help these two or three big monopoly concerns? Is he fighting for these bigger, richer and colossal organisations in order to kill the smaller ones? Is that his idea? Or is it rather to get all this in the hands of one or two people so that the Socialist Party, if they get into office again, will be able very easily to break the whole thing altogether?
I have taken the trouble to read the Report of the Royal Commission and the evidence submitted to it, and I think it is a subject which ought to be discussed in this House. I hope that we shall get to the Committee stage as a result of today's proceedings, so that we can more fully discuss the details of this matter. I am not suggesting that this is a subject that should not be discussed, but I ask, why should this particular organisation be chosen? It was attacked bit by bit, periodically, by the Socialist Party when they were in power, and they made it more difficult for those concerned by raising the tax to 30 per cent.
I well remember the arguments in 1949. They have been forgotten by most of us today, and this little Bill has slipped in. I remember them because I put down an Amendment at the time on the subject. People were then being circularised by the pools organisations, and I remember a newspaper stating that I had had about 300 letters on this subject sent to my private address; and this was complained about by some people. It is very odd that of all those who are my constituents and who, I know, are interested in pools, not one has written to say that this is a good Bill. None of the investors seems to want it, whereas all the people who have written to me about it are the same kind of people who would be writing to me against anything to do with gambling and would complain if the Brighton Pavilion were made a brilliant gambling centre—something which I have always advocated.
1595 The hon. Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) has read a very lengthy statement, and quite rightly so, on what the associations actually seem to want. This is the point that interests me. It is pointed out in the statement she read that the pools have perfectly good and highly respectable accountants dealing with the situation and that since 1949, when the 30 per cent. tax was imposed, the Government themselves have had every possible means of checking up and finding out whether the whole thing is properly run. The only possible reason for the Bill can be the curiosity of some hon. Members opposite and, as far as I can see, the desire by some of them to break the lesser pools organisations, something which many of my constituents do not want to happen, in order to make the bigger monopolies in control of everything. I cannot understand it, and I hope that some hon. Gentlemen who did not speak in the last debate will be able to explain what it is all about.
§ Mr. Mulley
Had the hon. Member been present on the previous occasion, he would have been better informed.
§ Mr. Teeling
Even I read my HANSARD next morning.
Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees):I will do my best and answer some of the questions of the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling). The case for the Bill has really been made out by his own Front Bench. If the Government were satisfied that all was well, they would not have given the backing that they have given to the Bill; and if, as the hon. Member says, the collection of the 30 per cent, tax gives all the information that is needed, I cannot understand why the Government agree that the Bill should have a Second Reading. As for the suggestion that the Bill is a device to squeeze out the smaller pools, the figures given by Members on the other side prove that that is what has been happening all along the line. The pools are already reduced to about 30, of which six handle 90 per cent. of the whole business.
§ Mr. Teeling
Surely that was the result of the vastly increased taxation forced on the lesser pools by the Labour Government.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
I cannot accept that. The larger pools, through their bigger mediums of publicity, advertising, and so on, and the bigger rewards which, naturally, they can offer in a competitive field of that kind, attract more and more clients or investors, whatever one calls them. That has been happening under existing circumstances and the Bill makes not the slightest difference to that tendency.
I should like to say a word to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock). This is not in any way hostile to what she tried to do, but I ask her to think a little more clearly about the precedent that was sought to be established. In my view, it was extremely dangerous. First, the case is that constituents, or an association of constituents, have not been able to get their case properly presented in the House of Commons. I do not think for a moment that that is so. In the last debate the case was put by at least two speakers out of five in the House. It could have been put again today by Members in their own words, adapting their local association's case.
Secondly, within the fortnight that has elapsed between the abortive Second Reading of the Bill and today, the pool promoters could have circularised every Member of the House with a copy of their statement, but they have not done so. They could have made statements or put advertisements in the Press stating their intentions and their case. Every day of the week we get statements from interested parties, who do not expect someone to read out their case in the House of Commons, but they send us through the post a statement of their views on particular Bills. I should have thought that the right procedure in this case would have been for the football pool promoters to have done the same thing.
Furthermore, what happens if, in my hon. Friend's constituency, another constituent writes to her with a long document giving reasons for wanting to support the Bill? Does my hon. Friend then feel bound to read, first, the long statement of those who are against it, followed by the long statement from those who support it?
§ Mr. Chetwynd
That would be an intolerable abuse of the procedure of the House. Then, suppose that on a political matter the Conservative Party in the Exchange division were to write to my hon. Friend saying that they were not able to get their case put forward in the House because of the incompetence of Members of their party, is my hon. Friend again to read it out to the House? I am sure that in that case she would not understand what the case would be.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
That is the position to which that kind of procedure would have reduced us had it been allowed to continue.
Therefore, I say, what is all this fuss about? If the case of the football pools is as it has been stated, why are they so hurt by the terms of this Bill? In fact, it springs clearly from two main principles. I do not want to stress them, because that has been done fairly thoroughly before, but there is need of some regulation of these vast enterprises which have grown to such proportions that they are really becoming a public problem, and, therefore, they do need public regulation.
Then the public interest is involved. It is not a moral question of whether we support gambling or are against it, but vast sums of money are involved and it is right that the matter should be regulated as the Bill proposes. Secondly, there is a need for public accountability of the vast sums of money which are invested, so that the people who supply that money will know what they are getting and what their prospects are likely to be.
Clause 7 relates to cash betting, and I am not at all sure that my hon. Friend ought to be pressed into withdrawing it because, as it is argued, cash betting leads to increased gambling. I do not think that is so. I think that at a time when the wager is made by ready money, one is likely to reduce the stake to a lower figure than would be the case if one were paying a week after with the hope that, in the meantime, one would win. I hope that my hon. Friend will keep that point in mind.
1598 I welcome the fact that the Government have given their blessing to the Second Reading of the Bill and that they are willing to assist in its later stages. No commitment was given at all as to the time that would be given, but I hope that when we have passed this Bill through all its stages the Government will be further impelled to give more time to it.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
I claim, with due modesty, as was said during interruptions in the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock), to have been responsible, in co-operation with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), for securing sufficient time this afternoon for this Bill to have a resumed Second Reading. I therefore take the greatest possible exception to the small amount of time that has become available being taken up by the reading out of a long and tedious document because the pool promoters, had they so wished, could have secured proper publicity for their case by spending a tiny part of their vast funds on circulating it to all those who support their respective enterprises.
I am in very much the same position as the hon. Lady. I do not invest in football pools. I have no objection to people gambling, and I cannot find any cause for complaint against thousands of my constituents who, every week, invest in football pools. I do not necessarily say that I am entirely in agreement with all the proposals that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park has embodied in his Bill. However, I am very interested in one Clause, Clause 4, which deals with a requirement as to information to be supplied and published by the registered pool promoters.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am very anxious that there should be proper divulgence, and full publicity for all the investments made week by week in these football pools enterprises. The hon. Lady, on behalf of the football pool promoters, made a very legitimate point in their defence. She said that chartered and incorporated accountants examine the 1599 finances and the records of these enterprises week by week and issue appropriate certificates. But that is not all that is necessary to safeguard the interests of investors in the pools. Under the Companies Act, 1948, the most stringent safeguards are provided for the proper conduct of businesses, largely in order to protect the interests of shareholders and investors. No such similar safeguards are provided in the case of persons investing in their weekly flutter, who are the football pool investors.
It is no good the pool promoters issuing certificates to the effect that there has been a competent examination of the investments in the football pool fund week by week, without showing how much money out of the total investment has been disbursed by way of prizes, how much money has been absorbed on account of administration and advertising and publicity, how much money has been retained for profits, and how much money has been set on one side for any other undisclosed purposes. That is the information which this Bill surely seeks to provide week by week.
Major H. Legge-Bourke: Would my hon. Friend not agree that the parallel he has drawn between the position of a shareholder and an investor under the Companies Act is only true if he also says that the person who gambles with the pools is in the position of an investor in a company? Surely a better parallel is that the man who goes in for a pool is in the position of the consumer in relation to an ordinary company—he has not the same protection as the shareholder, and there is no reason why he should have it.
§ Mr. Nabarro
My hon. and gallant Friend referred to a better parallel, but presumably a private investor subscribes capital to a joint stock company for the purpose of participating in any profits, in the form of dividends that may flow from his investment. Unfortunately, those dividends are always heavily taxed at source. The investment in the football pools may be taxed to the tune of 30 per cent. by way of the football pools duty but the winnings are not subject to personal taxation, when received by the investor in the pools.
1600 That is an interesting academic argument, but the general point I want to make, and I think it is a valuable point, is that today about £70 million to £75 million is being invested every year in football pools, so far as I am able to ascertain. It may be more. At all events, it is a large sum of money, and whereas my hon. Friend said that accounts deal with the situation, my view is that there is a singular dearth of financial information available for the investor in these pools. What I am anxious to ensure is that the investor receives a full return on the sum of money that he puts into the pools and that there is no unnecessary or excessive expenditure by the promotors or hidden or secret reserve retained by the pool promoters.
§ Mr. Teeling
We have already pointed out to my hon. Friend that all the figures go to the Treasury for that 30 per cent. tax, and if the Treasury is satisfied, is that not enough? Can my hon. Friend tell us of any public companies which have to disclose publicly their turnover?
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am sure that my hon. Friend, who is a competent and extremely well-advised businessman, ought to know better than to suggest that an investor in the pools can ascertain the cost of advertising or administration. He cannot do so. All that can be ascertained is that the total investment in the football pools may be worked out by arithmetical processes from the yield annually of the 30 per cent. football pools betting duty. He cannot ascertain any of those other expenses to which I drew attention.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am glad to have the hon. Member's support.
I draw attention to this facet of the problem, which is the one in which I am most interested. I think the punter, the investor in pools, ought to have much more information as to how the funds are being employed week by week. I drew the analogy of the Companies Act and I say that there must be proper safeguards for all investors. These football pool businesses have largely grown up in the last few years and no statute yet provides for suitable protection for the investor. There is a shroud of secrecy 1601 surrounding the business of these pools. If they are everything which the hon. Lady claims them to be, let the pool promoters publish the financial details of their businesses.
§ Mrs. Braddock
On a point of order. The hon. Gentleman has misquoted me. I did not make any such statement.
§ Mr. Nabarro
If the hon. Lady did not make it, then I inferred it from her speech.
I ask that there should be full publicity for the financial affairs of these pool concerns, in order that tens of thousands of my constituents and others, and I myself, may be able to judge whether they are handling their finances and the interests of the investors with the care and prudence which all of us would expect from enterprises of this magnitude.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
Some time ago, the hon. Gentleman said that, on examining the document, he found it contained 21 pages. A few seconds later, an hon. Gentleman who sits on the bench below him indicated that he had counted it and made it eight. Could the hon. Gentleman tell us which of the two hon. Members can count most accurately?
§ Mr. Nabarro
The document has 21 pages in it. I am informed, although I have had no opportunity of checking it, that the particular passage which the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpol, Exchange was reading at the time when I raised a point of order runs only to eight pages out of the 21, and that the remaining 13 pages comprise supporting evidence for her case. I have no crystal ball and, therefore, could not be aware whether the hon. Lady intended to read out the whole of the 21 pages, or not.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
I am sure that none of us would accept the modesty of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), but I am also sure that many of us will accept his arguments about this Bill. Where some of the critics of the Bill are lamentably muddle-headed is in failing to recognise the strong element of public interest which is involved in any organisation which solicits from £70 million to £75 million of public 1602 money and hides from those who respond to their appeal the details of exactly what they do with it.
Surely, that is the fundamental issue here, and throughout our history it has been necessary time and again for this House to protect many people who have not sought its protection but were very much in need of it. After all, the building societies, investment trusts, friendly societies, insurance companies and all the rest of those who have sought the confidence of the public and have asked them to put their money into their hands, owe a responsibility not only to those whom they euphemistically call investors, but to the public at large.
I would say that when pool promoters presume, as they do, to intrude upon the privacy of our letter boxes week after week and ask us to become investors, then their responsibility is greater still. It may be that this point is not within the scope of the Bill, and I have had difficulty in deciding about it in my own mind, but I do think that, if possible, some curb should be put on the flood of propaganda and literature of one kind and another which is thrust into millions of homes, and on to many who have no desire to enter the pools, but are rather indignant when this material comes to them as regularly as it does.
The House will appreciate that I am not a football pools investor. I have not the intelligence to fill up a football pool form. All I can pretend is that I can probably fill up my Income Tax form, and I am sure we all agree that that is a small strain on our intelligence.
I regard gambling in this country as a grave social evil. I know people are free to please themselves about the matter, but we are entitled to our views about a large industry which is wholly devoted to speculative enterprise. I am against gambling in any shape or form, whether it is on the Stock Exchange, in property, take-over bids, football pools or anything else.
I do not believe it is a good thing socially and morally for the people of this country to be indulging in football pools to the extent that they are at the present time. But that is of no moment in connection with this Bill, although it would perhaps be unfair of me to support it so vehemently without disclosing 1603 where I stand on the general question of gambling.
The element of public interest must remain supreme. It is not enough for an hon. Member opposite to say that the public can surely be satisfied that things are all right, when the Customs and Excise collect £20 million in tax under the betting duties. As the hon. Member for Kidderminster pointed out, that is not enough. There is no disclosure of the assessable profits of these people. There is no disclosure of how much they spend on administration. They claim the right to make a deduction for their commission, for which they announce a percentage, and for their expenses, for which they do not announce a percentage. There can be lavish extraction from the so-called investments for administrative and other purposes which are not disclosed to the public.
I hope the House will recognise its over-riding responsibility to the public. Whether the investors have asked for this Bill or not is beside the point. It is our duty as the House of Commons to see that large enterprises of this kind are properly run and not run in secrecy, and that all reasonable disclosures are made, not only to the investors but also to the public at large. That is what this very modest Bill proposes to do, and I heartily support it.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
I feel exceedingly sorry that the pools promoters themselves have not had the sense to realise that the publication of figures is in their real interest and have not volunteered to disclose them in order to avoid the necessity of the House having to pass a Bill on the subject.
I cannot understand the views of my hon. Friend who tried to confuse an investment in a lottery—I use "investment" in a euphemistic sense—with buying a commodity. When we buy a commodity, we know whether or not we are getting value for our money by comparison with other commodities, and whether we get a bad or a good deal depends on our discretion. But it is different when there is an arrangement whereby investments are sent to a central 1604 place and the whole arrangement is based upon the extraction of a commission rate and a certain amount of expenses.
In those circumstances, it is necessary, in the public interest, that there should be a disclosure of the revenue and of the method by which the revenue is disbursed. I understand that there is nothing to be hidden here. Before the Royal Commission, 82½per cent. was said to be the total amount distributed each week by the pools, roughly 15 per cent. in expenses and 2½ per cent. In commission, not an unreasonable amount. I repeat that it would have been very much better had the pools themselves made the disclosure without force.
I understand—and I say this for the pool promoters, who have had rather a rough deal today—that one of the reasons they do not like this Bill is because, if accounts are published, the public may see the smaller pools in a worse light than the larger pools. I think that should be stated, because if it be the case, it is reasonable to expect that the larger organisations will have a very much smaller rate of commission and probably take out a smaller proportion in expenses. It may well be that the reluctance of the Association to agree upon disclosure is because of their desire to protect the smaller pools from the effect of such a disclosure showing that, by comparison, the smaller pools are taking more out of the revenue received. I make that point because I think it only fair to the promoters.
I hope that this Bill will get a Second Reading, and that, even now, the pool promoters will see that its provisions are reasonable, and that, before the Bill becomes law, they will start to publish the details of their dispersals.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
I wish to make one point on the subject of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock). I am not quite sure, Mr. Speaker, whether you were in the Chair when, in the course of concluding her remarks, I understood my hon. Friend to say that hon. Members on this side of the House obstructed her in the reading out of a rather lengthy document which she attempted to read.
1605 For the purpose of the record I think it should be said that it was you, Mr. Speaker, who made it abundantly clear that the reading of such a lengthy document was not the sort of thing to which the House should be subjected, and that my hon. Friend should, if possible, summarise it. She was not able to do so and, in the event, she had to sit down; but I think, Mr. Speaker, that it should be stated that there was a clear Ruling by you on the subject.
It would seem to me that the object of this Bill is to demonstrate to investors in the pools whether they are getting a fair deal at the hands of the promoters. That we all accept. It is the man sitting down eating his tuck in the pit and scribbling away on his pools pro forma— or whatever it is called—that we have to protect. I do not concern myself with the moral issue of gambling here. It seems to me that this is purely concerned with the matter of seeing that the investor gets a square deal.
I think there is a great deal of misunderstanding on the part of some constituents who have written to all of us and who appear to think that somehow this Bill will limit gambling. I do not take that view. When this Bill becomes an Act, and should further legislation then appear desirable, in the event it may increase gambling, and that is a different matter. But I think that some people are under the mistaken impression that this Bill will lead to a limitation on gambling.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Mr. F. P. Bishop (Harrow, Central)
I hope the House will give this Bill a Second Reading this afternoon. I know nothing at all about pools and pool betting. There are very many things about which I know nothing, but my ignorance has never been more completely exposed than it was the other day when my daughter asked me to help her to fill in her pool coupon. It was something much too complicated for me.
All my life I have been connected with business, and in a small way with big business, but not with any business so big as pool betting has become today. All business is rightly required to furnish the most complete and adequate details of its financial arrangements for the benefit of its shareholders and the public. I 1606 cannot understand why this vast pools business should not be required to furnish similar information for the benefit of those who invest their money in it, and for the benefit of the public as a whole.
I venture no opinion about the detailed requirements set out in the Bill. They are a matter for detailed examination in Committee. Having listened to the debates this afternoon and a fortnight ago, I feel that the case for giving the Bill a Second Reading, and sending it for detailed examination in Committee, has been fully made out.
I would say one other thing in regard to the speech made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock). Of course, it is right that hon. Members should come here prepared to represent the point of view of their constituents. But what appeared to me as a terrifying prospect for all of us was the possibility that our constituents might be given the view that they have a right to say to us, "Never mind what you think about this; here is our statement; you read it out on the Floor of the House." I hope that the Ruling you gave, Mr. Speaker, is sufficiently clear to make it obvious to our constituents that that is not a duty which they can impose upon hon. Members. I hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading and a thorough examination in Committee.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
In the two or three minutes left may I make it clear that I support the Bill? I am delighted that it has had all-party support. There was a reference on the other side of the House to an attack by Labour Members on the pools. It has been amply demonstrated this afternoon, and by the Press support given to the Bill throughout the country, that there is no question of a party attack. This is a desire that has been widely shown throughout the country, not in the form of an attack on the pools but in the form of seeking the kind of information which, as hon. Members have said, is available in the case of certain other concerns.
I was very sorry when an hon. Gentleman opposite thought fit to say that he had grave doubts as to the motives of the promoters of this Measure. Those motives have been clearly shown. The Bill should 1607 be to the benefit of the many millions who are, I will not use the word "investors" but, to borrow the word used by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), "punters" on football pools.
It was the Joint Under-Secretary of State who said that the people who spend money on pools are not the only people concerned. That is true. All citizens are concerned because of the growth that has taken place in pools betting. In case I am in any danger of talking the Bill out, I conclude by offering my hearty congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) and thanking the Joint Under-Secretary for the support that he gave to the Bill, though he did not support it wholeheartedly. I wish it every success in its further stages.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.