§ Mr. Reader Harris (Heston and Isleworth)
I beg to move, in page 10, line 18, to leave out Clause 10.
I wish to call attention to the fact that this Clause is still in the Bill despite what was said at earlier stages during the debates on Second Reading and in Committee. I understood the promoter of the Bill to say on Second Reading that he did not feel particularly strongly about this Clause, which exempts pools from the provisions of the Ready Money Football Betting Act, 1920, and Section 1 of the Betting Act, 1853.
§ Mr. Mulley
Will the hon. Gentleman agree that it is exemption only in respect of postal betting, which is very important?
§ Mr. Harris
I agree. When we came to the Clause during the Committee stage, the promoter of the Bill made some observations on his reasons for wanting to keep it in the Bill. He said that because he had promised, I think on Second Reading, that in Committee he would say something about the Clause. When he began his remarks, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) interrupted and said in effect, that he did not want (o hear anything about it.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
I said that, if the hon. Member wanted to get his Bill, I did not see why, on the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," he should seek to define something when no other Member of the Committee had challenged it. The hon. Gentleman must have known that he should have challenged the Clause. My remark was not in the least an attempt to silence anybody. I was merely pointing out a procedural fact, that it was unnecessary to counter arguments which had not been made.
§ Mr. Harris
The promoter had promised that he would make some observations and give reasons for the Clause being kept in the Bill. I wanted to hear the reasons, but the hon. Member for Lincoln interrupted the promoter and said that he did not want to hear what was going on. 1 wanted to hear, and by the time I got up to challenge the matter—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
I do not know to what this argument relates, but it does not relate to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Harris
It relates to the inclusion of the Clause in the Bill. I am trying to explain why I did not raise the matter in Committee. I tried to raise it and I stood up, but I agree that I did not stand up at the time when I should have got to my feet.
§ Mr. Harris
I will now say what I wanted to say to the Committee, and that is that I hope that the Clause will be left out of the Bill. Here I am open to correction, because I have not studied the matter as closely as some hon. Members and have not had the advantage of lengthy discussions with the pools promoters, but I understand that the Clause has been included because under it, when a person makes a bet on a football pool, he can send the money at the same time as he makes the bet.
The position under the provisions of the two Acts which are quoted is that if a person makes a bet he is not allowed to send his money in until, at any rate, the week afterwards.
I have had it represented to me that, unless the Clause is left in the Bill, it will be very difficult to work the Bill because it will not be easy to get out the accounts of a week's betting if the money is not coming in until the following week. It will be particularly difficult, for instance, on the last day of the season when people would make their bets in the ordinary way and perhaps would not have to pay for those bets until the first day of football in the next season.
There are arguments which do not impress me in the least. The first objection that I have to the Clause is that it is granting to the football pools special treatment which perhaps ought to be given to other branches of betting. I cannot see for the life of me why the football pool promoters should be placed in this special and advantageous position. It is absolutely wrong that they should have this great advantage over other people who make their money out of betting.
I want to make it quite clear that I am not opposed to people having a bet if they want to do so, but the people who make their living out of it should be treated fairly and alike. It is not the duty of the House of Commons to encourage betting. There is quite enough of it as it is without our going out of our way to enable it to be done more freely and easily than at present. I am against the provisions of the Clause because I believe that it will encourage football pool betting by making it easier.
The whole Bill becomes objectionable by reason of the fact that what began 764 as a football pool investors' charter has now become a football pool promoters' charter. It will place football pools on a semi-official basis, and many people will begin to think that they are run by local authorities. By doing all this for football pools promoters, we are officially recognising them and going out of our way to help them. In that case, why not go the whole hog and nationalise football pools, as I said in the Second Reading debate? I do not see why we should place football pool promoters in this very advantageous position.
A great deal of resentment will be caused in other sections of the fraternity if these promoters are accorded special treatment. If the Clause is left in and the Bill becomes law, I am not sure whether the exemptions from the other Acts will apply to all bets made on football pool coupons, or whether it will apply only to ordinary football pools and not to fixed odds pools.
§ Mr. Harris
I am not so expert in this matter as other hon. Members, but I still oppose the inclusion of this Clause. It was not considered in Committee and we are now considering it on the Report stage. I believe that the Clause will cause resentment and that we are doing something to promote betting at a time when, if anything, we should seek to put a curb upon it, or, at any rate, to refrain from encouraging it.
§ Mr. Kenneth Thompson (Liverpool, Walton)
I beg to second the Amendment.
In doing so, I wish to dissociate myself from almost everything that has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris), I hope without offence to him or to the House. My purpose in seconding the Amendment is similar to his in its origin, in that I believe that it is entirely wrong for Parliament to approve a very drastic change in our betting laws without giving the matter any consideration either in Committee upstairs or on the Floor of the House. Since the only way in which we could accomplish the feat of enabling 765 Parliament to do its duty was by putting down the Amendment, I thought it proper to do so in view of the importance of the matter.
It is very important that those of us who are concerned with social conditions, whether or not we have strong views about the goodness or badness of gambling, should at any rate consider the likely effects of introducing this new principle of ready-money betting into our social life. It is not good enough for the hon. Member for Sheffield. Park (Mr. Mulley) to say that this Clause applies only to postal betting. That is the familiar argument about something being ' only a little illegitimate baby."
§ Mr. Mulley
The House is discussing only what is actually in the Bill. That is the sole purpose of my intervention.
§ Mr. Thompson
I hope that the House is also going to discuss what should be taken out of the Bill, and what will be taken out if the Amendment is approved is the introduction of a new principle in our betting laws.
I have no very strong views about gambling, and still weaker are my views whether people should gamble for cash or for credit, but we ought to make it quite clear, throughout the whole of our discussions on the Bill and the effect which this Clause will have upon the operation of it, that we are doing something which will alter the ways in which betting is carried on. This is a beginning, upon which can be hung a good many other ways of changing our betting procedure. If we approve the Bill with the inclusion of this Clause, it is clear that everybody else will regard it as establishing a precedent, and will see no logical reason why cash betting should not be allowed in many other cases.
My hon. Friend made most of the points that I should have thought would have been made by the proponents of the Clause in seeking to justify its inclusion. The only one which merits any weight is that which argues that, if the Clause is taken out of the Bill, it will, for purely mechanical reasons within the operations of the football pools offices, be impossible to operate other provisions dealing with the precision required of pool promoters in making their returns. I do not wish to destroy the Bill or to see its intentions 766 defeated. I believe its intentions are fairly good, as we have now improved it. But any Bill which depends for its successful operation upon a Clause which can be shown to be bad is almost certainly not a very good one, to put it at its lowest. We ought to consider whether the Clause can be shown to be a bad one, as I think it can.
I said that I have no very strong views about cash or credit betting. Neither, apparently, had the Royal Commission, upon whose Report this Bill largely rests. So far as one can judge from one's post, and the evidence given at the sittings of the Royal Commission, the Churches Committee also held no strong views upon this subject. In this Bill we are legislating for a very wide extension of ready-money betting, which will undoubtedly lead to a good deal of encouragement of gambling. The greater the facilities we offer to those interested in gambling, the more gambling there will be.
The Royal Commission, with a series of masterly evasions and a crop of contradictions, managed to avoid what it set out to accomplish, which was to show that Parliament had a duty to limit gambling if it were shown that gambling had a deleterious social effect on our public life. The net result of the Royal Commission's labours was the introduction of a series of proposals, many of which, besides this one, rest upon the need to allow ready-money betting.
This Clause is only one example of many others that can be laid to rest upon the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and we are now bringing an incredibly high degree of absurdity into our betting laws, which already contain an abundance of absurdities. It has already been observed by my hon. Friend, and agreed to by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park, that if I make a bet on a football pool coupon in one of the normal pools and accompany my investment, as we call it, with the money, that will be all right if that Bill becomes law with this Clause in it. If I make a bet on the same matches with the same firm on the same day on what the pool promoter calls his fixed odds pools and send my money with the bet, that bet is invalidated or I offend against the betting laws.
§ Mr. Thompson
Most hon. Members who have gathered in this House today have come here to have their education in these matters completed by my hon. Friend, not by me.
§ Mr. Thompson
I have not the slightest desire to be enlightened on this matter, since fixed odds or ordinary pools have no place whatever in my private life. I am sure my hon. Friend can complete any gaps in the knowledge of hon. Members of this matter. However, that is one of the absurdities that would follow the passage of this Bill with this Clause in it.
Let us consider how much farther these absurdities can go. Here is Mr. A, who wishes to send a bet to a football pool promoter on a normal pool, so-called. He sends his money with the bet. That is all right. If he wishes to make a bet on a horse with a street-corner bookie and sends his money with his bet, he is in very serious trouble indeed, for he offends against one of our cardinal laws.
Indeed, on the very day that this Clause was allowed to go through the Committee without a debate, the Liverpool "Evening Express," an admirable paper because of the attention it gives to what I say and because of the accuracy of its other reports, published an account headed, "Garston bookie is fined £40." It was the story of a man carrying on a ready-money betting business on a different form of contest, or game of chance— if that is what it is, though the way some of these chaps play the game it is not even that. He was in trouble and was fined £40 when a Committee of the House of Commons was not solemnly but carelessly letting this Clause pass.
A man who sends his money to a football pool promoter under the provisions of this Clause becomes a virtuous ready-money investor, invested with a halo with the compliments of the Churches Committee and the Home Office, but the 768 halo is snatched away if the money goes with the same coupon or on the same form for a fixed odds bet, or if he sends his money to a street-corner runner who has been somewhat extravagantly pursued by police forces sadly depleted and badly needed for other purposes.
All that is being done here is an offence to a very important principle with a view to getting the Bill through. It is not good enough. There must be many in the House who have stronger views about ready-money betting than I pretend to have, and I do not want to delay the House any longer. I hope the House will give this very important matter more consideration.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department and Welsh Affairs (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)
This is an important Amendment. I think it probably would be for the advantage of the House if I expressed the Government's attitude to it now, so that hon. Members may know what the Government feel about the matter.
There are two objections to the Clause that have been expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) and Walton (Mr. K. Thompson). The first of these, I think I can say, amounts to this, that the Clause involves an important and, to them, an objectionable principle. The second, though this was not expressed so strongly by them, is that the Clause is unnecessary for the purposes of the Bill.
First of all, I would say a word about the question of principle raised by the Clause. I think I can say fairly that cash betting is generally regarded as raising a major moral issue. Indeed, I think that hon. Members generally have looked at the Clause in the light of their reaction to that issue. On the other hand, I do not believe that anyone will differ from me if I say that intrinsically cash betting does not raise a moral issue at all. It makes no intrinsic difference whether the payment is made before or after the bet is made. The objection to cash betting on principle is that it could provide a further facility for betting which is at present forbidden by the law, and so lead to an increase of betting as a whole. I think I have stated the position fairly.
769 So far as the Clause is concerned, I do not think that objection can possibly apply. The effect of the Clause is rather in the opposite direction. The Clause is strictly limited to cash betting on pool betting business carried on by post. That is an entirely different thing from the legalisation of cash betting offices or anything of that kind.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I shall come to that. So far as pool betting is concerned, I think it is generally said that the insistence upon credit betting has led to what is sometimes called the chain betting system; that is to say, the tendency on the part of those who engage in this activity, regularly week by week, to lay a bet of a similar amount because it is necessary for them to cover the previous week's transaction. If we allow cash betting by post in this connection that tendency will no longer exist because, of course, each separate transaction will exist independently; there will be no need or feeling of obligation on the part of those who go in for the pools to repeat their bet every week.
§ Mr. Harris
My hon. Friend is making admirable efforts to prove that black is white, but surely at the moment there is no legal liability on a person to pay a bet, so that there is no inducement on a person under the present system in that sense to send a bet each week?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
All I am doing is expressing a view which has been fairly commonly expressed. I do not wish to take responsibility for it, but it seems to me to be a reasonable view that those who engage in credit betting on the pools tend as a rule to repeat their bet week by week. I think that is generally accepted in all parts of the House.
§ Mr. Ian Mikardo (Reading, South)
I, for one, accept the fact that people tend to repeat the same bet week after week, but so do people who subscribe 6d. each week to the local lottery for the supporters' club or the Roman Catholic parents' associations, and we jump on them.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
If I attempted to reply to that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you would be very quick to jump on me.
770 I do not wish to enter into the merits of credit and cash betting generally. The most I can do is to call attention to the fact that two Royal Commissions have come down in favour of postal cash betting. In the most recent Royal Commission, only one body, the Scottish National League Against Betting and Gambling, offered evidence against the proposal.
If this Clause is approved it will certainly not commit either the Government or Parliament to any other form of cash betting whatsoever. I want to give this firm assurance: the Government would not use this as a precedent for anything else. It has been suggested, in particular by Sir Alan Herbert in letters to the Press, that Clause 10 is anomalous. That is the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Walton, who pointed out that a cash bet by post on a pool would be made lawful whereas a cash bet by post at fixed odds would remain unlawful. It is right to point out, however, that the Bill deals with pool betting, and it would not come within the scope of the Bill for it to be enlarged so as to cover fixed odds betting.
§ Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)
I have here the two different kinds of betting; I call both pool betting. They were sent to me by an old colleague of ours, Sir Alan Herbert. He points out that one can do "The Simple Six" with a cash transaction under the Bill, and the tax on it will be 30 per cent., whereas "The Star Six" on the same sheet, at odds of 150–1. attracts no tax and is by credit only.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I should not like to say whether that statement is correct, although if it comes from Sir Alan Herbert I have very little doubt that it is.
The point comes to no more than this: that the Bill proposes to treat pool betting differently from other forms of betting. That question was settled when the Bill was given a Second Reading, and if hon. Members refer to my speech on that occasion they will see that I called the attention of the House at some length to the fact that if we gave the Bill a Second Reading it would involve creating exactly that kind of anomaly, if it is an anomaly. Thereupon the 771 House gave the Bill a Second Reading without a single hon. Member voting against it.
§ Mr. K. Thompson
This is a bit much. The Second Reading was allowed to take place because the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) said that if anybody had strong feelings about this ready-money business they would be considered.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
On behalf of the Government, I pointed out that this anomaly was implicit in the Bill being given a Second Reading, and the Bill was nevertheless given a Second Reading.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
It has therefore been decided in principle that we should deal with pools differently from the way in which we deal with other forms of betting.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I cannot answer that question without notice.
May I say a word about the need for this Clause in the Bill? It cannot be said that the Clause is unnecessary. The purpose of the Bill is to secure that there shall be accurate accounts of these pool betting undertakings, and the Bill has been considered and amended on the basis that this Clause is part of it.
Under the Clause it is contemplated that the money in any pool shall be coming in currently—that it will be coming in with the papers making the bet, if that is the correct expression. But even assuming that we allow cash betting by post so as to enable these transactions to take place currently in that way, there will be considerable practical difficulties about preparing accurate accounts for the purpose of the Bill. Perhaps I may draw attention to the Clause which was added to the Bill in Committee, which is now Clause 7—[Ascertainment of stake money in competitions.] Hon. Members will see the kind of practical difficulties which already exist in connection with the preparation of these accounts, even 772 assuming that cash betting by post is permitted.
The difficulties which would arise if we insisted that there should not be cash betting but that payment should be made after the event is over need no elaboration from me. The practical difficulties which have hitherto existed have been overcome by the flexibility of the rules of the pools themselves—and some hon. Members have objected to the flexibility of those rules during the debate. I say nothing about that, but the rules have at any rate made it possible for the matter to be dealt with as at present. If we deal with it by Statute and not by rules which can be used in this flexible way, then clearly, under a credit system, enormous new difficulties will arise.
In the Government's view, if the credit rule is adopted it will make it necessary to reconsider quite a number of the provisions of the Bill. I do not say that it is impossible to amend the Bill so as to continue credit betting; that would be putting it too high. But it would lead to considerable reconsideration. I do not think I need expatiate on that; it is obvious that if we continued with this system under a statutory arrangement, as the Bill would provide, we should be in serious difficulties. There are the delays which must take place, the possibility of bad debts and so on.
In a matter such as this, obviously questions of conscience arise. Every Member of the House is, of course, entirely free to make up his mind on this matter in accordance with the way in which he thinks it should be decided. But it is right that I should point out to the House that, so far as the principle is concerned, it does not really conflict with the broad moral objection which is felt to cash betting; that it would not be used as a precedent so far as the Government are concerned, nor I believe could it be so used by anyone else; that, in so far as there is any anomaly, it has already been accepted when the Bill was given a Second Reading; and that there is a real need for something of this kind in the Bill if it is to be made workable. In these circumstances, my advice to hon. Members is that the Clause should be allowed to remain part of the Bill.
§ 2.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Mikardo
We are all grateful to the Joint Under-Secretary for his advice, as, indeed, we were on many occasions throughout the Committee stage, but I am sure that it will have been observed that his advice derived from his pursuing, as he has pursued throughout, a policy of strict neutrality on the side of the pool promoters. He has advised the House today, as he did in Committee after much deliberation and argument on both sides, that what the pool promoters want we should do anyway.
The net result of that and of the deliberations of the Committee is that this Bill, which started out to be a pools investors' charter, has now become a pools promoters' charter, and I think that the House, at this stage of the Bill and on Third Reading, ought to give very careful consideration to the question of whether the very considerable Amendments made to the Bill in the course of its going through our procedure result in its now carrying out the intentions which it appeared to be carrying out when Members gave it an unopposed Second Reading.
This question of ready-money betting is an example. Let me at once say that I have no quarrel or objections at all on moral grounds with ready-money betting or any other form of betting. I do not set myself out to be an arbiter on other people's morals. Whatever they feel about this that is their business and not mine. It seems to me that the case which the Joint Under-Secretary was arguing will not stand up. He pointed out, quite rightly, that two Royal Commissions had reported in favour of ready-money betting by post. If we had a Bill before us to legalise ready-money betting by post for all forms of betting which took place, that argument of the Undersecretary would be a very potent argument in its favour, and I hope that he would make it.
While it is true, as he says, that we ourselves are creating an anomaly by seeking to deal with a part of the betting panorama and not the whole of it in a single Bill, nevertheless, he cannot argue from the premises of the Royal Commission the case that one particular branch who may profit out of the benefits should 774 be favoured by an amendment of the law in this way.
I repeat what was pointed out by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) a little while ago, that one of the reasons the House gave an unopposed Second Reading to the Bill was that there was a clear understanding that this matter would be discussed and that there would be a disposition to go some way to meet the feelings of those who have strong feelings on this matter. If there had not been this undertaking, it is open to question whether the House would have given an unopposed Second Reading to the Bill, or. indeed, whether the Second Reading would have been given at all.
When I intervened earlier, I was trying to make a point which I hope to be able to show, now that I have the opportunity, was of relevance. I understand that there are certain forms of ready-money betting which, I suppose, if one assesses the moral value of different types of betting are the most innocuous of all types of betting—the little local pools conducted, not for the profit of individuals, or, in most cases, not mainly for the profit of individuals, but for the supply of funds for some public or semi-public purpose. These little ventures appear to be pursued now with greater vigour by the law than they were in the past.
What we are now proposing to do is to put profit-making organisations in a position of advantage by comparison with the local Roman Catholic association collecting money for a school, the local football supporters club collecting money for their football club, the local Conservative club, the constituency Labour Party and all sorts of institutions running these various types of lottery on the basis of 6d. a week. They will be in a worse position when this Bill is passed.
I have been told—although I confess at once that I cannot adduce any evidence on this point—by more than one club, and it would not surprise me if it were true, that the present drive against these small local collections of one sort or another has been initiated as a result of information laid by the pool promoters themselves. If that is true, it really is a quite disgraceful business that these people in order to increase their profits —
§ Sir C. Taylor
Is it in order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for an hon. Member to make allegations like this in the House? Surely it has been laid down by Mr. Speakers in the past that an hon. Member making an attack like this in the House of Commons must be responsible for the facts which he produces. This, I submit, is entirely hearsay evidence.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
I am not in a position to deal with the facts. An hon. Member who says whatever he does say is responsible for what he says.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I appreciate what has been said by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor), and I was choosing my words with the greatest care in order not to offend the sort of standard which he is putting forward. It seems to me that if I had said this was a fact and then was unwilling to give evidence that this was so, I might have been transgressing some standard. I am merely saying—and confessing at once—that I have no hard evidence that it has been said in many parts of the country that this is done.
§ Mr. McAdden
Does the hon. Gentleman not think that this is rather an unworthy attempt to make a smear of that character? Does he suggest that the pool promoters, whose annual revenue runs into millions of pounds, are seriously worried about the Church raffles in "Slow-on-the-Uptake "?
§ Mr. Mikardo
I only know that people capable of putting out the so-called ballot, which was roundly condemned throughout the whole of the Committee proceedings as being a deliberate attempt at deception and which was condemned even by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden), who appeared to be a friend of the pool promoters in every other respect— that people capable of a trick like that are capable of almost anything. I do not withdraw one word of what I have said. The fact remains, however, that if the Bill goes through with this Clause in it, these people who run these businesses will be in a position of advantage compared with any, or most, other forms of betting.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
It would be wrong if the hon. Member's last sentence went uncorrected. He will be aware, of 776 course, of the provisions of subsection (2, e) of Section 24 of the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934, which makes it a condition of a lottery, if it is to be made lawful under that Act, thatno ticket or chance shall be issued or allotted by the promoters except by way of sale and upon receipt of the full price thereof…In other words, in the case of lotteries, they are always cash transactions; and if they are to be legal, it is already an essential requirement in that case that they should not be credit transactions.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I was aware of the fact, although not of the subsection from which the fact derives, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for quoting it.
But not all these local schemes are lotteries, and some of them were run on a quite different basis until somebody jumped on them. I do not think the Under-Secretary would dispute that my last sentence was correct. As nearly as I can recall it, it was that the Bill going through with this Clause in it would put pools promoters in a position of advantage compared with those who organise other forms of betting. There can be little doubt that that is a fact.
I turn now to what the Undersecretary said about the difficulties which might arise if the Clause were omitted from the Bill, difficulties which might arise for the pools promoters in carrying out the obligations which we have laid upon them in the Bill to present statements of accounts in various forms at various times. As one who knows how these calculations are made and the processes that are gone through in order to make them, I say with great respect that what the Under-Secretary said is not true and that the elimination of cash betting would not add, and certainly would not add substantially, to the difficulties of the pools promoters in carrying out the obligations to make and publish certain calculations, which we have laid upon them in the Bill.
We have already agreed in the course of the Bill to give the pools promoters the right to prepare certain totals, not by taking actual totals but by sampling techniques, which, we all know, include a certain margin of error. We were told from the pools promoters in the Committee stage that the margin of error on 777 sampling techniques was lower than in adding up the totals. This is the most outrageous fairy tale I have heard since I heard "Cinderella" when a small boy.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I go so far with the hon. Member as to say that the story of "Cinderella" is less fanciful than the pool promoters' claim that there is a lower margin of error in statistical techniques than in actual addition.
However, I think no one will deny that there is a certain margin of error in the techniques which, for their convenience, during the Committee stage we permitted the pools promoters to use. That margin of error is substantially higher, in my judgment, than any margin of error which comes about from the possibility of default. As the Undersecretary told us. the overwhelming majority of pools investors—I am told that we must not now call them "wagerers" or "betters" —invest the same amount week by week, every week.
Therefore, it would be remarkable indeed if there were violent fluctuations in the total investment from one week to another, and very remarkable if there were such violent fluctuations that with statistical sampling the incidence of error through people defaulting from one week to the next made any difference whatever to the incidence of error that one gets in any event from statistical sampling. I am sorry that this is a little involved, but I am sure that the House is following it.
The particular process which the hon. Member mentioned was the calculation of total stakes. But stakes are stakes whether they are paid or not. Under the Bill, we have asked the pools promoters to declare at certain times and under certain conditions the total amount staked on a pool. We have not asked them to declare the total amount staked on the pool and paid. Therefore, it makes absolutely no difference whether there is cash or credit betting in this matter.
If the hon. Gentleman sends in twelve 6d. lines on the treble chance this week and he fills up a coupon and it is worth 778 6s., that is the amount which he has staked. It is just as easy for the promoters to add the 6s. to the total stakes on the treble chance whether the 6s. postal order which the hon. Gentleman sends with his coupon is in payment for this week's coupon or last week's coupon. It is no easier and no more difficult to do the calculations on cash betting than on credit betting. In that part of his speech which referred to this matter the hon. Gentleman was—I am sure, quite unwittingly—misleading the Committee. I see no valid reason why everything that is required of the pools promoters cannot be done just as well with this Clause out as with it in.
I find it a little difficult not to resent the suggestion by the Under-Secretary—he put it several times during Committee, and so did my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley)— that we must take the Bill holus-bolus or leave it; that if we want to make any amendment to one part of it, the other part will not work. We were told that many times, but not in any sense which convinced the Committee during the Committee stage.
If it were the fact now that we have either to take the Bill with everything the pools promoters want in it or to leave it, my own tendency would be to leave it. It is seriously open to question whether the Bill as amended—certainly with a ready-money betting Clause in it—does not make the lot of the investors worse than before the Bill is passed. True, it does something for them. As the Undersecretary has pointed out, it prevents the pools promoters switching from one pool to another; that was a valuable recommendation of the Royal Commission.
Aside from that, we have given—or, if the Clause remains, we will have given—the pools promoters everything for which they have asked. We have given them something for which no other form of betting asks. We have given them a cachet of respectability, because once the Bill is passed every pool promoter will advertise on his advertisements or coupons, "Licensed by the Liverpool City Council. Under inspection by the Liverpool City Council. Operating under the terms of the Pool Betting Act" They will all do it.
It will make the difference that it deludes many investors in the pools into believing that the pools promoters have 779 been put under some sort of effective control when, in fact, they have not. It will delude the pools investors into thinking, especially when they remember the ballot, that something has been foisted on the pools against the will of the pools promoters by Parliament acting in the interests of the pools investors. In fact, all that has happened is that Parliament has smugly given its blessing and put into statutory form something that the pool promoters do not mind having.
I do not think we should pass Measures of this sort without facing up to our responsibilities and without realising what we are doing. Therefore, I say that I do not believe the administrative tasks of carrying out the duties in the Bill are made more difficult if the Amendment is carried. I do not see any reason why we should give the pool promoters anything more than the considerable concessions we have made to them, and if this is pressed to a Division then I shall be very happy to vote for it.
§ Mr. Christopher Hollis (Devizes)
I do not feel really that this Clause can stand in so far as anything has been said in this debate. My hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State for the Home Department did not really answer the point of conscience that I feel important from my own point of view. I have no strong feelings or objections to gambling or to the pool system, and I do not object to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) attempting to bring it under legislative control in general.
The point of conscience with me is this. It seems to me that enormous moral harm is done in the country by the legislation for people's private habits making two actions which are essentially of the same nature, one legal, and the other illegal. The fact that the anomalies may be under different Acts is neither here nor there. The fact is that if this Bill passes with this Clause, the ordinary subject in the country will be able to fill up one sort of coupon and not commit a penal offence, but if he fills up another sort of coupon which appears to him to be of similar moral nature he will be committing a penal offence. That to me is an evil thing, and the kind of matter that brings the law into ridicule. We must start, therefore, with a bias against the making of this exceptional legalisation on one 780 particular form of activity as against another.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said that if we felt opposed to this Clause in the Bill's earlier stages, then the House should never have given it a Second Reading. That, again, is not an argument that is convincing to me, because when we gave a Second Reading to this Bill we imagined that something different was going to happen, and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park himself imagined that something very different was going to happen. At that time we understood that the hon. Member was extremely open-minded and had no particular preference for having Clause 10 in the Bill. Therefore, we had no reason to think that we should not be able to get Clause 10 out.
It is true that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary was rather more alarmed about the difficulty of taking Clause 10 out than was the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park, but it is the hon. Member's Bill and not the Government's. And so far from being convinced on that point by the Under-Secretary's speech that it was impossible to take Clause 10 out, I was assured by reading this in "The New Statesman and Nation" by the hon. Member on 20th February, just after the Second Reading:There is, I think, some substance in the argument that the pools should not be enabled to operate for cash, while all other off-course betting has to be on credit only. For this reason, I shall invite the Commons to delete, in Committee, the Clause of my Bill which, as at present drafted, would permit this.That should be enough, we imagined, to prove that though this Clause had been put there, it would not be there when we came to Third Reading.
Then we come to the Committee stage. I was not on the Committee which considered this Bill, but some hon. Members present were and it will be seen that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park was still very open-minded on this subject. He said:I merely say this to show that I have no marked preference whether the Clause stands part of the Bill or is deleted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 31st March, 1954, c. 138.]The fact that the House could support the Bill up till now does not make it at all illogical if we now doubt the value of going on with it, for we are now discovering at the last moments almost that 781 Clause 10 is said to be an essential part of the Bill. So far as I can see, there is only one real ground for keeping that Clause in the Bill, and I do not think that anyone will deny this. Whether my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary calls it an anomaly or not, there is something objectionable in this principle of having cash betting for this particular type of activity and for nothing else. The only serious argument for keeping Clause 10 in the Bill is that we are told that without it and this concession for football pools the whole thing is unworkable.
I do not know whether that is so or not. I have not the knowledge of these matters of the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) and I am not able to decide whether he or my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is right on that point. Quite frankly, I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Reading, South, because I was not convinced by the Under-Secretary in his reference to that matter. But as I say, I do not know enough about the workings of the pools to know whether it is so or not, but if it is so and if Clause 10, which up to now was thought unessential to the Bill is now essential to it, it changes the balance of the whole case for the Bill.
Obviously when we are dealing with such a matter as pool promoters, it is not a question of the absolute right or the absolute wrong of controlling them: it is a question of the balance of advantage. We are faced with the question whether it is on the whole to the advantage of society to give them this quasi-official status or not. It is a nicely balanced question. If we can only do it by granting to them this special privilege of Clause 10, then to my mind the balance of advantage turns against the whole Bill. If Clause 10 can be taken out and we can get on with the Bill, I am quite willing to support it, but if it is the Government's view and that of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park that we cannot have the Bill at all without Clause 10, then I think it would be better not to have the Bill.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Droylsden)
I think I ought to declare to the House that I have two prejudices on this subject of gambling and I should put them fairly at the beginning. First, as an old Calvinistic Methodist and Nonconformist, 782 I do not like betting in any form at all. There can be various points of view on that and the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), who comes from the same county as I do, has possibly different views from mine because he has travelled differently from me.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)
They do not have any pubs opened on Sunday in Wales, but they go in by the back door.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams
It would possibly do the hon. Gentleman all the good in the world if many more pubs were closed to him. However, that is becoming a little too personal, and I do not want to develop it.
In the face of that prejudice, hon. Members will know where I stand. I do not like gambling and I think that in the form in which it is developing now it is becoming a social evil which eventually this House may have to control in some form or another.
My second prejudice is that I do not like Littlewood's, Vernon's and the other big pool promoters because, in my opinion, whilst there is little to be said for the bookie, he does take a certain risk. These other people have not taken one single risk since they put the first coupons out and found mugs willing to fill them up every week. In the early days of these pools, I had a good deal to do with them in my postal service, and I came to the conclusion that they took advantage of every opportunity provided they were allowed a little bit of licence.
Having got that off by chest, I should like now to turn to this Amendment. I cannot exonerate hon. Members who were on the Committee for some responsibility for the fact that this Clause is still in the Bill. Both my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite must have had an opportunity to discuss this in greater detail and with greater technical information and data available than is available to the House today.
§ Mr. K. Thompson
That is a far-reaching statement. The hon. Gentleman ought to pay the House the courtesy, and give himself the satisfaction, of reading the report of the debates in Committee, which will explain exactly what happened.
§ Mr. Williams
I have just done that and all the guidance I got from reading it was that Clauses 9 and 10 were passed without any comment.
§ Mr. Williams
There is no need to go further into that aspect. It is clear that hon. Members could have gone to the extent of voting against this Clause if they had wanted to do so. It is no use coming here and saying, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) has said. "I did not get a chance."
§ Mr. R. Harris
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) has said that when he came to the Committee he would give further explanations. I wanted to hear them. It was no use my getting up before he spoke because I should not have been able to get up afterwards, since we cannot speak twice on a Clause.
§ Mr. Williams
This is the first time I have heard the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth saying that he has any reserve about himself at all. Whenever I have known him, he has been prepared to jump into the bath even before he knew there was any water in it. I am surprised to hear that he should come along now and say, "If I had only had the chance, if I had only been a little quicker on the uptake, if somebody else had only done it with me, we would have done what we are asking today" In my opinion, they would have done it much more effectively in Committee.
§ Mr. Williams
I should be out of order if I started cross-talk with hon. Gentleman opposite and so I will try to keep in order. Nevertheless, I am surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) should have allowed himself to be inveigled into this position. I am sorry now that I did not speak to him, because I had a premonition, based on experience, that once we had to start negotiating with these people, they would beat us in the long run, because they have all the resources 784 and so they will beat the individual. I support my hon. Friend all the way in his desire to get this Bill, although I shall not vote for this Amendment, because it should have been dealt with in Committee and not left until this stage. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
Before those interruptions from unruly hon. Gentlemen opposite, I was proceeding to say that I am surprised that my hon. Friend should have allowed himself to be inveigled by these promoters into introducing into his Bill something to look after the interests of the promoter and not of the investor. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) on that point. I remember well the elation felt by some of us when my hon. Friend was successful in the Ballot. He said, "I shall find out now what these people are doing, how they get their revenues, how they distribute their prizes. I am going to have a Bill."
Many of us wished that this had taken place years ago and we were behind him. We are sorry, however, that with this Bill, after starting:To regulate the disposal of moneys and to provide for the publication of certain accounts and information in connection with pool betting…my hon. Friend has said, "In order to get that information, in order to bring the pool promoters under the clear scrutiny of Parliament, I shall make it possible to give preferential treatment to the pool promoters over every other form of betting."
§ Mr. Williams
It is no use my hon. Friend shaking his head. Even the Parliamentary Secretary, dancing among the tulips this morning, accepted that. Indeed, I have never seen the hon. Gentleman so lightly—[An HON. MEMBER: "On tiptoe."] Yes, on tiptoe this morning. I do not know what he was advocating. I think he had come to the conclusion that he had to do something and so he went both ways. But even the Parliamentary Secretary, in that innocuous statement, made one point clear —that no other betting establishments in the country are in the preferential position of the pool promoters.
Why should we give them that preferential position? I have said that I do 785 not like betting, but I am not one of those who would try to prevent people from doing what they think they will enjoy and what they think is legitimate. I have no desire that anyone should follow me blindly in these things. But public opinion in this country will not like this Bill. People will not like it that in the course of this admirable Bill we have a Clause which will put the pool promoters in a preferential position over everyone else.
I had not thought of speaking when I came here today but I was handed a letter by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) from the Department of Christian Citizenship of the Methodist Church. Hon. Members will notice that it is the Methodist Church, not the Calvinists. It hoped that somebody here would oppose this in principle.
§ Mr. Williams
I do not know what the hon. Member for Croydon, East is talking about. I have tried several times to understand his interventions, but I cannot make head or tail of them. I know he is not speaking in Welsh and I cannot understand his English.
On behalf of this body, and on behalf of public opinion generally, I am expressing my objection to the fact that my hon. Friend should have compromised with these people on this issue of principle. [Interruption.] I do not know whether, on a point of order, I should ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether shaking from behind the Bar is permissible in this House when another hon. Member is on his feet.
I gather from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department that this Bill can survive if this Clause is deleted. I have not the technical knowledge of my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South on this part of the subject, but I gather that we can still have the main principles of the Bill and what some of us wanted from the beginning if this Clause is taken out. I shall listen with great interest, as no doubt will the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor), to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield. Park, whom I am asking specifically to deal 786 With this point. If this Bill can be saved without Clause 10, I hope that my hon. Friend will be big enough to tell us that in another place he will seek to remove the Clause.
§ Mr. Williams
I am going to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield. Park, who has been very diligent, and. unlike the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) has been very diligent and courageous with regard to this Bill and has said all he wanted to say not only here but in Committee as well. If my hon. Friend says that he will try to do something I will consider it seriously. In any event, I will support him, because I believe integrally in the main, original provisions of this Bill and I want to see my hon. Friend succeed with it.
§ Mr. Stephen McAdden
I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) because he said that in his view this was an admirable Bill, although he found fault with this Clause. Knowing his views on gambling, I presume that the things which he finds admirable in the Bill are the restrictions which are imposed upon the operation of pools by the promoters, the fact that they have to be registered and subject to the activities of the accountants, and so on. Nevertheless, he finds fault with Clause 10, the deletion of which has been moved pretty late in the passage of the Bill by my hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris).
All sorts of excuses can be and have been advanced as to why an attempt to delete the Clause was not made in Committee. I can understand that if my hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isle-worth did not know that he could speak twice on the Committee stage, he might have fallen into error, but I cannot believe that the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) is so unfamiliar with the rules of the House and of the Committee that he could not have found an opportunity to express the opposition to the Clause which was never manifested until now.
§ Mr. Mikardo
If the hon. Member wants to know the reason why—and I suspect that he does not—I did not think that this was one of the most objection- 787 able features of the Bill. That is why my name is not among the names of hon. Members who support the Amendment. I believed it became important to remove the Clause only after the Committee adopted regulations relating to publication of accounts which to my mind were totally unsatisfactory. After the Chairman had intimated that he wanted adequate notice, it was too late to give notice of an Amendment to remove the Clause, otherwise I think that I would have done so, although it was not one of the matters upon which I felt very strongly.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Mr. McAdden
I know exactly why the hon. Member developed late opposition to this Clause. It was because he had not had his own way. Not having had his own way and secured the kind of individual personal publicity that he was seeking, he has suddenly developed opposition to the Clause.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I do not want to make much of this, but the exception taken by the House to that last remark indicates what hon. Members think about it. I always understood, Mr. Speaker, that it was out of order for an hon. Gentleman to impute an unworthy motive to another hon. Member.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is certainly out of order for an hon. Member to impute to another an unavowed motive.
§ Mr. McAdden
If the hon. Member for Reading, South has taken my point wrongly, I willingly apologise, hoping that he is ready to apologise for some of the things that he said earlier. The point that I was making was that the hon. Member was seeking to secure publication of more personal information about the way in which the profits are distributed. If he thinks that I was referring to publicity which he personally was seeking, he has missed my point. He wanted disclosure of the amount individually received and it was to publicity on that point that I was referring. I am sure that the hon. Member accepts that explanation.
We are told that the effect of this Clause is to grant special treatment for football pools. It does not seem to be recognised by some hon. Members that 788 the whole Bill gives special treatment for football pools and imposes definite restrictions on the way in which this method of gambling can be conducted. If all the hon. Members who now speak against Clause 10 voted for placing in this Bill certain restrictions on the operation of football pools, the effect of which makes it necessary to retain a particular form of cash betting, it is now a little late in the day to come forward with all sorts of suggestions as to why the things that they voted for should be made unworkable on the very last stage of the Bill.
§ Mr. K. Thompson
We have repeated the point several times that the voting in Committee took place in an aura of assurances that this very objectionable Clause would be reconsidered at a later stage of the Bill, but it has not been reconsidered.
§ Mr. McAdden
My hon. Friend may try to make these excuses, but he voted for this particular form of restriction on the operation of pool betting, as did several other hon. Members who have taken part in this debate. It has been said that this idea of a person making a bet through the post and paying cash at the same time is something new. Nothing could be further from the truth. The large majority of the great newspapers of this country invite one to send cash with one's bet as to the order in which certain fashion pictures should be placed in the opinion of the judges. The crossword puzzle with alternative solutions is another example. It would be rather straining the truth to say that that kind of puzzle is not a form of gambling. This idea of betting through the post is conducted by many national newspapers, and anybody who suggests that cash betting is some new departure is not on all fours with the truth.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) said he did not understand the difference between pools and fixed odds pools, but there are no fixed odds pools. He said that he knows nothing about the operation of football pools. I would remind him that there is one of the largest in his constituency, and I should have thought that by now he would have knowledge of it. My hon. Friend was not at all right in suggesting that we said that pools and fixed odds 789 betting would all be conducted on the. same basis and that there would be none of these anomalies. Anomalies have existed for a very long time, but fixed odds betting is not subject to taxation, while pools betting is subject to 30 per cent, taxation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) enlightened the House by quoting the case of a pool bet which, if this Clause stays in the Bill, could be paid in cash, whereas a fixed odd bet would be illegal if paid for by cash. He said that the two are the same but are not treated in the same way for taxation purposes. It is not necessarily true that because two things appear on the same piece of paper they should be treated in the same way, or that they are the same thing. We can have fish and chips in the same piece of paper, but the fish is not chips any more than the chips are fish.
It has been suggested that the retention of this Clause permitting cash betting on football pools by post would encourage gambling. I do not subscribe to that view. I believe that if a person has to send cash he is less likely to indulge in extravagant betting than if he has the opportunity of betting by credit. I believe that view was held by the Royal Commission on gambling, which felt that cash betting had a restraining influence on the amount invested.
We were told by the hon. Member for Reading, South that we should not give preferential treatment to football pools as compared with the pools which were run by churches for very worthy objects. We are not giving any preferential treatment to football pools as against the pools run by churches. If a pool is conducted within the limits of the law, the churches can conduct it in the same way as pool promoters do. What the hon. Member had in mind is the operation of other forms of betting, sometimes called pools, which have been held to be an infringement of the Betting and Lotteries Act.
§ Mr. Mikardo
It is not only that I had in mind other forms of betting which the churches and others run, but that is precisely what I said. I did net refer to pool's but referred to lotteries and other forms of gambling.
§ Mr. McAdden
The hon. Member may have meant that, but I hope he will 790 take my word for it that in fact he referred to them as pools. There is no justification for bringing in that argument, because those other forms of gambling are held to be illegal because they are an infringement of the law as it stands, and this Bill will not in any way affect those things which are illegal at present.
I thought the hon. Member went a bit far in seeking to infer, not by any proof, but by dragging a smear across the thing, that the prosecutions initiated in different parts of the country are initiated at the expense of large pool concerns in the country. I thought he was going far. and I hope that on reflection he will realise that, just as he is entitled to resent things which reflect on his personal honour, those outside this House are also entitled to do that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) raised the question of anomalies which exist, and undoubtedly he is quite right. The whole aspect of our gambling laws is in a shocking condition. I hope that sooner or later the House will consider what action it is to take over the whole field of gambling. But that does not seem to be any valid reason for refraining from passing a Bill of this kind, admirable in its intentions, which was very carefully altered and amended during the Committee stage. I believe the Bill will do a very useful job in imposing supervision and control on the football pools.
If, as a part of the stricter control it imposes, it is considered necessary to have this Clause, do not let us reject the Bill merely because of the retention of this Clause, because already, as I have tried to indicate to the House, betting by post with cash is recognised in other forms of gambling which I have mentioned. I do not believe that those forms of gambling in which betting by post with cash is permitted should be restricted to national newspapers of this country.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I intend to intervene for only a few minutes, and I want to make it quite plain that I am speaking for myself alone. I wish to commend to the House the closing words of the speech of the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden). I think that bringing logic into the gambling laws 791 of this country is rather too big a task for this House on a Friday afternoon. I would not make any more controversial statement about it than that. I also hope that the time when we may have a chance of considering the matter as a whole may not be too far distant. Undoubtedly, the state of the gambling laws brings the whole of the law at the moment into contempt, and that is a thing which is always bad.
My hon. Friend the Member for Droylesden (Mr. W. R. Williams) said that he spoke as a Calvinistic Methodist and a Nonconformist. I also speak as a Nonconformist, but not as a Calvinist. In fact, the Calvinists distinguished themselves by burning one of the most distinguished members of my particular type of religion. Therefore, my hon. Friend will understand that when it comes to boasting about being a Calvinist I do not share his admiration for the person whose dreary theology gave his name to such people.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams
I do not know what my ancestors did to the ancestors of my right hon. Friend; possibly they did not burn enough of them. However that may be, my right hon. Friend might have added that, not only is he a Nonconformist, but a Nonconformist from Epsom.
§ Mr. Ede
And a very good place to come from, too. It has not always been easy to be a Nonconformist there. My hon. Friend's remark about the quantity of burnings that Calvinists did is strictly in accord with their known views on such subjects.
I suggest that, if we cannot have logic, we should try to have a little common-sense. I support the Clause because I believe, after the recommendations of two Royal Commissions on the subject that this particular thing should be legalised, that if we cannot deal with the subject as a whole, then we should do as much as we can along the lines of common sense.
I just do not understand what is the complaint of the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) about what happened in Committee. I have taken the trouble to read the less 792 than a column of the OFFICIAL REPORT containing what occurred on Clause 7. as this Clause then was, when my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) got up to fulfil the pledge which he gave to the House that on the Committee stage— [Interruption.] I have the column in front of me.
§ Mr. R. Harris
The column of the REPORT does not contain any photographs. If it did the right hon. Gentleman would see one of me standing up and trying to get my word in.
§ Mr. Ede
I often think that it would be an advantage if HANSARD was illustrated. It might make some of its columns a little more attractive than they occasionally are.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park got up on that occasion, and anyone who reads the REPORT must agree that he began to fulfil the pledge that he gave to the House. Then my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) suggested that no one had got up to oppose and, therefore, he did not quite see why it should be necessary to have a discussion on the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park wound up by saying:If there is unanimity in the Committee that the Clause should stand part of the Bill. I shall be glad to lot that happen."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B. 31st March. 1954, c. 138.]
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Gentleman is making some reflection on the conduct of the Committee because the Report continues:Question put, and agreed to.If the hon. Member was on his feet— I do not know who was the Chairman of the Committee, I think it was one of the hon. Members for Lewisham—I cannot help feeling that he would have been called. At all events there is nothing on the record that indicates the dissent of the hon. Member at that stage.
§ Mr. Harris
In that case I must explain that I shouted "No" as loudly as I could. I think I was the only one, and there was no Division. In that case there was something wrong with the conduct of the Committee. Everyone who was there knows that I shouted "No" as loudly as I could.
§ Mr. Ede
Really, I can leave that statement to the judgment of the House.
I suggest that the advice that was tendered to us by the Joint Undersecretary was perfectly sound, and that, on the grounds of common sense, in a part of the law where logic has long since departed from any expression in it, we should do well to bring this pan of the law into a state consistent at any rate with common sense so that the requirement which we are now going to make can be reasonably complied with. I say that because while I am advised that dropping the Clause would not make the Bill unworkable it would necessitate prolonged consideration of the Bill in another place in getting certain Amendments made which, in the absence of this Clause, would be necessary if the Bill is to be workable.
§ Sir H. Williams
Like the hon. Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams), I have never filled in a football coupon. I have occasionally had a ready-money bet at a race meeting, otherwise 1 should not mind which horse won. The last time I did so was under the auspices of the 'hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), and that was three years ago. I cannot be called very much of a racing man.
§ Mr. de Freitas (Lincoln)
It was not under my auspices, we both happened at the same time to be at the best racecourse in England, the Carholme, at the Lincolnshire Handicap.
§ Sir H. Williams
The hon. Gentleman did not seek to restrain me.
The attitude of many people on the subject of betting is a complete fraud. All sorts of people vote against national lotteries here, but I have seen them betting later on on the Continent.
It is interesting that what is known as the "hard-faced" Parliament in 1920, as it was called by hon. Members opposite —
§ Sir H. Williams
—passed an Actto prevent the writing, printing, publishing or circulating in the United Kingdom of Advertisements, Circulars, or Coupons of any Ready Money Football Betting Business.It is rather strange that this much higher-minded Parliament is going to be less rigorous than the "hard-faced" gentlemen of 1920, and that it is also going to repeal another Act of Parliament passed 100 years ago, an Act suppressing betting houses. That is going to be left out so far as this matter is concerned.
I am not certain whether that Act applies to the Crown. In the ordinary course of events, an Act does not do so unless it specifically says so. But, if it does apply to the Crown, all the elaborate arrangements made by the Postmaster-General every Thursday or every Friday —it is either one day or the other—to receive money for the purpose of football pools betting is probably bringing the Postmaster-General under the provisions of this Act, if the law were properly enforced.
The greatest beneficiary from football pools is not the promoters, because one-tenth of all the communications passing through the Post Offices of this country are in connection with football pools. The Post Office is the oldest of our nationalised industries, and it is being saved from bankruptcy by the football pools —that is one reason why the nationalisers are so anxious that this should go through.
We are frauds in this country about the question of ready-money betting. I remember once having tea with three most highly respectable ladies who were ardent church goers. It was the Sunday after Derby Day, and I ventured to ask them whether they had had "anything on." They rather shyly admitted that they had. I knew nothing about the facilities for betting, except on a race-course, and so I asked how they did it. One admitted that she persuaded the butcher's boy to put on the money for her. Another said she asked the grocer's boy, and the third said she asked the milkman's boy. I told them, "You are three dreadful women, you have committed two crimes. Not only have you engaged in ready-money betting, 795 but you have incited three poor innocent children to engage in a transaction of that sort."
I have a certain amount of sympathy with this Clause. I think it would be a good thing if it remains in the Bill, because it might force the hand of the Government. I should like to meet the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) at Epsom on—I think it is 2nd June, I never remember the date. I am not a patron of the Derby like the right hon. Gentleman. He is one of the privileged few who has the Royal Box at his disposal because of his connection with the ancient Borough. But he has never asked me to accompany him to the Derby, though I hope that some day he may.
§ Sir H. Williams
I hope that we shall not have to wait long for a change. The Royal Commission, presided over by a former right hon. Member for North Croydon, recommended that we should bring this matter out into the open. I think it would be much healthier if we had betting shops in this country where people could be seen by their friends and neighbours to go in and place bets, instead of having to hand bits of paper to policemen in the street—[HON. MEMBERS: "Policemen?"]—no, not policemen. I apologise to hon. Members for a slip of the tongue. I meant handing bits of paper to people in the street and being occasionally picked up by policemen and brought before a magistrate and charged with what is popularly known as "the rent of the street." It is so disgraceful that I hope we shall keep the Clause in this Bill and therefore ultimately shame some Government into taking action, because 90 per cent, of the population do it. I should not be a bit surprised if the Calvinists do not do it a bit on occasions.
§ Sir H. Williams
I am sorry, the hon. Member had just referred to his hon. 796 Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), and I thought that he said that he had received this communication from Cardiff. When he referred to the Methodists, I presume that he meant the Wesleyan Methodists —
§ Sir H. Williams
I did not know that the hon. Gentleman was one of the "Prims."
I hope that the nation will be shocked because we are such frauds about this subject. The filling in of football coupons is the only intellectual exercise of half the population. They spend a great deal of time in studying form and filling in football coupons, which is good for their brain. It is a much better occupation than betting on horses. I think this Clause should be kept in the Bill in order to shame the Government into doing something sensible about this matter in the future.
§ Mr. J. Langford-Holt (Shrewsbury)
I have listened to the whole of the debate, and one cannot help but detect, not only in our gambling laws but in the discussion, a certain amount of anomaly and illogicality. I might put myself in order by saying that I rise to support the Amendment to exclude the Clause because I support the principle for which the Clause stands.
The hon. Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) adopts a different attitude. He says that he disapproves of gambling but he does not set himself up as the judge or arbiter of what others should do. I gamble, though not excessively, with some interest from time to time, but like the hon. Member I do not think that we should set ourselves up as judges of what another person may think in his conscience about gambling. That is for him. If we feel that gambling is wrong, then it is for us, and us alone, in our own consciences to resist the temptation.
The Bill deals with football pools. I support the Amendment because the Clause seeks to put into a Bill on football pools a principle which is applicable to much more of our betting. As a Member of the Standing Committee, I plead guilty to having let the Clause go through without opposition or comment. During the Committee stage we had an Amendment 797 which, as far as I recall, was to the effect that the Measure should not apply to horses and greyhounds. My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State said that the Government had not got a great deal of objection to that Amendment because, broadly speaking, it was in accord with the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The Committee, I think rightly, turned that down flat.
The Committee said that if we were to alter the law on gambling, it should be done openly and on the widest possible basis as it affects all betting and gambling. It is sensible and logical that if we are to bet we should pay for the bet when we make it. We all know the temptation there is if one happens to be in a position either to write a cheque or to charge something up to an account in a department store. One probably buys something a little more expensive than if one had to pay cash. To pay for something a week later encourages a certain amount of dishonesty and probably extravagance as well.
The fact remains that the place to enact the type of legislation to do away with this sort of anomaly is not in a Bill such as the one before us. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) said that our laws on gambling were a fraud. I do not suppose that they are fraud: they are intellectual humbug.
§ Mr. Langford-Holt
I accept that amendment to my statement. Our laws on gambling make complete nonsense, as they have done for about 101 years. They are no better now than ever they were. It is true to say that if one judges between one team and another as to which will win, there is an element of skill; but if one says how many goals one team will make, then the matter immediately becomes a lottery, as was pointed out fey the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo). It is all right to say that West Bromwich will beat Shepton Mallet, but if I say that West Bromwich will score more than five goals against Shepton Mallet, that immediately becomes a lottery.
§ 3.15 p.m.798
§ Mr. Langford-Holt
Shrewsbury Town would beat anybody. Our betting laws are completely illogical. We tax them, but we do not officially approve of them. It is as though we were saying to somebody, "You can take the money out of my pocket, but for heaven's sake do so before the lights go on."
It has been said that two Royal Commissions have recommended that cash transactions should be made legal. In that case one cannot help wondering why such legislation has not been enacted in the many years during which those two Royal Commissions sat to consider the subject. I think it was Charles Dickens who once put into the mouth of one of his characters the words:The law is a ass.''In this matter, the law undoubtedly isa ass.I would ask my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary whether he does not take away from the debate on this Amendment and the whole of our discussions in Committee upstairs a strong feeling that many hon. Members on both sides of the House consider that it is high time that our laws on gambling and betting were amended. It is high time that the dust was blown off the reports of the old Royal Commissions and, incidentally, we should make sure that dust does not accumulate on the report of the latest Royal Commission. The Government would do well to bring up to date all the laws affecting betting and taxation.
§ Mr. Mulley
I should like to express my thanks to the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworrh (Mr. R. Harris) and the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) for introducing the Amendment, because it is only right that this question should be discussed. I shall ask the House to resist the Amendment and, if hon. Members will be good enough to listen to me as I have listened to all the other arguments which have been put forward, I hope to convince them that there is a substantial practical reason for the inclusion of the Clause.
I want to make it quite clear that this Clause was included in the Bill as originally printed and was not inserted at a later stage, and also that I believe in the purpose of the Clause and that when in Committee I indicated that I would be prepared to withdraw it, if there were 799 a lot of opposition to it, I did so for the obvious reason that a Private Member seeking to pilot a Bill through the House has no very strong powers. If there had been substantial opposition in Committee, I should have been prepared for the Clause to be dropped.
We ought at least to discuss the Clause on its merits, because the question with which it is concerned is a non-party one. I would ask those hon. Members who are concerned about anomalies and illogicalities to ask themselves if the present situation, whereby someone buys a postal order for his previous week's bet and posts it with this week's coupon, and probably does that throughout the football season, is not a rather absurd one. On that ground alone I should not argue that the Clause should remain in the Bill, but I must point out that it does remove some anomalies, even if it creates others.
If we thought that we ought never to put right any illogicality in law unless we could put the whole law concerned into spick and span order, we should never get anything done. The logical outcome of such an argument would be that we should never have bits and pieces of Bills; we should have one mammoth Bill that would put all the laws in perfect order, so that there would be no illogicalities at all.
Some hon. Members who have sought information on this subject have put forward arguments for deleting this Clause. I suggest to them that they are recommending the House to do something in relation to a subject about which they know nothing. It is no advocacy on their part to say that they do not understand pool betting but think that this or that should be done. The fact is that pool betting is quite distinct from any other form of betting, if for no other reason than because the division of the prizes or winnings is quite different
If one is making a bet at fixed odds, one does not require to pay the bookmaker any money. If one wins, one has paid if the bet was in cash. Otherwise, one has one's winnings and stake returned together. In pool betting one is required to pay the stake because the stake is part of the pool that has to be divided among the winners. That is a feature 800 of pools betting that was debated on Second Reading, and I do not want to enlarge on it now.
However, I would fortify my argument that pool betting is distinct by pointing out that it was regarded by this House as being distinct when the House decided to impose a special pool betting tax. That surely was because the House was of the opinion that there was a distinction between pool betting and other forms of betting. It is true that the tax was imposed when we on this side of the House were in the Government, but I have seen no inclination on the part of hon. Members opposite since they have been in power to remove this great anomaly and unfair discrimination.
§ Mr. Mikardo
My hon. Friend is absolutely right in saying what nobody who knows the least thing about it would deny, that there is a difference between pool betting and other forms of betting; but that is not the point, which is that the two different things are in competition with each other and that it is wrong to advantage one competitor against the other.
§ Mr. Mulley
If my hon. Friend will do me the courtesy of listening to the whole of my speech I may, perhaps, be able to persuade him. I listened to what he had to say, and I am sure he will wish to hear what I have to say in reply to the very substantial arguments he deployed.
Another argument against the Clause is that cash betting by post in the pools will encourage betting. I think it will not. There are two reasons why I think so. First, one has to get a postal order. If one forgets to get the postal order in time, one may not be able to place a bet. That is a small argument, but the other is that, as at present, people are obliged in honour to send a postal order the following week, whether they wish or not in that subsequent week to make another bet, there is a temptation, since they are sending money, to fill in another coupon as well. Indeed, the more honest one is the more likely one is to indulge in the practice.
I was rather shocked when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Heston and Isleworth, who moved the Amendment, rather suggested that people need not pay for a bet, and not bother about it 801 afterwards. That seems to me a laxity of morals, and I was surprised that that should have been said by the hon. Gentleman. The third and most effective reason why the Clause will discourage rather than encourage betting on the pools is that it will be necessary to pay the money when the bet is laid.
The hon. Member for Heston and Isle-worth suggested that one need not pay if one lost, and my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo), showed in Committee, a right and proper concern for the position of the small pools. He adduced many arguments to show that they would be in a disadvantageous position beside the big pools as a result of the Bill. It is a matter of fact rather than a matter merely of argument that (he Bill will restore some of that balance, because the big pools do not suffer very much from bad debts. They have a system of black listing amongst themselves, and, moreover, they tend to have customers who bet week by week. I have had many letters to show that the small pools that do not benefit from a system of that sort, are very much handicapped by bad bets. However, that is not the reason for the Clause. I state that as a matter of fact.
The ethics of the matter do not really concern us, because they do not affect this issue. However, I was brought up on very strict Church of England lines, and I was taught that it was wrong not only to gamble on credit but to purchase on credit. My mother, than whom no better Christian is living, would, I am sure, regard it as equally dishonest to buy groceries for which one has not the means to pay as to gamble without the means to pay for it. I cannot distinguish between buying groceries and buying bets on this basis.
I do not think any substantial ethical consideration is involved, nor do I think the Clause will increase betting. In fact, I think it will reduce betting. I concede that there might be an inducement to gamble in the case of betting shops, but this Clause does not make it possible for any pool firm to set up a single kiosk.
The main reason for the Clause is a practical one. Speaking from his great experience and knowledge of these matters, my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South said it would not make 802 Very much difference, but I think it will make a difference. I am happy to say that my hon. Friend has shown a keen desire to tie up the pool promoters as closely as possible, and I ask him to consider what sort of loophole he would be opening if he compelled them to conduct their business on a credit basis. On the one hand, we have the arguments about a certain percentage or about publication of figures in a certain form but, although I am not an accountant, I suggest that a bigger loophole is that no accountant appointed by a local authority would be able to check, week by week, the monies coming in and relate them to a particular week's transactions if credit betting were involved.
§ Mr. Mulley
Because the promoters would say, "It is true that statistically there may be only a few debts, but you cannot possibly check the monies coming in this week with any previous week's transactions because people do not always send their coupon in for the following week. People sometimes miss two or three weeks." The accountant could never say definitely that the monies received this week relate to the previous week's transactions.
§ Mr. Mikardo
That is so, but if the pool promoters can manage to make their calculations, surely the accountants can manage to check them.
§ Mr. Mulley
The House must take my hon. Friend's opinion or mine.
It is not impossible to have the Bill without this Clause, but in my opinion it will be a less effective Bill and it will lead to a great number of Amendments at a later stage. I therefore ask hon. Members who supported the Amendment to permit it to be withdrawn. If they are unable to do that, I ask the House to resist it.
§ Mr. Hollis
Apparently the hon. Member has changed his opinion since 20th February, when he wrote an article in the "New Statesman" I am not complaining about his having changed his opinion, but I think we are entitled to know what new argument he has learned which made him think this Clause should be retained.
§ Mr. Mulley
I am glad the hon. Member mentioned that point. I had a note reminding me to reply to it, but there were so many questions that, in view of the time, I thought I ought to curtail my remarks.
The main reason is that the need for the Bill in itself presents a difficulty. We did not know much about the inside workings of the football pools until the pool promoters came and raised various technical objections. I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South did not know about their Gallup poll procedure, otherwise we should have been shown the need for making provision for it in the Bill. We did not realise the practical difficulties until the Bill had reached an advanced stage.
I thought that this matter would have been settled in Committee, and a lot of what I have now said would have been said in Committee if hon. Members present, including several hon. Members who have opposed the Clause today, had raised those issues at that time.
§ Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)
Before we divide on the Amendment, should I be in order in asking the Undersecretary of State a question? Why is it that cash betting seems to be tolerated in Scotland? I have with me some newspaper advertisements on the subject. This relates very closely to the Amendment. because we are permitting cash betting with the pools whereas we are not permitting it with any other form of betting. It appears that cash betting, even though it may be illegal at the moment, is tolerated in Scotland. I have
§ here advertisements from a number of bookmakers, some of them English bookmakers, advertising cash betting transactions in Scotland. One sent to me by our former colleague Sir Alan Herbert is from the "News Chronicle" and he has written at the bottom," Invitation in the 'News Chronicle' to send unlawful ready money bets to Scotland. O Cadbury!"
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Pannell
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. In view of the fact that my hon. Friend has replied, are we to have another speech immediately following that speech?
§ Sir C. Taylor
I do not want to delay the House any longer. The Joint Undersecretary of State spoke very early in the debate and I had hoped to put this point to him before he spoke. I must say that, having considered all the arguments, particularly the argument put forward by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who goes to the Derby regularly, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot support the Amendment. I might add that I lived at Epsom for five years whilst at school and during that time I never went to the Derby because the school regulations did not permit it.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided Ayes, 69: Noes,6805
|Division No. 92.]||AYES||[3.32 p.m.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hastings, S.||Price, Henry (Lewisha[...] W)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Beswick F.||Holman, P.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Ross, William|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Russell, R. S.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Hynd, J. B. (Attereliffe)||Skeffington, A. M|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. C.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Speir, R. M.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Stevens, G. P.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E,)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Teeling, W.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||King, Dr. H. M.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Campbell, Sir David||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Viant, S. P.|
|Champion, A. J.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Channon, H.||McAdden, S. J.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Chapman, W. D.||MacColl, J. E.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||McCorquadate, Rt. Hon M. S||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Maude, Angus||Wellwood, W.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Mitehison, G. R.||Willey, F. T.|
|Doughty, C. J A.||Moore, Sir Thomas||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Moyle, A.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Follick, M||Mulley, F. W|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Page, R. G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Paget, R. T||Mr. Panned and Sir Charles Taylor.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Mikardo, Ian||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Kenyon, C.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)||Mr. Reader Harris and Mr. Hollis.|
|Langford-Holt, J. A||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Mulley
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
I am sure the House will not want me to spend very long on this Third Reading, but I should like to take the opportunity of thanking those who made it possible for me, despite the fact that I drew fourteenth place in the Ballot, to reach the present satisfactory position, although I realise we have quite a long way to go before the Bill has finished its course. In thanking hon. Members on both sides of the House who helped me with this Bill, I should like to pay particular tribute to my hon. Friends who were in charge of Bills preceeding this one. They have been most generous in allowing us to go ahead and get through the subsequent stages.
I should like also to pay my tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who has been very helpful throughout our proceedings, and also to thank the Home Secretary for placing the expert knowledge and great experience of his Department at my disposal, as well as giving me the assistance of the Parliamentary draftsmen without whom I am afraid this Bill would not be in proper legal form.
Finally, I should like to thank the Royal Commission on whose recommendations this Bill is founded. I hope, with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), that we shall have further legislation arising from its recommendation. It laboured a long time and it laboured well, but there has been very little public acknowledgement of its work. I should like also to thank the Press. A good deal of the public interest in this Bill has been due to the 806 excellent Press reporting of the various stages, and I should like to express my appreciation for the space the Press has been able to give to this very modest effort.
I do not propose to discuss the contents of the Bill, except to say that in a way the two criticisms of it kill each other. In the debate that we had previous to this one, it was alleged that it is now a pool promoters' Bill, but in the country it is thought to be a Bill that will kill the pools. Obviously, these two accusations are self-contradictory and, as is usual in these cases, the truth is to be found somewhere in the middle. This Bill is to regulate and to protect the honest pool promoters and their clients. I make no great claims for it, but I believe it is a step towards a more logical state of the law on betting.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Mr. de Freitas
I beg to second the Motion.
I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) on the work he has done on this Bill in Committee and in the other stages in this House. The Bill covers only a small part of the law relating to betting and gambling, and if other hon. Members are fortunate enough in the Ballot, I hope they will deal with other sections of the law in relation to this matter. I also support my hon. Friend because we are all agreed that there are many anomalies in this field. This Bill has done something to improve matters, and I am glad that my hon. Friend has had the success he has had today.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.