§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 2.27 p.m.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The casting of lots was, in ancient times, a frequent method of determining questions on which divine guidance was needed. Since those times, the history of lotteries has progressed by a series of stages, and lottery problems now, though theoretically simple, are full of practical difficulty.
Section 21 of the 1934 Act at present make all lotteries unlawful, subject to two exceptions. The first is contained in Section 23, which gives permission to promote a lottery which is incidental to such forms of entertainment as bazaars, sales of work, fetes, etc. There is a provision that the proceeds shall not be devoted to private gain, and other restrictions are that none of the prizes shall be in money, and that the tickets shall be sold only on the premises… and during I he progress of the entertainment.Those restrictions on this exemption from illegality are of very limited value indeed, and they have the disadvantage of only meeting the needs of very few organisations. It is also very easy to contravene the provisions of this exemption by such simple things as selling tickets away from the site of the entertainment and the declaration of the winning of the prize at some place other than the entertainment.
The second exempted form of lottery is what is called a private lottery, and that is the case of a lottery under the 1934 Act where the sales of tickets are required to be confined to certain categories—(a) members of one society established and conducted for purposes not connected with gaming, wagering or lotteries.815 It is that which is the very crux of the situation and of the difficulty which faces us today. I shall refer to that more fully in a moment.
The other people who may get the benefit of a private lottery are:(b) persons all of whom work on the same premises or(c) persons all of whom reside on the same premises,So it is quite clear that it is really on the first matter to which I referred, the "member of one society" that the private lottery at present depends.
The private lottery is lawful provided that the whole proceeds, after the expenses of printing etc., are devoted either to prizes or to the purposes of the society. There are requirements that no advertisements should be exhibited, except on the notice board in the society or on the ticket itself, and that the address of the promoter should appear there. The tickets—and this is an important matter—are not to be sent through the post.
In the last few years since the Royal Commission sat there has been an increasing use of the private lottery by members of football clubs, sports clubs, and supporters' clubs, to say nothing of important bodies like political clubs and charities, and the last few months have brought the situation very much to a head as a result of litigation that has taken place in connection with the prosecution of football supporters' clubs who have been alleged to have contravened the law.
There is, however, a very substantial difference between the views of the judges in what is now, I suppose, the leading case in the Divisional Court, Maynard v. Williams, which was decided a little over a month ago. In that case Lord Chief Justice Goddard, whose judgment supported the conviction in this case, contained the following words:What was the object of the promoters in running lotteries? It was to raise money for the purpose of handing it over to the football club; and if it was part of their business, as it clearly was, to raise money by lotteries then the society was established for the purpose of conducting the lottery.If that is the true legal position, it would appear that all bodies which run regular lotteries are running them illegally. 816 because under Section 24 of the 1934 Act the members would not bemembers of one society established and conducted for purposes not connected with gaming, wagering or lotteries.If the matter rested there, the situation would be simpler, but it is not as simple as that, because there was a judgment of Mr. Justice Devlin, who sat in the Divisional Court as one of the three judges. His was a dissenting judgment, and he put the position in this way:Very few societies exist merely for the purpose of raising funds; the raising of funds was done in pursuance of one or more of the society's objects. One must not lose sight of the fact that the object of the definition"—that is the definition in Section 24 (1) of a private lottery—was not to forbid a course of conduct but was to define a group. If the group came within Section 24 (1) it might hold as many lotteries as it liked. Of course, in one sense, every time that the club held a lottery it might be said to be conducting itself for the purpose of holding a lottery. If that were the right test of purpose it would make nonsense of the definition for it would be impossible to hold a lottery and remain within it"—which would mean that Section 24 (1), so far as the holding of lotteries was concerned, would be a nullity.
It is with the express purpose of trying to clarify this position that I invite the House to consider the Bill with a view to giving it a Second Reading. There are many supporters' clubs—clubs of supporters of professional football, amateur football, rowing and other sports, and political clubs, religious bodies, branches of the British Legion, and other organisations, which are doing valuable work and which may, in view of the decision of the Maynard case, feel unable to continue their lottery activities in spite of the estimable objects to which those activities are directed.
Although the Willink Commission made no specific suggestions for legislation to amend the 1934 Betting and Lotteries Act, it did indicate certain lines on which it might be possible to achieve some practical results. This Bill is founded upon those suggestions, with the additional provision of the requirement of registration by these voluntary and athletic societies with the local authorities concerned.
The objects of the Bill are to encourage compliance with the law, to discourage commercial and private gain through the 817 means of lotteries, to encourage private initiative in athletic and charitable organisations with a view to helping themselves financially, and, finally, to provide a simple method of ensuring that, in the event of failure to comply with the law, there is reasonably clear knowledge of when an offence has been committed.
Hon. Members will have read in the Bill the various requirements of these societies when registered with the local authority. I should be the last to suggest that these represent perfection, or indeed anything approaching perfection, but they are based on the suggestions of the Willink Committee, and if this House will give the Bill a Second Reading they will, of course, be open to amendment and discussion in Committee.
There are, however, two main matters to which I ought to draw the attention of the House because there may be some anxiety or misunderstanding in regard to them. The first point is in regard to the prizes which are limited by Clause 1 (2, c). They are limited to half the balance of the whole of the proceeds after deduction of such expenses as are incurred, which shall not exceed 5 per cent. In the case of a total lottery pool of £100, £5 will be the maximum for expenses. That will leave a minimum of £47 10s. for the purposes of the society and a maximum of £47 10s. for the prizes because in any event the prizes are not to exceed 50 per cent. of the net proceeds.
Another matter about which I ought to say something at this stage is that in this Bill it is proposed, for the first time, that tickets may be sent through the post to members of the society, but it expressly prohibits sending tickets to non-members of the society through the post. The obvious reason is that it would be a very great nuisance for non-members to receive tickets through the post from societies in which they have no particular interest. The Bill permits, without risk of illegality, the sale of tickets from members to non-members by personal contact.
In this country we have a habit of doing strange things. Very few people realise that it is illegal to sell somebody a ticket in a lottery related to a society in which one is concerned when the person to whom it is sold is not concerned with that society. I think it rather important that the law should accord with practice.
818 The Bill does not make it in any sense illegal for the ticket to be bought from somebody who is connected with a society by somebody who is completely unconnected with it, which at present would be illegal. When we realise that, on indictment, offences against the Lotteries Act may be visited with punishment to the extent of £750 and/or imprisonment for 18 months for a second offence, some of us might consider ourselves quite fortunate not to have been prosecuted for those offences.
A minor advantage in the Bill to which I ought to refer is that the Willink Commission complained quite definitely about the absence of any information in regard to the amounts or natures of various lotteries. There is little doubt that if registration with local authorities comes into force we shall then be able to compile statistics which will enable us to know exactly what the situation is.
While speaking of local authorities, I wish to refer to Clause 2 (2). By that Clause, a local authority can refuse to register a society under two circumstances. The first circumstance is where there has been a conviction for a gambling or lottery offence. The second is where the society is not either a voluntary or an athletic society under the terms of the definition in the Bill. That gives the local authority a substantial and proper interest in the matter. If the decision of the local authority is not accepted, there can be an appeal to quarter sessions.
The essence of the Bill is that it is local in effect; it does not visualise any large lotteries all over the country, but seeks to legalise beyond peradventure the activities of local bodies which are interested in their own local concerns. I have taken the opportunity of consulting the Churches' Committee on Gambling and discussed with it the questions involved in this Bill. The Churches' Committee was good enough to state publicly that it appreciated the desire on my part to regularise the position, which is admittedly in need of clarification.
The Committee felt unable to commend the Bill for the following reasons. The first was thatAt a time when restraint and control is needed in dealing with the problem of gambling this Bill would undoubtedly give further opportunities for gambling.819 As the Bill involves only small lotteries, with small-priced tickets and small prizes, and run without a personal profit and for the benefit of estimable objects, I suggest that it would be hardly fair to say that it gives any considerable further opportunities for gambling. If a man wants to gamble, and the bug has entered into him, I am sure he would find it more remunerative, interesting, and exciting to indulge in pools betting than ever he would in paying a Is. in order to win a prize in a local lottery.
§ Sir E. Errington
I have taken part in the Ballot which has produced this Second Reading debate. I was successful in that particular gamble. I hope the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) will also be successful with his Decimal Currency Bill.
The second point made by the Churches' Committee was:The Government has a recommendation from the Royal Commission before it and they are unwilling that the matter should be dealt with piecemeal.I think it has been said already today that merely because one cannot do the whole thing it is no good doing nothing. It is a very serious matter for some of the small sports and voluntary societies that they do not know exactly what their legal position is.
Fortunately, the lottery portion of the gambling and wagering position is really confined in a limited compass. As many hon. Members will know, the questions that arise on betting are very technical, but the situation regarding lotteries, as I hope I have made clear, is not nearly so complicated and is susceptible of being dealt with by the methods of the Bill.
The Churches' Committee was also against the introduction of the Bill on the ground that the Royal Commission recommended no change in legislation in regard to lotteries. The Royal Commission examined the situation, and although it did not make any specific recommendations in regard to lotteries, it did put forward a suggestion of possible lines on which legislation could be passed in regard to them. I hope that the effect of 820 the Bill will be to carry out more or less those suggestions, with the addition, which was not in the Royal Commission's recommendations, of registration with the local authority. I think it would be agreed that that is a valuable addition to the procedure for dealing with these small lotteries.
The final point made by the Churches' Committee was that the Bill allows members of a registered society to sell tickets to those who are not members of the society. The Churches' Committee must be very out of touch with affairs if it thinks that this has not been going on to a considerable extent for a very long time.
To sum up, everybody in the country, or every decent person, respects other people's conscientious views, and it is known to us all that there are people who consider even a small gamble or lottery, with a shilling ticket, and for a very good purpose, to be wrong. Their opinion is to be respected, and I hope that I shall always respect their opinion, but in regard to the Bill I invite the House to consider, on the balance of justice and practicability, that the balance is in favour of suitably-controlled lotteries, which discourage the commercial element and encourage the element of personal effort.
I do not claim perfection for the Bill. but it is a genuine and not too complicated attempt to regularise a situation which at the moment is full of legal doubt, and which places perfectly innocent and otherwise law-abiding persons in the situation of unintentionally committing offences which are punishable by a fine and even, in certain circumstances, by imprisonment. It discourages the commercial element in lotteries, and it encourages those people who are prepared voluntarily to put themselves to some trouble and effort to help the small clubs and voluntary societies in which they themselves are interested.
§ 2.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
I beg to second the Motion.
I would first congratulate the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) on utilising his good fortune in our own little House of Commons lottery to promote a Bill of this kind, and also congratulate him on the very clear and full exposition of its provisions. It will be 821 conceded that in a matter of this sort, in which a number of people—a small but nevertheless important number—hold strong convictions against the Bill, it takes courage for an hon. Member to promote it in this House.
I shall be very short, because the Bill produces a little reason into the chaos of our betting laws and as such ought to be supported by every hon. Member. I also would like the House to proceed to the other remaining Bills—or, at least, some of them—because I think that every Private Member who secures a place in the Ballot ought to have the opportunity of putting his Bill before the House.
§ Mr. Mulley
I hope, therefore, that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
This is not the first time that the House has considered this subject. I raised the matter in an Amendment to the Finance Bill last year when there was a considerable debate. Then, towards the end of the Session, the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Barber) introduced a similar Bill under the Ten Minute Rule and the House gave him unanimous leave to proceed to a First Reading. This is not, therefore, a new subject to the House.
The need for the Bill arises only as a result of the different interpretation of the law in recent months by the police. The surprising thing is that the opponents of the Bill, or the people who, I suspect, will oppose the Bill, never ventured to bring Measures before the House or to criticise the existing law as it was when the kind of lotteries that we now hope will be possible under the Bill were every day being conducted, because no one at that time thought that there was anything wrong with that kind of lottery. The only substantial objection that I can see to the Bill is the fallacious argument that it might increase gambling.
Like the hon. Member for Aldershot, who introduced the Bill, I respect the conscientious views of people who are opposed to gambling. The same people opposed the introduction of ready-money betting in the Bill that I was fortunate enough to promote last year and said that that would increase gambling. As far as statistics are obtainable, the fact is that since 1st January the volume of 822 pool betting is going down. I suggest that a controlled Measure of this sort would not in any way increase the total volume of gambling. Indeed, the promoter of the Bill has been careful to put perhaps too many safeguards in the Bill to make it completely hedged round with restrictions to meet the kind of objections that some of the church people have raised to the Bill.
§ Mr. J. Hudson
Is my hon. Friend arguing that pool betting has been reduced by the introduction of his Bill?
§ Mr. Mulley
I should be out of order to pursue that now but, to give a very short answer, I would say "Yes."
I appeal to hon. Members who are opposed to the Bill not to resort to the tactic of talking it out. I know that it is perfectly legitimate—
§ Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)
On a point of order. Is it in order to accuse us, because we want to express our opinions in this House, of trying to talk out the Bill?
§ Mr. Speaker
I did not think that what the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) said carried any imputation with it.
§ Mr. Hudson
Further to the point of order. It was stated that hon. Members who are likely to oppose the Bill will be doing so in order to talk the Bill out. If that be so, does it not imply, Mr. Speaker, that you should have ruled against the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington), who himself may have contributed to the Bill being talked out by the length of his speech?
§ Mr. Speaker
I have heard Bills talked out before. I do not think it would shock the conscience of the House if that were to happen to any Bill. What the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park meant was that he desired a decision from the House and did not want the matter to be dealt with in any other way.
§ Mr. Mulley
That was the point that I was about to make. I was also about to say that the traditions of the House permit a Bill to be talked out. and I should have no objection about that, but I am sure that a distinction may be drawn between the conduct of an hon. Member who happens to be on his feet at 823 four o'clock and remains on his feet and someone who participates in the discussion between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The point I was making was that to talk out a Bill does not indicate a very high moral standard. If someone wishes to oppose a Bill because he wants to raise the ethical standards of the population, it might be worth his while bearing in mind the old saying that sometimes example is better than precept. I will say no more than that.
§ Mr. Follick
If talking a Bill out is not worthy of this House, objecting to a Bill going into Committee is surely much worse.
§ Mr. Mulley
I think I have already said enough to make my views on the talking out of a Bill clear in this case. Those who want, for very worthy reasons, to raise the standards of human conduct cannot know very much about the human nature they want to improve if they think that someone who has no interest in the cause that he is assisting will gamble one shilling to win £100.
§ Mr. Horace E. Holmes (Hemsworth)
Is my hon. Friend entitled, Mr. Speaker, to try to measure our intelligence in that way?
§ Mr. Mulley
I was not aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth had any objection to the Bill. I shall certainly have to reconsider my views if he is later going to tell us what his objection is.
It is ludicrous to suggest that people who have no interest in the organisation concerned will pay 1s. to win £100 when they know that at least half the proceeds will go to a certain cause. I suggest that the only people who will participate in the lotteries permitted under the Bill will be those who are really interested in the sports club, church or social organisation promoting the lottery, to which, by law, at least half the proceeds must go.
One can say—I agree with the view—that it is a pity that football clubs and other organisations have to resort to means of this kind for raising money, but if one says that one is ignoring the realities of the situation. Many foot- 824 ball clubs, county cricket clubs and other organisations cannot continue to function unless they can raise small sums of money by this means. As that is the actual situation, we must take the world as we find it.
Many people who have high moral standards have managed to persuade the great majority of the population to conform to those standards, and I have no objection to their continuing to try to raise standards, but I would point out that no one is obliged to buy a ticket under the provisions of the Bill unless he wishes to do so, and in the interests of letting people do what they want to do, I commend the Bill to the House.
§ 3.3 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)
In view of what I have to say, I think it might be for the convenience of the House if I were right away to state the Government's attitude to the Bill.
First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) upon his success in our Ballot and also upon his speech and the way in which he advanced his arguments in favour of the Bill.
The purpose and effect of the Bill is to enable certain types of lottery to be conducted with more freedom than the law at present permits. That is to say, the Bill somewhat extends the field which is legally permissible for those who wish to raise money by means of lotteries for what one might call good causes. The Bill raises some extremely important issues, and I believe that is recognised in all parts of the House, whatever views hon. Members may take about its merits. The issues are social, administrative and moral. The moral aspect of the Bill is such that the Government's view is that hon. Members should be entirely free to vote one way or the other according to their consciences.
My remarks are therefore not intended—and I mean this quite sincerely—to influence hon. Members one way or the other. What I have to say is intended to put before the House the main considerations which we should bear in mind in coming to a decision, the considerations which have, in fact, been put to the Home Secretary by those who are concerned.
825 The main argument against the Bill is that it is wrong to create any additional opportunities for gambling. I use the word "wrong" deliberately. That is a fundamental and moral objection to the Bill. The same kind of objection can, of course, be put forward on a rather lower plane. That is to say, it can be argued—on the same kind of considerations—that it is undesirable on social grounds that the Bill should be passed. The reasons are that it will enlarge the opportunities for gambling and those who argue in this way will no doubt maintain that gambling is a social vice and opportunities for it should not be enlarged.
The point can also be put that the Bill is intended to legalise or enlarge a particular type of gambling and that it is objectionable to link this kind of gambling with things which everyone regards as good, such as the furtherance of sport, or some other good cause, because it will reach people, if "reach" is the right word, who would not otherwise be tempted to gamble. That is the way the case against the Bill has been put.
There is a further objection.that the legalisation of lotteries on a wider scale will, of course, facilitate the raising of money for deserving purposes, and that that will necessarily reduce, or tend to reduce, the amount of support forthcoming by voluntary subscriptions and in other ways. I have tried to put those considerations to the House quite fairly. They are considerations which have been put to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary and they are certainly important objections of principle.
There are also practical objections to the Bill. I do not need to trouble the House with those now. Hon. Members will be familiar with the Report of the Royal Commission and, in particular, with paragraph 399 which sets out some practical objections. Against those objections it is argued that the extension which the Bill proposes is strictly limited. That was the case put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot. It is argued that this kind of gambling has no comparison with other forms of gambling—from the point of view of extent and objectionableness—which are now perfectly legal, for example, gambling on football pools.
826 It is said that it is quite ridiculous to allow pools, whose purpose is commercial profit, but to forbid lotteries for charitable and other good causes. On this issue I think that it is right to draw the attention of the House to what the Royal Commission said. It said quite explicity:We are not convinced that the social consequence of such developments…That is to say developments of this kind—so far as the encouragement of gambling is concerned, would be very serious….In other words, the Commission did not raise objections on those kinds of principles to what is proposed.
The most important arguments in favour of the Bill are those of a practical nature. It is said that the existing law is difficult to enforce, that the existing law is not in practice strictly observed and that the existing law is enforced differently in different parts of the country. No doubt there is a great deal of force in those objections.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
My hon. Friend has also made that point. The Bill is intended to provide a new kind of machinery for regulating the conduct of lotteries which it is hoped will make the law more certain, as my hon. Friend said more easy to understand, more in accordance with public opinion and capable of being enforced with uniformity all over the country.
I should tell the House that in the view of the Government the provisions of the Bill form a practicable scheme. I am not now arguing on the merits of the matter, but I think it right to tell the House that the Bill does amount to a practicable scheme. Looked at from the point of view of administration, as the Government are bound to look at it, these arguments too have very considerable weight. Therefore, I suggest that the question which the House ought to decide now is whether these practical considerations outweigh the objections of principle which I first mentioned.
That is what the House has to bear in mind, and on that issue individual Members are as well acquainted with the facts as I am, and I ask hon. Members if they will assess as between those two considerations what is the right course to take.
§ 3.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I have heard some peculiar speeches on a Friday afternoon in this House, but the one we have just heard goes immediately to the top of the list. In my younger days, when debating societies flourished more than they do today, one used to be able, as a member of such a society, to go to a bookseller and for about 3s. 6d. get a book that was called either "Pro and Con" or "Both Sides of the Question." Then it all depended on which side of the debate one was to which page one turned.
The hon. Gentleman has read both pages of the book and has then come to the House and said, "Well, a lot of you think it is evil, but at any rate it will work." The practicability of evildoing seems to me to be a new doctrine to be enunciated from the Home Office. I think that we are entitled to something better from the Government. This Report has been in the hands of successive Governments for three years, and certainly before I left the Home Office—
§ Mr. W. Nally (Bilston)
The Report of the Royal Commission has been issued much longer than three years. It was published in 1951.
§ Mr. Ede
No, until it is killed by the Government, it is still alive.
We might have heard a little more about the attitude of the Government towards the general issue, for, failing that, we may have a succession of Bills year after year dealing with this matter from one aspect or another which would probably make the law on the subject even more complicated and difficult to follow than it is now.
As we now know that at least the Government regard the scheme as practicable, I hope that this Bill will be sent upstairs so that it may be examined. I will not go further than that this afternoon, because I am not prepared to follow the line taken by the Joint Under-Secretary about the moral issue.
When trying to define gambling, where it starts and how far it goes, I generally find myself in pretty deep waters. I do 828 not deny that on occasions—quite apart from trying to assess the relative speeds of horses carrying different weights or with different trainers and jockeys—most people who think gambling the height of wickedness indulge in things which indicate that they are prepared to take a chance when the time comes. Even walking across the road is something of a gamble in these days.
I hope, therefore, that this Bill will be sent upstairs; that these matters may be dealt with and that the moral issue may be postponed until we see how far it is practicable to control such evil as the Joint Under-Secretary apparently seems to think exists. This may be the first result of having a Welsh Nonconformist at the Home Office.
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ Sir Harold Roper (Cornwall, North)
I desire to support the Bill, and I am glad to hear at least a limited support from the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede).
The necessity for this Bill undoubtedly arises from the wide use of lotteries for financing football clubs and other athletic clubs. Technically they may be lotteries, but in my view they are morally harmless, and are much more a means of supplementing subscriptions to such clubs. People who buy tickets in these lotteries are supporting the club first and anything which may come to them in prizes is a secondary consideration.
In my constituency, a number of inns collect money for the blind in various ways. They compete with each other in raising money for the National Institution for the Blind. This is a very estimable object, and arouses considerable interest amongst those who frequent these inns. One country inn, called "The Barley Sheaf"—what a delightful name!—a few months ago planned to hold a harvest festival. The neighbours were to present produce such as eggs, potatoes and apples, and, following the harvest festival, the produce was to be raffled for the benefit of the blind. The police stepped in and said, "If you do this thing, we shall prosecute." I trust that hon. Members who have moral objections to lotteries will appreciate what they are doing when they oppose such admirable purposes.
When the good lady who was the proprietor of this inn came to me in connection with the matter, I said, "Why can- 829 not you auction the produce?" Her reply was, "We do not want to auction it. Auctioning it means that only those people who can afford it can bid. We like our 3d. and 6d. tickets. It spreads the interest. Everybody is then given the feeling that he is supporting the National Institution of the Blind." It is because I feel that the Bill provides a framework within which this kind of lottery can be made legal that I have much pleasure in supporting it.
§ 3.22 p.m.
§ Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), I found it a little difficult to follow the Joint Undersecretary as he attempted to put the arguments for and against the Bill. I also found it difficult to follow the logic or reasoning of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields when he likened crossing the road to gambling. After all, before we cross a road we can look both ways to see whether any traffic is coming, but when we buy a ticket in, say, a lottery on the St. Leger, we have no idea what horse we are going to draw. I do not think that an analogy can be drawn between the two.
To me, and, I hope, to most of the few Members who are present this afternoon, it is a matter for deep regret that, by the fortunes of the Ballot, the very worthy Bill which my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) was hoping to introduce has found itself in third place. Her Bill was designed to confer some benefits upon certain injured members of the community who very much need our help.
§ Mr. Wilkins
I know. I am going to make a suggestion, and if my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Park (Mr. Mulley) will be a little more patient, I shall suggest ways and means whereby my hon. Friend's Bill may be given a Second Reading. I appeal to the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) to provide the opportunity for my hon. Friend to introduce her Bill by withdrawing this one.
I was very interested in the disarming—I was going to say almost plausible—way in which the Motion for the Second 830 Reading of the Bill was proposed. This was said to be a perfectly innocent thing. All it set out to do was to legalise something which is at the moment illegal; in other words, because wrongs have been committed for so many years, the argument was that it is nearly time that the House of Commons put the matter right by legalising them.
I think it is nearly time that the House of Commons accepted its responsibilities and dealt with the whole of the legislation which relates to betting, lotteries, and gaming. It is true that, even around the House, and from hon. Members of this House, one frequently hears it said that no Government will attempt to do this job because they have not got the courage to do it. I would be the first to agree that there are probably anomalies in our law which ought to be corrected. The House of Commons, which can impose the responsibility upon its Members of making a decision on probably the greatest moral issue of our time—capital punishment—ought not and should not withhold placing some responsibility on its Members simply to amend or alter the laws on betting, lotteries, and gaming.
I would not for one moment suggest that the law relating to betting and lotteries is not in need of such scrutiny, and I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will reconsider the attitude which he has expressed to the House this afternoon, and will agree that it is not in the best interests either of the country or of the Legislature that alterations to these laws should be made by these nibbling, piecemeal methods which are now being tried. After all, this is the second occasion upon which we have had a Bill which seeks to do something in that way.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
When we had the previous Bill, I made exactly that point, and told the House then that, if it accepted that Bill, it must be on the basis that there was a risk of that.
§ Mr. Wilkins
I am sure that the House would welcome any suggestion from the Government for the giving of an opportunity for fuller consideration of the whole of the betting laws.
I want to say something about the Royal Commission's Report, to which I think no reference was made by the promoter of the Bill, and which was referred 831 to only in an indirect way by the Joint Under-Secretary.
I say at once that those of us who find ourselves in opposition to the Bill—and, after all, I would remind my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park that he is not the fount of all wisdom, and does not know the minds of all the people in the country—have obtained advice from other quarters. We have been surprised at the amount of correspondence we have received from Anglicans, who, although interested, are not usually the people who express their viewpoint to us in writing. We have had some advice from other sources, in the same way as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park obtains his information.
I suggest to the House that the Bill is, in fact, an important departure from the previous legislation which has applied to betting, lotteries, and gaming. It flings the doors wide open for great advances in the application of lotteries. It changes the whole trend of legislation because it will make possible, for the first time, public lotteries, as distinct from lotteries run by societies or organisations.
Not even the promoter of the Bill would deny that it makes possible the selling, by football clubs and other organisations, of tickets all round their grounds, and that there is nothing to limit the number of tickets bought by an individual or the number of £100 prizes offered. There would be the widest scope for the enlargement of the present position.
I noticed that the hon. Member for Aldershot was careful not to advise the House of the principal findings of the Royal Commission, which laboured for nearly three years to provide material for this House on which to base future legislation or amendments of the present betting, lottery, and gaming Acts. I invite the hon. Member to give attention to that part of the Report which deals with the proposals which he has placed before the House, some of which follow the suggestions of the Royal Commission.
In page 121, paragraph 396 of the Report states:We have given considerable thought to the problem of producing a set of conditions which would permit a limited extension of these types of lottery to all persons who might reasonably be supposed to have an interest in the cause for which the lottery is promoted, while at the same time fulfilling the requirement that 832 the limitations imposed by the law should be enforceable and appear justifiable.Here is the conclusion:We have come to the conclusion that no such conditions can be drawn up and that the only choice is between leaving the law as it is and legalising small-scale lotteries in which tickets may be sold to the general public.More important than that is the paragraph previous to the one which was quoted by the Under-Secretary. In paragraph 398, the Report said:Even with these restrictions"—the restrictions are essentially the proposals which the hon. Member proposes to incorporate into the Bill—there would be an increased danger of the promotion of illegal lotteries for the purposes of private gain and the expansion of private lotteries to undesirable proportions; for example, the fact that lottery tickets could be sold legally to any member of the public would enable large organisations with a number of local branches to arrange for the promotion of lotteries on a national scale.
§ Sir E. Errington
At the time the Willink Commission made its Report it had not in mind the importance—and it is very important—of registration with the local authority, on certain conditions. Very largely, the points in paragraph 398 are covered by registration with the local authority.
§ Mr. Wilkins
I accept that explanation of the hon. Member. I admit that he is trying, so far as it is possible, to bring the terms of his Bill within the terms of the recommendations, and I am hoping to show that the recommendations were not by any means conclusive, and that they had a qualification which neither he nor the Joint Under-Secretary of State thought fit to bring to the notice of the House this afternoon. Frankly, I think that they ought to have done so, and, because they did not, I feel that it is my responsibility to do it for them.
Paragraph 399 of the Report, which the Joint Under-Secretary quoted, states:We are not convinced that the social consequences of such development, so far as the encouragement of gambling is concerned, would be very serious, but we recognise that there are other objections"—The Joint Under-Secretary did not complete that sentence; he even stopped at a comma. It goes on to say:… to any extension of the existing law. In the first place, the methods suggested for the control of small lotteries open to the public are necessarily complicated and it would be optimistic to assume that the conditions 833 proposed would be observed any more strictly than are the conditions prescribed by the present law. Secondly, the police would probably have even greater difficulty both in ensuring that genuine lotteries were conducted in accordance with the law and in suppressing lotteries promoted for private gain. Finally, we have formed the impression that despite the present restrictions on the sale of tickets, small and private lotteries used as a means of raising funds for some local object are already something of a nuisance, particularly in the weeks before Christmas, in the way that charity collections were before steps were taken to regulate them.Finally, I will draw the attention of the House to what I believe to be in this regard the most powerful of all the conclusions which were come to by the Royal Commission when it considered this matter, because it did not in fact suggest that the possibilities which it had set forth were the most desirable way of dealing with this matter. It said:We conclude, therefore, that any proposal for the extension of the scope of these types of lotteries would be likely to have awkward drawbacks which are at least as great as those attaching to the existing law…. We are forced to the conclusion that we cannot recommend any change in the law.Why did not the hon. Member, when he was putting this Bill before the House, explain to us—
§ Sir E. Errington
I thought that I had made it perfectly clear that I considered that the contents of my Bill were an advance on the findings of the Commission, and that was the reason I did not explain.
§ Mr. Wilkins
That is a matter of opinion, and, of course, one has the right of opinion as to whether or not it is an advance.
I think that in some ways the Bill—I hardly like to use this word, but I cannot find a more apt one at the moment—is really rather blatant. It does not even call in aid the sacred name of charity in the way which I have paraphrased before, by saying, "Oh, Charity, how many crimes are committed in thy name." It is often used as a blind or smokescreen behind which one can do something which, in the ordinary way, one would not be able to do.
I conclude with this thought. According to the latest figures that I have been able to obtain there is now an annual turnover in relation to betting, lotteries, or gaming of about £750 million a year—a Vol. 537 834 larger sum than some of our pre-war Budgets. I admit that many of the objects mentioned are worthy, but if there was subscribed to them only 25 per cent. of that annual turnover of the betting industry the present needs of many of those objects would disappear and would need no support whatsoever from this means.
We always feel very deeply on these things. Fortunately, this House is a free institution where, especially on subjects such as this, we can express our point of view. I agree that in this connection our laws need some examination, and possibly amendment, but I hope that the House will think that that should be done by the Government of the day in a wholesale way, and not be attempted in the piecemeal or nibbling way which we now see from time to time by means, particularly, of Private Members' Bills brought before the House.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I am delighted that the Government spokesman has said that we can vote in accordance with our consciences, because I have not the slightest doubt that that is what we should all have done without that guidance from the Front Bench. This is clearly a matter upon which everyone will vote according to conscience on the facts reported.
I have had considerable experience in dealing with lotteries from the legal point of view, in advising when a lottery is and is not, legal—and in making foul profit out of that advice—and finding it extremely difficult to find my way through the present labyrinth of legislation. It is rank hyprocrisy to say that this Bill will lead to further opportunities for gambling. There is no evidence to support that. That there is the vast turnover in gambling mentioned by the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) is itself evidence that this is going on now, and that this Bill is a pure matter of machinery. Whether it be the right machinery, whether the problem should be dealt with comprehensively or not, is a serious matter of debate.
§ Mr. Wilkins rose—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I would rather not give way as I wish to be brief.
There is bridge. All over the country there are people playing bridge and no 835 one has determined whether or not it is a lawful game. There are masses of old ladies dependent for their pleasure on whist. In my constituency that pleasure was nearly stopped the other day because of the prizes. At the church bazaar we have Bingo and Tombola. Is there any difference between that form of lottery and that mentioned in the Bill? Really, on the facts it is not so. I have frequently had to advise whether or not, in particular circumstances, Bingo and Tombola were lawful.
The Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934, permits lotteries; there are lotteries in existence under its terms. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) is only trying to prevent the law falling further into contempt. It is in contempt now. At the present moment the most successful lottery in my constituency is one run by the Labour Party—good luck to them. There is another being run by the football society—good luck to them. Another was run by the Roman Catholics—are they not to be taken into account? I know that this opposition comes from Methodists, but not from them alone—or from all of them. Many of them are content to have Bingo and Tombola in their own shows but are not content to have any other form of lottery. That is the picture which we have. It is true that it rouses religious feelings in the matter, but I ask that there should be some evidence, and not a lot of platitudes, of gambling or further gambling resulting from this.
We have got the dogs, the horses and the football pools going on all over the country, and we have got this question of gambling. If in their consciences hon. Members feel that gambling is wrong, it is up to them to bring this issue before the country. At the present time gambling exists throughout. This is a pure matter of machinery, a practical piece of machinery, to ensure that these estimable institutions, our football and cricket clubs, Roman Catholic organisations and many others, have what they want, which is the power to be brought into line with the other gambling which is in existence today.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Nally (Bilston)
I have spent a good deal of time during the last few years in this House attacking 836 millionaire pool promoters, bookmakers and the strongly organised groups in the gambling industry of this country.
I hope that one or two hon. Members will do me the justice of recalling that over the past five years, not once but on a dozen occasions, I have demanded that an opportunity should be given for discussing the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The appalling thing is that although the Government and the Opposition, when it suits their purpose, are always prepared to pray in aid sections of the Royal Commission's Report, neither this Front Bench nor the Government Front Bench have ever been prepared to provide time to discuss it and decide whether its recommendations have merit or not.
When the Royal Commission sat, the circumstances were different. The distribution of fixed odds coupons by bookmakers' touts, which, unfortunately, are a feature of every public house in the country during the week-ends, was practically unknown when the Royal Commission sat. There have been all sorts of changes, and among the changes have been the development of sports clubs, church and other organisations on a scale not realised at the time when the Royal Commission sat, and the development of the kind of thing which is referred to and which it is the intention of the hon. Gentleman's Bill to serve.
The facts are these. Chief constables are calling before them perfectly worthy groups of citizens and threatening them that the law will be imposed unless they close projects which have no other object than social betterment, and those same chief constables who are giving that warning know that the bulk of street betting which is carried on in their areas is tending to grow, even though it is illegal.
Not only is the law being brought into contempt by the present conditions but, what I regard as much more serious, those who administer the law are being brought into contempt. How can we expect people associated with a church to have the regard they ought to have for a chief constable if they know perfectly well that in the town or city there are at least 200 full-time bookmakers' runners the bulk of whose activities are illegal, and with which the chief constable cannot or will not deal?
837 I therefore support this Bill, and I hope the House will give it a Second Reading. It can be amended in Committee if necessary. Indeed, there are some Amendments that I would like to make. This Bill seeks to clear up certain anomalies. It is not the fault of the mover that the Bill deals only with one aspect of the subject. He was not responsible for the Royal Commission's Report; nor was he responsible for the fact that this House never had the guts to discuss it. He is trying in his own way to deal with the problem.
It is quite scandalous that we have a situation in which of all the countries in Europe the one which best deserves the title of "A nation of betting hypocrites" is our own country.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Barber
—because I hope to give an opportunity to some other person, who perhaps takes a different view on the subject from myself, to say a few words before we proceed to a Division. I must be somewhat careful in what I say, but I do sincerely hope the Bill will not be talked out. I think it would be a great shame if it were talked out, deliberately or perhaps not deliberately, and if the House did not have an opportunity to express its opinion on the merits.
The case for this Bill has been put at considerable length by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington). I do not think it could have been better put. Many hon. Members will recall that only a few months ago I was given leave to introduce a Bill, in many respects similar to this, without any opposition. The object which I had in mind was, in substance, the same as that of my hon. Friend.
I was astonished by some of the things said by the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins). I can well appreciate that on moral grounds there may be certain objections to a Bill of this kind, but in all conscience I find it extremely difficult to believe that this Bill is likely to lead to an extension of gambling. The hon. Member mentioned some startling figure, in the region of £700 million a 838 year, which is being spent on gambling. Anyone who wants to gamble and does not want the bother of going to a racecourse or to greyhound racing can indulge in football pools. It is vital to remember that more than £70 million a year is staked on football pools. A suggestion was made that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) was laying down the law a little too much on what the British people think about gambling. The fact is that one may get a good idea of what the people of this country think about gambling if one bears in mind the fact that at the height of the football season each week 10 million people send football pool coupons through the post.
It is important, when considering whether or not to give this Bill a Second Reading, to remember that it applies only to small lotteries. It has been said that one person could buy several tickets, but does anyone suggest that if a person wants to indulge in serious gambling he will go to the trouble of buying 100 Is. tickets in order to lay out £5 on a gamble when he can so much more easily do so on the racecourse, or through the medium of football pools? I was very pleased that several hon. Members referred to the fact that the present law relating to lotteries, embodied principally in the 1934 Act, is such that, day in and day out, the law is being flouted and brought into disrepute.
This Bill has three main objectives. First, it would enable tickets to be sold to non-members of a society. The hon. Member for Bristol, South referred to this Mother of Parliaments as a free institution. I like to think, also, that we still have a free country. Surely it is fantastic, in this modern age, when we do nothing to stop extensive gambling in other spheres, to make it illegal, in certain circumstances, for a raffle ticket to be sold to a non-member of a society. Secondly, the Bill allows the use of the post, but with the important restriction that it cannot be used for the sending of tickets to non-members of a society. Is there anything really immoral or contrary to the public good in allowing the use of the post by one member of a society to send a raffle ticket, or even a book of tickets, to another member of the society? Thirdly, and perhaps of greatest importance, this Bill is designed specifically to assist voluntary and athletic societies. I 839 will not trouble the House with details of that, because those two types of body are defined in Clause 4 of the Bill.
It was said—again, by the hon. Member for Bristol, South, who was the last person to speak against the Bill—that it flings the door wide open. I hope he has read carefully and in detail the various Clauses and subsections of the Bill.
§ Mr. Barber
The reason that he put to the House was that anybody could go and buy half a dozen, or, perhaps, 100, tickets. But is anybody really likely to do that when one can go round the corner and, much more simply, indulge in real gambling? In fact, for some of us, the Bill is hedged around a little too much with safeguards.
Let it not go out from this House that while we permit, or, at any rate, are prepared to tolerate, for rich and poor alike, the expenditure each year of vast sums of money on gambling in connection with horse and greyhound racing and the like, while people, rich and poor alike, are permitted to stake large sums on the football pools, at the same time we are to deny the little man his flutter with a shilling ticket in a raffle, even though it is perfectly clear from the terms of the Bill that if it becomes an Act of Parliament the people who indulge in those raffles can be assured that the proceeds will go to some worthy cause, such as an athletic, cricket or football club or, perhaps, even a church society?
It is my earnest hope that on this occasion the Bill will be given a Second Reading, and I trust that at this late hour nobody will see fit to take a course which would prevent the House giving a decision.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Horace E. Holmes (Hemsworth)
At this late stage, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) imagines that he can read our thoughts, but, unfortunately, he cannot. The result has been that only one person has been called who has spoken against the Bill. I am very loth indeed to talk the Bill out, though I feel much like doing so; but I wish that at this late hour the House would either reject the Bill or send it upstairs and murder it.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)
I should like to add my word of congratulations to the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington), who moved the Second Reading of the Bill. He explained its details very clearly indeed. My objection is not as regards details but as regards principles and I should like briefly to put before the House the reasons for my objection to the Bill.
The organisation of society during the last 50 years has changed a very great deal. Fifty years ago the struggle for existence was infinitely keener than it is today. There were many people who—[HON MEMBERS: "Divide."] Another change which has taken place during the last 50 years is industrialisation—[HON MEMBERS: "Divide."]
§ Mr. Mulley rose in his place, and claimed to move, That the Question be now put; but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. Hastings
As the result of that industrialisation, the lives of many people have become much more drab and uninteresting. Therefore, they have been the more anxious to find any little interest that may make their lives less drab.
I have fought more Parliamentary Elections, probably, than a good many Members of the House. What people have told me during those Elections, although they may not have had any special interest in politics, is that they have been very keen indeed on Elections simply because they changed the drab existence—
§ It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Friday, 10th June.