§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I was fortunate enough, Mr. Speaker, to draw the first prize in the lottery which you conduct. My researches into the question of betting, gambling and lotteries have led me to believe that this lottery is quite legal.
When a private Member is fortunate enough to draw a place in the Ballot for Private Members' Bills he is faced with the problem of whether to introduce a Bill which may not have much chance of getting through the House but is on a major issue and will give an 1804 opportunity for debate. On the other hand, he may prefer to introduce a Measure which represents some urgently needed reform which is perhaps not sufficiently important for the Government themselves to undertake or which the Government, for some reason, might have refrained from undertaking. If such a Bill can be of a non-party character and largely non-controversial, it has that much better opportunity of reaching the Statute Book, and I believe that the Bill which I am introducing meets those requirements.
The laws of betting, lotteries and gaming are so complex, confusing, muddled, chaotic, inconsistent and so unequal in their incidence that the law is completely out of line with public opinion and common practice. The biggest gamble of all seems to be whether, if one enters a lottery or betting place or if one plays cards for stakes, one is within or outside the law. It is extremely difficult to know. Consequently, the law is neither enforced nor enforceable, and it is left very largely to the discretion of the police whether or not to institute proceedings. The inevitable result is that the law in this respect is in disrepute and is treated by many with contempt, which is a most undesirable state of affairs.
The law needs revising and consolidating. This was recommended by the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming, 1949–51. It is most regret-able that the Government have not found it possible to carry out its recommendations. The Government have not yet stated to the House their views on those recommendations, and perhaps the Home Secretary will today give us some indication of their intentions.
If we look at the illogicality of the law today, the need for reform is obvious. For instance, newspapers can run most ingenious competitions, people being able, for a few pence, to enter what are, in effect, lotteries to decide the order in which fashions, bathing beauties, hats and other things should be placed. As to betting, those who have the good fortune to have credit can telephone their bookmaker and put £1,000 or more on a horse or dog, whereas the man in the street who wants to put a "bob" on a horse with the bookie's runner at the street corner runs the risk of getting into trouble. Similarly, with lotteries. A vicar can run a raffle at his sale of work or 1805 bazaar in the church hall, but if he sells a ticket outside the hall, or even within the hall before the local M.P. has opened the bazaar, he is in danger of being hauled off in a Black Maria.
If you, Mr. Speaker, happen to be dining at your club with the Lord Chancellor and if you decide to have a rubber of bridge with the Home Secretary and the Lord Chief Justice and you play for a penny a hundred, you will be in danger of appearing before the "beak" at Marlborough Street next morning. The same state of affairs applies to lotteries run by clubs. I was very upset to read in the newspapers this week that the Constitutional Club is in financial difficulties. It may be that the Club will decide to run a lottery to get itself out of its troubles. If a member of the Club happens to walk across the street and peddle one of his tickets in the Carlton, he will be committing an offence and liable to a fine of £100.
Betting, gaming and lottery laws date back, as hon. Members are well aware, to the time of Henry VIII. In 1541, he introduced an Act for the maintenance of artillery and the outlawing of unlawful games. He introduced that because he was fearful at that time lest the flower of English manhood should waste its time on games and lose its skill with the bow and arrow so that English prowess in war would be that much diminished.
Consequently, in framing this Bill I have endeavoured to take sufficient care to ensure that in somewhat extending lotteries, and permitting small card games such as whist drives, I have not gone to such an extent that we will be in danger of being defeated in the next atomic war. Henry VIII made all games illegal—[HON. MEMBERS: "All games?"] It is perfectly true that Henry VIII entered the greatest lottery of all, and entered no less than six times—
§ Mr. Davies
—and, as my right hon. Friend says, never drew a prize, but when he got the wrong number he took good care to get rid of it and on occasions got rid of it with violence. Heavy responsibility rested on him.
It was not until 1934 that certain small and private lotteries were brought within the law; and that followed the Royal 1806 Commission on Lotteries and Betting of 1932 to 1933. That permitted raffles to take place, such as those to which I have referred, and allowed societies to run sweepstakes and lotteries for their own members, although they could not sell tickets to the public or to their own members through the post. The law enabled societies and persons who live or work in the same buildings to run lotteries and the intention of the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934, was to enable societies to raise funds for charitable objects or other purposes connected with the societies.
Unfortunately, by a decision taken in the case of Maynard v. Williams at the end of last year, certain of these lotteries, particularly those being run by local sports clubs, football supporters clubs and county cricket clubs, became illegal. It was ruled by the Lord Chief Justice, because Torquay United Football Supporters Club was running a lottery to support the Football Club, that it had been established for the purpose of promoting or conducting a lottery and that was not permitted by the 1934 Act.
This peculiar decision was most unfortunate, because it meant that any society promoting a lottery to assist some cause with which it was associated immediately became without the Act and as a consequence the lottery was illegal, because it was ruled that the club was actually organised for the purpose of conducting that lottery. The decision meant that very large numbers of societies throughout the country which were running these lotteries weekly or less frequently with the purpose of raising funds for very deserving and worthy objects were no longer in a position so to do.
Many football clubs and county cricket clubs have found themselves in difficulties, while others, of course, have resorted to football pools, of which the Chancellor gets 30 per cent. If any hon. Member considers that what we are proposing is encouraging or extending lotteries, I would ask him to bear in mind that the fact that we are making the running of these lotteries legal once more—or en-deavouring to do so—will enable these clubs to cease running their football pools on a larger scale than they did with lotteries and to return to lotteries instead.
The Bill is intended to return to the 1934 Act. It has no greater object than 1807 that. It is to enable small societies or large societies to run small lotteries to assist the objects for which the societies were established. Hon. Members who have studied the Bill will agree that in great measure its provisions restrict the lotteries to a size which will not encourage gambling on any scale which we could possibly consider a social harm.
In Clause 1 we set out to permit certain voluntary societies to run lotteries for the purposes of the societies concerned. We define those societies as those which are organised for charitable purposes, which are organised to assist athletic sports or games—which brings in county cricket clubs and football clubs—or cultural activities—which would bring in amateur drama societies, and so on—and those which do not come under those headings but which are not run for private gain.
Our object has been to help genuine societies and no other society to run lotteries which are not run for private gain. We do not want to open the door so wide that persons can promote lotteries to make money out of them. That is by no means our purpose. The main restriction in the Bill, which is the one major difference with the Bill which was introduced by the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington)—to whom I am very grateful for his co-operation in this matter—is that we limit any one lottery to £500.
That is done by saying that the largest total number of tickets that can be sold is 10,000 and that the maximum price of a ticket shall be 1s., so £500 is the maximum size of the lottery. The tickets can be sold not only to members but to nonmembers, but can be sent through the post only to members. Of the proceeds, 50 per cent. can be distributed in prizes, after deducting expenses which are limited to 5 per cent.—and on the maximum that will amount to £25—and the balance must go to the objects of the society. In effect, that means that £250, less the £25 expenses, which leaves £225, can be distributed in prizes to those who are fortunate enough to draw the winning tickets.
The Bill provides that the maximum prize shall be £100. That means that one could run a lottery with a first prize of £100, a second prize of £75 and a third prize of £50. That would be the maximum 1808 amount of money which could be distributed if the total expenses are incurred, though the prizes could be of different amounts according to the wishes of the society. In addition, it is provided that there shall be registration of these societies with the local authority. That is dealt with in Clause 3. The local authority will thus have a list of those societies which are operating lotteries, and will have the accounts and the statements of the societies about the lotteries which are run.
It will be open to anyone who wishes to inquire into the state of affairs of any lottery or society, since annual returns will have to be made to the local authority. It is important to appreciate that it is not left to the local authority to discriminate between societies. All societies will have to be accepted for registration with the local authority unless they have contravened the law or unless they do not come within the definition of Clause 1; in other words, if they are not organised for charitable purposes or for sport or cultural activities, and so on.
In this way, I contend, sufficient restriction will be imposed upon the size of a lottery. It will ensure that at least 50 per cent. of the proceeds will go to charitable or similar purposes and that the incentive to gain will not be such as to attract the inveterate gambler. These events will attract only those who wish to participate in a charitable object and, at the same time, to have a little flutter.
The other purpose of the Bill is to legalise small card games which, unless they are games of skill, are illegal if played in a common gaming house. A common gaming house can be any club or anywhere where games are played in public for stakes. A high legal authority has decided that snap and animal grab are the only card games of skill; so, Mr. Speaker, when you have a card game at your club, if you prefer to play "Snap" or "Animal grab" you will avoid being hauled before the "beak" at Marlborough Street.
Clause 2 is a modest Clause to make small card games legal. It is devised to legalise whist drives which are run by so many societies and political parties. Progressive whist is considered to be a game of chance, presumably largely because the partners are shuffled as well 1809 as the cards. A whist drive cannot legally be held in a church hall or women's institute, but, in their wisdom, normally the police do not take action when such events are organised. It is undesirable that these games should remain illegal.
The Bill limits the extent to which these games may be played for money by stating that the maximum charge or stake for each day—that is, for the entrance fee to each whist drive in a day—shall not exceed 5s. That is the maximum stake which may be placed on a game during a whole day. The Bill also provides that the total prizes to be distributed shall not exceed £20. Again, I suggest that a limitation of the fee to 5s. and the total value of the prizes to £20 will be something which will not attract the inveterate gambler or cause any social harm.
I ask the House to consider whether it is not better for the law relating to small lotteries and card games to be put on a basis where it may be understood and enforced.
§ Mr. Davies
I agree. It is desirable that the police should be relieved of the responsibility which they have today of discriminating between those games or lotteries which should be ignored and those on which action should be taken. If we can clear up the confusion it will be far easier to enforce the law, and that will be most desirable.
The Clauses dealing with lotteries are the more important. It is desirable that we should reform the law relating to cards as well, but the question of lotteries is more urgent because of the large number of clubs affected by the latest decision. The enactment of these Clauses is necessary to enable the large number of deserving societies, religious, charitable, sporting, cultural and even political, to raise funds for the purposes which they support. It may be regrettable, but it is true that human nature is such that it sometimes requires the inducement of gain before people subscribe to such objects as they support. If a person can combine a flutter with charity, he gives more generously and regularly.
The permitting of small card games may not be so important or urgent, but 1810 I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will be able to give some encouragement to us in suggesting that the Bill should receive Second Reading so that in Committee these matters may be fully debated and, if the drafting does not meet the complete requirements, Amendments may be made there.
In presenting the Bill, I make no greater claim for its importance than that it represents a long-needed amendment of the law directed to assisting the raising of money for charitable, sporting and other worthy purposes. It will clear up some of the confusion in present law and express Parliament's intention which has been frustrated by court decisions. It will do that by enabling voluntary societies to run the lotteries which it was intended they should have the right to conduct under the Act of 1934.
I am well aware that many consider all forms of gambling to be insidious, but these activities take place on a very large scale. No one can deny that. The State itself takes a considerable proportion of the stakes on betting and football pools. Gambling is so much part of the social life of the country that it cannot be stopped. I suggest that, in respect of lotteries, far from encouraging gambling, the Bill will bring it more under control because it will make the law clearer and its enforcement once more practicable. To the extent that it does that it will be a restraint of rather than an encouragement to gambling.
The Bill has the further desirable object of diverting from private gain to public good funds spent purely on gambling. It will enable a great number of voluntary societies to obtain the funds they so urgently need and particularly sports clubs. I believe that this alone should commend the Bill to the House.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ Mr. E. H. C. Leather (Somerset, North)
I beg to second the Motion.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) for asking me to undertake this task. I first became interested in this subject a year or two ago after the result of the Maynard v. Williams case, to which reference has been made, became evident. I do not know what was the result of that judgment in the big cities. I represent a 1811 country constituency—we farmers are always in a minority and misunderstood by the rest of the community—and I know that the effects of that case in the countryside have been deplorable. No one, whatever his views on gambling, can pretend that they have not.
In my own constituency, many small village clubs, sporting clubs, garden clubs, horticultural clubs and all those causes which are so important in village life, and which are a good moral influence, have found that their finances have been knocked endwise. No fewer than five such clubs in my county have gone "broke" in the last twelve months as a result of that decision. I cannot conceive that anyone should argue that that is a good thing. Obviously an influence for public responsibility and public cooperation in village life has been removed because of the restriction which has arisen as a result of the decision which has been referred to. That is my first point.
My second point is that it is perfectly clear that the law is in contempt. At the moment, the law is being enforced on the worst possible principle, namely, that of the individual whim or fiat of some particular chief constable.
§ Mr. Leather
I agree that it is a bad thing.
One does not want to get anyone into trouble, but we all know that these things happen. I can stand in a certain part of my constituency where, if a lottery is run, it is illegal, and the chief constable of the county concerned will take action. By the simple process of walking five yards, I can move into another county where the chief constable has made it perfectly clear that his officers are too busy doing more important jobs, and that he will not be bothered. That is a thoroughly bad situation, but it exists all over the country, and clearly it must be in the interests of everybody—particularly those of us concerned with the morals of the nation—to argue that it should not be allowed to continue. For those two reasons I find myself entirely in support of the purposes of this Bill.
For the last three or four hours I have been doing something, which, I suppose, 1812 is always good for hon. Members of this House. I have been wrestling with my conscience. This is no place for parading one's piety, but I was brought up in the bosom of the Church of England, and, pray God, I shall die there. I count myself a Churchman, and I face this problem of morals as a Churchman. If I thought for one moment that there was anything in this Bill to encourage the evils of gambling, I should not be standing here seconding the Motion.
Of course there is evil inherent in gambling; of course that is a bad thing; of course we ought to try to do something about it. But the evils inherent in gambling are with us, they are not illegal in this country, and they never have been. If a man wants to take his life savings and bring misery to his wife and children by squandering them, there is nothing in the laws of England to prevent him from doing so, and there never has been.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Is there anything more wrong in gambling than in anything else which is taken to excess? Can one think of anything which, when taken to excess, is not wrong?
§ Mr. Leather
I entirely agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I am trying to make the point that if we are concerned—and I am—with the moral issues of evil, they are quite irrelevant to this Bill.
Is it really seriously suggested that the risks of evil in gambling, the risk of a man carrying gambling to an excess—as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said—and causing his family misery and penury will be extended because we propose now to allow him legally to buy a shilling ticket in a local football club lottery—which he could do, illegally, before, if he lived in some counties, but not in others? Are we really asked to take that view seriously? I do not think that we can be.
This morning in The Times appears a statement from the Churches' Committee on Gambling. I spent several hours this morning trying to get hold of the reverend gentleman who made it in order to discuss it with him, but unfortunately I failed.
§ Mr. Leather
I believe that he is in the precincts of the building but we are not supposed to take notice of that.
I wish to make it clear that I do not want to hurt anyone, and that I have tried to get hold of him. This is the statement, and I think it should be read to the House because it is important.The present Bill, by allowing for the first time members of a society organising a lottery to sell tickets to the general public, reverses a fundamental principle.' By reiterating the suggestion that it was a Bill merely to tidy up the law and slightly extend minor restrictions, it concealed what in fact was a revolutionary change in principle and thereby tended to mislead the general public.As a Churchman I want to say that that is a specious and fraudulent statement and should never have been made. It is specious because it is untrue, and it is fraudulent because it purports to speak for the majority of Churchmen, and it does no such thing. It speaks for a small minority of Churchmen. I do not question their sincerity of view any more than I expect them to question mine. But I implore them to consider for one moment the harm they do the Church by making we Churchmen appear as narrow-minded bigots. It is not true.
I hope that in a few words I have been able to demonstrate that these evils—evils which the Church has every right to object to, and I as a Churchman support that—are not inherent in this Bill to allow people to buy tickets for a shilling in village club lotteries so that village boys may continue playing cricket or football, or whatever it may be. I say that to suggest that that is evil is unworthy. It is quite obviously so ridiculous that one cannot take it seriously. It is not true, obviously it is not true.
The causes of this Bill have been well explained. The need for it is known, certainly to those of us in country constituencies. I do not think that any hon. Member representing a country constituency would question that need. No other way has yet been found to keep small village clubs going. We cannot get gate receipts from a village football pitch. If people are charged 6d. or a to step inside a roped-off enclosure—there is no money to build a fence—that might raise a pound or two, which might be enough to pay the bus fare of the 1814 team to go from one village to the next, but that is all. There is no money to buy equipment, no money for sweaters or doctors' bills, no money for anything else. There is no other way of getting money that I have ever heard, and a lot of resourceful people have for the last eighteen months or two years been trying to find one. That is why these small clubs, these good, healthy and moral influences in our countryside, are dying like flies.
I hope the House will consider that this Bill is not only a practicable step, but will help to do a lot of good and worthy things. No doubt it can be improved and needs amendment and redrafting in part, but those are matters in which private Members cannot be perfect. We have not the apparatus of Government to help us. I conclude by saying that the argument that, in some way, this Bill is immoral is a specious one.
§ 11.40 a.m.
§ Mr. Horace E. Holmes (Hemsworth)
If there is one thing which is rigidly defended in this House it is the opportunity for the minority point of view to be put forward. Today, the minority is a very small one, but, nevertheless, I propose to express one or two points of view. I am opposed to the Bill, although I shall not attempt to count it out. If it gets a Second Reading, I hope that it goes upstairs and that, as the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) once said, somebody there will murder it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) talked about cleaning up the betting laws. But this Bill will not clean them up. Street betting, with all its evils, will still continue. He also said something, as, I think, did the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather), about the gambling spirit being inherent, although he did not say it in those words. That is all poppycock. There is no such thing. In my opinion, the gambling spirit is fostered through large-scale advertising. One has only to look at the pool advertisements to realise that. So I hope that this point of view will not weigh too much with the House.
We heard one pleasing thing from the hon. Member for Somerset, North. He told the House that he had found his conscience, and I was very pleased to hear it.
§ Mr. Holmes
My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East referred to the Report issued in 1951 by the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming. I do not for a moment wish to give the House the impression that I have assimilated the whole contents of that Report, but I have noted what that Commission says in paragraphs 399 and 400. Paragraph 399 states:We are not convinced that the social consequences of such developments so far as the encouragement of gambling is concerned, would be very serious, but we recognise that there are other objections to any extension of the existing law.That is the first sentence of a fairly long paragraph. Paragraph 400 says:We conclude, therefore, that any proposal for the extension of the scope of these types of lottery would be likely to have 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.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
Does not my hon. Friend realise that this Report was issued before there had been the case of Maynard v. Williams, which has frustrated the law?
§ Mr. Holmes
I appreciate that, but, nevertheless, I think that the points I have quoted have some quality about them.
As one who has been attached to the Church for many years, I have been shocked at the fact that I have not received a single letter from a member of a Church, from a minister or from a Church organisation asking me to oppose the Bill. On the other hand, neither have I had a letter asking me to support the Bill. The silence on the matter gives consent neither for nor against. In the light of what some people are saying, that fact does not stand out very well.
The next point I wish to make is on the question of societies. The Bill refers to societies for raising moneyfor charitable, sporting and other purposes.I should like to have a clear definition of "societies." The Bill further says that advertisements can be exhibited on the premises of the organisation. I may be wrong, because I am not too good at understanding legal jargon, but I know a very active parent-teacher association 1816 which is attached to a school, and which does a very good job. Would that be called a "society"? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Could that organisation advertise in the school?
§ Mr. Holmes
That organisation belongs to the school, and its business is carried on in the school. I mention that as a narrow example of what I mean. I am not at all satisfied with the word "society." Only the members of such a society will be the people to check on its advertisements and the selling of the tickets issued by it. What guarantee is there that there will be any check on these things? As far as I can see, there will be no check.
I notice that the local authorities will be the registration authorities. I was a member of a local authority for a quarter of a century, and I know the amount of work which local authorities have to do these days. I am wondering what department within a local authority will be the registration authority. I told one of my colleagues this morning that, although I could not think of the department, I could think of the title of its chairman. He could be given the title of "Chairman of Ways and Means for Promoting Lotteries."
The local authority of a city in which there may be hundreds of such organisations will have a tough job with some persons or departments. I have tried to understand this Bill, but I can only compare it to the Finance Bill, with which we have just been dealing, and to the Housing Subsidies Bill. It is about as clear as those two Measures are, and I would have hoped that hon. Members on this side of the House would have dealt with it as they are dealing with those Bills.
§ 11.49 a.m.
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Morecambe and Lonsdale)
I consider it proper and right that we should try to bring a little order into the chaotic law which surrounds this matter of lotteries. I do not share the view that evil will flow from what we are doing. On the contrary, I believe that it is better, on balance, to define the way in which people should undertake the various minor activities dealt with in the Bill.
1817 I do not propose, if I can avoid it, to reiterate any argument which has already been made, because I am sure that many other hon. Members wish to speak in this debate. We are indebted to the hon. Members for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) and Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) for bringing in the Bill and for having explained it so clearly. I find myself broadly in sympathy with what they have said. I want to ask the Home Secretary, or whoever is replying for the Home Department, one or two questions about the Bill. I want to be quite clear that political parties can undertake the small sweepstakes which they now customarily undertake, and which are thought by the police authorities in some districts to be legal and by those in other districts to be illegal. I do not know whether a political party could be said to be an organisation that promotes culture or whether it would be included among organisations engaged in "other purposes."
§ Sir I. Fraser
I hope so. I also want to be quite clear that the games, or gaming—I am not quite sure which it should be—will include not only whist but darts. Hon. Members will know that whereas every village has its whist drive, probably all British Legion clubs, and many other clubs, have their darts matches. If they are played for money, will they be legal in the same way as whist drives are to be made legal?
§ Sir I. Fraser
I hope that is so, even when betting takes place. As for the whist drive, I am glad that she—if it be a she—is now to be made an honest woman.
Let us imagine that a British Legion county organisation registers with its county council. If it then wishes to conduct one of these sweepstakes throughout its 20, 30, or 50 branches, which might well be in eight or ten different local authority areas, would the writ of central registration at the county authority's headquarters run in all the other authorities' headquarters, or would each branch have to register in each rural, borough or urban district? I should like to be told about that.
1818 This is not a matter to get excited or cross about, or to create any special controversy about. There is one other small point which occurred to me upon reading the Bill. A society conducting a sweepstake is allowed to post tickets to its members. If it posts them at 2½d. each it can post about 2,500 for about £25, and it has then used up all its authorised funds and there is none left for printing or advertising. If it posts those tickets at 1½d. each it can post 4,000, and it will then have used up all its permitted allowance on the expenses side of the undertaking. But it is allowed to sell 10,000 tickets. Why should it not be allowed to spend enough money to post those 10,000 tickets? If it is to be lawful to post tickets, it seems only sensible to provide that enough money may be spent to post them all.
No great moral issues are involved here, but there is good sense and propriety in making the law fit the practice which is common throughout the country.
§ 11.54 a.m.
§ Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)
Before I deal with the essential features of the Bill, I want to raise one or two small difficulties which I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) will answer. Clause 1 provides that:the amount of the proceeds appropriated for the provision of prizes shall not exceed one-half of the balance of the whole proceeds after deducting sums lawfully appropriated on account of expenses …I find some difficulty about that. Few people are ready to buy tickets for a raffle or lottery unless they know what the prizes will be. If sufficient tickets are not sold to fulfil the provisions of this Clause, what will happen? Will the promoter be permitted to buy up the unsold tickets on behalf of the registered society? How will arrangements be made?
Let us suppose that a lottery is organised for some useful object, and that prizes of £20, £10 and £5—totalling £35—are to be awarded. That means that at least £70 must be raised, plus expenses, and more than 1,400 tickets issued. If all those tickets are not sold, what will happen? The prizes are stated, as I think they must be—and as they should be if the tickets are to be sold. There may be some simple explanation, and if there is I hope that my hon. Friend will 1819 give it to the House. It may be that my difficulty arises from my own stupidity in not reading the Bill correctly, but it is possible that if it becomes an Act other people will be equally stupid.
§ Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)
Does my hon. Friend agree that, even if he is right about this matter, it is really a Committee point, and not an objection to the principle of the Bill?
§ Mr. Hastings
Yes, I entirely agree—but we are asked to vote for the Bill, and when a Bill is introduced it is only right that we should know exactly what it means.
Clause 1 (3) reads:If any condition required by subsection (2) of this Section to be observed … is contravened ….somebody shall be guilty of an offence. What does that mean? An offence without a penalty seems to be a little incomplete.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
I can answer that question immediately. The penalties will be those imposed by the 1934 Act. That is why they are not defined here.
§ Mr. Hastings
I thank my hon. Friend; that clears up that point.
Another point occurs to me in connection with registration. Any society may register on payment of a fee of £1 to the local authority and, as I understand it, may then conduct as many lotteries as it desires for one year. The local authority is required to keep a rather careful record concerning the number of tickets sold, the proceeds derived, the expenses, the cost of prizes and the way in which the money is spent, in order that anyone who desires to do so may visit the headquarters of the local authority at any reasonable time and find out all about it for himself. The local authority will find that it has to provide a good deal of service for the £1 which it is to receive annually, and I wonder whether it may not object to doing so.
I come now to the general principles raised by the Bill. I have had no struggle with my conscience. I do not imagine that I am a very good Churchman, yet I see difficulties and objections to the Bill. I am aware that it is a small Measure and does not take us very far, but it is not what the Bill does or permits to be 1820 done that is the danger, but what may follow from it. A love of gambling, even though started in a small way like this, may have undesirable consequences.
We have made many laws in this House to deal with gambling, which shows that we realise that it may have serious results. Now, more than at any previous time, there are dangers. There is no great struggle for existence today. People find no difficulty in keeping alive, although many of them are not able to live as good a life as they would like. Because of mechanisation and automation many people work without much interest at dull and mechanical jobs, and they look for excitement. They are apt to turn to pools and gambling, which may have evil results.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
I am not absolutely certain that I follow the meaning of the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings). He appears to think that the Bill introduces something new. As I understand it, it reverts to what has been going on for many years, but a spoke was placed in the wheel by the Legislature and the Judiciary. The effects of what has been going on since 1934 are not so serious as the hon. Gentleman described. Why does he expect that serious effects will follow from this Measure?
§ Mr. Hastings
It will make lotteries easier. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) said that the Bill would clear up difficulties and make it easier for good causes to raise money. People will tend to depend more for their interests on betting and gambling.
Many people live a rather dull, drab life, unfortunately. I remember, when I was a Parliamentary candidate at Reading, people saying that they loved Elections, not because they were politically conscious: they did not care much who won, but Elections added a temporary interest to their lives.
§ Mr. Hastings
I am afraid that people will seek excitement in these small lotteries, and will go on to something that becomes really dangerous.
I agree that small lotteries will help many good and useful causes, and I agree 1821 as to the desirability of encouraging voluntary organisations which carry out social experiments. I remember that hospitals and schools, and many other institutions which are regarded as necessities today, were started by small voluntary organisations such as the Bill is intended to assist, but I believe that money can be collected without the aid of lotteries made legal by the Bill.
I do not think it is necessary for charities to depend upon lotteries. I have been associated with an organisation which cares for spastic children, the National Spastic Society. In about two years it has collected £250,000, which averages about £25 for each spastic child. It has done that, so far as I am aware, without the aid of lotteries, although I cannot guarantee that that is so. Most of the money has been collected by direct contributions. I believe that people are still ready, without hope of reward, to support good causes.
I oppose the Bill most of all because I am a Socialist and know that all goods and services are the result of work. I want goods and services to be distributed according to need and service to the community, and not according to chance. I know that we cannot eliminate chance from the world, although we have been trying to do it by legislative processes in Parliament as much as we could during the last ten years, through bringing into being the Welfare State, so as to get rid of some of the evils of sickness, widowhood and old age.
I know that we cannot get rid of chance altogether. We are all affected by it, but the more we encourage people to rely on enterprise, creative energy and self-reliance, the better. I think it was Robert Louis Stevenson who wrote:It matters not how strait the gate,How scored with punishments the scroll.I am the master of my fate:I am the captain of my soul.The more we realise this and the less we depend on lotteries and chance, the better it will be for everyone.
§ 12.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril W. Black (Wimbledon)
I find myself in agreement with the conclusions which the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) reached on the Bill. I am opposed to it. I agree with the various reasons that he advanced against the Bill, except the one that he 1822 was a Socialist. I am glad to have the opportunity of following him, because my reasons for reaching the same conclusions are not, therefore, in all respects the same as his.
I would add my compliments to the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) for the entertaining and interesting way in which he introduced the Bill, but I must disabuse his mind on one important point, which is that the Measure is largely non-controversial. I hope to be able to show him, and to satisfy the House, that there is a very large degree of controversy about the Bill and that many important sections of public opinion view the Bill with very marked disfavour.
As to the attitude of the Churches, I regret very much what I can only regard as an attack made by the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) upon the Churches Committee on Gambling and upon its secretary. My hon. Friend is entitled to differ from the conclusions and opinions of that body, but there can be no justification for the heat with which he expressed himself about them or for what he said about the statement which that Committee has issued on the matter.
My hon. Friend referred to the Churches Committee as representative of—I think he said—a tiny minority of opinion in the Churches. It is, therefore, necessary for me to give the composition of the Churches Committee to indicate that his statement is very far from the truth and that the Churches Committee comprises within its membership, and speaks for, the most important sections of the Christian Church in this country.
I wish to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North and the House what bodies are comprised within the Churches Committee on Gambling. It comprises all the principal non-Roman branches of the Christian Church in the United Kingdom, including the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian Churches, the Unitarians, the Society of Friends, the National Sunday School Union, and the Salvation Army. The president of the Committee is the Archbishop of Canterbury and the vice-presidents and the Committee include many of the principal religious leaders of the day.
§ Mr. Black
I anticipated that an hon. Member might ask that question, and so far as I am able I have come to this debate prepared to answer it. I can claim to have had some experience of this question and I tell the hon. and learned Member that the views he has on this matter are, in my experience, grossly exaggerated. I can probably claim to have taken part in as many church and chapel bazaars as most hon. Members. I have taken the opportunity of looking through my diaries for recent years and, at a modest estimate, I can say that in the past ten years I have taken part, either as chairman or opener, at no fewer than 200 bazaars or sales of work held on behalf of churches and chapels of various denominations.
I speak on this particular matter as one with some experience and I would say to the hon. and learned Member that in not as many as 5 per cent. of that considerable number of bazaars and sales of work were there any activities in the nature of lotteries, raffles, or anything which could be regarded as in any way partaking of betting or gambling.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
Would not my hon. Friend agree that is because he is so well known as participating only in the activities of the Methodist and Congregational Churches and not of the Church of England?
§ Mr. Leather
Will my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) allow me to interrupt, because he is questioning the validity of certain statements I made?
I do not withdraw a single word I said. I have not had the opportunity of going through my diary, but I can certainly say from memory that I have attended no fewer than six church affairs in the last three or four months and that at every one of them a lottery of some kind was going on. Most of them were Church of England affairs, but not all of them. My hon. Friend has referred to great and impressive names, but I say that the 1824 Churches Committee on Gambling represents only a tiny minority. To suggest that it represents the majority of church people is untrue.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) ought now to be allowed to proceed with his speech.
§ Mr. Black
If I may deal with the subject matter of the interventions, I do not regret at all that I have not shared what the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) described as his luck when, as he told us, he won a pig in a contest at some church bazaar. That is the kind of luck I would feel myself better without.
§ Mr. Black
In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), I did say that the church and chapel bazaars in which I had taken part were by no means confined to one or two denominations. I should think that as many of them were sales of work or bazaars in connection with Anglican Churches as with Free Churches. The experience of other hon. Members in this matter may be different from mine, but I think I am entitled to give the House the benefit of my experience.
I wish to say a little about what I understand to be the view of the Churches Committee on this matter. On the occasion of the introduction, earlier this year, of a somewhat similar Bill, brought before us by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington), the Churches Committee formulated its objections to that Bill. Those objections apply with equal and similar force to the Bill we are debating today. I want briefly to give the three heads of objection and to say a word or two about each one.
The first point the Churches Committee made 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.About the latter part of that statement there can be no doubt because it has been made clear, and is indeed obvious from a reading of this Bill, that the Bill seeks to legalise a type of gambling which at present is illegal. It therefore increases 1825 the area within which gambling transactions can take place and increases the opportunity for gambling. I hold entirely the view of the Churches Committee that this is the worst of all possible times for legislating in that direction.
The Churches Committee went on to say:The Government has before it the recommendations of a Royal Commission, which have yet to be debated. The Churches Committee regret any attempt to deal with the matter piecemeal. The Churches Committee deplore the introduction of the Bill in view of the fact that the Royal Commission specifically recommended no change in legislation concerning lotteries.I believe that the phrase which occurs in the Explanatory Memorandum of the Bill is capable of leading to misapprehensions on the part of those who read it. I am quite certain that was not intended by the promoters and I think the statement is strictly correct, although I think it is capable of leading to misunderstanding. The Explanatory Memorandum includes the words:subject to conditions recommended by the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming.That is capable of creating the impression that the Royal Commission recommended a change of the law in the sense which this Bill seeks to bring about a change and, of course, that was not the case.
What the Royal Commission said was that if there were to be a Measure for legalising small lotteries such a Measure should impose conditions and restrictions. It went on to indicate what those conditions and restrictions should be. They are quite correctly reproduced in the Bill we are now discussing, but the Royal Commission did not recommend legislation in that sense. After a number of paragraphs explaining the considerations as the Royal Commission saw them on one side or the other, it concluded by saying:We are forced to the conclusion that we cannot recommend any change in the law.Therefore, if the House desires today to act in accordance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission, it has to reject this Bill.
I must make this further point also before I leave the recommendations of the Royal Commission. Much has been said about the unsatisfactory condition of 1826 the present law and the alleged impracticability of enforcing it satisfactorily. Yet the Magistrates Association, which has considerable and wide experience in these matters, particularly about the enforcement of the law, gave evidence before the Royal Commission to the effect that in its opinion the law of 1934 was working reasonably satisfactorily, and it did not advocate any change in the law as embodied in that Act.
The final point made by the Churches Committee was the following:The Churches Committee draw attention to the fact that the Bill allows, for the first time, members of a society organising a lottery to sell tickets to the general public.That is an important departure from the existing law—the right to sell tickets to the general public—and it comes under the heading of what I have endeavoured to indicate is, in my opinion, the undesirability of extending and increasing opportunities for betting and gambling.
Something was said by the hon. Member for Enfield, East about the need to assist sports clubs in this matter. He mentioned cricket and football clubs, and county cricket clubs in particular. On this matter the House ought to look at what the governing bodies of cricket and football have to say. We are being asked to legislate in favour of cricket and football clubs, so it is not without interest to learn what the governing bodies of those two sports have to say.
The M.C.C., the governing body of cricket, was consulted early in the year on the introduction of the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot and this is what it said:The Committee feel that so far as cricket is concerned the game is at present free from the infiltration of gambling habits and they sincerely hope that this healthy state of affairs will continue.The Football Association expressed a similar opinion. Indeed, that Association has attached such importance to keeping the game as far as possible free from lotteries to raise money in support of football clubs that the Council sent a circular to everyone connected with their management throughout the country. It read as follows:Reports having been made to the Council that a practice was growing of clubs and their supporters launching schemes for raising funds by sweepstakes, lotteries, or other means which are not only illegal but are also calculated to 1827 bring the game into disrepute, notice is hereby given that clubs must satisfy themselves before adopting any scheme that it is in order "—
§ Mr. Black
Wait a minute. It continues:and not calculated to bring the game into disrepute; and that failure to do so will probably result in the offending club being permanently suspended.This Bill is directly contrary to the recommendations of the Royal Commission. This proposal to legalise small lotteries is specifically condemned by the Magistrates Association. The Christian Churches of the country have expressed their objections to it on general and on particular grounds.
§ Mr. Black
I have had no information on the matter one way or another from the Roman Catholic Church. I was careful to indicate what were the churches comprised in the membership of the Churches Committee on Gambling. I gave all the principal constituent members and the Roman Catholic Church was not among them. It does not ordinarily co-operate on matters of this kind, or on matters generally, with the other Churches in the country. Therefore, I am not aware of its attitude and I have had no communication on the matter with the Roman Catholic churches in my constituency or elsewhere.
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)
I think one can say that the Roman Catholic Church is not opposed to this Bill.
§ Mr. Black
In conclusion, I want to say something about the proposals of the Bill in the context of our national life at this time. In 1919, in a time of considerable economic difficulty following the First World War, the late Austen Chamberlain said:At a time when the one lesson we need to teach everybody is that there is no salvation except by work, we are teaching them to expect salvation by luck.That wise dictum I believe to be very timely today. There is no salvation economically except by work, and to teach the people to expect salvation by luck is to mislead them and is contrary to their highest interests. I submit that the House will today render a great service to the nation if it declines to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 12.28 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
I support the Bill, although I think it should never have been brought before the House. I say that because it should not have been necessary to bring this Bill before the House. We should have discussed a bigger Bill before now, based on the Report of the Royal Commission, and I believe that my hon. Friend has rendered a service in reminding us of the neglect of the Government in not bringing the Report of the Royal Commission before the House long ago. That is the way in which this question ought to he dealt with, but, unfortunately, there is no sign that the Government intend to give us an opportunity to discuss that Report. That is why I welcome this Bill as an instalment of something which needs to be done in order to close a gap.
Reference has been made to the Report of the Royal Commission of 1951, and I want to quote briefly from it as follows:… the object of gambling legislation should be to interfere as little as possible with individual liberty to take part in the various forms of gambling, but to impose such restrictions as are desirable and practicable to discourage or prevent excess.In the past, gambling legislation has been, states the Report, "essentially negative and piecemeal." A broader and more positive approach is called for. I 1829 do not think there are many hon. Members of this House who would disagree with that approach to what should be done about gambling legislation, and I submit that this Bill attempts in a small way to deal with it along those lines.
The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) has referred to the evidence of the Magistrates Association before the Royal Commission. I happen to be a member of the Magistrates Association, and I should like to point out in their defence, if it is necessary, that that evidence was given before some of the legal decisions which have already been quoted in this debate and which have led to the necessity for some legislation along these lines.
I have been a magistrate for quite a number of years, and I am very concerned at the present state of the law relating to gambling and at the difficulties which face magistrates. I had occasion not long ago to have to order the destruction of a certain machine that was found in a cafe and to fine the proprietor of the cafe for having allowed it to be there. The very next day in another part of the country I saw dozens of those machines operating quite openly. That sort of thing should not be possible, and it is time that something was done about it. If we are going to try to reach any common denominator of agreement we must agree that, whether we are for or against the encouragement of gambling, the present law on the subject urgently needs revision. That is why I think we ought to take a close look at the Bill.
Let me give an example of the present situation. Take the well-known game which is known in the Army as "housey-housey," which is known on board ship as "bingo" and, I believe, under some other names in other branches of the Services and elsewhere. A few days ago I saw that game being played publicly. Apparently, the way in which the participants got round the law was by each person who took part in the game in turn rolling a rubber ball down an inclined piece of metal; the ball then bounced over certain holes and fell into a hole with a number beside it. Presumably the fact that each participant in turn rolled the ball down this incline turned it from a game of chance into a game of skill. Examples like that can be multiplied by every hon. Member from his own experience.
§ Mr. Hynd
That is just my point. It is the whole law of gambling which needs to be tackled. That is why we want the Royal Commission Report before the House. In the meantime, this is a small instalment of what must be done to block up one of the holes.
It is not only a question of bringing the law into contempt. There is another matter which gravely disturbs the man in the street who does not understand the technicalities of these things. He asks why, although gambling seems to have the highest patronage, it seems to be regarded as sinful to buy a sixpenny ticket in a church raffle. I read in the paper this morning that a race meeting is to take place at Lingfield today and that the Royal Family will be attending. The ordinary man in the street, on reading that kind of thing in his newspaper, and being told that if he buys a 6d. ticket in a church raffle he will be spoiling his chances of going to Heaven, cannot make sense of it. The Bill will, at any rate, enable him to buy a ticket in a church raffle with a clear conscience. I do not want to take the matter any further, Mr. Speaker, because I think you are beginning to cast a lack-lustre eye in my direction.
We have been told that the Churches Committee on Gambling did not include the unreformed Church, and a question was raised as to its attitude. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Holmes), I have had one letter on this subject and it happened to be from a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in my constituency. I think it would help if I quoted from this short letter. It said:I have the honour to write to you on behalf of all the Roman Catholic parish priests and the Roman Catholics living in your constituency to request that you would kindly support by all means within your conscience and ability the Bill that is to come up in the House on Friday to legalise lotteries that are organised for charitable purposes.I know that the Church to which I belong will take a contrary view, but it puts laymen like myself in some difficulty when we get these conflicting views coming from different Churches.
1831 Another matter to which I should dearly have liked to be able to refer in some detail is the question of lotteries run for football teams and particularly one with which I am associated; but unfortunately that matter happens to be sub judice because there is a case in the courts at the moment.
That brings me to another reference made by the hon. Member for Wimbledon about a point of view that he had received from the Football Association. Frankly, that astonished me until I heard the words that he read out from the Association's letter. So far as my memory goes, those very carefully chosen words did not quite state that the Football Association is against lotteries. I ask the hon. Gentleman to read those very carefully chosen words again. They are worthy of a reply from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. They are very carefully selected words, and I think that if the hon. Member for Wimbledon reads them again he will find that my surprise was justified, because we all know that the Football Association and its associated clubs depend to a large extent on lotteries of various kinds—not illegal lotteries but legal ones.
That brings me back to the point that we started from—what is an illegal lottery? It has been stated that lotteries may be legal in one county and illegal in another. I have endeavoured to point out to the Home Office in correspondence recently that lotteries may be legal or illegal within the same county, in which there are county boroughs with their own police forces and their own police chiefs. We have the anomalous position of police chiefs in county boroughs taking a different view from the view of the chief constable in that same county. That is so obviously unsatisfactory that something ought to be done about it. These lotteries are being conducted with impunity next to a district where exactly the same lottery leads to a prosecution. The Bill, if it did nothing else, would try to clear up that kind of thing.
I want to refer to a matter of detail in connection with the Bill. The Explanatory Memorandum mentions amongst the conditions:No ticket shall be sold at more than one shilling.Not more than 10,000 tickets can be sold.1832 I hope that if this Bill reaches the Committee stage, something will be done to improve those provisions, for this reason. It seems to me to make it almost obligatory for a lottery of any size to have a minimum charge of 1s.
§ Mr. Hynd
It does. The effect would be that.
This is what happens in practice. If one offers to sell a lottery ticket for 1s., many people will say that they cannot afford 1s., but if one offers a ticket for 6d. or three for 1s. or six for 2s. 6d. that will appear to be an attractive offer and people will buy the tickets. Everybody who runs lotteries knows that that is the psychological effect of offering more tickets for a smaller charge. That fact ought to be borne in mind when we are considering whether 1s. is a reasonable amount and whether 10,000 is a reasonable maximum.
I look at this Bill not so much as new legislation as something to clarify and interpret the existing law in a commonsense fashion. That is why I hope that the House will see fit to give it a Second Reading. Whatever deficiencies it may have can be cleared up in Committee.
§ 12.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
I wish to support the Bill on three main grounds. First, I think that the existing state of the law expresses a wrong attitude towards life today. I suppose the objects of the gambling laws as we have had them in the past were to prevent the poor man, in his ignorance and hopelessness for his future, ruining his family. The rich person, however, is left completely unrestrained to gamble as he pleases, and I am sure that in the modern day that is a wrong attitude; one law for the rich and one law for the poor is not a system which the House should support.
Secondly, it is not true to describe as gambling the type of activities which this Bill is designed to allow. As the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) said, they are little flutters. If a man wants gambling there is no obstacle under the present system which prevents him from getting it. If he wants to ruin himself he will not do it at a whist drive. Certainly, the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has 1833 not been ruined in his morals because he had the luck to win a pig. Perhaps some hon. Members opposite have better information on the subject than I have, but I should have thought that his position was no worse than it was before the pig arrived.
I was, I confess, a little surprised to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) imply, so it seemed, that there was no gambling in connection with football. Everyone knows that there is more gambling in conection with football than with any other activity in the country. The Bill is designed to bring a little coherence and sanity into the law and assistance to the amateur rather than to the professional clubs.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I think the Football Association frown on the illegal lottery, just as I am certain that any association ought to frown on anything which at the time is illegal. I hope that the Football Association will be able to erase the frown from their brows as a consequence of the Bill.
I do not think that 1s. tickets for a football club or 2s. 6d. tickets for a whist drive will set the country on the road to ruin. The amount of money is severely restricted and I do not think it involves gambling in the true sense of the word.
Thirdly, I believe the Bill will bring some much-wanted coherence into the state of our gambling law. The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) mentioned that in one county the practices differ according to the rulings of the various chief constables. That is true, and within other counties there is perhaps a rationing system, in the sense that one can break the law a little but not too often or too openly. Every organisation is allowed, as it were, one small illegal raffle, but is not allowed to spoil the market. That is an unsatisfactory situation which brings the law into the utmost contempt.
In particular, I welcome the provision that the accounts of these organisations shall be placed with the local authority so that everybody can see how they are run. That is entirely to the good. One 1834 of the criticisms which has often been levelled in the past against the football pools is that nobody knew where the money went. To some extent that has been remedied. Under the Bill, everybody will know where the money goes in these lotteries. That is a great advance. Everything will be done openly.
I respect the fears of those who are anxious in case this small Measure should increase the temptation to gamble in other directions. The object of those who wish to prevent the great amount of gambling which takes place at present are the same as those of the promoters of the Bill, and I believe that these small lotteries and flutters which will take place will reduce the amount of money going into gambling in this country and will have a good effect on local sports, pastimes and cultural activities, especially in the countryside. I welcome the Bill.
§ 12.46 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)
It is generally accepted that ambiguous law is bad law and it is also generally accepted that the laws of the country dealing with betting are very ambiguous, because no one knows where he is. A decision whether a lottery is illegal or not is left very much to the discretion of the chief constable of a county or a municipality. This makes the police, the executive arm of the law, in practice the administrators of the law. That is not fair on the police and it has brought about a most undesirable situation in many parts of the country. The law should be sufficiently clear to enable a chief constable to act with reasonable certainty that he is right.
I am speaking with some knowledge of the situation in my county, because the Gloucester Football Club and a number of other clubs and associations in the county of Gloucester have been warned that they may be prosecuted for certain activities which are on the border line, as it were. Again, it is a question of interpretation. In the neighbouring counties of Hereford and Worcestershire exactly the same things are going on and hundreds of pounds are being collected each week. Surely that is a situation which ought not to be allowed to continue. The House cannot be indifferent to the situation which brings the law into contempt.
1835 Various subterfuges have been adopted by associations trying to raise money, for instance, by creating a club side by side with the original association so that the club might run a lottery or a pool. That has been declared illegal by the recent legal decision mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies). The present state of the law tends to make people look for subterfuges and ways of getting round the law, which is extremely bad.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hems-worth (Mr. Holmes) said that the Bill will not clear up all the anomalies of the betting law. I agree with him, but at least it will remove some of the more glaring anomalies. It is well worth while the House spending a little time in doing that. There is a speculative and gambling side to human nature, which is probably increased by the drab conditions under which so many of our people live in the big industrial centres. The desire for a flutter is almost universal in large sections of our population. We cannot suppress it; we can only regulate it and see that it does not get out of hand.
I know that this is not liked by the Free Churches and by those for whom the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) has spoken. We listened to his speech with much interest and respect, although I must say that it did not impress me very much. I, too, am a member of a Nonconformist congregation, as my family have been members of it for many generations, yet I feel that religious doctrines and practices should be re-interpreted from time to time in the light of existing conditions, and that the House is well employed in spending a little time in doing that.
As I have said, the concentration of the industrial population today in large centres does create a desire for a little excitement and a flutter. I think that there are ample safeguards in the Bill to prevent abuse, and particularly not to encourage the professional gambler and those who profit out of the gambling of others. I think that there are sufficient safeguards against giving them advantages which they do not possess today, and I have very great pleasure in supporting the Bill.
§ 12.50 p.m.
§ Sir Harold Roper (Cornwall, North)
I rise to give, very briefly, my support to the Bill. I feel that my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) made a very valuable contribution to our debate, but I disagree with his point of view. Nevertheless, he put his points very clearly, and I hope that, in due course, we shall have further answers to the points which he raised.
I have in mind particularly the hon. Member's reference to the Royal Commission. I have not a copy of the Royal Commission's Report with me, but I think it is a mistake not to bear in mind the circumstances in which that Commission sat and considered this matter. It was at a time when the country was much concerned at the immensity of the Irish sweepstakes. If I remember rightly, that was the main consideration of the Report of that Royal Commission. Although my hon. Friend quoted passages from the Report, which gave a certain general view of the Commission's recommendations, if I remember correctly its main concern was to find a formula which would prevent these sweepstakes on such an enormous scale, without interfering with these much lesser lotteries which we are now considering.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
I think that the hon. Gentleman is quite correct about the Report of the earlier Royal Commission of 1932–33, but the Royal Commission's Report which his hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) quoted was the later one—the Willink Report of 1951–52. Irish sweepstakes were dealt with fully by the earlier Commission, and not by the second one.
§ Sir H. Roper
I thank the hon. Gentleman for correcting me on that point.
Approaches have been made to me on this matter from my local rural constituency. I have been approached by a cricket club, two football clubs and one ladies' hockey club. We all know, as my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) put it so clearly and eloquently, that the reason which makes these lotteries necessary is that the sources of financing these very admirable clubs, mostly athletic clubs, have dried up. They have dried up mainly as a result of the very high taxation which we all suffer today. I think, also, that we must 1837 remember that the people who benefit from these clubs are very largely the youth of our country, who have not much spare cash. They cannot afford to finance their clubs without this supplementary support. As so many hon. Members have stated, it is absolutely essential for the survival of many of these clubs that these means of supplementing their funds should be legalised.
On an earlier occasion in the House, I raised another matter which had come to my notice—raffles in aid of the blind. I mentioned a remarkable occasion when it was proposed to raffle produce from a harvest festival, the proceeds to be given to the blind. Before that raffle was held, the police stepped in, and said, "If you do this, we shall prosecute." One cannot overlook the moral aspects of lotteries and gambling in general, but I submit that those who buy tickets in the lotteries which we are considering under this Bill do so not solely in a gambling spirit, but only to a minor degree in a gambling spirit. Their purpose is mainly to support the objects for which these lotteries are raised—their football clubs and other estimable purposes.
Let us bear in mind that the prizes which are to be allowed under this Bill are not to exceed 50 per cent. of the whole proceeds. Only a very small proportion is to go into prizes, and anyone with a gambling spirit, who wants to enter into a gamble, will not put his money into a lottery, but will find much better ways to indulge his desires in this respect. So far as football is concerned, he has the opportunity ready at hand in the football pools, which give him a much better chance of gain if he wants to make gain, but the pools are devoid of the same moral background in that their purpose is private gain, whereas we are considering a more deserving object. I therefore support the Bill.
§ 12.58 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Oram (East Ham, South)
My reason for supporting the Bill is that I have a very deep affection for one of the most worthy of British institutions, namely, the local cricket club. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) referred earlier to the views of the M.C.C. I should like to assure him that there is another point of view about cricket, which is shared by the local cricketers of whom I am very proud to be a member.
1838 Almost my only relaxation from the rigours of my political life is in being captain of a cricket club in a suburb of Brighton, where I live. I assure the House that our finances very much depend on the sort of lotteries which this Bill quite clearly intends to make legal. The local club to which I belong is a club of working-class lads. Its members include a butcher, a shop assistant, a number of clerks, building workers, and others. They, of course, pay their subscriptions to the club, but an income is necessary over and above that which they can possibly afford out of their modest incomes.
We have devised all sorts of ways of raising money to carry on our activities, and the only really successful one is a very modest scheme which. I imagine, would be at the present time strictly out of court, although fortunately no action has yet been taken. It is fantastic to suggest that small schemes by means of which useful social activity is financed should not be made legal.
The expenses involved in this activity are constantly increasing. Our lads need bats, balls, nets, and so on, and the prices of these articles keep rising, and I expect that as a result of the Budget they will rise even more. It is important for us to be able, during the close season, to sell 3d. tickets to obtain a modest £1 per week—that is all—so that over the season we shall be able to gather in about £30 with which to buy equipment.
I am very glad to welcome the Bill. My cricket club and thousands of similar clubs will very much welcome a feeling of security about the way in which they raise their funds. At present, many are getting away with it, but others are hesitant about embarking upon a harmless, modest flutter with the object of putting themselves on a sound basis.
From time to time the M.C.C. has its own problems, but I suggest to the hon. Member for Wimbledon that they are not of the same order as the problems of the much more important cricket clubs in the country, the small ones. The Bill will enable these clubs to put themselves in a better position.
Other hon. Members will no doubt speak about other desirable sporting and social activities to which these arguments apply. The game for which I have 1839 greatest affection, cricket, ought not to have to rely on these methods of raising money, but I am unable to suggest any other means.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I do not know what was previously said about the M.C.C., but I do know that the Essex County Cricket Club is one of very few county clubs which are not kept going by pools, and so on, at present. Practically all county cricket is now largely supported by efforts far more ambitious than these.
§ Mr. Oram
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. The earlier reference was to a letter apparently issued by the M.C.C. to the effect that cricket so far has been free from gambling associations and the M.C.C. hopes that that will continue. The hon. Member for Wimbledon might have confined himself to the pastime for which his constituency is more famous.
§ Mr. Oram
I am very glad to hear it. I hope they are able to carry on their activities without any financial difficulty.
It is ludicrous that the harmless activities which the Bill seeks to legalise should at present be strictly illegal, and I am glad that this Bill will, I hope, put the matter right.
§ 1.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Pannell(Liverpool, Kirkdale)
I intervene briefly to emphasise one point. I am a new Member, but for many years I was what is euphemistically described as a prospective candidate, and in that capacity I was called upon to attend whist drives organised by branches of the Conservative Party organisation. I now find to my horror and consternation that in so doing I was guilty of a crime. It was probably a menial crime, but it brought me within the ambit of the law, and I was liable to be brought before the bar of justice to answer for it.
I not only approved of the whist drives beforehand but attended them while they were in progress and presented the prizes afterwards. It could, therefore, be claimed that I was guilty of being an accessory 1840 before the fact, during the fact and after the fact. On that account, I welcome the Bill. It will enable me in future to attend such functions with a clear conscience and an easy mind.
§ 1.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Wells (Faversham)
Like the Bill's opponents, I should prefer people not to gamble at all. I have an inherent dislike of gambling. However, I feel that the Bill does not so much encourage gambling as make it less undesirable. So great is my detestation of gambling that if I had been lucky in the Ballot I should certainly not have introduced a Bill of this kind, but, in spite of that, I tend to support the Measure, and I will explain why.
First, we cannot stop gambling by legal action, even if we try, and the fact is that we do not even try. Secondly, inconsistencies in the regulations and laws about gambling are rampant. When I joined the Labour Party forty-three years ago we preached against getting something for nothing—my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) has referred to that—but we would then go to a Labour Party whist drive or social and buy raffle tickets, thinking we were doing nothing wrong or inconsistent. Thus, there was confusion of thought as well as inconsistency of action.
The same confusion and inconsistency are prevalent today. Sweepstakes, pools, raffles, dog and horse racing and Stock Exchange gambling are prevalent, and are condoned, and in many cases encouraged, by people in all classes of the community. If I wish, I can ring up a bookmaker and put on a horse or dog £100 or any other sum that I choose or he is prepared to accept. The only connection I ever had with a bookmaker was during a General Election when one was offering six to one against me. I thought that was too good a chance to miss, and so I had a pound on it.
§ Mr. Wells
Yes, he paid out, but it has not encouraged me to persist with this form of trying to get rich quickly.
Reference has been made to religious organisations. Some time ago I was asked to open an exhibition for a religious body. 1841 I did so, and I had scarcely got into the hall before my wife and I were badgered to buy raffle tickets, and we did so. We were not so fortunate as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who won a pig on such an occasion. The most actively employed stall at the exhibition during the afternoon was one where a game of chance was being played. A penny was staked, and if one was lucky, one got 3d. back. I estimated that the odds were about 75 to 1 against winning.
I am not prepared to argue the moral issue with those who are opposed to the Bill. They are as entitled to their opinion as is my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) and the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather), who did remarkably well in supporting him.
There are one or two points which I have been asked to mention in connection with the Bill. The first is concerned with registration. Local authorities in my constituency are concerned that only borough councils and county councils are to be responsible for registration. They think that the urban district and rural district councils should also be allowed to undertake that job.
The other point is to do with the amount of expenses allowed. I am informed by those who have been responsible for organising competitions of this kind that today printing is so dear that 5 per cent. maximum expenses will not be sufficient. It is suggested that they should be allowed to include the actual cost of running the draw, with a maximum of 7½ per cent. instead of the 5 per cent. mentioned in the Bill. These, of course, are Committee points and will be dealt with in Committee, if the Bill is given a Second Reading.
§ 1.13 p.m.
§ Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)
Most of the points that can be made in the debate have already been made, and it is not necessary for me to detain the House very long. I want very briefly to express my support for the Bill and my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), first, on his success in coming out first in the lottery for Private Members' Bills, and, secondly, on having decided to try to tidy up this branch of the law.
1842 I should like briefly to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black). He made the type of speech that every hon. Member expected of him, but this morning he was particularly unconvincing. Whatever qualities the hon. Member may have, he will certainly never make a good detective. He said that in the past ten years he had attended about 200 church bazaars and fairs and that at only about 5 or 6 per cent. had he found raffles being held. He could not have noticed them.
§ Mr. Blackburn
As my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. P. Wells) says, they knew the reputation of the hon. Member for Wimbledon.
What I usually find when I go to one of those functions is that I am immediately besieged, and my constant hope is that I am not successful in the ballot. I wonder what are the views of the hon. Member for Wimbledon about gambling on the Stock Exchange. I consider that gambling on the Stock Exchange represents a far worse social evil than paying a shilling in a lottery in respect of the local football or cricket club. The hon. Member rather overstated the case against the Bill by quoting what was said by the M.C.C. and the Football Association.
It should be recognised that the position of the county cricket clubs is quite different from that of the small, local clubs. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) pointed out, Essex is the only county cricket club not being financed by lotteries.
§ Mr. Blackburn
I usually bow to the knowledge of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West in matters of this kind.
As I was saying, the position of the counties and the large football clubs is quite different from that of the small, local clubs. I can well appreciate the views of churchmen and those who are completely opposed to all forms of gambling. I appreciate that point of view and I can sympathise with it. By the 1843 way, I have not been approached about the Bill by any church organisations, football or cricket organisations, or by any individuals. While appreciating the point of view of those opposed to gambling, I must point out that gambling exists and most Churches have recognised that trait in human character, because most Churches are running raffles, in spite of what the hon. Member for Wimbledon says.
I can see nothing more sinful in buying a shilling ticket for the local club than in paying 2d. or 3d. for a raffle ticket at a church bazaar. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East is to be congratulated on trying to tidy up the law in this matter. It is very bad that we should have one interpretation of the law in one part of the country and another interpretation, or the turning of a blind eye, in another part. When the law is not being carried out it falls into disrepute, and we all know that whatever the law may be, lotteries are taking place in some parts of the country while in others they are stopped, generally because of the whim and point of view of perhaps one man.
As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said, the greatest harm comes when something is carried to excess. I do not believe that if we pass the Bill betting will suddenly develop on a huge scale and will be carried to excess. I do not believe that if my constituents pay a shilling for a ticket to support Hyde United or Stalybridge Celtic, they will be forever damning their souls.
I hope that hon. Members will take a realistic view of the present position and will give the Bill a Second Reading. When it is considered in Committee, I hope that one or two small details will be improved, but on the whole I think that the general proposals are right, and I hope that the House will give the Bill its support.
§ 1.20 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)
The purposes of the larger part of the Bill are ones with which the House has grown familiar. My hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Barber) obtained leave to introduce a Bill on very similar lines, I think without a Division 1844 —I do not know whether that has any special significance—about two years ago. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) introduced very much the same Bill earlier this year, but, of course, did not get very far as he was not fortunate in the place which he drew in the Ballot.
When that Bill was discussed on Second Reading I indicated that the view of the Government was that hon. Members should vote upon it according to their conscience. It was agreed then, and it will be agreed today, that no party considerations whatever arise in connection with the issues involved. As I said, as far as the Bill relates to lotteries it is substantially the same as that previously introduced by my hon. Friend. The main change is to impose a limit on the total size and, of course, any question of that and other matters which are changed can be dealt with in Committee.
I would like to advise the House that the scheme of the Bill is workable; that is to say, if the House sees fit to pass the Bill it is one which can be made to work. There is one point which I think I should make. When the Bill was last debated here, and indeed again today, attention was called to the fact that the Royal Commission had not recommended in favour of any alteration in the law on lotteries. My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) made a substantial point of that. The reason that the Royal Commission gave was that the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934, appeared then to have worked reasonably well.
The Royal Commission explored the possibility of some change in the law in this connection and concluded that on the evidence before it there was no need for such a change. It also recorded the view that the social consequences of an amendment of the law in this sense would not be very serious. Since the Report of the Royal Commission the situation has altered considerably. There have been two fairly recent cases in the High Court which have made it clear that certain forms of lotteries which were thought to be legal are not within the exemptions of the Act of 1934. The two cases have been referred to today. They are Maynard v. Williams and others and Pearse and others v. Hart.
The effect of those cases, very shortly, is that a society which regularly runs 1845 lotteries to raise money for its purposes cannot do so. The Royal Commission's conclusion that there was no need for change would not now necessarily represent its view. I think it right that I should say that from this Box. I am not in any way desiring to speculate what it would decide.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Even though I am invited by the right hon. Gentleman, all I can do is to say that that conclusion was based on a view of the facts which is now known to be incorrect. Although, of course, the law has not been changed, its effect is different from what it was thought to be by everyone at the time when the Royal Commission was considering these matters. It is more stringent than it was then thought to be. As a result of that it is quite certain that there is now much greater pressure to circumvent it. I think those facts ought to be before the House.
I am not saying that the law as at present interpreted cannot be enforced. What I would say is that strict enforcement would go beyond what many people would regard as either necessary or proper. Whether or not the law should be made less stringent is a question on which hon. Members must vote according to what they think right in the light of these facts, but it is proper that the facts should be put before them.
Clause 2 introduces a completely new element, in the sense that it was not before the House when we considered the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot. It seeks to implement a recommendation of the Royal Commission concerning whist drives. I think that that was the primary intention in the mind of the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies). The Government have considered this Clause, and I must tell the House that the Clause appears to carry out the purpose effectively. I am not saying that I wish to commit myself to the detail of the Clause but that on these lines would, in fact, do what the hon. Member intends. My advice, therefore, is that a Clause on the lines drafted would cover whist drives organised for charitable, sporting and other similar purposes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) asked 1846 whether it would include political purposes. The view of the Government is that political purposes would be covered by such words as those now in the Bill. It is widely known that the police do not take action against whist drives unless they are being used as cover for gambling or profit-making out of gambling. Indeed, a statement to that effect was made in this House by a former Home Secretary, suggesting that the police would not, in fact, prosecute in such cases. The Clause will have the desirable effect of making the law in this respect accord with the existing practice.
The House will no doubt have noticed that Clause 2 does not refer specifically to whist. Indeed, as it is now drafted, the Clause would cover any game, for example, bridge. The conditions it imposes are: first, that the only money paid should be a single charge for entry; and secondly, that there should be no stakes in the course of play. Some games do not lend themselves to that kind of treatment. For example, it would be very difficult to play "housey-housey," so far as I understand the rules of that game, without staking money as one went along. Therefore, it is right that I should tell the House that the Clause does not cover that kind of gaming.
§ Mr. H. Boardman (Leigh)
So far as I understand, I believe that the single payment of 5s. would cover games like "housey-housey," "bingo" and "tombola."
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I am not certain of the precise rules. All I am saying is that it would be difficult to play "housey-housey," or other games of that kind, without stakes being laid and taken as the game proceeds. The Clause is limited to the case where there is a single payment at the beginning and no further stakes. The House should understand it is that which would be approved, on the face of it, were this Bill given a Second Reading.
There may be an Amendment moved during the Committee stage to extend the Clause to cover such games, but that would be embarking on a much wider and more controversial subject. If the Bill receives a Second Reading, I think that the Committee would then be well advised to look narrowly at any Amendment to that effect. The questions raised 1847 now are, is it desirable to legalise small whist drives, and. is it desirable to legalise, for charitable, sporting and similar purposes, a larger class of small lotteries than is allowed under the present law?
The Government do not wish to interfere with the voting of hon. Members according to what they believe to be right in this matter. If the Bill receives a Second Reading, a number of important questions will remain to be dealt with during the Committee stage. If that stage be reached, the Government are willing to offer to the promoters of the Bill their assistance in the detailed consideration of its provisions.
§ 1.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
I think that I should rise at this point to express the gratitude, not only of those sponsoring the Bill, but of the whole House, to the Joint Under-Secretary for his lucid and extremely helpful speech. Naturally, and one can understand it, he took the line that anyone in his position would take, because he had no alternative—that the position of the Government regarding this Bill is one of neutrality. But if one may take that matter a little further, I think it is certainly a helpful and benevolent neutrality in that the decision is left to the minds and consciencies of hon. Members.
The hon. Gentleman went out of his way—or at least he went to some length—to explain to the House that in his view the Bill is a workable scheme; that it carries into legislative effect the ideas which my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) intended. The hon. Gentleman further indicated, and most hon. Members will welcome it, that if the House gives a Second Reading to this Measure, about which he quite fairly expressed no opinion, the services and help of the hon. Gentleman and his Ministerial colleagues at the Home Office will be available to enable the Committee to carry through in the most effective way the wishes declared by the House this afternoon.
One other point in the speech of the hon. Gentleman which will have impressed hon. Members was when he dealt with the question of the Royal Commission and pointed out that recent court cases have, at any rate, invalidated the rather nega- 1848 Live conclusions of the Commission and have, indeed, created a new position of urgency in this matter. The hon. Gentleman did not go so far as to say that it was impossible for the police authorities to operate the existing scheme, but I thought that, at any rate, he hinted that there were grave difficulties; and he did not in any way attempt to deny or qualify what has been said by hon. Members on this side of the House about some of the difficulties experienced by police authorities and magistrates in different parts of the country.
I do not intend to occupy the time of the House for very long this afternoon. As you may know, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I have in another capacity spent a considerable time at this Box in the last few days during discussions on the Finance Bill, almost to the point at which I felt I could not stand hearing any more human voices, including my own. But it has been a refreshing change, and I am sure, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you welcome the opportunity, to hear discussions on a much more welcome legislative Measure than the Finance Bill, and that you also will have noticed a much less marked clash between hon. Members.
Perhaps I should declare an interest in this matter since at the age of thirteen I won a tin of toffees in a church raffle. Perhaps I should inform the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) that it was a Baptist church. Having declared my interest, and it is the only interest I have, may I express the general feeling of welcome and support for the Bill of myself and my hon. Friends? This Measure, as has been said, is restricted in its scope, but within that restricted scope it is of considerable importance. In drafting it my hon. Friend has been careful to ensure that there are tight restrictions against possible abuse. It does not open wide the field for abuse or commercial exploitation. It is drafted in such a way as to confine the operation of these small lotteries to genuine organisations which are not seeking to make a private profit.
In what I am sure hon. Members will agree—even though they may disagree with the Bill—was an extremely able and lucid speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East referred to the anomalies and the inconsistency in the 1849 law at present. I think it right to take as an example the case of football supporters' clubs which have been mentioned by a number of my hon. Friends. It is the case—and I do not think that anyone should or can blink their eyes to the fact—that great fortunes are made out of the game of football at present, but not by the players and, indeed, not by the clubs, but by the commercial football pools, two of which have their seat of operations in my own constituency. They make these vast fortunes and, despite the highly desirable activities of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), we still do not know what profit they are making.
They can make a profit and it is lawful for them to do so. But if a struggling Third Division club or a club in the Midlands, or in a lesser league, which has not yet reached divisional status, tries to raise money on a much smaller scale, in order to keep the club in being and to maintain football in its area, that is illegal under the Act as it has been interpreted in recent court decisions.
My hon. Friend referred to charitable, political and religious organisations. It is not necessary to go into detail about them, but if I may give an illustration from an area which I know well in my constituency, they flourish on Merseyside right in the shadow of Messrs. Little-woods, and Vernons and all the rest of them. They flourish extremely well, subject to a lot of anxious moments, and sleepless nights, worrying about how far their activities are within the law. They are in constant danger. There have been one or two prosecutions in Liverpool. I will not comment on them, because I think that it would be improper to do so. But I consider it right to refer, as have some of my hon. Friends, to the invidious position of the police.
Hon. Gentlemen may remember that I raised this question last spring in the House at Question Time. On that occasion, the hon. Gentleman gave some alarming figures of the crime wave on Merseyside. In fact, the problem in that area is so serious that we were told in the Gracious Speech to expect legislation to be introduced for the purpose of setting up a branch of the Old Bailey in South Lancashire. I gather that that legislation may be before us in the very near future. 1850 Whatever view the House may take on that matter is not for me to say. I would only say that if a branch of the Old Bailey were set up in our part of the world, it would certainly not be idle through want of work.
If the crime wave in that part of the country is so serious that it is necessary to set up new courts, one would think that the police could better employ their time dealing with crimes of violence and all the other abominable crimes committed there than on some of the activities which they have to undertake. Unfortunately, they are not able to do that, because, under the law as it stands—and as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who has great experience of the Home Office, would confirm—these are matters for the police and not for the Home Secretary or anyone else to deal with.
In Liverpool, for example, the police have to spend their time hounding priests of the Roman Catholic Church who need these exiguous sums derived from small lotteries for social work, education, and so on. I notice that the police have also been active in closing pools run by the Orange Lodges and the rest. Therefore, it can be said that in Liverpool the enforcement of the law is being conducted with religious impartiality. This Bill, if it gets a Second Reading, will help to release the police for their more urgent work of countering crime, and none will be happier about that than the police themselves in the areas concerned.
Without trespassing further on the time of the House, I wish to express on behalf of my hon. Friends our support of the Measure introduced by my hon. Friend and our agreement with the greater part of the speeches to which we have listened this afternoon. May I once again express the thanks of, I am sure, the whole House—whatever view one takes on the Bill—to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the very helpful way in which he has just addressed the House?
§ 1.44 p.m.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
As a disappointed aspirant to getting a Private Member's Bill through the House, may I congratulate the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) on the happy and felicitous terms in which he introduced his Bill? To a very large extent, he covered the main points in a 1851 comparatively short time. However, there are one or two matters to which, I think, I ought to refer.
Perhaps it is not a coincidence that, up to now, no hon. Member who is also a member of the legal profession has spoken during this debate. The main difficulty about the Bill, I submit, arises in connection with the legal position as a result of two cases to which reference has already been made. The suggestion that some of the present difficulties arise from the differing views of chief constables is, perhaps, a little unfortunate. The difficulty in this case seems to me to arise from the different views taken by the judges who decided these cases.
In the case of Maynard v. Williams the decisions of the two judges which carried the day differed on the grounds on which they decided to allow the appeal, while the decision of the dissenting third judge again differed for very material reasons. Therefore, so far as the law is concerned, the situation is unsatisfactory. There is authority for certain things, but insufficient authority to enable an authoritative statement to be made about these matters. Each case which is brought before the High Court has to be considered and decided on the varying facts.
It might well be that if there were a football pool of £100, £90 of which was found from other sources and £10 from the running of a small lottery, that, perhaps, would not make illegal the activities of the society. But if, on the other hand, £90 was found by means of a lottery and £10 from other sources, then that might well make the activities illegal. That is a situation which we should not allow to continue.
This Bill gives us the opportunity to clarify the law, and it is for that reason that I heartily support it. It should be remembered that the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming issued its Report two or three years ago, since when the position has materially altered, for reasons which I have indicated. I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) was ouite fair when he suggested that the Commission was solidly against bringing in the measures covered by this Bill in regard to small lotteries.
1852 The difficulty facing the Commission was that it did not think it possible to produce an effective working scheme. But, since then, ingenious people have thought of the system of registration which, so far as one can tell from reading the Report, was not fully considered by the Commission. That, of course, provides a most effective measure for ensuring that people who wish to make money out of lotteries for their own benefit, will be under very strict supervision and will have to render their accounts at twelve-monthly periods.
I feel that registration has really carried the matter further, and that, except for those people who feel strongly about these matters on the highest moral grounds, there should be little difficulty that this Bill, if put into practice, will work reasonably smoothly. People may laugh, but it often happens that quite innocent and respectable men and women commit this sort of crime for which, if they inadvertently commit it a second time, they may find themselves liable to a term of six months' imprisonment and a fine of, I think, £250.
I am not at all satisfied that the Churches Committee on Gambling, whose views one would like to take into account, is right when it says that the Bill provides further opportunities for gambling. People who are determined to take part in these lotteries will do so, and the Bill merely clarifies the law on these matters. If somebody wants to make a fortune or ruin himself he will not indulge in one of these small lotteries, or go to a whist drive. Other facilities are available for people who are determined to ruin themselves. When exaggerated language is used about a Bill of this character it does not help us very much.
I want to say a few words about one point of detail which arises from a remark made by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings), dealing with the question of the amount of the proceeds appropriated on account of expenses, and the provision that the prize money shall not exceed half of the remainder. It is generally admitted that those who run this class of small lottery are well aware of their own markets, and when they run such lotteries they offer prizes which the size of the lottery will permit them to pay. If this matter does require clarification—and it is rather difficult to see 1853 how it works—it can be clarified in Committee. The promoters of these small lotteries would have to take a chance on their liability to provide the prizes. It would not be a very successful lottery, nor would future lotteries be patronised, if the prizes were not forthcoming as promised on the tickets.
My hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) referred to the question of the cost of postage and expenses. I should expect these small lotteries to be essentially of a local character. They are essentially for the man and woman in the village or the small town, with a local football team, local political parties, and so on. I do not imagine that a great deal of postage is likely to be incurred by the promoter. Such postage as is required will probably be covered by the 5 per cent. allowed, but if it is not the percentage might be amended in Committee to a slightly higher one.
The whole essence of the Bill is that facilities will not be given to people to make money out of these small lotteries for their own personal and private gain. The object is to enable those worthy societies which are mentioned in the Bill to make sufficient money to enable them to carry on the good work which they have been doing, and which I, for one, hope they will be able to do in the future.
§ 1.55 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Boardman (Leigh)
My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) made some reference to the history of the legislation dealing with gaming, and quoted the Act of 1541, which was passed in the reign of Henry VIII—but he did not tell us that although that Act made gaming unlawful it was not made unlawful because it was considered evil. That Act was introduced because the authorities of the day were pandering to vested interests.
It so happened that the bow and arrow makers were very concerned because a number of these other games were becoming a very serious detraction to the practice of archery, and because archery was declining as a sport a number of bow and arrow makers—according to a petition which was presented—were leaving this realm and going to Scotland. The petition was organised by the bowyers, fletchers, stringers and arrowhead makers, 1854 and it contained no reference to the evil of playing other games. It further enacted that gaming was unlawful, whether played in public or in private, unless it was played in a Royal Palace. That is very intriguing.
A short time ago I tabled a Question about the game known as "housey-housey," otherwise known as "tombola" and "bingo." When I did so I was informed by a Press friend of mine that a picture had appeared, in an earlier edition of a certain London newspaper, of a certain personage who was engaged in playing "housey-housey," and that that edition had to be withdrawn and the matter had, therefore, not received a wide circulation. I do not say that there was anything wrong about that, but it shows the absurdity of the whole position. In my Question I asked why it was possible for the game of "housey-housey" to be permitted in West End clubs, holiday camps—who, incidentally, advertise the game in their brochures as one of the attractions of holiday camps—and in seaside resorts, on piers, and in sideshows.
When I was at Margate this year I was interested to see a large board outside a cheap "dive" which said, "Bingo now being played." I went inside and found that nobody there was afraid of the police. On the other hand, for people belonging to some Lancashire clubs—who have been playing this game for a long time, and for charitable purposes—there is always the danger that the police will swoop down upon them without warning, and the fear that a couple of motor coaches may draw up outside to take them to the police courts.
Something is radically wrong here. Quite respectable people, who merely want a little diversion, are being penalised. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) was very wide of the mark when he said that there is no salvation except by work. I really wish he could visit my constituency, where everybody works and gets his living by honest toil. For five and sometimes six days a week the people are in the sweat shops of the coal mines and the cotton mills—and then the hon. Member talks about there being no salvation except by work! These people join clubs and play these games because they have so much of this hard work during the week that they require a little diversion.
1855 It must strike everybody as an absurdity that the law in its present form allows private individuals to amass vast fortunes and yet does not allow club committees, or committees of any description, to organise these games or lotteries for the purpose of taking children to the seaside, or giving a tea to the old folk at Christmas. One of the firms which has made so much out of legalised gambling was during the war, among other things, the greatest producer of parachutes for our Service men. The irony of the position is that the little committee which wants to send the children away to the seaside, probably at a cost of 15s. each, and give them a couple of meals, or give the old people tea at Christmas, with 10s. into the bargain—which is a highlight of the year for many such people—is not allowed to do so, because it is illegal. On the other hand, when it is done by the football pools they are allowed to amass such fortunes that they do not know where to put the money.
I was very interested to hear hon. Members refer to the onus thrust upon the police. The Home Office ought to do something about that matter. I have asked two or three Home Secretaries about the playing of "housey-housey," a subject in which I have been interested for a long time. From one Home Secretary I got a very unofficial reply. He said, "You've got some old sweats in your club, haven't you?". Perhaps we have, but the old sweats do not want to play "housey-housey" and find themselves in the hands of the police. I expected that another Home Secretary would answer me with all the detachment of a High Court judge and say, "What is 'housey-housey'?". Instead of that, he put the skids under me by saying, "Oh, they play it in every fairground." That is so, but why cannot people play it in other places?
The reason is that successive Home Secretaries have been quite happy to hide behind the principle that responsibility must rest with the local police. That principle is neither right nor honest. It is politically dishonest and political hypocrisy. Several cases have been cited. I can give the House a further illustration. The chief constable of the county borough police gets a letter from somebody, perhaps anonymous, perhaps signed. He can 1856 please himself whether he takes action on it. If the chief constable of the county police gets a communication, even though it be anonymous, he must immediately contact the local police and say, "You must take action." The local police constable then has no option in the matter, but must take action because the initiative has come from the county.
The police say, "We do not want to interest ourselves in these matters. We have more important work to do than spending our time like this." An hon. Member who spoke in this debate said that he could stand in his constituency and, by moving five yards one way, he would be able to do the things now covered by the Bill, whereas if he moved five yards the other way he could not do them. I put it to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department that that sort of thing cannot be allowed to go on.
I was rather upset when the Under-Secretary of State said that the Bill could not possibly cover the game of "housey-housey." If it does not, there will be a terrific rumpus in Lancashire. I give warning now that, whatever this House decides today, the game of "housey-housey" will go on in Lancashire. I am concerned about our making fools of the police while this game is going on, in Lancashire in particular. I plead with the Home Secretary to give every cooperation to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East in trying to embrace this game of "housey-housey" so as to take this responsibility away from the police. We ought to face the fact that the responsibility is ours.
§ 2.5 p.m.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I apologise to the House for addressing it without having heard the earlier speeches. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Boardman) seemed to think there was something wrong about differences of operation in one county or district as against another. That is a very dangerous argument. He would be a very rash man who said that local authorities were not to have any say how their affairs were conducted. That is the logical conclusion to be drawn from his argument.
There is more hypocrisy and humbug talked about gambling than on probably any other subject. National Insurance is a gamble. It was a gamble, when I stood 1857 up just now, whether you would call me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. We gamble every day in one way or another. When money enters into the matter some people think that there is something different about the gamble. References have been made to betting legislation; our legislation is far too comprehensive. It involves far too many restrictions on far too many people, requiring far too many officials doing jobs which are unproductive.
I wish Governments could be persuaded to limit their job to safeguarding the security of the country and the individual and securing the value of our currency. We should then probably do much better as a nation than we have done for the last hundred years. The trouble has been caused by pressure groups who think they know better than the average individual how he should behave. They succeed in making all individuals behave in the same way, whether they like to or not. The hon. Member for Leigh gave examples to show the abuses created when that process is taken to an absurd extent.
I welcome the Bill. My only regret is that it does not go further. Why should we wet-nurse the British public about whether it should risk its money? Why should there be betting laws? We had a Royal Commission of very distinguished people; some of them were probably officers of universities. Could it be that some of them were anxious about their undergraduates getting out of hand in this matter? It is perhaps relevant to that kind of institution, but it would be iniquitous that Parliament should decide that that kind of thing is to operate over the whole country. My main regret is that we are not abolishing betting laws altogether and restoring individual responsibility.
I have never been able to understand why the Churches, although from their pulpits Sunday after Sunday the virtues of individual responsibility are preached as part of their profession of Christianity, wish to take away individual responsibility in matters like this. It is purely an individual choice whether a man gambles or not. Men are always gambling with their employment and their lives, yet the betting laws deny the right of men and women to gamble with their money. I happen to be a Christian, but I do not expect everyone else to be one just because I am. I do not believe in 1858 taking away individual responsibility in matters like this.
Nobody is compelled to gamble. If anybody is foolish enough to gamble let him take the consequences. It is extraordinary that in the twentieth century we should be trying to take away responsibility in a matter which is much less important than many other things. Is there not something more serious for Parliament to do than to talk about whether somebody can hold a whist drive without breaking the law? That is what the Bill involves. When I look at the Bill it seems that we have all broken the law. For example, "housey-housey" is played on every troopship leaving this country and coming back. It is played in my constituency at fetes organised by ex-Service men who probably learnt the game while in the Army. Do we make the law any better observed by passing the Bill? I very much doubt it.
I support the Bill simply because I think it is moving in the right direction—that is to remove or to whittle down this ludicrous attempt by the State to tell people how they should behave for their own good. One may say that there is a limit to anarchy—the anarchy which is in all of us—and there certainly must be a limit. Obviously there has to be responsibility, but I feel that to deny the individual the right to take a chance, provided that taking that chance does not damage the community as a whole, is quite unnecessary.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington), who has given a great study to this matter, put his finger on the problem when he referred to whether or not this type of gambling should provide a profit to the promoter. If the State wants to stop people making profits it has a remedy, which some hon. Friends and I would be very pleased if we could use: that is, direct taxation. That is a practical remedy and there is nothing to prevent any Chancellor of the Exchequer bringing into a Budget a provision which says that any profit earned out of gambling shall be subject to double the rate of ordinary Income Tax. There is nothing to prevent that, and no doubt we should sit up night of after night debating it on a Finance Bill. Why should we remove from the responsibility of the individual the decision whether it is right or wrong to gamble?
1859 I learned when quite young that gambling was a fool's game. If people are prepared to put money on a horse owned by someone they do not know, trained by someone they do not know, ridden by someone they do not know, and to put their money on it with a man they do not know, they can go ahead. I do not see why the State should spend hours talking about whether they should do so or not.
The answer is to have a remedy through taxation if taxation should ever be used as a penal weapon. We in Parliament surely are expected to talk about things which are more important than this. In my view, this Bill is a step in the right direction, but it is a step taken by a toddler which ought to be taken by a giant in seven-league boots.
§ 2.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Channon (Southend, West)
This Bill is a straightforward proposal to rid the community of an illogical, inconvenient and ridiculous situation, and surely no one knows more about that situation than the Member of Parliament. Scarcely a week goes by in which a Member of Parliament is not asked to buy a raffle or lottery ticket for something or other. On every visit to the constituency one is confronted by little books of tickets. It is sad to think that large numbers of hon. Members are pseudo-law breakers.
Recently, I attended a function at which there were many police officials and civic dignitaries: raffle tickets were being sold to everybody. No one objected. On another occasion, when an attempt was made to raise money by a raffle for a sporting club, unfortunately there was a technical infringement by a too enthusiastic supporter. One or two tickets were sold in the street outside the club. All the tickets had to be recalled as the people who organised the raffle laid themselves open, by that technicality, to having their so-called crime reported. All the tickets had to be called in and the money refunded. A small sum was involved, but it caused confusion and hullabaloo.
Mention has been made that 50 per cent. of the proceeds of a lottery would go to the winners. I do not believe that could ever happen because in small 1860 raffles held on behalf of tennis clubs, football clubs and similar organisations, frequently the prizes are donated by people interested in the club. I should be very much surprised if as much as 50 per cent. is handed back. The organisers would have a bigger profit.
Mention was made by an hon. Member opposite that Essex County Cricket Club was one of the very few, or perhaps the only, cricket club which did not raise money by raffles and lotteries. Perhaps the reason is that recently that club raised its subscriptions. Perhaps that is the reason why it is solvent.
This Bill does not go far enough. The game of "housey-housey" has been mentioned. I was associated with a military convalescent home for four years during the war and in that home "housey-housey" was played every day and all day. It can be criticised as a waste of time, but cannot be criticised in any way as a moral crime. I welcome the Bill as a small step forward to erase a spark of hypocrisy in the law and I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading.
§ 2.13 p.m.
§ Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)
I share the view of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) and my hon. Friend the Member for Southend. West (Mr. Channon) in regarding this Bill as just a step towards a highly desirable reform of the betting law which should go rather further than, in fact, this Bill does go.
I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Boardman) put forward a plea on behalf of small clubs. None of us has been Member of Parliament for a constituency for long without realising the important part such clubs play in our social and national life and in our constituencies. I am sure that the House was impressed by the plea made by the hon. Member for consideration of people who like to play the game of "Housey-housey" in such clubs. I hope that this Bill will turn out to be the "key of the door" for that reform.
This Bill has a very mixed parentage—perhaps "mixed" is a derogatory term, and I should say a wide parentage. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) has supported it after being the father for a short time of a 1861 similar Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Barber), I am sure, would have supported the Bill had he not been prevented by the exigencies of his office on the Front Bench from speaking in the debate. I hope that if the Bill gets a Second Reading his part in its introduction will not be forgotten; I am sure that it will not.
I honestly do not believe that the Bill will lead to a widespread growth in the practice of gambling in the sense in which the churches—I think rightly—condemn that practice on the grounds that it is a national evil. I think it will merely have the effect of giving legality to various practices which are carried on widely at the moment. To that extent, it will be of help to the police in their administration of the law and ought to save the law from falling into that disrepute into which it is apt to fall if it is widely disregarded.
I have great respect for those who, like my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black), have opposed the Bill on grounds of Christian conscience. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely that how much one gambles, or whether one gambles at all, is a matter for the individual Christian's conscience and not primarily one for the law of the land. I do not think that if we amend the law in the way in which this Bill proposes we shall be denying the force of what the Churches are saying about gambling, which, in my view, is a different matter. It is up to the Church, working through its influence on the individual conscience, to combat what is a national evil, the prevalence of gambling, but which is not primarily a matter for the law.
The hon. Member for Wimbledon surprised me by his citation of some words of the M.C.C. about the absence of gambling from the sport of cricket. I do not doubt the accuracy of what he said, but I question the comprehensiveness of the knowledge of the M.C.C. in this matter. Like other hon. Members, I have the honour to be a member of the M.C.C. but I have also the honour, which I regard as no less great, to be a member of the North Stainley Village Cricket Club, near my home. I say "no less" because North Stainley sometimes invites me to play for them and the M.C.C. does not do so.
1862 I know that in the course of league games for the North Stainley Cricket Club against its associates—those league games on which the fortunes of county cricket in Yorkshire and Lancashire have been successfully built for many years —I often visit the ground of a club which is in need of a new sight screen or some other amenity, and that steps are taken to provide the necessary funds for it by means of a lottery or sweepstake connected with the scores, or absence of scores, of the players, and that the proceeds are devoted to that purpose.
I do not see much harm in these practices and I am sure that they will continue anyhow, just as my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West said that "housey-housey" will go on anyhow. This Bill is simply a sign that the House and the law are prepared to recognise what everybody knows to be the facts of life.
When we come to the Committee stage perhaps we shall want to look carefully at the provision limiting the number of tickets which can be sold in any raffle to 10,000. I say that because it seems to me that this provision may be open to the objection to which the law as it stands is open, namely, that it can be and is being too easily circumvented. For instance, if any society wished to hold a larger raffle than the 10,000 ticket limit would allow, it would be simple to hold two raffles. So I think we shall probably want to look carefully at that provision to see whether it is necessary to write it into the Bill in that form.
Apart from that, I welcome the Bill and I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading.
§ 2.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) will not mind if I do not follow his agreeable speech, because I found myself largely in agreement with him. Like other hon. Members who have spoken, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) not only on his success in the Ballot, but on the worthy cause he has brought before the House, and also on the skilful way in which he has introduced this Bill.
I believe it is a good thing for a private Member to introduce a Bill of a non-party character on a subject which, for some reason or other, the parties of the day 1863 find it difficult to bring before Parliament. However, I give notice to the Government that there is an increasing feeling on both sides of the House that it is time that the Report of the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming was debated here, and I serve notice on them that once we get this Bill safely on its way, there are a large number of hon. Members on both sides of the House who would like a debate, and that the process may be set on foot. Although this Bill deals with one unsatisfactory aspect of the law, there are others which the House would like to consider.
The fact is that it is virtually impossible today to run any kind of lottery within the provisions of the 1934 Act in the light of recent judicial decisions. I need not argue at length the fact that this Bill will not lead to any increase in gambling when it becomes law when the fact is widely advertised that anyone who is fortunate can win £75,000 for 6d. So I do not think that people will rush to try to win £100 for 1s., which is the extent of the lotteries provided by this Bill. In fact, the Bill may reduce gambling which takes place in other respects, because the average person allows himself only a certain amount of money for gambling and, if he buys tickets for worthy causes, and half the proceeds go to those causes, he may bet less on horse races or football pools.
I want to challenge the views put to us most sincerely by the lion. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black), who made the main case against the Bill. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the views of the Churches Committee on Gambling must be given careful consideration. I agree also that the views of the Magistrates Association should be given careful consideration. Yet I would ask the hon. Gentleman and the Churches Committee to understand that the decision as to whether or not the law shall be changed must rest with hon. Members of this House, and that we are bound to take into account not only the views of the Churches Committee on the one hand, but also to draw on our own experience on the other, and also to consider the points of view of the football clubs and the Churches outside the Churches Committee, as well as the charitable organisations, to which this will be a great boon.
§ Mr. Holmes
My hon. Friend will agree that there are other pressure groups besides the Church of England and the other Churches.
§ Mr. Mulley
I am aware, as most of us here are only too well aware, that there are many pressure groups, but one of the great things about the British political system is that we are not as subject to those pressure groups as, unfortunately, is the case with members of congresses in other countries. While I believe that it is only right that the views of every body should be brought before the House, we must not allow a certain section to over-ride the majority if we believe that the majority should be allowed the free exercise of its will without doing harm to the minority.
I do not see why, if the majority of people want a modest gamble of this kind, those who do not wish to have it should be offended. Obviously, there are some circumstances where, if we allowed the majority to have its way, it would be impossible for the minority to have any rights. Clearly, that situation must not be tolerated, but in a matter of this kind the exercise of its wishes by the majority will not interfere with or offend the people who do not wish to gamble.
It has always been open to us, and I hope it will continue to be so, to press home the evil of gambling. I suggest that this Bill gives an opportunity for us to take the lesser of two evils, of gambling where there is only a modest prize at stake. No one will ruin his family for £100 or use the firm's money to buy a 1s. ticket in a Christmas draw. Here, in addition to the prize being small, the proceeds, in part at least, will go to a worthy cause as opposed to gambling of other kinds, the evil of which can be argued.
I had the opportunity of meeting the Churches Committee when I had discussions with its members on the Bill that I was able to introduce in the House about two years ago. I thought they were extremely reasonable and sincere people. But I believe that in some respects their judgment in these matters is not necessarily right. They were opposed to the ready money Clause which I introduced into that Bill, on the grounds that it would increase the volume of gambling. Recent figures have shown, as a result of that Clause which I included contrary to their advice, that football pool gambling has declined by 15 per cent. 1865 since that Bill went through this House. I believe that when the Churches Committee becomes aware of the way in which the law operates when the Bill before us becomes an Act, it will have second thoughts about the matter.
I was surprised to find the hon. Member for Wimbledon arguing that we must consider either the whole of the Royal Commission's Report or none at all. If he casts his mind back a couple of years, he will recollect that that was a view which was very much pressed on behalf of the pool promoters, and I am sure that he would not wish to be joined with them in any activity.
§ Mr. Black
Let us be clear on this matter. I do not think I said that. I said that that was the view of the Royal Commission. It was the Commission's view that this matter should not be dealt with piecemeal, but should be dealt with comprehensively. That was the view of a good many other people besides the Royal Commission.
§ Mr. Mulley
I know that that is the case. It may be for that reason that the Government have never brought the matter forward. No doubt, we can see in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow who is right, but, as I understood the hon. Gentleman, that was one of the considerations that caused the Churches Committee to have some doubts about this Measure. I hope I am mistaken in my recollection, because I do not think that that is a very good argument to put forward.
Other matters of detail have been raised, and I should like to refer briefly to one or two of them in the course of winding up the debate on this Bill on behalf of its sponsors. My hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Holmes) raised an important point about the possibility of advertisements being exhibited in schools. I do not feel that under this Bill there is any danger of that occurring, at least not without the permission of the local authority who retain complete control of the school premises even though they may permit parent-teacher associations to use some of the rooms.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
The matter goes further than that, because by Section I of the Education Act, 1944, the Minister would have an over-riding power if anything like that crept in.
§ Mr. Mulley
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I wanted to remove a serious doubt which my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth had raised.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) raised a point of great substance in the criticism he made of Clause 1 (2, e), which deals with the division of the proceeds of the pool between expenses and prizes. He made a point, which will certainly have to be considered by the Committee, that if a lottery were not successful the promoter might be breaking the law mid might be unable to pay legally the prizes that he has offered. I have an Amendment which I shall wish to move in Committee to meet this difficulty, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will be only too glad to consider any Amendments of this character that hon. Members may wish to put forward.
The question of the amount of expenses and of prizes has been raised, and I am sure that these are also matters which can be considered in Committee. I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) that it is not intended that 1s. must be the minimum amount charged. In practice, I believe that much smaller sums will be charged for tickets. A shilling is a maximum. My hon. Friend the Member for Accrington thought that in practice, it would also become the minimum. I do not think there is any need for that, because for 6d. a ticket it is possible to run a lottery for £250 as the Bill at present stands, and I think that many small clubs and organisations are glad to run lotteries the total proceeds of which may be less than £100. I do not think that this will be a great difficulty, but, again, this is a matter which we ought to consider in Committee.
§ Mr. H. Hynd
I hope my hon. Friend is not going to misrepresent me. I did not say that 1s. would become the minimum. What I was trying to point out was the psychological effect of having a cheaper price for the ticket in an endeavour to sell more tickets. That is why I thought 1s. was a mistake.
§ Mr. Mulley
I am glad to have that correction. The reason for the inclusion of 1s. in the Bill is to provide a maximum which is really meant to be a maximum.
1867 The House will have been much impressed by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Boardman), and I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State was also impressed by the plea that was made for including in the Bill a provision to legalise "housey-housey," or "tombola," or whatever one likes to call it. Perhaps the fact that there are many names for this pastime may create some legal difficulties in drafting a suitable Amendment, but this is another matter which might well be considered in Committee, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh will be able to assist us in that consideration.
Finally, I should like to thank the Joint Under-Secretary for what I personally believe was a very generous and helpful speech. I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield. East that when the Joint Under-Secretary says that facilities for assistance in the detailed consideration of the Bill in Committee will be provided, that is not just an idle offer on behalf of the Home Office. The Joint Under-Secretary was good enough on a previous occasion to make that offer to me, and, having taken advantage of the drafting and other assistance which was rendered by the Home Office, I can say from my experience that it was a very valuable offer indeed. I am sure that one can say, in view of that assistance, that the Bill is likely to proceed and become an Act.
I hope, therefore, as other private Members' Bill are due for consideration today, that the House will be able to come to a decision on this Measure, and that it will go to Committee with the unanimous support of the House.
§ 2.37 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)
Last Friday, I had the honour of introducing a Private Member's Motion, and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) on that occasion produced some rather curious ideas about the fostering of the export trade. Today he has done better. I think there is very little with which I can disagree in his speech on this Bill.
I know that the Bill affects people's consciences, but when the majority of those responsible for maintaining the law are willing to turn a blind eye to breaches of the law, there is a great danger that 1868 the law may become ridiculous. I believe that throughout the country today there is a general feeling that the law requires alteration in the manner provided by the Bill. I believe that a great many people are breaking the law today, and therefore I think it is time that the law was changed.
There are people who think that this may be the thin end of the wedge, and that once having opened the door to these small lotteries and gambles, it may lead to other undesirable things. We have only to read the safeguards in Clauses 1 and 2 to realise that this is a very small matter and that tickets are limited to the price of 1s. As has been said, nobody will steal money or borrow it from the till in order to buy a shilling lottery ticket.
Whenever we go to charitable bazaars or church garden parties we find a competition for guessing the weight of a cake. One buys a 6d. or 1s. ticket without having the slightest idea of the weight of the cake. One may guess 1 1b. or 5 1b. and the average person has not a clue whether the weight is 1 1b., 5 1b. or some weight in between. In fact, it is a complete gamble. Sometimes there is a torn-bola; one buys a ticket and there may be a prize for every ticket. One may win a shaving brush, and if one uses an electric razor that prize will be no use; or one may win something very much more valuable. That is a gamble.
In principle, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) that these bazaars and charitable garden parties should not be necessary. If we were all filled with true Christian principles we should be willing to subscribe money to these needy organisations without having it dragged out of our pockets by means of lottery tickets. If we were willing to accept our responsibilities as members of the community we should subscribe sufficient money to see that new organs or central heating systems were provided in the churches.
§ Sir C. Taylor
When a church requires a new central heating plant the widow's mite counts as much as any other contribution. Everybody in the country can subscribe something if they have the 1869 matter at heart. If they feel that they want to support their church, everybody can supply something out of their pockets towards it.
As we are not all quite as good as we should be—
§ Sir C. Taylor
I have mentioned the widow's mite. As we are not all quite as good as we should be, and as we are neglectful of these matters, those who are responsible for the organisation of charities have to resort to other means, and we have lotteries. In Italy they have football pools, and much of the profit goes to assist sport in Italy. That is a good thing. In international events we always find the Italians fully equipped—not at their own or their Government's expense but at the expense of people interested in sport.
Next year the Olympic Games will be held in Melbourne, and many British sportsmen will go to Melbourne to try to win gold medals for Britain. The Olympic Games Committee has had considerable trouble in meeting their expenses.
§ Sir C. Taylor
If the hon. and learned Member will wait until I have developed my argument he will see how it affects the Bill. Next year at the Olympic Games, Britain is for the first time entering a team—
§ Mr. Speaker
The limits of discussion on Second Reading are indeed wide but I do not see what the Olympic Games have to do with the subject of lotteries.
§ Sir C. Taylor
I was giving this as an illustration of how useful it would have been if we had had the Bill earlier.
Funds could have been collected from sportsmen throughout the country, by selling 1s. lottery tickets, so that we could have sent representative British teams to compete in the Olympic Games. The Bill deals with "charitable, cultural and athletic purposes." By these means British sportsmen could be assisted to acquit themselves well in the Olympic Games.
1870 If I may give one example, for the first time in the winter sports division of the Olympic Games, Britain is entering—
§ Mr. Speaker
I must ask the hon. Member to keep a little more closely to the Question before us, which is, That the Bill be now read a Second time, not that it should have been read a Second time six months or a year ago.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
On a point of order. May I suggest that the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) is not more wide of the mark than was the hon. Member for Wimbledon who confused this Bill with a Bill which is to follow, dealing with obscene publications.
§ Mr. Speaker
I did not hear anything out of order in the speech of the hon. Member for Wimbledon, but I begin to suspect a great deal out of order in the speech of the hon. Member for Eastbourne.
§ Sir C. Taylor
I will give this example very briefly, and it is an example of the way in which athletic organisations could be helped by this Bill. I know that it cannot be done now for things which are past. but it can be done in the future, and that is one of the reasons for which I support the Bill.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
The hon. Member has based his argument for the last ten minutes on the experience of Italy. He would do better to take the example of Sweden. This is an argument for the nationalisation of the commercial football pools, and if the hon. Gentleman wishes to propose that and seeks to introduce a Bill under the Ten Minutes Rule, I can assure him that the proposal will be examined on its merits, at any rate on this side of the House.
§ Sir C. Taylor
The right hon. Gentleman is wrong. I believe in private enterprise, and I do not think the football pools in Italy are nationalised. Some of the profits are devoted to the encouragement of international sport.
The team going out in February to represent Great Britain in the Olympic Games is not a team of rich men. It consists mainly of people in the Armed Forces, including National Service men, and all their expenses have to be paid. If we had had this Bill earlier it would have been very helpful, and I hope that 1871 in years to come many athletics organisations, including football clubs and cricket clubs in our own constituencies, athletics and cultural associations, will be helped by this Bill, which is a harmless Bill. I urge that the House should give it every support and I hope that it will be passed.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).