§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 1.54 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This Bill has been described by its opponents as being the thin end of the wedge. It is nothing of the kind. It is a simple Measure, designed to implement some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and its origin does not lie in any conspiracy against the bookmaking profession but in a debate in this House on 9th March, 1956. On that day, unfortunately, having spoken, I had to leave before the Minister replied, but in my speech I said that I would believe that any Government, be it Conservative or Labour, would implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission only when I saw it. I went further and said that I did not believe that any Government would have the guts to tackle this very difficult problem.
After I had left the House, the Minister, with the authority of the Home Secretary, accepted the recommendations of the Royal Commission and indicated that the Government intended to introduce comprehensive legislation. Indeed, he was kind enough to refer to me in his remarks in order to deny my somewhat pessimistic view. That was two years ago; we still have not had that legislation, and I believe that two years from now, whatever may be the Administration, we still shall not have had a comprehensive Measure.
In the course of my speech in 1956, I said that I sailed under the flag of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). Like him, I am a reformer. When dealing with problems of this kind, even when great social evils are involved, I do not believe that one should try to box the compass in a short space of time. It is our national tradition when a wrong has been discovered and a remedy is indicated to go into it very gradually and then, step by step, to seek a solution in accordance with the mood and needs of the times.
There is no doubt whatever that the betting laws relating to horse racing are 837 every day flouted from John o'Groats to Land's End. When that happens, it not only brings the betting law into disrepute, but the corruption and the complicity that that breeds spreads throughout the whole of the community. I am sure that my right hon. Friend was influenced, when he formed his opinion on these matters, by the fact that wherever one finds major corruption amongst the police it stems, in the first instance, from the abuse of the betting law.
This is not to say that every policeman or bookmaker is seeking the one to corrupt the other. I do not believe that. But no hon. Member in any part of the House, whatever may be his views about this Bill can deny that in his constituency the betting laws every day—even as I speak—are flouted. That is not only wrong in law but it reveals a great social evil that should be put right. A problem of such magnitude, however, cannot be tackled by a private Member. It is a job for the Executive. That is one of the reasons for my belief that the present Administration have failed in their duty in not bringing forward the promised comprehensive legislation.
Having said that, I go back to my speech of March, 1956, and say that there are some things that a private Member can do and ought to try to do. Racing, and the betting connected with it, is an industry that brings pleasure to thousands. Indeed, I think that during the war it was actively tied to the maintenance of morale. Many a man will work a little harder because he is waiting for the result of the 4.30, or will work harder during the week with the prospect of a day's racing at the end of it. If he has enough money, he has access to as many accounts as he wants with as many starting price bookmakers as he wants.
I am not, however, seeking to indulge in wholesale reform of the law relating to bookmakers. By this Bill, I have sought to extend very modestly the powers of the Racecourse Betting Control Board. That Board operates in the interest of the public and of good racing. Bats are placed with the Tote, and from deductions from the bets which are made considerable sums of money are syphoned back into racing in a variety of ways. It is non-profit making. The bigger its turnover the more money it makes, the 838 more efficiently it is run, and the more money there will be for racing.
Whatever may be Members' views about my Bill or about betting on moral grounds, there is no doubt that a crisis has come to English racing. There was a time when the English thoroughbred was the best in the world. It established its pre-eminence by the only test that matters—the test of the race course. When challengers came across from France and tried to win the Derby they were not very successful. Now they come here to all our more valuable races and it is quite an event for English horses to do well. Our best stallions and some of our best mares are being exported. I hope my hon. Friends will not regard this as a tip, but there is more than a chance that the first, second and third places in the Derby and, indeed, in the Oaks will be filled by horses from across the Channel. That is not good either for the bloodstock industry or for national prestige.
The reason for this—and I am not throwing any bricks—is that the most powerful single interest in racing is not the Jockey Club but the bookmaking profession. That is the most powerful and, indeed, the most woeful influence. I should like to see racing, as an industry and as a pastime, so organise itself that the arrangements between the Jockey Club and the bookmaker, or the bookmaker and the backer, are established on a basis which takes into account all the interests involved. That is the ideal way. But there is no sign of the bookmaking profession or of racing as a whole putting its house in order.
I am not unmindful of an announcement in the Press today that the stewards of the Jockey Club have said that the starting price bookmakers are at last considering a scheme whereby some money may be given to racing. About time, too. It may be that this little Bill, which created quite a disturbance in the bookmaking profession, causing millions of slanderous leaflets to be printed and distributed up and down the country, has begun to work already and has hastened the announcement of this reform. But it does not go far enough.
Let me repeat, in the hope that my words may reach some quarters which seem to be oblivious to rational argument, 839 that I am not seeking wholesale reform. I am seeking a modest first step in the right direction of making the Racecourse Betting Control Board a more economic and efficient instrument. By this method, I hope it will be able to reduce its overheads and make a greater contribution to racing.
What does this Bill set out to do in detail? First, it implements two of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. It empowers the Board to accept bets on credit and, by cash, through the post. That is not a revolutionary proposal, and I emphasise that there is nothing in this which will legalise the setting up of betting shops. It will not be possible under this Bill for any person to resort to any premises for the purpose of making a bet. The bet must be made by post, and it can be made on credit, or by cash, and to that extent it puts the Racecourse Betting Control Board on all fours with the starting price bookmakers. There may be some hon. Gentlemen who are worried——
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear that not only may the bets be made by post but—I think it is right—that they can also be made by telephone?
§ Mr. Wigg
That, I would think, is a detail. If they can be communicated by the written word I would have thought it would follow that they could be communicated by the spoken word. The point I am dealing with is the thought which may exist in some Members' minds that this may be the thin end of the wedge towards the setting up of betting shops. I should have thought that there were two words already in the Bill which make it just possible for confusion to arise. If the Bill reaches the Committee stage I shall be prepared to move to delete the words "for cash" in Clause 1 (3). That would remove all possible doubt on this point and would establish that bets will be on credit only and that it will only be possible to carry out transactions by post. If any hon. Member is worried about this, as I say, I shall be prepared to consider an Amendment; but I would have thought that it is a matter not of principle but of convenience. I should have thought that if it is done by post there would be no objection to it being done by telephone.
840 If bets are going to be made on credit, and if they are going to be made in any way in which there is a time lag between the decision to make a bet and the arrival of the bet at the Racecourse Betting Control Board, it follows that the successful punter will want his or her money. It may well be that, through delays in the post, a bet may arrive so late as not to be included in the pool. Therefore, under Clause 1 (2, b) power is given to the Board to act as a bookmaker and to pay the winning bet even though it is not included in the pool. That will guard against a breakdown in communications or a delay in the post.
Another important thing that Clause 1 does is to enable the Board to instal electronic computing machinery at a central place—let us say in London—to which place the bets would be fed back by telephone, the computing machine doing the donkey work. The Tote would have this machine permanently installed in a central place, and it would only be necessary to transport from racecourse to racecourse the actual selling machinery. I should think no hon. Member could object to that. It would lessen the administrative costs and, therefore, would help the Racecourse Betting Control Board to do its job more cheaply.
It seems to me that the controversial part of the Bill is in Clause 2. It implements a recommendation of the Royal Commission in that it prohibits any person other than the Board from carrying on pari-mutuel or pool betting on horse races or from accepting any bet save with the Board's permission. In the literature which has been put out by the less informed section of the bookmaking profession, this is regarded as limiting the power of the bookmaker and as the thin end of the wedge towards a Tote monopoly. My answer is that that is arrant nonsense. The Tote cannot lay starting price bets. Why, then, should a bookmaker be able to lay Tote prices and not make any contribution to the means whereby those prices are assessed? The Tote board, be it noted, is not out to make a profit; it is concerned with siphoning money back into racing. Therefore, to give the Tote board the right to have a monopoly only so far as the running of totes and pools is concerned seems to me eminently reasonable.
841 If it be that some people, who are not very financially ambitious and who are not likely to affect the Tote turnover may want to run a totalisator. They may do so, provided that they get the Tote board's permission. I do not believe that permission would be unreasonably withheld. The board would, of course, want to be satisfied that a contribution or a percentage from the private tote found its way back into the Tote fund, as by so doing the private tote would then be making a contribution to racing.
§ Mr. Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
The hon. Gentleman says that some other unambitious or, indeed, ambitious body which wanted to run a tote would apply to the Racecourse Betting Control Board, as I understand it, and could get a licence. Would such people be subject to the 30 per cent. pools betting duty, whereas the Tote is not?
§ Mr. Wigg
The Bill is not an annex to the Finance Act. It is not the servant of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If the hon. Gentleman is upset by the idea that bookmakers who want to run pools should be subject to the law of the land, I am not shocked by it. That is the fact. If they run pools under this arrangement, they would need a licence from the Racecourse Betting Control Board, and, of course, they would be subject to the ordinary provisions of the Finance Act, as is any other citizen.
§ Mr. Wigg
The Racecourse Betting Control Board is a public body, nonprofit making, set up to serve the interests of racing and not the private interests of the bookmaker. The House, in its wisdom, has decided that it should not pay. In any case, if the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that this is a grievous fault, I hope he will look with some care—I am sure that he has—at the vast sums which are made by starting price bookmakers, every penny of which goes into their pockets. There is no check of any kind on that. The fact that a person who wants to run a pool or a tote should have to obtain permission from the Racecourse Betting Control Board and then have to pay tax to the Treasury seems to me to be in no sense a hardship. With great respect to the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden), I do 842 not think that he puts it forward as a serious point which he really wants me to answer. He knows the answer perfectly well.
The next point which may be regarded as controversial, though I should not regard it so, is that my Bill gives the Racecourse Batting Control Board the copyright in its prices. I do not want to send anybody to prison or see anybody fined. I should have thought that one of the simplest ways of clearing up this situation was to vest the copyright, be it in starting prices or Tote prices, in those who create them. The question of copyright in the starting price is a matter for the bookmaking profession. That is its business. The Tote price will cost a great deal of money to establish. The price quoted is, therefore, the property of the Racecourse Betting Control Board. If the Board limits the use of that price to those to whom it has given permission, that again would seem to me to be absolutely straightforward. I should have thought that it would have appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite with overwhelming force, because it is a protection for the rights of property.
To my hon. Friends I should have thought the Bill would appeal, for quite different reasons. Here is a public board, with a non-profit making motive, seeking to administer funds obtained from the public in the public good. At one time, such sentiments were tied up with the socialist faith of my hon. and right hon. Friends. I should have thought that this would be regarded as a practical application of it.
However, when people have to meet the kind of propaganda to which I have referred, they are led into difficulties. When knowledge of the Bill is confined to what can be gained from literature of the kind circulated by the bookmakers, obviously people's judgment is affected. We saw an example of that today, when an attempt was made to count the House out earlier by hon. Gentlemen who, I have no doubt, were not seeking to stop the Drainage Bill. They wanted to stop the Betting Bill. I would say to them and to the interests for whom they speak that if they wanted to count the House out and obstruct my Bill, they ought to have taken the trouble to understand the Standing Orders of the House. If, in future, they ever want to do it—perhaps, 843 I should hope, in a better cause than the one they chose today—and they come to me, I will give them some assistance. Perhaps we shall be a little more successful on such an occasion than they were today.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I think I should make it clear to the House that I made a mistake. A count was called at one minute to one o'clock. After a lapse of two minutes, I could have counted the House, which would have brought it after one o'clock. I think that it was my mistake in not allowing it. I apologise.
§ Mr. Wigg
I had perceived that, too, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was fully aware that it was your mistake in acting in contravention of Standing Order No. 27, the operative factor being not whether the count is called two minutes before one o'clock but whether the count is actually taken after one o'clock.
§ Mr. Wigg
No, Sir, but it is a question of before or after, and if I had been in the hon. Gentleman's place I should have called your attention to the fact that you were in error. That is my charge against those hon. Members concerned, that they came here, first of all, not having read my Bill, and secondly, that they had not read the Standing Orders. Therefore, I should think that they would probably serve their interest much better——
§ Mr. David Griffiths (Rother Valley)
Who is my hon. Friend referring to as "them"? If there are any "thems", I should like to know who they are.
§ Mr. Wigg
I would reply by using the old saying, "If the cap fits, wear it." If my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. D. Griffiths) had wanted to call attention to the point at the time, perhaps he could have borrowed the hat and explained that very truth. My allusion is particularly apt.
I want, if I may, to deal now with Clause 3, which might be overlooked. Clause 3 gives certain additional powers to the Board. In the past, the Board has been faced with the difficulty of being unable to carry through schemes of which it wholeheartedly approved but which 844 the terms of the present law prevented it from handling. For example, the Board has been asked to provide finance for the purpose of effecting a scheme for the centralisation of racing. It has been asked to make advances to racecourses to enable them to rebuild their stands. It has been asked to provide financial help for the Equine Research Station of the Animal Health Trust, and it has been asked to assume responsibility for the finance and operation of the National Stud.
I will not comment on whether those proposals are worthwhile or not. All I say is that, under the law as it at present stands, the Racecourse Betting Control Board would be unable to consider any schemes of that kind. My Bill seeks to widen the powers of the Board, through Section 3, so that it may give practical thought to schemes which otherwise would be debarred to it.
I hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading on its merits. Although it is late in the Session, I wonder whether the Government may find some means whereby it could be given facilities to find its way to the Statute Book. I deny absolutely the suggestion that it is the thin end of the wedge or that the Bill goes one single step further than I have indicated. It is a simple, limited step in the direction in which one hopes that, one day, some Government will go in order to rationalise the betting laws of this country.
I say now, as I said two years ago, that I am by all my instincts a reformer. I see life in terms of jobs to be done. Betting is a social problem that has got out of hand. As I have already said, we have only to consider the repeated cases of corruption among the police. This is caused not because they are bad men; it is because they are faced with temptations which they ought not to be faced with, and because they come in contact with them day after day they eventually end up in wrongdoing.
The Bill takes only the first step in the direction of getting this evil put right. I believe it would be for the good of the Racecourse Betting Control Board. I believe that it would benefit the bookmaking profession, much as some of them are against it. I also believe that it would be for the good of this House, for it would add to its reputation by 845 facing one of the problems of our times. It seeks in a limited way to put right something that has been crying out for a long time to be done.
§ 2.18 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
I rise to support this limited and modest Bill. As this is a Second Reading debate, I hope that I will remain in order if I ask the House to consider the Bill against the general background of the betting laws. I hope that those who are against the Bill will be able to reconcile their interests, whatever they may be, with this modest Bill. The debates on betting assume the same sort of pattern year after year, and I will try to be brief.
The first point that I want to make is that the present laws are obviously not only unfair, but unenforceable. In my opinion, they are ridiculous and make ridiculous a Government that allows them to continue. I think that the shame for these present laws lies on the shoulders of all of us in this Chamber, because we are tolerating something which is nonsense. I accept the fact that the present laws are unfair and unenforceable. This Bill seeks to extend the scope of the Tote, which does have a method of helping racing.
I have to declare an interest in racing. When hon. Members declare an interest I always imagine that they are declaring something profitable. I can only say that I am declaring an interest, but a loss, in racing. The plutocratic approach attributed to those connected with racing suggests that the interests are profitable, but I can honestly say that that is not strictly true in most cases.
If help is to be given to racing there must be some evidence that it is necessary from the public point of view as well as from the point of view of those who promote an entertainment that according to the Royal Commission gives entertainment to up to 4 million people a day, and on big race days up to 20 million people. If the people who provide this entertainment are losing millions of pounds each year, something should be done about it, if possible.
I do not want to bore the House with figures, but I have made a comparison with British racing and French racing, which is so simple I feel that anyone can understand it. For better or worse, in France there is a Tote monopoly. I do 846 not think that this is a good idea and it certainly would not suit England.
In France, the production of thoroughbred racehorses was one-third of ours before the war. It is now one-half. Their production is increasing. The measure of France's success in our major race, the Derby, for the twelve years before the war was one winner. For the twelve years after the war it is five. Therefore, they are five times as successful as before the war in our major race.
The French entries in the Derby, before the war, amounted to 15 per cent. Just after the war it was 25 per cent. and now it is 35 per cent. I give these figures to show that our greatest rival is increasing production and increasing the excellence of its whole racing industry. The figure of our production of horses is now static. It is the same as before the war. It increased slightly after the war, but it is now roughly the same.
Our success in our own big races is lamentable. We have managed to win only six of the Derbys which have been run in the twelve years after the war. One winner was really American bred and five winners were French.
On the other hand, our exports have doubled in volume. That does not matter but what does matter is the quality which we are now having to export. Any hon. Member who has had anything to do with breeding must accept the fact that if one exports the very best in one's garden or farmyard, or anything like that, inevitably one's own stock must decline. Hitherto, we have always exported the second best. May I give this simile? We are exporting plant. Suppose we had to export our dockyards. How would we then be able to export ships? It is as if we are exporting factories instead of the plant, or the goose instead of the golden egg.
This is the condition of racing at present. I do not think that any hon. Member who knows anything about racing will deny this. I have said it myself in the racing Press and it has never been seriously contended. There is need for help in this industry. Regarding exports, someone has published in the Press that we import £6 million worth of bloodstock and export only £5 million worth. What this person does not realise is the way that the Government work. The Government 847 work in very peculiar ways, but a no more peculiar way than in assessing the export and importation of bloodstock. If one sends a mare to France and while, in France, it has a foal, it then comes back to this country weeks later as an import. The figures that the Government are able to give make no sense at all. They classify horses that come into this country to be eaten and those that come in to be ridden on the same lines.
§ Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)
Can the hon. Member tell us what is the net export of bloodstock?
§ Mr. D. Griffiths
I wonder whether the hon. Member could give us the ratio between bloodstock and all horses?
§ Mr. Astor
I cannot give the ratio in numbers, but the cash value of the horses exported that are not thoroughbred is very small. One has only to export one throughbred horse worth £25,000 or so, which does happen each year, to offset hundreds of the other sorts of horses exported which average about £60, £70, £80, £90 or £100 each. If one exports a cob or carthorse it may be worth £200, but it does not compare in cash value to bloodstock. I do not think that anyone can give the exact figures.
I suggest, and everyone agrees, that there should be some association with the volume of money gambled and those people who promote the entertainment. There is unreality in many people's minds when they talk about gambling legislation. The first kind of unreality lies in the mind of the Government. All our discussion will amount to nothing unless the Government mean to do what they have said they would do. I must call attention to the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), when he was speaking for the Government, more than two years ago. He said:I wish to make it quite clear that it is the Government's intention to deal with this matter as soon as opportunity presents itself by introducing a Bill to implement the main lines of 848 the Royal Commission's recommendations … It is being prepared for introduction at the earliest practicable opportunity."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1956: Vol. 549, c. 2555.]
§ Mr. McAdden
Will my hon. Friend read the other extract from the same speech, where my hon. Friend said that we had reached the end of Private Members' legislation on the subject.
§ Mr. Astor
My hon. Friend has been able to catch Mr. Speaker's eye more than once today already, and I have no doubt that he will have an opportunity to do so again later, when he can raise that point. I have not the reference at my fingertips at the moment to do what he has asked.
The Government have virtually promised to do something about betting. I am not convinced that an alternative Government could do anything at all, although hon. Members opposite may say they would. There is such a thing as passing laws for the sake of good government. No one could conceivably support the laws as they are. It is alleged that if nothing is done about the betting laws it is because the Government do not think there are votes to be won, but I submit that that is not true. A lot of legislation passes through this House regardless of whether there are no votes to be won or lost. It is just good government that has prompted it. The only people who would be conscious of this sort of Bill are those who take part in betting and who all know that the laws ought to be remedied, and a very small minority of people who think that betting is morally wrong. I do not suggest that they reflect the great proportion of the people.
I only hope that the Government will implement their promise. If they do not, the kindest thing that we might say is that the Government are feeble. The unkindest thing is that they are somewhat misleading. Having said what they have said, it might be construed as being misleading if nothing happens. They have plenty of time to mend their ways, and I only hope that they do.
The second stratum of unreality is that as soon as one talks about betting people say, "You want a Tote monopoly". I believe that that is the view of hon. Members who are opposing the Bill. There is no question of wanting a Tote monopoly in this country. It has been proved that whatever practical advantages there may 849 be in such an idea there is no advantage to the public.
The third unreality is that it has been reported in the Press that the racing authorities would only support a Bill into which were written some guarantee that a proportion of off-course money would go back to racing. I wish I thought that were possible, but I cannot see that the idea is realistic. I do not think that that will ever come.
What, then, is the objective? The first objective should be to legalise betting as such. The second should be to help those bookmakers who are trying to help themselves, and help the racing industry. Very rough things are said about bookmakers. One cannot judge any profession by the least worthy members of it. In this honourable House some hon. Members might be considered as more honourable than other hon. Members. It is unfair to judge the bookmaking profession by some of its worst elements.
We are informed that those who represent bookmakers are trying to get the bookmakers a legal status. This would be admirable. It is intolerable for people to be asked to contribute something to an industry or an entertainment when their own profession is not legal. One can agree with the efforts of bookmakers to put their house in order. This fits in with the general aim of the Bill.
The best argument against the Bill is that it is piecemeal legislation. I accept that argument, but can anyone speak against piecemeal legislation? Would hon. Members have voted against National Assistance because there was not at that time a comprehensive National Health Insurance scheme? I think that we would be glad to get an element of public assistance even if we could not cover the whole field. To attack the Bill as piecemeal legislation means that a lot of other Bills which go through the House must be attacked for the same reason. I accept that it is piecemeal legislation.
There are three major points for the Bill. The first concerns copyright, and has been explained to the House already. It is difficult to argue against it. The second main point is that it would permit the tote to accept bets by post. I understand that bookmakers are allowed to accept bets by post in Scotland but not 850 in England. There is postal order betting with bookmakers in England through Scottish offices, but not English ones. I agree that the Bill would make betting by post legal in England as well for the Tote. If the Bill were passed, it would strengthen the case for bookmakers to have postal bets made legal for themselves. It is in a way the thin end of the wedge to help bookmakers.
Whether the Bill passes or not, I hope that from the discussion two things will emerge. I hope we can make it clear to the Government that they are in honour bound to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming, and that they are honour bound to find the time. The second is that here is an opportunity for all interested to put forward constructive ideas to help the Turf in general.
§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)
Mr. Speaker, I am exceedingly glad to have caught your eye on this important occasion. I will concentrate at the outset on the remarks of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). I was very interested in, and I cannot say I disagreed with, his preamble in which he talked about comprehensive legislation. I was interested in the latter part of his speech, when he referred to the attempted counting out of the House. In between those points, however, I could not see that he gave us any explanation of the merits or otherwise of this Bill. Indeed, he did not really explain this Bill quite as thoroughly as I personally should have liked.
He described it in general terms as a simple little Measure. I say this Bill may be a simple Measure, but in my opinion it may have quite far-reaching effects. Anything I say now I should not like to prejudice in any way my approach to a comprehensive Measure, because my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. J. J. Astor) said that this was in the nature of piecemeal legislation. I agree with him there.
I refer to the Report of the Royal Commission on Betting and Lotteries and Gaming of 1951, Chapter 6, paragraph 266, which says:We have concluded that illegal betting off the course cannot me prevented, either by increasing penalties or by a limited extension of the permitted forms of betting, for example, 851 by making cash betting by post legal. We see no object in an amendment of the law which would not enable the extent of illegal betting to be greatly reduced.I shall seek to show that this Bill will not decrease the volume of illegal betting.
I come to my main arguments against the Bill. My main arguments I divide into four groups. I regard it as paving legislation for a totalisator monopoly; secondly, I maintain that the Bill unfairly discriminates against bookmakers; thirdly, that it may be undesirable if the volume of betting is to be substantially increased in this country; and fourthly that it extends unreasonably the powers of the Racecourse Betting Control Board.
To deal with my first point, the fact that it is paving legislation for a totalisator monopoly. Here I would refer to the remarks of Lord Astor who, speaking in another place comparatively recently, said in general terms that he advocated a totalisator monopoly——
§ Mr. Speaker
I did not understand the hon. Gentleman to do that. It is in order to quote Ministerial speeches in another place about policy, but not to refer to speeches by other noble Lords made in the same Session.
§ Mr. Temple
I could not entirely agree with my hon. Friend about that matter.
852 What I am saying is that I am against a totalisator monopoly. Because who is to benefit by this monopoly? The racehorse owners, we are told, in order to improve the bloodstock of our country. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton, when I asked him a question about the net export of racehorses, said the figure was approximately £1½ million. I do not consider that this is a very great figure when one takes into consideration the volume of imports of racehorses. I believe myself that if this is paving legislation for a totalisator monopoly, which is what I suspect it is, it will be in no way wanted by the public. I submit that it would be unfair competition with the bookmakers.
My second main point is that this Bill unfairly discriminates against bookmakers. Here I refer particularly to Clause 1 (4), where permission is given for the Racecourse Betting Control Board to carry on postal cash betting. I believe that unless this facility were a universal facility it certainly would not be understood by the public. I understand from the hon. Member for Dudley and my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton that this would favour universal cash betting by post. I accept that fact, but I cannot accept that this piecemeal approach would be misunderstood throughout our land.
§ Mr. Temple
The only figure which I have got I quote from the Daily Mail of 13th May this year, that imports were £6,200,000.
§ Mr. Temple
I am quoting the Daily Mail. It may be rubbish, but it was in the Daily Mail of that date. What I will admit is that these figures may be vitiated to a certain extent by the factors which were explained by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton in his speech.
I come to Clause 1 (5). I readily accept the explanation of the hon. Member for Dudley when he says that there is no intention by him or his friends of introducing credit betting shops, but I would point out to him that it would appear 853 to me that Clause 1 (5), read in conjunction with subsections (3) and (4) of the Clause, would permit the Racecourse Betting Control Board to open these credit betting shops. If I am right in that, and even if I am wrong in that, I would say that in my opinion the opening of betting shops of any description in our country would be a detrimental feature.
I have a reasonable knowledge of the Irish Republic, and I have observed the exterior of betting shops in that country, and I feel that it would certainly be a tragedy if betting shops were permitted to be opened in our main thoroughfares. If one admits that, and betting shops were permitted in our lesser thoroughfares, one might find oneself in the position of a certain authority—and it is doubtful as to what authority is to do the licensing of betting shops—being an authority responsible for permitting betting shops to be in our lesser thoroughfares. It would mean that they might be situated contiguous with good class property and would lower the whole status of the property of the areas in which they were situated.
§ Mr. Temple
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I did say that I accepted what he said in the first instance. I finish my argument on the betting shops by saying that I am sure that for his part that is so, but I submit that under the Bill as drafted there is a possibility of a loophole which may not have occurred to him. May I say in conclusion on this point that in my opinion betting shops if they are sordid and unattractive are not wanted, and if they are attractive they will be seductive and conducive to further and more extensive betting in our country.
Under Clause 2 there is, as the hon. Member for Dudley admitted, a new departure in the betting at fixed odds by the Racecourse Betting Control Board. In subsection (1) of Clause 2 of this Bill a monopoly would be created in this respect. Here I mention in passing that 854 for many years since the first introduction of the Tote it has been possible for bookmakers to offer to their clients a facility for betting at Tote odds. This facility has not been used to any significant extent, but it would be wrong to take it away from the general bookmaking fraternity and create a copyright—the word used by the hon. Member for Dudley for the Racecourse Betting Control Board in the using of these Tote odds for betting at fixed prices.
§ Mr. Temple
I think I am reasonably consistent there. It will not advantage anyone very much if it is taken away, but I think it is unreasonable to take it away and create a monopoly. However small, I am against monopolies, and I think I can rely on the remarks of the hon. Member for Sutton who agreed that he was against monopolies as well; and this is the creation of a monopoly.
§ Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)
If my hon. Friend is against a monopoly in Tote prices, is he not against the bookmakers' monopoly?
§ Mr. Temple
As far as I know there is no monopoly or copyright of bookmakers' prices. As we have already heard, the bookmaking fraternity are not licensed and I have never heard of any bookmaker refusing to accept bets. This opens up a serious avenue. A statutory body, the Racecourse Betting Control Board, will be able to make large losses. Tote investors are an associate body of the R.B.C.B., and I think I am correctly quoting that they advertise "Winning accounts welcomed". If they are going to welcome winning accounts at fixed odds, they must be going to pay out more money than they are taking in.
§ Mr. Temple
There is no doubt that small pools could be, shall I say, influenced by large investments to make very large dividends payable on a certain horse in a certain race. If the R.B.C.B. were accepting bets at fixed odds, they might be assuming very large liabilities, 855 and they would find themselves in a difficult position as a statutory body in closing people's accounts. It is quite a different thing for a private bookmaker or a private individual to write to a certain person saying that his account is closed for various reasons, but I do not see how a statutory body, such as the R.B.C.B., could write to its individual clients saying that just because the client is winning money it is going to close his account.
§ Mr. Temple
There is a difference. A bookmaker is not a statutory body. Clause 2 (2) refers to the creation of offences against this copyright, and these offences can be created both by the layer 856 and the backer. I can understand that the bookmaking fraternity have a comprehensive knowledge of the betting laws, but the backer will put himself in a position under Clause 2 (2) of being liable to create an offence, with penalties ranging up to a maximum of £500 in certain instances, and going further than that to £750. I would think it wrong that both those parties should be liable to the creation of these new and heavy penalties.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;
§ House counted, and, 40 Members not being present, adjourned at two minutes to Three o'clock till Monday next.