§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [16th November], That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Like all hon. Members who speak from this side of the House, I cannot speak for anyone but myself, which is a very fortunate position to be in when discussing a Bill of this kind. I want it to be clearly understood that anything that I say involves neither any other hon. Member on this side of the House nor any organisation with which I may be connected outside the House.
In that, I am very fortunate, more fortunate than my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), for he announced to the House at the beginning of his speech yesterday that he was a Nonconformist, and said:I was nurtured in a Nonconformist home, and I am proud of the Nonconformist conscience.I am happy to be able to associate myself with him in each of these particulars, but when I hear him say:. . we Nonconformists regard gambling as a sin."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November. 1959; Vol. 613, c. 842–3.]I ask him to understand that I do not conform with him.
§ Mr. Ede
My hon. Friend is always gambling. My recollection is that on one occasion, when he was corrected on a point of fact, he said "I cast my bread on the waters." Is there any bigger gamble than that?
Yesterday, my hon. Friend admitted that the odds were on his doing something. Let us be quite clear on this. No one person can speak for Nonconformity in this country. After all, that would be contrary to nonconformity itself. I do not conform with the Act of Uniformity, 1662. I am not going to be compelled to conform to any Bill promoted from Cardiff, West, or elsewhere, 990 to impose uniformity in 1959, or any subsequent year.
Are there no Nonconformists who buy Premium Bonds? Would my hon. Friend say that if they do so they conform to the Established Church. This claim is quite preposterous.
§ Mr. Thomas
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the advertisement, but is he aware that the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, and the Congregational Church, all of whom still claim to be Nonconformists, have condemned Premium Bonds?
§ Mr. Ede
I have no doubt that I have condemned a good many things and that some members of my denomination consider my condemnation to be wrong. That does not answer the question. No one person in this country has the right to claim to speak for Nonconformity. I suggest to my hon. Friend that on an important issue like this he should bear in mind the words of the most effective spokesman for Nonconformity who ever lived in this country John Milton, who, in his great address to the Lords and Commons of England wrote this in Areopagitica:Lastly, who shall forbid and separate all idle resort, all evil company? These things will be, and must be; but how they shall be least hurtful, how least enticing, herein consists the grave and governing wisdom of a State.To sequester out of the world into Atlantic and Utopian policies which can never be drawn into use, will not mend our condition; but to ordain wisely as in this world of evil, in the midst whereof God hath placed us unavoidably.We cannot avoid the kind of issues that are raised by the Bill, and what led up to it. What we have to do is to try to find some wise way of dealing with such evil as exists, and with which the Bill attempts to deal. At the same time, we must not infringe the liberty of any good citizen or attempt to impose our point of view on other people against their own considered judgments which have been arrived at with as much care as we try to use.
I agree with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) said yesterday. I do not believe that gambling is a sin. I do not believe that it is a crime. I believe that it is folly, and I speak from experience. I imagine that I have lost less on this 991 than the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison). I rather imagine that, small as he said his stakes were, mine have been smaller. There is only one day on which, on arriving home from Epsom Downs, I recollect feeling that at last I had outwitted the Totalisator.
§ Mr. Ede
I would be expelled from the party if I disclosed that. Gambling is a folly, and, as so often, I find myself in agreement with the Biglow Papers:The right to be a cussed foolIs safe from all devices human;It's common (ez a gin'l rule)To every critter born o' woman.Some people have one form of folly, and others have another. Except for my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West, I suppose that we would all admit that we have our own particular folly in the exercise of which we enjoy ourselves.
I notice that most hon. and right hon. Members who have addressed the House in the debate have started with some preliminary remarks of a general nature, which they have hoped were, in some way or other, a confession of their political philosophy. I want to attempt to apply what I have just said to the words in the Bill. I was reinforced in my view of this matter by what I heard and saw last night on the television programme. It showed the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House enjoying himself at the Lord Mayor's banquet and listening to a speech by the Lord Mayor and the reply of the Prime Minister.
I heard the Prime Minister state that he might have addressed the assembly on the Betting and Gaming Bill. I do not know how far he went towards betraying the Privy Councillor's oath, but he described some of the discussions which the Cabinet had had on the Bill, and he confessed that he was equally impressed by the "abysmal ignorance" of some of his Cabinet colleagues and the expertise of others.
I do not know into which category the Home Secretary fell. I saw him once at Epsom, although how far he profited from his visit I do not know. I am rather impressed at the ignorance which has been displayed by some of the 992 people who have drafted this Measure, to the extent that it deals with street bookmaking.
I speak as a former justice of the peace in an area where, on occasion, a street bookmaker appeared before the court. In my experience, the police officer giving evidence would say, "I kept observation on the accused from 11.30 a.m." on a certain day, "till somewhere about 1.30 p.m. at the latest, and during that time I saw several people approach him. They handed him pieces of paper, and on one occasion a coin dropped, which the accused picked up. He put the paper and the coin into his pocket. I arrested him; he was conveyed to the police station, where he was searched, and on him were found" let us say, "37 betting slips, all concerning that day's racing, which I produce." The bench would then examine the betting slips, and the more knowledgeable of them would reckon up how much would have gone to the bookmaker and the maximum—the much smaller maximum—that might have gone to the punters.
Those who drafted the Bill do not seem to realise that the hours I have mentioned above are the main hours during which the offences under the existing law are committed. I have never indulged in street betting, either as a bookmaker or as a client, but in my experience in the neighbourhood of London it seems to gain its greatest impetus from the purchase of the twelve o'clock Star, and in most provincial towns in which I have been able to carry on observations there is a similar newspaper which comes out at about the same time. That is the problem with which the Bill sets out to deal in regard to street betting, and it proposes to deal with it by increasing the penalties.
Let us be very careful about increasing penalties. We increased them very much for offences relating to road traffic, but I hear a good many complaints, from people who are engaged in one way or the other in the administration of that law, to the effect that the increased penalties laid down in the Statute have not led to any great increase in the punishments actually inflicted for what, to my mind, is in many instances the worst and the most anti-social offence that can be committed.
993 Therefore, it by no means follows that a bench of human beings—and let us hope that lords lieutenant and others will still be able to find time to sit on the benches—will impose any greatly increased penalties even if they are allowed to do so. Even if they do, we can be sure that many of our citizens regard the street bookmaker as a plucky kind of fellow, who runs considerable risks to enable them to get some enjoyment out of life; and the more the penalty is increased the greater hero he will become in their eyes.
I admit that I would like to see street bookmaking ended. As I said in 1956, when I followed the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) in the debate on a Motion put down by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis), I accept the betting shop as an idea, but I do not regard it, as proposed in the Bill, as meeting the requirements of the situation that T have just outlined.
I must apologise to the Home Secretary. I did not accurately follow what he said yesterday. As I understand, there will in future be a possibility of having two kinds of runners in factories. One will be an employee of the bookmaker, who will come into the factory, if the management allow him. Once he receives a verbal permit from the owner of the factory it is difficult to understand how the factory does not become a "place" as far as he is concerned, even though he may not get a special room or desk allocated to him. Does this person have to be licensed? Is a special betting permit required by him? Is he, in fact, a bookmaker, even though he may be a very low-grade bookmaker? If he commits an offence, is his principal also involved unless he can demonstrate that the contravention of the regulations was permitted without his connivance or knowledge?
Then there will be the runner who was described by the right hon. Gentleman yesterday. He said:The Royal Commission recommended that it should be made an offence for a bookmaker to pay remuneration to an agent in these circumstances, although it envisaged that a group of workmen might still send out one of their number to take the group's bets to a betting office, remunerating him in their own way, perhaps by tips out of their winnings."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1959; Vol. 613, c. 813.]994 That, I understand, the right hon. Gentleman accepts as a suitable way to conduct this business, and, of course, this deals, or may deal, with some of the persons involved. But a very large number of people who indulge in street betting are not employed in factories or in large numbers in other similar places where it would be possible for that sort of arrangement to be made.
There has been a failure to realise that a large number of women engage in street betting in these days. Yesterday, I heard one hon. Member complain about men who spent so much money on betting that the wage packet was too small by the time the husband reached home. But I have had to deal in matrimonial courts with disputes which arose in the first place from allegations that the wife had used money, with which she was supposed to pay the rent, to back a horse which had not gone quite as fast as she had hoped that it would. Anyone who has been associated with magistrates' courts knows that what I have said is commonplace.
I am certain that at this moment no one can prophesy whether betting shops will be established at all. The hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) gave an account of a conversation which he had had with a bookmaker who had considered opening a betting shop. Have we also considered that there will be a chance for members of the staffs of betting shops to be guilty of defalcations? Especially will that be so if a chain of betting shops is created, so the staffs of such betting shops will have to be paid enough to make it worth while for them to remain honest. That is something which has to be borne in mind when we are calculating the cost which will be involved in this kind of thing.
From what I have heard about betting shops in Scotland, and the descriptions I have been given of the betting shops in Ireland, it seems doubtful to me whether the kind of betting shop which the right hon. Gentleman apparently has in mind will be established. On the other hand, owing to the expense of running them, they may become the monopoly of large bookmakers and the managers of the betting shops will be merely agents.
§ Mr. Ede
My hon. and learned Friend says that it is a certainty, but in discussing racing matters one should never say that until the numbers go up, and even after that one should wait for the "all right" flag.
One advantage of the licensing system is that on-the-course "welshing" will become almost impossible. I recollect having an interview with the late Mr. Philip Snowden when he proposed to repeal the betting legislation which had been carried through by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and at the request of my colleagues on the Epsom Bench I was asked to point out to Mr. Snowden that the existence of the bookmaker's licence had stopped "welshing". If the police saw a bookmaker who was offering a shade over the odds—that is one of the preliminary signs of a "welshing" arrangement—and if they noticed that his clerk was not balancing the book as the racing proceeded they could demand to see the bookmaker's licence.
After having produced a licence, it was no use a bookmaker trying to "welsh", because the police knew him and could trace him. I have heard policemen examining bookmakers and their clerks, when there was a possibility that a charge of "welshing" would be preferred, and the principal allegation was that the bookmaker's book had not been balanced since betting opened on a particular race.
It is, therefore, an advantage to have bookmakers registered, but I am shocked by the idea, which I understand finds favour with the Jockey Club, that bookmakers should be entitled to say who shall be admitted to their profession, and that they should be able to exercise a disciplinary control over the people who are admitted. It is bad enough to have the General Medical Council looking after doctors, but fancy a "General Bookmakers' Council" trying to decide whether a certain person is suitable to remain within that honourable and exclusive confraternity.
It seems astonishing to me that this proposal should be supported by the hon. Member for Salisbury and the hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley). 996 I am certain that such an arrangement would not raise the standard of racing in the estimation of the people of this country.
Yesterday, some of my hon. Friends referred to horse racing as the sport of rich men and dog racing as the sport of poor men. I have never been to a dog race track. When I was at the Home Office I was advised not to go—I was "warned off"—and I have never been. But my hon. Friends are quite mistaken in thinking that horse racing is a sport only for rich men. In fact, the real subject of the Bill with which we are dealing relates to comparatively poor people and an Act which was passed to deal mainly with manual workers.
The Street Betting Act was one of the worst pieces of class legislation ever placed on the Statute Book. It was aimed at a very limited section of the population. But today the manual worker is in a very different position from the manual worker of 1906, and I think the time has come when that should be recognised.
The Home Secretary said that he will listen to what is said during the Committee stage discussions on the Bill. I hope that means that he will attend the meetings of the Committee, because we do not want a repetition of what occurred during the Committee stage discussions on the Street Offences Act. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman was represented by a Joint Under-Secretary, or by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General. When I attended to listen to the proceedings of the Committee it was clear that neither the Joint Under-Secretary nor the Attorney-General had any power to accept any Amendment, no matter how closely it was argued nor how advantageous its acceptance might have been to the future of the country.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will feel that on a Measure like this, which touches intimately the lives and pastimes of so many people, he will be able to be present himself to hear the arguments that are adduced. I ask him to recognise that yesterday, most hon. Members who spoke felt like I feel. There was no speech with some of which we did not agree and no speech with some of which we did not disagree. I have no doubt that when I sit 997 down, that will be the judgment that is passed on my speech by most hon. and right hon. Members who have listened to it. They may agree with some things and they will disagree with others.
Irrespective of party division, there is in the House a desire to do the practical thing, to conform to what Milton said was our duty, not to draw out into Atlantic and Utopian policies, but to do the best we can in the position in which we have unavoidably been placed in this world of evil.
I regret that the Peppiatt Committee has been appointed so late in the proceedings, especially after what was said yesterday afternoon and even by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), when he interrupted my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) about the reason for the delay in introducing the Bill, about which my hon. Friend had complained.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet said:I remember that debate very well with my hon. Friend who was then Under-Secretary. The Bill was not only prepared, but there is very little doubt that we should have had it in 1956 had it not been for very strong and proper representations being made at that time by the Jockey Club"—I only wish that when I was Chairman of the Epsom Urban District Council and was arguing with the Jockey Club about the roads leading to Epsom Downs, I could have employed the hon. Member as my counsel if he can get into the secrets of the Jockey Club like that.
The hon. Member went on to say:… the bookmakers, and many others on matters of the greatest importance to them about their fears with regard to the Bill. It was as a result of consideration of those representations, was it not, that the matter was deferred so that it should be given further thought—because of the very difficulties which we have to debate now, not because of any unreasonable delay by the Government? "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1959; Vol. 613, c. 921.]I do not claim any knowledge about what goes on inside the Jockey Club. The Jockey Club has me on the list for two tickets for lunch on Derby Day and Oaks Day and I do not inquire why it does it. I merely accept. Somebody from the Jockey Club usually comes to inquire whether I am comfortable, a condescension which always fills be with 998 alarm, because I do not know why I should feel that I am uncomfortable in their company. The Jockey Club knows the reason for all this, but never divulges it.
The desire, as I understand it, of the Jockey Club and of other people associated with the organisation of racing that the off-the-course bookmaker should make some contribution to the upkeep of the sport is a perfectly sound one. As far as I can make out, however, it works like this. The on-the-course bookmaker has to incur considerable overheads in the conduct of his business. In attending the course, he has to pay five times the ordinary entrance fee for the ring in which he operates. He has something to do, although I am not sure how much, with the fixing of starting prices.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), whose absence today I deplore more than any other hon. Member, although everyone's regret for his absence is very great, thinks that starting prices are arranged by journalists connected with Sporting Life.
§ Mr. Ede
That is straight from the horse's mouth.
At least, this is an expensive process, comparatively speaking. The amount of the on-the-course bookmaker's overhead charges become additional profits for the off-the-course bookmaker. The latter pays out on starting prices, calculated on the transactions of the on-the-course bookmaker, and thus the amount of the on-the-course bookmaker's overhead charges become additional profits for the off-the-course bookmaker. I cannot think that that is a just system to operate in this or any other country.
I hope that the Peppiatt Committee will be able to report in time for its conclusions, if it finds that there is a practical scheme that can be inserted in the Bill, to be inserted in the Bill in this House. I do not think this is a matter which, as the hon. Member for North Fylde said last night, we could leave to another place to insert in the Bill. I hope that if the Peppiatt Committee produces a report, the Attorney-General will not be given the same sort of brief as on the Devlin Report. I am sure that, in the general desire for fair play that exists among all classes, the case that I 999 have just very inadequately put for finding some way of making the off-the-course bookmaker contribute to this sport would be generally supported if it were known. I hope that this will be the case.
I emphasise to the Home Secretary that the Bill will take a long time this year. That is clear from the debate yesterday. I am certain that I spoke truly when I said that everybody has something to oppose and something to support. If the right hon. Gentleman does not get the Bill dealing with the Peppiatt Report this year, I very much doubt whether it will be possible to persuade the Cabinet, with the Prime Minister recognising the "abysmal ignorance" of some—I wish I could spot them—and the minority, apparently, who show "expertise" in this matter, to give him further parliamentary time either next year or the year after.
I support betting shops. I support the desire to regulate this form of human indulgence—and I try to use as colourless a word as I can. In view of the fact that I was quoted yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East as supporting betting shops, may I repeat what I said on 9th March, 1956? I said:As one who had some heavy responsibilities in the matter immediately after this Report was presented, I want to say that I think the statement which the hon. Gentleman has made"—the hon. Member for Ashford—is a bold and courageous one for any Government to make—and those are the last qualities which I have hitherto discerned in this Government.That was three years ago. I did not see them improve afterwards.I hope that, if this legislation is produced not later than the next Session of this Parliament, it will be introduced in a way that will enable hon. Members on both sides of the House freely to record their votes. I also hope that, if it were felt advisable to have some consultation as to its exact form and scope before introducing the legislation, such an approach by the Government would not be turned down by any other party in the House. I say that because I am certain that if this Measure is to have respect in the country it will have to be a House of Commons Measure as opposed to a Measure over which there has been a dog-fight between the Government and any substantial number of hon. Members in opposition."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March. 1956; Vol. 549, c. 2558–9.]Those remain my views. Because what I then asked has not been met, 1000 either as to the timing of the Bill or as to the way in which it was introduced, if there is a Division tonight I shall, for once, have to vote with my non. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West and the supporters of those bookmakers who are opposed to making any contribution.
It is wrong that the Government should insist on Second Reading that any Member of the House should be faced with the position that he may encounter the displeasure of those who control patronage if he does not vote for the Bill. I believe that if the Government placed the House on its honour to deal properly with this Measure, they would not find that an effort was being made to wreck it but would find a substantial desire on both sides of the House that a practical Measure should come out of our deliberations.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State to the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)
A speech by a native of Epsom who is a well-known moderate punter would always get a good hearing in the House, but when it is made by a right hon. Gentleman who is also a justice of the peace, a councillor and a Methodist—
§ Mr. Renton
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman.
In addition, the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is a former Home Secretary means that what he said demands our attention and respect. We shall study all that he said very carefully, and I have no doubt that the Peppiatt Committee will also study it.
May I say how sorry we are about the absence through illness from this debate of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). We miss his great expertise. I hope that he will have as splendid a recovery from his operation as my right hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary has had. May I join with my hon. Friend the Member for 1001 Bebington (Sir H. Oakshott) in welcoming my right hon. Friend back to the Front Bench. He could have come to no better place than the Home Office, because we have unrivalled facilities for continuous speculation, not on horse racing but on the changing moods of the House.
It has long been known that anyone who tries to reform the betting and gaming laws faces several dilemmas, which have been stressed in the debate. The moral conflict is not one of them, for, as my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison) said, the moral issue does not arise. I am glad that the. right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) in substance is with us on that point. It is not necessary for us to decide whether racing is, on the one hand, a dangerous and degrading form of escapism, or, on the other hand, the king of sports and the sport of kings. The criminal law, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in opening the debate, is no substitute for individual conscience, but Parliament's duty is to protect society from exploitation and also to protect people from their own weaknesses being carried to excess.
The first dilemma which we face is how to obtain greater freedom, more adult approach and more easily enforceable law without causing that increase in excessive gambling which everyone wants to avoid, except, presumably, the vested interests.
Several hon. Members are so scared that gambling might increase that they intend to oppose the Bill for that reason. For example, there are the hon. Members for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), Pontypool (Mr. Abse) and Sowerby (Mr. Houghton)—the latter is in a special case, as I understand; he would rather leave the law exactly as it is—but they are only a very small minority, and they have offered no alternative to the present jangle of unenforceable legislation which has brought the law into contempt and causes difficulties for the police.
I suggest to the hon. Member for Sowerby that it is most important that we should not leave the police in the embarrassing position of having to be selective about the enforcement of the law. However much they try to use common sense and to follow public opinion they are bound to be accused 1002 of discrimination, as on the occasion when, with the best intentions, they raided a club in Hampstead where they found bridge and poker being played in different rooms. They trundled the poker players into a police van and held them at the police station until they were bailed out, and they allowed the bridge players to go on playing bridge.
The Bill is a valiant attempt by my right hon. Friend to reconcile the conflicting factors which arise and to bring reality, and we hope some clarity, to our law. Like most hon. Members who spoke yesterday, and like the right hon. Member for South Shields, the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) was in favour of the main principle of the Bill, namely, the proposal to establish betting shops, but as to the way in which they should be run, we have received a great deal of advice which is none the less valuable for the fact that it is utterly conflicting.
In commenting on what the right hon. Gentleman said about having the Whips on, I think that the very disparity of that advice indicates that the Government must somehow give a lead in this matter, having themselves taken the best advice they can and having the benefit of the Royal Commission's Report. If we were to leave this sort of thing to an entirely free vote we might well create chaos worse than that which we have at present.
As the right hon. Member for Smethwick, with his usual modesty, said in this context of how betting shops should be run:… any proposal which one puts forward in this matter contains certain difficulties".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1959; Vol. 613, c. 833.]My right hon. Friends have open minds about much of the detail of the Bill, and we shall be very interested to hear more criticism and suggestions about, particularly, the way in which betting shops should be run, but I think that the final decision must be my right hon. Friend's.
My right hon. Friend's decision to continue to prevent street betting and, indeed, to increase fairly severely the penalties for it has been welcomed by some hon. Members and criticised by others, but, after hearing the criticism last night of the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) 1003 about the evils of street betting in Scotland, I feel more strongly than ever that blatant street betting is a public nuisance which should not be tolerated, even if it gives rise to some difficulties of enforcement, which caused anxiety to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth). I suggest to my hon. Friend, however, that the increased penalties which we propose will help the task of enforcement, and, as has been pointed out, betting shops will greatly reduce the demand for street betting.
The right hon. Member for South Shields had a good deal to say about runners. There is an important distinction to be made between street runners and factory runners. When my right hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State winds up the debate, he will deal particularly with that problem.
§ Mr. Renton
Because I think that it is convenient for me to deal with points raised by various right hon. and hon. Members and also to deal with the position of the Racecourse Betting Control Board under the Bill.
I should now like to deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. R. Mellish) and Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley). Both hon. Members expressed doubts about the position which "housey-housey" would have under the Bill. It has long been a popular game and tolerated in the Armed Forces, but the police have suppressed its organised play in civil life until fairly recent times. It is, of course, under present law illegal, but it is often played and tolerated in clubs in order to raise money for club funds.
It will be possible to play it without restriction at charity fetes and bazaars or anything like that under the provisions of Clause 15, but, as the Bill stands, if it is played in a club, the club funds will be able to benefit only from the proceeds of a fixed charge for admission to a playing session. Clubs will not be able to benefit from taking a share of the stakes or winnings.
If that happened, there would be a breach of Clause 10 (1, b), which provides that all money staked must be paid 1004 out by way of winnings to successful players. This will involve some modification of the way in which "housey-housey" is played in clubs at present by which only a proportion of the money staked is returned to the players.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick asked about bowling competitions which are played in Lancashire—
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
I wonder whether the hon. and learned Gentleman will make the point about tombola and "housey-housey" clear. I was concerned in my intervention yesterday to raise the matter because many clubs and charitable organisations raise funds by tombola and "housey-housey" contests under the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956. Unless the hon. and learned Gentleman makes it clear that it is perfectly legal for this activity to go on under that Act, and that it will continue under it, there will be confusion during the very long interval between now and the time when the Bill becomes law.
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. Member has referred to two distinct games, "housey-housey" and tombola, although I know that the word "tombola" is sometimes used in two quite separate senses. It is sometimes used as another way of describing "housey-housey," but at other times it is used to describe the game which, I believe, is played at some of the more expensive charity balls in London, in which a person buys a chance to draw a ticket out of a drum. If the ticket is a blank, the person gets nothing. If it contains a number, he is able to get a prize which carries that number off a nearby stall.
The latter form of tombola is, at present, perfectly legal under Section 23 of the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934, provided that the conditions of that Act are complied with. It is a lottery in effect, but it must not be played on licensed premises.
As I understand, "housey-housey" is illegal in all circumstances, although it is a relatively innocent game, and the police, in their selective enforcement, have tolerated it in clubs and also on charitable occasions. That is the present position. I have also described the position under the Bill. This is a matter about which we can think still further.
§ Mr. Mellish
The place where this game is played will have to be licensed. Will it have to be registered as a place for providing just such a game?
§ Mr. Renton
The places where it is to be played will not have to be licensed, either in the sense of licensing under the the Bill or under the intoxicating liquor law.
Mr. George Cherwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
There is one very clear way round this matter, and that is for the organisers of "housey-housey" competitions to take in entrance fee the same amount of money which they would get if it were staked individually on each game. That is perfectly legal.
§ Mr. Renton
That is a solution which I attempted to describe as arising under the Bill.
It has been stressed that bowling games in Lancashire raise money for charity. So long as they raise money for charity and are not conducted on licensed premises they are within the present law. That will remain the position under the Bill, but that, again, is a matter to which we can give further thought.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park suggested that his own Pool Betting Act, 1954, should be amended, and, although the Bill does not amend the hon. Member's Act, it will be in order for him to move amendments at a later stage, and we shall consider them with open minds.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley), who spoke with an intimate knowledge born of a long and great racing tradition, made many constructive suggestions about the Racecourse Betting Control Board, which we shall carefully study. He said that bookies should come into line with the tote. That brings me to what I may call the second main dilemma of any Home Secretary legislating on this matter. It is a dilemma which we necessarily have to face when trying to modernise and rationalise the betting law. It is the inescapable conflict of vested interests between the bookies and the tote.
In following the Royal Commission, my right hon. Friend has tried to resolve this conflict in a fair and rational way. At present, the Board, whose powers are 1006 derived from the Racecourse Betting Act, 1928, can operate pool betting on the course for horse racing but not in any other way, although Tote Investors Ltd., working exclusively as agents for the Board, help by accepting credit bets for transmission to the Board's totalisators on the course. The Board itself has no power to accept bets at tote odds, but Tote Investors Ltd. do so to a minor extent.
In various other ways, the Board's present statutory powers are ill defined. They are both too narrow and ambiguous. The Bill amplifies and clarifies that in Clause 8. The Royal Commission recommended that the Board, as well as bookies, should be allowed to establish betting shops. Of course, they will be used only for pool betting on horse races, or for accepting bets at tote odds. The Royal Commission did not recommend the acceptance of tote odds, but we feel this is an inevitable result of enabling the Board to establish betting shops. The Royal Commission also recommended that bookies should not be allowed to conduct pool betting on horse racing except with the authority of the Board and under its supervision.
Attempts have been made in the last two Sessions to implement the Board's recommendations. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) introduced a Bill last Session which was in somewhat similar terms to a Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Dudley the Session before. Clause 8 of the present Bill is in substance very similar to what was in those two Bills, more closely to what was in the Bill put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot.
Subsection (1) of Clause 8 does four things. First, it gives the Board power to carry on pool betting on horse races in replacement of its present power to operate totalisators on horse race courses. Secondly, it gives the Board power to take bets at tote odds. Thirdly, it gives the Board the exclusive right to do these two things, and, fourthly, to authorise other people to do them. Subsection (2) gives the Board power to sue in the civil courts to enforce this exclusive right.
A stage has been reached, thanks largely to development of electronic 1007 computers, when the Board might wish, to conduct its pool betting in such a way as to enable cash bets to be placed at betting offices in different parts of the country and relayed to a central point on or off a racecourse. Also, if it is to have betting offices licensed in different places, it might wish to operate a separate pool at any of those offices.
Fears have been expressed—not so far in this debate, but they may be expressed later—that with its increased powers the Board might invade the present preserves of the football pool promoters. This fear is increased by the fact that football pools are subject to a duty, whereas the Board's operations are exempt from it. I am in a position to tell the House, however, that the Board has given an assurance to the Home Secretary that it is not its intention to carry out pool betting on horse races of a kind analogous to that carried out by football pool promoters on football.
§ Mr. Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
My hon. and learned Friend has said that under the Bill as envisaged it will be possible for the Board, if it wishes, to operate a separate pool on horse racing in a particular area where it has an office. Am I to understand that a person might invest on the totalisator in a district where the Board has an office and, because it operated a separate pool, receive a dividend which might be much higher or lower than that declared at the central point?
§ Mr. Renton
That is so.
Of course, it is obvious that if the Board were to start indulging in the sort of pool which the football pool promoters operate, the Government would be somewhat concerned because we would feel that there was a risk of losing the duty which is paid. We should then have to review the position of the Board in regard to exemption from the duty. I hope that hon. Members will feel that, although the powers of the Board are fairly broadly defined, there is no danger of it invading the preserves of the football pool promoters in this matter.
The power granted to the Board to accept bets, not for incorporation in its pools but at tote odds, is, we consider, a necessary consequence of the power 1008 given to it in Clause 3 to establish betting offices as recommended by the Royal Commission. The Board's aim is that bets placed at these offices will be transmitted to its pools on the course or to separate pools off the course.
Mr. Richard Stanleys (North Fylde)
§ Mr. Renton
If I am pressed very hard I shall have to start galloping, because so many hon. Members want to speak.
It will necessarily take a little time to send a bet to the central point where the pool is collated and there will be a short time before each race starts when it will become too late for bets received to be transmitted. Power to take bets at tote odds is, therefore, necessary to enable the Board to go on receiving bets in its licensed offices during this period, as is already done by Tote Investors for credit bets received too late for transmission to the course.
§ Mr. Stanley
My hon. and learned Friend said there were to be separate pools for each race. Will the Board see that all pools are united? I think that there should be only one pool and no different dividends.
§ Mr. Renton
The position at the moment is that the Board's powers are centralised on each racecourse. It has a totalisator on each racecourse and, therefore, Tote Investors' credit bets are sent as well as the cash bets paid on the course, but that is a somewhat restricted power. When the betting offices open, the Board is hoping that not only will it have increased facilities for sending cash bets to the totalisators on the racecourses, but that it can have a number of central points—this is looking rather far into the future—at different places in the country off the course at which bets received at the betting offices would be taken into the pool.
It is for that reason that the powers of the tote have been rather more widely drawn in this case. It will not be a question of having a separate pool for every single race, every single course and 1009 every single betting shop. If I gave that impression it is unfortunate, but I do not think I did.
§ Mr. McAdden
I am sorry to interrupt again, but my hon. and learned Friend will have to make this clear. Some of us are puzzled about it and want to know the facts. Is it a fact that all bets made with the totalisator all over the country are to be transmitted to the central point and that all will have the same common dividend, or is the Board to operate a separate pool in, say, Liverpool or Birmingham, possibly at a different dividend, which may be greater or lower than that on the course?
§ Mr. Renton
I have already said to my hon. Friend once that the answer to his question is "Yes". The question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend is not the same as the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde. Perhaps they can argue it out later.
The provision that nobody else may accept bets at tote odds without the Board's consent is justified for two reasons. First, it is justifiable in principle because the Board has to go to a lot of trouble and expense in providing machines and staffs to work out dividends, but bookmakers taking bets at tote odds do so without contributing a penny to that expenditure. It therefore seems reasonable that the Board should have an exclusive right analogous to a copyright in the use of the odds resulting from its efforts.
Secondly, there is a practical reason. if bookmakers at cash betting offices were able to take bets on horse races at tote odds it would be almost impossible for the Board to establish betting offices in competition with them. The practical circumstances of pool betting by the Board requires that bets should be taken in units, which at present and for some time have been 4s. each. Without some prohibition on the use of tote odds there would be nothing to prevent bookies from taking bets for smaller amounts at tote odds, indeed, of offering a choice between starting prices and tote odds and taking bets on any amount, while pool betting offices would be confined to taking bets in units and would not be able to offer 1010 an alternative of betting at starting prices.
The bookmakers, naturally, oppose this arrangement, but we think that it is fair that, while legislating for modern conditions, we should say to the bookies, "You are to have a chance of cash and credit betting on or off the course at starting prices or fixed odds and the Board is not allowed to compete with you in that business. You, on the other hand, should not complain of the Board being given a reasonable opportunity of operating effectively off the course as well as on the course with regard to totalisator betting and that it should have a control of betting at tote odds to enable it to do so effectively."
This is not a package deal. There has been no haggling over it. It is a decision which has been reached after a great deal of thought and in the light of the Royal Commission's recommendations. We say that it is simple common sense, and we hope that Parliament will approve of these arrangements.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
May I ask whether or not this applies in reverse in regard to Tote Investors? Is there anything in the Bill which prevents Tote Investors carrying on the ordinary starting price business?
§ Mr. Renton
There is nothing in the Bill about that. So far as I know, it has not been its practice so far, and so far as I know it is not Tote Investors' intention, but I should like to look into that.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
This has been a highly interesting debate. I have always found it a little difficult to understand the moral arguments with regard to betting. On the one hand, it is said that betting is morally wrong because it is an attempt to obtain something for nothing. Looking at the benches opposite, I can understand that the Government side after the General Election are in no position to complain about that.
But, frankly, are any of us in a position to make this complaint? Would my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), if he received a legacy of £1,000 from some previously unknown relation in America, say "This is something for nothing and therefore 1011 it is not for me"? I do not feel that any of us would do that. Therefore, this argument about something for nothing has no very great substance in it.
§ Mr. Paget
What is said is excess. It is a sin if it is taken to excess; but is there anything at all which is not a sin if it is taken to excess? After all, the examination of the careers of Calvin in Geneva or Knox in Scotland—possibly even that of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black)—gives us certain doubts about virtue taken to excess. Indeed, I can think of few régimes which I would have more hated to live under than those of Calvin, Knox or the hon. Member.
It is no use simply to say that something is wrong if taken to excess, because excess is almost another word for wrong. Again, so far as the person who takes it to excess, the addict, is concerned, this legislation is quite irrelevant, as, indeed, is any prohibition or alcoholic licensing irrelevant so far as the dipsomaniac or the alcoholic is concerned. It would be methylated spirits if he could not get anything else. Equally, the gambling addict will gamble on something anyway. whatever we do. So we can put him out of our minds.
The next thing in regard to the moral question is that of children. It is said that we must keep this sort of thing away from children. I suggest that is very great nonsense indeed. We cannot insulate upbringing to too great an extent. It is very good to have had a certain amount of experience in our upbringing and to learn early that it is a mug's game to gamble. My father always encouraged us to gamble because he said that we would learn that it was a silly thing to do. I am bound to say that in practice that would have worked better if father had been a less trusting man or if he had had more honest sons. But in theory I think that he was quite right.
I should say that we are really divided into three classes. There is a small class who have never gambled at all. There may be another class, probably a good deal larger, who still gamble, but the great majority are the people who have gambled, found it a mug's game, and 1012 given it up. I believe that there is a lot to be said for getting through that process as early and as cheaply as possible. Therefore, a lot of precautions about applying this to children seems to me to be a good deal of nonsense. When I said this before, my right hon. Friend intervened to say, "But some get the habit and go on." That seems to me a certain question of post hoc proplis hoc. People who go on gambling would have taken to gambling whether they started young or not.
Again, we are told of the terrible example which this has on young people when they see other people gambling. I do not know, but I very much doubt if I have ever benefited from a good example. I have benefited tremendously from bad ones. Very few of us, I think. are induced to become teetotallers by the splendid spectacle of the abstainer. but we are very apt to be induced when we see the revolting spectacle of a drunk.
Having said that much with regard to the morality of the Bill, I do not feel that we as a Parliament are concerned with virtue. We cannot, as often said, make people virtuous by Act of Parliament, because if we compel virtue it ceases to be virtue. Virtue is only virtuous if it is chosen. What I am arguing is something quite different from right and wrong, and quite different from virtue. It is order. That is what legislation is concerned with. It is in terms of order that I look at this problem.
From the point of view of order, betting to me is an unproductive waste. We have heard of great numbers of people who are engaged professionally in this utterly unproductive occupation. I do not think there is anything wrong at all in people having a bet if they feel so inclined, if that is their recreation, provided that as citizens they are usefully occupied in another capacity. I believe that from the point of view of social order it is wrong to tolerate a system in which a large group of the community is sterilised in an unproductive and useless occupation. That is my first point.
My second point is that where we have people occupied in this sort of unproductive way, living by their wits—and the professional gambler, whether he is a bookmaker or not, is doing that—it is not generally confined to matching their 1013 wits against the punter. Such a person often matches his wits against the law as well. I would deal with the situation like this. I would put an end to book-making tomorrow. It could be done with the greatest simplicity in the world. All one would have to do would be to make it illegal to make or to publish a starting price. Once we do that, every bookmaker off the course is out of business. It can be done as easily as that. I would make the tote a monopoly. It can provide for and support racing. I think it also could make a good contribution to the Exchequer. That is the way that I would deal with it. It is dealt with in that fashion in France and in a number of other countries where it works admirably.
I would deal with the pools in the same way. We are told that the pools have somehow become sacrosanct. I would put them out of business, too. The morality of the State indulging in gambling has already been given away in Premium Bonds. I would let the State take over the pools as a national lottery, and I would let the State take the benefit. But that is a bold solution—far too bold for this Government.
§ Mr. Paget
I am not so hopeless about my own party doing a bold, logical and reasonable thing as my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) seems to be.
The Government have announced as a principle that they must do nothing to encourage gambling. Therefore, we have the ludicrous proposition that we are to have betting shops and that they are to be as uncomfortable as possible. Then the Government say that they are opposed to continuous betting. What utter nonsense, when they have set up the Peppiatt Committee to see if means can be found to provide extra support for race meetings, which, of course, are simply processes of continuous betting. Also there is dog racing. I suppose that 90 per cent. of people who go to horse racing go to bet, and nothing else, but in the case of dog racing it is 99 per cent. Dog racing is simply an animated roulette wheel which is a bit easier to fix than the one at Monte Carlo. To provide bars, restaurants, and complete 1014 comfort on race tracks and then to say that continuous betting must be discouraged is great nonsense.
Betting shops are to be as uncomfortable as possible. They must not say what the odds are or how the racing is going. But the bookmakers are allowed to advertise anywhere except in their own shops. I shall put down an Amendment to this provision which will test the Government's sincerity. This Amendment will put the bookmaker and the pool proprietor in the same position as I myself am as a lawyer, or as a doctor is, and make it illegal for them to advertise. The advertising of betting is one of the things which are wrong and which ought to be dealt with.
As to gambling shops, I am dead against them. I am against them for the reason which I enunciated earlier—waste of resources. We are short of bricks and mortar. There is a demand for shopping and housing facilities. Are we really going to allow gambling on this sort of scale to waste the limited resources? For that simple and primary reason, I regard this as a thoroughly anti-social provision.
I am confident that these betting shops will be a nuisance in the localities in which they are situated. For reasons which have already been pointed out, they will not carry much investment. They will be poor places in poorish residential localities. We may ban broadcasting, etc., but what about the "blower"? That is not a broadcast. It comes on a private wire. It comes out at the end with a noise which can be a nuisance to a whole street. I know one place where it is. This sort of waste and nuisance should not be tolerated for a moment.
I should like to deal with the proposal that all betting shops—which, I suppose, includes not merely the man who goes to the counter but the man who goes to the phone as well—should stop before racing begins. The proposal is to put rich and poor, the man who bets by cash and the man who bets by telephone, in the same position, and it is proposed that all should stop before racing starts. If that were done it would be a complete robbery of the public. All this betting would pass directly or indirectly to one or two big men, to Hill and people like that, who by investing a few hundreds 1015 in the ring at the smaller meetings can arrange the odds any way they like. If these bookmakers have all the money well before the race, they will be in a position to rig the odds any way they like. The essential is that there should be a great deal of money which has not been able to get back to the course. Therefore, I would utter a very grave warning indeed against seeking to close down the betting shops before racing starts.
I now turn to my proposals for dealing with the matter I would deal with it very simply indeed. I would introduce licensing of bookmakers and licensing, through the bookmaker, of the runner, too. I would simply repeal the Street Betting Act. At present we have any amount of police powers for maintaining order and dealing with obstruction in the streets. We should add a sanction so that any runner who is a nuisance in the streets imperils his principal's licence. The nuisances which were indicated yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) can be dealt with perfectly well. There is a legal power to deal with nuisance, reinforced by the threat to the licence.
Therefore, from the point of view of order, which is what I am concerned with, and from the point of view of nuisance, the runner who has to think about his licence is infinitely less nuisance if he is at the gates of a factory than if he is operating inside. He is much less nuisance than a lot of shops, and he can be controlled. That is what I would do first.
As regards the conditions of the licence, I agree that one should make the bookmakers' licence expensive; I think £100 may be about right. But I would not make conditions upon its issue. Anybody should be able to obtain a licence. The alternative really is this: a man can go to the court and, as was said yesterday, justify his claim to a licence by his experience, which he proves by producing his convictions. I do not regard that as a good idea. There may be a precedent for it, when a former Government issued Letters of Mark to Sir Henry Morgan, but history is a little uncertain about whether he then gave up piracy. I regard that as all wrong.
1016 We should not try to deal with the issue of betting licences on the analogy of drink licences and produce valuable monopolies and monopoly rights and that kind of thing. That is altogether wrong. One should deal with it as one does a motoring licence, the important factor being the power to take it away. It is the process of taking it away which is important, and this should be a matter either for the ordinary courts or for a special court.
Apart from his own licence, the bookmaker should register his runners, and his runners should be licensed to him. He is the one to be held responsible for their conduct. If they are a nuisance, that should be brought up not against the runners but against their principal before the licensing court, which should have power to fine or to suspend the licence of the bookmaker for the conduct of his runners. Make the bookmaker responsible, and he will see that the runners are not a nuisance.
The loss of a bookmaker's licence should, I suggest, be based upon two things, one being a nuisance and the other default upon his liabilities. Here, I differ a little from my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). I believe that Tattersalls' Committee enjoys very great authority and respect among everyone concerned in racing. I forget who is chairman now; Lord Rosebery was chairman for a long time. Tattersalls' Committeee is a body which enjoys great authority, and, in the matter of betting liabilities, it is probably in a far better position to judge and has far greater expertise than we can bring together in a court we set up. Therefore, so far as default is concerned, I would provide that the decision of Tattersalls' Committee should be taken as evidence by the licensing authority as to the state of the facts. I believe that that would be useful. This seems much the simplest way of dealing with off-course betting.
I come now to a question raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields. Is the Home Secretary to be on the Standing Committee? If he is not, we are all wasting our time. This is a thoroughly bad and unworkable Bill, as almost everyone who has spoken so far has said. It is a Bill which I accept on Second Reading because, in 1017 my view, the present law is extremely bad and we have here an opportunity to put it right. But we shall never do that if we cannot have the Minister there. Without the Minister, there will be two lumps of inertia against us. [An HON. MEMBER: "Two runners."] No; they are not runners; they are lumps of inertia.
One is the civil servant who says, "You know, Sir, that this took a lot of negotiating. We had to see the Jockey Club, we had to see the Board, and we had to see someone else. You had better leave it alone" The other is the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General, whoever it may be, who says, "This has all been thought out from a legal point of view and it is difficult to say what will happen if you alter it." Unless one has the Minister there, with authority to tell the civil servant and the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General, as the case may be, one will never get anywhere, because the inertia will always be too great.
There is another serious point. Already, in this Parliament, we are condemned to do without either a Foreign Secretary or a Minister of Defence because the Prime Minister has decided to be the authority in those two offices and to fob us off with a couple of nonentities who have no authority in this House at all and who, we know, are in no position to make any decisions. Are we now to be condemned to doing without a Home Secretary? I understand the right hon. Gentleman's position. He was very disappointed. He is a great man. His great position has to be established. He is chairman of the Conservative Party and Leader of the House. But one must not just tag on a great office to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman. If he cannot tackle those three offices together, it is time he decided which to abandon.
The Minister is not doing his job if he is not on the Committee which deals with his major Bills. That is the point. His great office cannot be approached in that sort of way. It must not be merely an appendage to provide a sort of Ministerial anchor to a distinguished person whose real activities are as Leader of the House and chairman of the Conservative Party. This is some-thing against which we are entirely right 1018 to protest and we should demand the right hon. Gentleman's presence on the Committee for this Bill. The whole procedure will be useless otherwise.
As I said, I approach the Second Reading of the Bill purely on the Long Title. The state of the law is unsatisfactory and we are provided with a means of changing it. But unless it is completely changed in its character in Committee, I certainly shall not vote for the Bill on Third Reading or, indeed, assist its passage through Committee.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) made some rather provocative statements in the latter part of his speech, which I do not propose to take up. I should like to say that, although I disagree with a great deal of what he says in the House, I found myself in some agreement with certain of the rather stimulating remarks he made earlier. I am rather surprised that he should be the first person in this debate, in my hearing, at any rate, to advocate a tote monopoly. That would certainly be one method of dealing with the problem. The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that 90 per cent. of those who went racing went there only to bet. I can only say that I profoundly disagree. On the rare occasions that I go, I would certainly be one of the 10 per cent.
§ Mr. Wingfield Digby
Splendid. I thought the hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion that all advertising by bookmakers should be made illegal was a quite interesting one. He went on to speak against betting shops, and I thought that he was getting nearer the mark when he spoke of the conflict which there is between the system of runners and the system of betting shops as outlined in the Bill.
I give my support to the Second Reading of the Bill, if only because it is to regularise cash betting off the course. I congratulate the Home Secretary on having the courage to come forward with a Measure of this kind. There has been a surprising amount of acceptance for the Bill so far, much more than I had expected. Even The Times has said that 1019 the Bill was long overdue. Nevertheless, we must admit that, since the Royal Commission reported, there has been a lot of delay. To use racing parlance, the Government have "dwelt at the start" rather than "charged the tapes."
That leads me to the reflection that, not only in this but in other ways, too, there is much about our existing laws which savours of what was yesterday called "Victoriana". It seems to be becoming increasingly difficult for a Government of whatever complexion to stand up to the resistance of strong minorities in this country organised on non-party lines. It would be an interesting pursuit for the constitutional historian to look into that. Nevertheless, I believe it is a great pity that on some of these issues, about which many of us feel strongly, we in this House cannot forget about party disadvantage and take the bull by the horns and deal with them. I think it is a good thing to press on with a subject of this kind.
Having said that, I regret that the Bill is a little over-cautious. I am not one of those who think that the Royal Commission did such a wonderful job. It did not produce a bad Report, but I should have liked it to produce a better one. Although the Bill goes in the right direction it errs on the side of caution and leaves a great many problems that will certainly have to be sorted out more realistically in Committee.
I wish to say again that I believe that the position of the bookmaker's runners is all important, and I am still very far from clear, in spite of the explanations which we have been given, what the position is under the Bill. It is a little unsatisfactory that the Peppiatt Committee could not have been set up earlier, because the tote is still competing on rather unequal terms with the bookmakers and it is unsatisfactory that that situation should continue.
Again, the Royal Commission, whatever its merits, suggested that all legislation prior to the 1928 Act should be repealed and re-enacted. That has not happened and we still have not had a very good explanation from the Government as to why they have been unable to do that and why it is necessary to go on relying on the 1906 Act.
1020 A fourth point on which the Bill is open to criticism is that betting debts remain unenforceable in law. It is quite true that the Commission was against changing the law here, but I think that quite a strong case can be made out for a change. The Chief Magistrate for the Metropolitan area came out strongly in favour of a change. Perhaps when my right hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State replies to the debate we shall be given an explanation why that cannot be done.
We are all on common ground at any rate of one thing, that the present law is unrealistic, unenforceable and not respected. There has not been quite as much talk as I expected about the rights and wrongs of gambling. I think there is general agreement that we should do only what public policy demands and that we should not be drawn too much into moral issues.
There was a time, very long ago, when the House of Commons spent a great deal of its time legislating on religious issues and, very often, riding roughshod over the religious views of minorities. I think it is now generally accepted that in a free society we want to interfere with the individual as little as possible, provided, of course, that public policy is not infringed.
I was rather struck by the figures given in Table C on page 20 of the Royal Commission's Report which shows what a comparatively small amount of personal expenditure goes on gambling. The net personal expenditure on gambling in this country is only one-tenth of personal expenditure on either alcohol or tobacco—a comparatively small figure.
Another interesting thing is that four out of five of our fellow citizens are held to have gambled at one time or another. The amount of national income used in this respect is not large, although, of course, the hon. and learned Member for Northampton is quite right when he says that a tremendous number of people are engaged in one way or another with the betting industry. Therefore, I think we must come to the conclusion that it is not contrary to public policy that the same degree of betting and gambling as at the moment should continue. If that is so, we must try very hard to make facilities reasonable.
1021 Various opposing views have been heard on the subject of help for racing. I was very interested in the views of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). I agree with him that there is quite a strong case for giving some help to racing, but I did think—
§ Mr. Digby
In the same way as the totalisator helps under the 1928 Act.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ash-ford (Mr. Deedes) made a very good point yesterday when he said it was very important that, whatever we did, the racing industry should not appear to become a mere appendage of the betting industry. Racing is something quite different from that.
The importance of bloodstock in this country has been mentioned. It is only a very small industry, but it is probably worthy of some small amount of support. We cannot get away from the fact that the quality of our bloodstock and of our racing is tending to decline as compared with France where the contribution to racing through betting is something like ten times as great.
That brings me back to the vexed question of the runners. It seems to me that a tremendous proportion of bets placed in this country at the present time are placed through them. Over the weekend I mentioned this Bill to a lady. She said, "Oh, yes, my husband was terribly unlucky on Saturday. Had he gone to work he would have had a 7–1 winner." I said, "Oh really, what about the proposal for betting shops then?" She said, "Oh, we have one already behind the sweet shop, but he did not bother to go there." That I think emphasises this issue.
I believe we must agree that at the moment the runners play a very big part. It is highly questionable how far the betting shops will be able to succeed them, how many people will go to a betting shop when they can place their bets more easily at their place of work. It would be very unfortunate if the Bill 1022 left any doubt as to the right of people to place their bets at their place of work, and if we attempt to alter that we shall find it very difficult indeed.
I cannot profess any particular enthusiasm for betting shops. We are in this dilemma. If we make them too nice we may increase the amount of betting. I think it is quite possible that the shops will tend to increase the amount of betting, but that is something which we shall learn only from experience.
When listening to some of the talk that we have heard about loitering I wondered whether we in this House were being very realistic. Anyone who does not hesitate a little before placing a bet on a horse really needs to have his head examined. There are so many factors to be taken into account when backing a horse. There are the odds and knowing the position drawn by the horse. Anyone who did not loiter a little before placing a bet in the shop would be a very peculiar individual indeed.
§ Mr. Wingfield Digby
That may be so, but it is another point. The average person who is a punter in a little way, as are a great many people, is very well informed about form and genuinely interested in racing. He does not back a horse once with the intention of never backing it again. He is interested in its performance in the race. If he is able to go to the café next door and hear over the "blower" a commentary on the race, he will know whether to back the horse on the next occasion regardless of what it does on the first occasion.
There are many problems connected with regulating betting shops. We must not be too ridiculous about the furniture. I doubt very much if it is feasible to close betting shops before the time of racing. So many people like to make up their minds at the last possible moment. Some words in paragraph 6 of the Second Schedule about not giving information by word of mouth to punters are completely unrealistic and altogether too bureaucratic. Is it very much worse for people to have the amenity of a television and a "blower" in the shop than to go next door and receive the 1023 information there? There may be a moral distinction, but I find it very hard to understand.
Having grasped the nettle and decided to try to regularise the position, we should not spoil it by being too fussy about details. I have no doubt that there will be much mud slung in Committee and I do not entirely envy my right hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State (Mr. Vosper). However, I have a great regard for him and I am sure that he will prove himself a real "mudlark" in that event. We must try to find a common-sense solution to a very difficult problem. We must try to make a good job of it now so that we provide not only for 1960 but 1970 also. Past experience shows that Parliament is unlikely to direct its attention to this question again for many years.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
I am very glad to be able to follow the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby), because in the past I have followed his horses, with not very satisfactory results. I hope to have better results from the speech I am about to make.
It is surprising that this debate can take place in such an atmosphere of toleration when we bear in mind the struggles which have taken place in the past. It seems that we are not being pressed by lobbies about this. The only representations I have received were from two bookmakers who have suffered convictions in the past twelve months. They want to know if it will be all right for them to obtain licences when the Bill becomes law. I was able to assure them that all their past sins will be forgotten and they will start with a clean sheet. I hope that I am right in my interpretation.
We must aim at securing as responsible and reasonable a behaviour as possible by society with the minimum of interference with the habits of the individuals making up society. We must try to reach some solution which will be the least harmful to society. Most of us are offenders under the present betting legislation. I have certainly committed offences. They have not been very great, but once a month, or even more, I have committed offences and have 1024 gone unpunished. Many decent citizens up and down the country have been hounded and harassed by the police, through no fault of the police, because they are carrying out the law. This has all been to no great advantage. Therefore, we must aim at coming to terms with betting on as reasonable a basis as possible. We must recognise that gambling exists and always will exist in some form or other. If it is not horses, it is which of two flies will reach the ceiling first.
The present law is chaotic and impossible to enforce. Indeed, it is unfair as between different sections of the community. I can best illustrate this by giving two examples. I know two old ladies, both of whom are old-age pensioners. One of them sits by the phone when racing is on. She rings up her bookmaker and places a bet. She then listens to the race on the wireless and puts on her next bet when the result of that race is known. That is perfectly legal. The other old lady, as her only form of relaxation, spends all morning reading the only paper she buys. She studies form. She probably knows more about horses than any hon. Member. Having studied the paper she writes on a piece of paper with a blunt pencil something like this, "Three threepenny cross-doubles so-and-so, so-and-so and so-and-so. Any to come, 1s. up and down so-and-so and so-and-so. Any to come, 1s. each way so-and-so. Any to come, treble, so-and-so, so-and-so and so-and-so." The whole of that operation costs her about 9d. and she stands to win, if she is lucky, perhaps £1.
She must get those bets through to a bookmaker. If there is no one in the house to do the job for her, she leaves the house and furtively hands the piece of paper to someone acting for a bookmaker. If she is caught, she runs the risk of prosecution. That is absolute nonsense. It is wrong that a person should be made to feel a criminal or an offender for doing something which gives her pleasure and certainly does no harm to anyone.
I believe, with most hon. Members who have spoken, that betting certainly is not a sin. Nor is it a crime. Excess betting, like excesses of anything else, is a folly and a stupidity. Most of us pay for our 1025 experiences of folly and stupidity in one way or another. I suggest that there are far more pernicious things to tackle in this Parliament than ordinary betting by the ordinary citizen. I regard excessive drinking and excessive smoking as far more dangerous to the public good than a little betting here and there.
I ask hon. Gentlemen to retain a sense of proportion, particularly when we are speaking about street betting and street bookmakers. We are not really dealing with bookmakers. We are dealing with the runners, the people who take the slips from punters to bookies. Most of them are people who, because of illness or disability, find that this is a useful way of earning a few shillings and passing the time. They are not menaces, and I certainly do not believe that they are evil.
We have now got ourselves into a ridiculous position. Credit betting is legal. We now understand that factory betting and institutional betting is legal. Betting with cash by post will be legal. Betting in a betting shop will be legal. Street betting is the only aspect left outside the Bill which is still illegal and subject to very heavy penalties. One hon. Gentleman mentioned the delightful phrase "selective enforcement". That means that the police have a rota. They say to someone, "It is your turn this week. We will pull you in and fine you. It will be someone else's turn next week or next month". That is the way it has been happening.
Why should that be? I can see no justification for not repealing the laws relating to ordinary street betting—the passing of slips, and so on. Even if the penalties remain in the Bill, there is no guarantee that any bench of magistrates will impose the very severe penalties on the kind of people about whom I have been speaking. Under the Bill there is no guarantee that all street betting will be canalised into betting shops. I believe that the concept of betting shops will be a complete flop, an absolute fiasco, and that street betting will continue.
One of the aims of the Bill is to try to relieve the burden on the police, but police supervision will be just as necessary as ever over the street bookmakers and also to deal with possible abuses in betting shops. Therefore, we are gaining nothing.
1026 The setting up of betting shops is put forward as the answer to the problem. I do not believe that it is an answer to the problem. It will need very complicated machinery. There will be the whole apparatus of licensing and other matters, which will build up a fantastic superstructure in order to carry out the provisions of the Bill. The betting shop will not be popular. People will not go from the part of the town in which they live to another part in order to place their bets when they know that someone almost next door will accept them. If the betting shop is not rapidly accessible, it will not be used. If it is too readily accessible, it can be a danger. It is, therefore, open to many objections, some of which have been mentioned by the hon. Member for Dorset, West.
As I say, the betting shops will either be too attractive, in which case there will be loitering, or not attractive enough, in which case they are likely to degenerate into dens of darkness and gloom to which no person would like to go. In many cases, they will be a sordid kind of establishment, and I am against them for that reason too. They will also open the way to monopoly trading—horse trading, as it were. Someone will build up a business and then there will be a take-over and all the rest of it. There will also be a tremendous amount of wire-pulling in order to get the best shop in the best location. That, too, is a menace.
The Home Secretary told us surprisingly little of what is in his mind. Indeed, he seemed to throw himself on the House and say, "Tell me what we are to do and we will look at it in Committee." At the same time, he has put a ban on his own supporters to say anything against what he may want. Therefore, we have to ask the Home Secretary just how many of these betting shops he envisages per head of population. Will there be complete freedom for anyone to operate them where they wish, provided that byelaw controls, and so on, are fulfilled?
Will the operators of betting shops be permitted on I.T.V.? Will someone be able to take a shop and advertise it on local commercial television? I ask because I would not put anything past them. Before I can support the idea of 1027 the betting shop I shall need to know far more about it.
There has been some talk as to what we should call the betting shops. I would call them "Butleries". I am sure that the Home Secretary would not like to hear people say, "I am going to the Butlery to put on my bet". He would not wish to go down to posterity as the man who brought the betting shop into operation. There are many worthy reforms with which he is associated, and could be associated, that are of far more importance. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) when he says that we could spend our capital and resources on things far more worthy than betting shops. There are doctors' waiting rooms. If we paid more attention to getting decent waiting rooms we should be doing much more good than by setting up betting shops.
We must keep it all as simple and as uncomplicated as possible. To do that, we should legalise street betting. It should no longer be an offence. I do not believe for one moment that to do that would lead to an increase in betting. Anyone who wants to bet will find the means to do so. Even in this Palace of Westminster it is not unknown for anyone to be able to get a bet on at any time of day should he wish to do so—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who is the runner?"] For a small commission I am willing.
To return to what I was saying, street betting should be legalised. Obstruction could be dealt with by the normal processes of law and by the use of existing powers. No one envisages for a moment that a bookmaker will put up his board in the street and shout the odds. That would collect a crowd, and he could at once be dealt with for obstruction.
One thing that ought to be mentioned is that the runner provides a personal touch that is lacking on the tote and which would be lacking in the betting shop. In many respects he is a friend of those from whom he takes little bets. He gives them little bits of gossip. They know him, and they know that he is safe and to be trusted. As far as I am aware, that system has not really gone wrong. To legalise street betting would also free the police for more urgent duties.
1028 Only this morning I noticed something in my local newspaper that I should like to quote. It refers to a case in which two men and a woman were prosecuted for betting offences. The prosecuting solicitor—somewhat optimistically—said:This, I suppose, is one of the last prosecutions which we will have under this extraordinary Act of our Victorian forefathers.In a case in which a man and his wife and a friend were accused of keeping a betting house, it came out that four policemen watched the house for four days to prove the offence and, in the end, the man was fined £12. That, I think, is a gross waste of policemen's time and a gross interference with the liberty of the individual. The only point of note in the case was that the house was on a corporation estate and not in the older part of the town where it is expected that these things will occur.
I should have thought that we wanted to get rid of that sort of thing. We could have the system of licensed runners so ably put forward by my hon. and learned Friend, but it would be much cleaner and simpler to do away with the offence altogether. It should not be too difficult to formulate rules to prohibit soliciting and so on.
I want to turn to another part of the Bill. We need to get some funds from the off-the-course bookmakers to provide for the improvement of racing. That is very badly needed indeed. At the racecourse, the ordinary person goes in by either the 3s. 6d. or the 4s. entrance. Now and again I go with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). He goes in at one gate and I go in at another. I usually go on the course because I like to see the horses jump, or start or run. I seldom see them finish, because by the time they get there I have lost all interest in that part of the race.
Of the courses near London, only Sandown has tried to improve conditions for the ordinary man on the course. Kempton Park is a disgrace. If one wants a cup of tea one goes to an old shack covered with a tin roof and stands on cinders. Hurst Park is not very much better. The money would be far better used to improve the amenities on the racecourses.
Again, the tote should be more democratic. It should restore the 2s. ticket. 1029 It is a gross levy on the ordinary race-going man to make him pay 4s. for a ticket, or 8s. for an each-way bet, for the privilege of betting on the tote. There are other objectionable features of the Bill that can be put right in Committee. There are far too many instances in the Bill where the onus of proof is on the man concerned and not on the prosecution. That is wrong.
If there is a vote tonight I shall support this Bill in general, but I hope that we may get far more detailed improvements in Committee. If we do not, I shall feel very much like my hon. and learned Friend and, in the later stages, find myself obliged to oppose it.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
It is a great pleasure to address the House on this Bill, and I at once say that I shall be the first speaker, I think—with the exception of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary—in the one and a half days of this debate to deal with Parts II and III in some detail.
I would remind the House that the Bill deals not only with betting, but with gaming and, perhaps equally important, with the fairground and the fun of the fair. It therefore affects a large section of our tourist trade, a matter very close to the hearts of my own constituents, who have the largest volume of that trade of any constituency. That is my own experience as a racing journalist in dealing with Part I.
I have endeavoured to contribute to Part II in my own Bill which was before the House in July. The Measure before the House now is, in substance, almost the same in Part II as my Bill. As to Part III of the Bill, that affects my own constituency, since it deals with the position of the fairgrounds—Dreamland and Merrie England, which are as well known to hon. Gentlemen opposite, I hope, on the occasions of their regular conferences in my constituency. I hope that there will be as many more as there have been in the past.
However, I am quite certain I would not take the House with me if I were to go straight to gaming and fairgrounds and, therefore, I would start by saying this, just as I was saying it a little time ago when writing an article, that I do not think there will be very great controversy of a violent nature over this 1030 Bill, that it will be a matter more of debate in Committee than otherwise. So also I say this, that I do not believe that there will be anything like as much difficulty in Committee as the House may have thought, because we have achieved a large measure of agreement on the various Clauses.
I say that having listened to practically every speech which has been delivered. Actually, as to the divergencies, I think that when we come down to it—and it has always been my professional training to see whether there are wide divergencies in matters of principle—the House is not divided in the matter of principle to a very large degree, with the exception of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). He is, but as to the rest of the House and those who have hitherto spoken, though they are not necessarily representive of us all, there is not otherwise a tremendous amount between us.
I think that there are ten great things which the Government have achieved in bringing forward the Bill. This is the first and only Government in history who have had the courage to bring forward a thorough-going reform of the laws of betting and gaming and also of those relating to fairgrounds. From the reign of Elizabeth I we look to the reign of Elizabeth II to find any Government who had the nerve and the courage to do that task.
The second is this, that no one else in history has ever tried to bring before this House a Measure which will give equal opportunity for all. In all the others, as hon. Members will see if they look at them—and I have had to look at well over 20 different betting and gaming Bills in other aspects—we have seen in every one that there is a vested interest, the sort of thing which, twenty years ago, the Labour Party used to talk about regularly, but which now, I am happy to say, has gone from our midst. There are certainly vested interests, but the really delightful thing is that there is practically nobody representing those vested interests in the House of Commons today, except, perhaps, a few racehorse owners, and we know who they are, and they are a very nice crowd, and they have been open and fair about it. We are in that remarkable position.
1031 The third is—[Interruption.] I do not want to have to give way, because I know that there are so many hon. Gentlemen who want to speak, and I do not want to take more time than is absolutely necessary. As to the next point, it really is a remarkable feature that at last all games, be they of chance or be they of chance and skill combined, are made lawful for the first time in our history; all games, not only snap, but whist for the old ladies, poker, any game we like, and this is the end of the old common gaming house brought in in the old days of Henry VIII, who wanted to stop everybody from having a bit of fun because he thought that archery was the only sport good for this country. If I may say so, it is not only the Communists or even the Left-wing Socialists who are or have been reactionaries. There has also been trouble from the royal monarchs of this country. They were also reactionaries in preventing people from having the fun to which they were entitled.
Then we come to the next point about the Bill. It has not even been mentioned yet. This is a great day for the vicar, because in Clause 15 we bring in a new vicars' charter, the vicars' salvation, though one of the notes of warning I shall have to strike is that it could easily become the vicars' casino. When we come to consider that Clause I shall point out one or two dangers. I am certain that if I were defending the vicar it would not be very difficult to drive a coach and horses through that Clause, if he were to decide to get a certain well-known gambler and were to decide he should organise a game of chemin-de-fer on behalf of the vicar with a cagnotte, which would probably benefit that vicar and his flock in a charitable way. It might well be that in those circumstances he would play chemin-de-fer casinowise for the benefit of charity only. But more of that anon.
Another great thing, therefore, which the Bill does is that it provides for the first time a proper basis for fun fairs, for show grounds, and it is something which will do a great deal to help the tourist trade of the country and help ourselves when we go for a little fun to Margate or Ramsgate or other towns in the summer when we want to enjoy ourselves. Every single year in my part of 1032 the country the police, who have entire discretion in the matter, have to consider whether or not they will prosecute the showmen, and, consequently, they have to meet together to decide whether that particular type of machine or another shall be allowed, because all of them have been unlawful. The Bill will do a great deal in sorting out the difficulties of the police and of the large number of people who provide the everyday pleasures of the country and the everyday pleasures of those who want to enjoy a pleasant holiday.
All of these five objectives are being attained by the Bill without any great clash with the Churches, and furthermore without our country becoming a continental country by the provision of casinos.
Another thing that the Bill does is to provide for the carrying through of these things through the proper sources, the justices of the peace. I would far rather have right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, and people like them, deciding licences than I would have local authorities have the discretion or the police. I place high faith in the ordinary lay justices, and those of us who have to see them quite frequently know that although they may sometimes make mistakes they do, by and large, rough justice and a good job.
Whatever else happens, this Bill will make good common sense of the law. It may be that there will have to be Amendments, but, on the whole, we shall have done what is the tenth achievement of this Bill, the last but by no means the least: something to restore towards the police force some of their prestige, some of the lost feeling, which those of us who see this problem daily know well—that people have somehow lost that feeling Englishmen used to have that the policeman was always right. That feeling has gone today. It has gone from the juries of the country. Today, one can be quite certain that, sitting in the jury box, there will be somebody who does not like the police. Therefore, one can play on his sympathies. It is not fair to the police forces.
It is quite wrong that a chief constable should have to decide whether he wants to prosecute one bunch of old ladies for playing whist because they are on licensed premises, and whether he 1033 should decide not to allow any one particular gambling machine because he does not like the face of the man operating it, or whether he should not allow games in the Lyndhurst Club but allow them in Crockford's because he knows that the Secretary of State happens to play at Crockford's.
It so happens, and I make no bones about it, that I am not only a gambler but a gambler who happens to win, and that is because I play those games which are games of skill, and by staking a little bit in a game, whether it be bridge, or poker, those games which are games of skill, and in which it is quite certain that you will win because the other player is not as good. It is at Crockford's where one will find the best players, and in the past they have never been prosecuted because it is an admirable and respectable club where they play admirably and respectably, whereas in other places they have been prosecuted because, as my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State said earlier today, we have been carried to the ludicrous situation where all card clubs are illegal but a bridge club is allowed to carry on and people are allowed to play bridge whereas the poker people have to be put into the van and taken to the police station.
I hope that I have given some genuine basis to the observation that the Government are entitled to a great deal of praise, and not only for the proposals on betting which have been discussed in the House because so many hon. Members understand so much about Part I of the Bill and, with respect, not quite so much about Parts II and III. We have heard all about Part I. There are great specialists and experts in the House, and the House is entitled to have its views taken into account by the Home Secretary. My right hon Friend would be very unwise if he did not reserve to himself the right to apply the Whip, but has anyone heard the crack of the Whip? I have not seen much evidence of it. It is clear to the Home Secretary that he needs, and he welcomes warmly, the advice which he will receive from a great many hon. Members on both sides of the House who have the capacity and the ability to tender him advice.
I should like to mention some of the matters which are not in the Bill. First, 1034 there is the benefit to racing. The tote, of course, will pay its continuing benefit to racing on turnover. It is quite simple, but the bookmakers could do the same on the "blower". That is the first point not only for the Peppiatt Committee, but also for my right hon. Friend to consider. It seems to me that one way to achieve what is desired may not necessarily be by Statute. It is true today that most of the bookmakers, certainly those on the rails and the larger ones who pay and go on the turf, from the William Hill organisation at the head of the show right down to the ordinary man who pays his money to go into Tattersalls', are ready and willing to make a contribution to racing. They only want to be shown how.
As to whether the off-course bookies would wish to do so, I care not to speak, but many of those who have large off-course businesses also have businesses on-course and they would be willing to make a contribution to racing. The contribution should be a percentage of the turnover on the "blower". Any bookmaker must have the services of this direct wire to the offices through which he is able to lay off bets and able to know exactly what comes on to the course. A horse could come down from 20to 1 to 2 to 1 in a matter of five minutes betting. That information must be transmitted back to the bookmaker. The best method is to ensure that the tax is applied on the turnover arising from the "blower". In that way the big man. William Hill, will have to pay more than the small man. That has been the difficulty.
The difficulty does not end there, however. It ends on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) when he said that it is a bit much, in the Bill, to try to deal with that tax at the same time as we deal with the position of the bookmakers. This proposal I believe, can be persuasive and need not necessarily be statutory. I ask the Government to consider carefully whether they cannot do this by a persuasive method and make sure that they get the benefits to racing in that way.
Enforceability of gaming debts is not in the Bill, and it ought to be It is the only major omission that should be included. Enforceability through the 1035 courts is not easy. If I have a bet with the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), and I do not pay him and he sues me in the courts, and I say that I will get legal aid and I get it to try to save me from that debt, I believe that the House would not want to seek enforceability in claiming debts through the courts.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I would not defend myself. That would be the greatest lack of wisdom that one could possibly have. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was going to say that I was engaged in "welshing" operations
I believe that Tattersalls' can play a great part in the future and we can give them statutory powers. I should like to see them given in some way statutory power to ensure that they can enforce debts. I do not mean only in the case of the bookmaker in a small way, because if he does not pay he will lose his licence as an unfit and improper person to be a bookmaker. I mean also in the case of the punter. The reason why the bookmaker must have such large overheads is that he must have a cushion against those who do not pay. As a betting man, I object to the fact that part of the bookmaker's profit should be an unseen part to set aside against those who do not pay. I believe that debts could be enforced by Tattersalls' Committee and I should like to see powers given in one of the Schedules to ensure enforceability of debts.
The main issue on Part I arises out of a misnomer. Do we want betting offices or do we want betting shops? Everybody has been using the expression "betting shop" but the Bill does not deal with a betting shop at all. It deals with a betting office, which is a totally different thing. After much careful thought, and having listened to the last one and a half days' of argument, I am at the moment in favour of betting shops.
The difference is this. The betting office laid down in the Bill is merely to enable somebody to go to that office to lay his bets and get out as quickly as 1036 possible and not loiter around. These offices are to be completely bare places where people cannot sit down. The result will be merely that if Mr. Hill takes a shop on the corner Mr. Forte will take a café next door. A man will walk out of the front door of the betting shop and go to Forte's comfortable place next door where the television will be on for three of the races. Probably, within a few years, closed circuit television will be installed for the other three races likewise under a private arrangement between the racing and betting authorities in the case of the one, and an undercover arrangement between the bookmaker and the café owner for the other. I am not intending to disparage in any way either Mr. Forte or Mr. Hill, for both of whom one can have the highest admiration for their methods of business—but they are businessmen.
Therefore, a person leaves the betting office and moves to the shop or café next door where will be conducted the shop side of the business. The other premises will remain the offices. If hon. Members consider the matter carefully they must recognise that there is one part of the Bill which will not work satisfactorily, and that is paragraph 7 of the Second Schedule which deals with the question of wireless and amenities of that kind. One of my hon. Friends was quite right when he said yesterday that we must decide whether there shall be proper amenities or not.
We can do nothing but face the straight issue whether we are prepared to close the shops during the working hours of racing, so as to prevent excessive betting or, alternatively, face the fact that we shall have betting shops or office arrangements under which people will be directed to enter, make their bets and go away again. The premises will not be truly a shop. That is a matter which will require to be looked at for amendment. The decision can be well left to the Committee stage of the Bill, but I would draw attention to what the Royal Commission said on the matter. It said that there must be a reasonable number only of suitable sites as betting shops. There must be orderliness, there must be no loitering or calling of odds, there must be no gambling by youth, and there must be certain specific hours of opening.
1037 I agree that there should be a reasonable number of applications only for suitable sites, orderliness and no loitering outside, but I think that there will have to be the calling of odds, and both television and telephones; and the premises must be proper shops. That will mean that the troubles of loitering will be ended. The loiterers will be only the people who are prepared to spend the afternoon pursuing racing, but millions of people do that at the moment. On Saturday afternoons, if one cares to go to the country, one sees that people follow the racing on television and at the end of a telephone. They ring up and when they have had their bets they watch the racing on television. I do not believe that there is a great difference between that and "loitering" in the betting shop.
That is a very important matter, but I suggest another matter for careful consideration is that concerning the runners. I agree that runners, at any rate, can operate under the terms of the Bill as it is, but the position is not satisfactory. The position of runners must be clarified by a positive and not a negative Clause. As this is a codifying Measure, we do not want to have to look at the Street Betting Act of 1906 or, indeed, at any other Act. We are doing a major operation here, so let us not have the Civil Service idea that we have to look up the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934, or the Street Betting Act, 1906. Let us be able to look at one Act to see what the law is in that one Act.
The main point, I submit, is that there should be runners, and that provision should be made for licensed runners, to enable them to operate between the shops or offices and the places where they can collect. I think that they should be licensed and attached to the licence. Every man should be entitled to two or three runners if in a small way of business, and if in a larger way, so many more runners, at the discretion of the justices of the peace. That is the proposal which some of us made as our recommendation to Her Majesty's Government, and by that I stand.
The off-the-course bookmaker must be placed in the same position as the on-the-course bookmaker. I do not believe that this country realises that, for example, on betting the unfortunate tote 1038 has a differential tax to pay. The wretched bookmaker pays £48 in tax to come into the ring. The effect, therefore, is that we, the unfortunate punters, pay 16 per cent. taken off our bets and we have to win that 16 per cent., as well as back the right double. By the time we have got over that hurdle we not only have that, but we find that the fellow remaining at home, or the one who has a bet with an off-the-course bookmaker, who has to take starting price odds, does not pay any of that tax at all. Therefore, he has profited from 8 per cent. of the Government's money or 8 per cent. of ours. That is a position that must be remedied. It seems to me that we shall have to get rid of the differential tax on dog racing. It is unfair. The Bill must kill it, for it cannot be kept on much longer after the Bill has been passed. When we have got rid of that position, the off-the-course bookmakers must pay a levy, too, and the only way to do that is to go back to a tax on the "blower". I do not believe that even the Peppiatt Committee after all its researches, will be able to find any other method.
Turning to the matter with which I have been more personally concerned, I welcome Part II of the Bill, which deals with gaming. I say quite frankly that if I had had the opportunity, in a Private Member's Bill, to have brought this before the House, I should have enjoyed it, but, in any event, I am absolutely emphatic that it is wrong in these days that a Private Member's Bill should be used as a vehicle for great social legislation. It is absolutely right that these matters should come before us in a Government Bill.
As to Clauses 9 and 10, which substantially conform with the provisions of the Bill which, as a matter of fact, I had prepared and brought in and published in July on the day I got married, I should like to make one or two comments. The common gaming house, which is a misnomer, is totally abolished. It means a place where people habitually resort for any gaming other than snap, which is skilled. If one goes to a club to play whist, bridge, or any game except snap, which is supposed to be a slightly skilled game, one is automatically a criminal. We want to see clubs being dealt with in the next instalment of this legislation, perhaps in twelve months' time, so that people can play in licensed premises 1039 properly. Under the Bill, every game of cards becomes lawful. That is the greatest thing about it. We can play any game we like, and the old ladies can play their whist, and the rest of us can get on. I want to play my game of poker, and we are to be able to play all these games.
What is it we really wanted to stop? Mr. Gilbert Beyfus and I applied our minds to this question. He, in his great wisdom, gave evidence before the Royal Commission which was almost accepted in its entirety. At that time, the Royal Commission was unable to make recommendations to deal with the promoter operating for private gain whilst still enabling the ordinary person to play whatever game he wished. Here I wish to sound a note of warning. Before the Bill goes very much further, somebody is going to say that there is nothing to stop people playing privately for as high stakes as they like. It should be clear that it is not possible to arrive at anything by which we can enforce a law to stop people gambling for as much as they like.
That is a matter for their consciences, their families, and their fathers and mothers, or, as was stated by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), for the young to learn their lesson whilst young. I do not believe that, but it will enable all the clubs in London, from White's, at one end, to the ordinary working man's club and institute, at the other, to play any game they like, including "housey-housey", and any others. There are certain conditions about "housey-housey", but it will enable people to play this game satisfactorily.
What it stops is the man who wants to promote and encourage excessive gambling—the "spieler" of Soho—entirely, the man who, having encouraged young people to bet as high as they can and to lose, then goes to the person who has the dishonoured cheque and buys it back for about 80 per cent. of its value, knowing that his thugs can recover the debt. I could name the person who actually buys these cheques and takes them back and enforces them, because he knows that he will be able to get the money. That is what we want to deal with, and if it makes things 1040 difficult for respectable operators it cannot be helped, because the purpose behind Part II of the Bill is to stop this country from becoming a casino country. I do not believe that roulette, baccarat and chemin-de-fer, if it is played as it nearly always is, with a cagnotte, are suitable for this country. If people want to play these games, let them go to France and other countries, where they are provided. I am entirely against them, and I think that they are entirely unnecessary and unsuited to the background of this country, for one basic reason. Britain is the greatest gambling country in the world. We are more addicted to gambling than any other country, far more than France. Therefore, we have to pay a great deal of attention to stopping people gambling away all their money, wherever possible.
It may be said that we cannot stop people playing for high stakes. Under Clauses 8 and 10 we shall be able to prevent people from being able to operate for profit. It is absolutely essential that the burden of proof in this case should be put upon the defence, because if it is not, there will be no means of being able to establish that there is a cagnotte. On this point, I am quite satisfied that the Government are right to put the burden in that way, because there is no other way in which the object could be achieved.
With regard to Clause 11, the stake for actuating machines is kept at 6d., and that is probably right, but if it were permitted to be raised any higher it would immediately lead to the sort of abuse which we find with these machines being available for young people. I merely throw out the figure, and suggest that we may have to consider the position and decide whether they should be in places to which the young can go, because in so many cases they are proper premises where young people go in which these machines exist, and I do not think that it would be a very good thing if young people played these machines too much.
Turning to the other matters rapidly, I come straight away to Part III of the Bill, which I call the "vicars' salvation". This Clause will need to be looked at very carefully, because although it is perfectly true that it provides that one can engage in any entertainment at a fete 1041 of any kind, it is in reality something which enables one to engage virtually in commercial profit, provided that one is not doing it for the operator or for purposes of private gain. That is to say, it is supposed to be non-commercial, and this provision re-enacts—and this is where the difficulty arises—part of Section 23 of the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934. It quite rightly includes the definition which I feel should cover the case, but it goes on to say that certain parts of Section 23 shall apply while others shall not. I should like to ask the question whether Section 23 (2, b) will apply to this Bill, because it talks about no money prizes.
If we permit prizes but not cash to pass, we are on safe ground. If we permit money to pass, the vicar may perhaps be on safe ground, but not somebody who has managed to arrange large, allegedly charitable organisations as a hidden cloak for having substantial games of baccarat or chemin-de-fer, because under this Clause the organiser is entitled to have a cagnotte. Clauses 8 to 10 are specifically excluded under this Clause which deals with fetes.
I will clarify that point, because it may not be clear to some hon. Members. Clause 15 deals with fetes and all charitable organisations. Provided they can show that they are charitable, provided they can show that they are non-profit-making, they are not governed by the ordinary restrictions on gaming contained in Clauses 8 to 10, nor are they governed by those which relate to fairgrounds in Clause 16. They are only limited in one way by Section 23 of the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934, but they are not limited by the important part of that Section which relates to money prizes.
If that is so, then someone, under the guise of having a charitable show, the profits of which they might well pay over to a church, could hold gigantic games of chemin-de-fer, roulette and baccarat to his heart's content. So I invite the Government to look at this point and consider whether the Clause needs to be strengthened and can be strengthened. We must bear in mind that whatever the Clause is intended to do, clever brains will look at it to see whether they can misuse it for their own purposes, and I do not want to have to 1042 advise some of those characters on how they can get around a law with which, perhaps, I was once concerned.
Another point arises on Section 23 (2, c) with regard to prizes in premises only. Now I come to Clause 16 and to the position of fair grounds, "Dreamland", and so on. There are 380 operators of fair grounds in this country catering for many millions of people every year. I take my own "Merrie England" and "Dreamland" as examples. Curiously enough, this part of the Bill makes one important change, for it seeks to ensure that anybody who wants to become a fair ground operator or an amusement arcade operator must have a permit from the local authority. I know that this is what the Amusement Caterers' Association and others have asked for, but I am by no means sure that this is what they should get; that is to say, I am inclined to think that these applicants also should come before justices of the peace.
Secondly, I wish to draw attention to the point that if they succeed in getting a licence it will be for a period of ten years. I am not sure that this is a good thing, but I notice that there is a safeguard, namely, that it is a non-transferable licence. Nevertheless, we are practically giving a vested interest to the existing amusement caterer and not giving new people a chance to come in and operate.
I am not saying that my suggestion is necessarily right, but I am inviting the Government to consider whether the justices of the peace would not be better, whether they should specify a period, and whether a reasonable period would be not less than three years. I can see that these people need a longer period than bookmakers, because they must have capital equipment, and so on, but these are other matters which we need to look at. We need to look carefully, also, at the question of new applicants, because people will be able to take advantage of the provisions of the Bill to the detriment of those who have been in the trade for a long time, so I hope there will be an opportunity to look at this point.
We see in Clause 16 that we can play for 1s. on the machines and have 50 chances with 50 different people provided that it is not progressive. That 1043 is right. One of the important points of the Bill is that it does not enable people to have progressive chances, so that there is something like a football pool. On the other hand, the money prize must not be more than 1s. in cash. Since it may well be the case that this Measure will never come back to the House again, perhaps there might be a higher limit of, say, 2s. This might be more encouraging, bearing in mind the future inflation of money which, of course, will not take place as long as the present Government is in power.
The difficulty about Clause 16 is that it may give a monopoly to those already in the business. We must ensure, in the Bill, that we do not encourage monopolistic tendencies. The speech I must disagree with more profoundly than any other is that of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton. The matter I have fought for the last three years arose when a certain member of the Jockey Club expressed his view on a Totopoly, that is to say, a monopoly by the Tote.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton has long-standing connections with the tote, as is well known to us. Indeed, he has rendered much too valuable service to the totalisator for the argument he advanced to be accepted on this side of the House as completely sincere. So, although no doubt he believes his argument, we are entitled to say what we believe in. We believe—I believe—in three great things. I love the bookmakers, I love racing, and I do not want to do anything which will detract from the colour and the traditions of the turf. I believe that the Bill, when passed into law, can ensure that the bookmakers pay a fair share. I believe that they want to do it and will do it. Furthermore, I believe that there will be opposition to the Bill from the William Hill organisation—we shall see it good and hard—and from the stewards of the Jockey Club—we shall see it good and hard—but in these days we can oppose vested interests. We need have no truck with them.
I am not very happy about the stewards of the Jockey Club, because they do not serve racing all that much. One thing I observed when the Government removed every single penny of 1044 Entertainments Duty was that they did nothing for the customer. Did they bring down admission charges? Do hon. Members know what we used to pay to go in? We used to pay £3, 30s. of which went to the Government as tax and 30s. to the racecourse. What did they do? They did not bring the price down to 30s. and have the decency to pass the benefit to the customer. They brought it down to 45s., and it has never gone down since. Those who live and work in this trade, those who serve it as journalists and in other ways, have many criticisms to offer of the hierarchy of the turf.
I end by saying that we want to see the colour and tradition of the turf carried on. We want to see our Showmen's Guild and other associations working under reasonable conditions, but without becoming a monopoly. We want to see the ordinary man able to play a game of cards legally in his own home and in his club, whether is is a working man's club or elsewhere. We want to stop big operators coming in and turning this country into a casino.
We can achieve those three objectives, because this is not a party Measure. When we have done so, we shall have rendered a great service to the country and the Government, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary especially will be able to add to the rather incongruous collection of his great successes. Indeed, from a Measure on education my right hon. Friend will have turned his hand to dealing successfully, as his forebears did, with prostitution and then to dealing successfully with betting. If I may say so, the best of British luck to him for the future, for when he has dealt with licensing likewise he will have achieved a remarkable success in the sphere of great domestic legislation.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
I cannot possibly hope to compete with the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) in the knowledge which he has displayed on racing. I think he has upset some of his hon. Friends by the most slanderous attacks that he has made on the Jockey Club. I do not know anything about the Jockey Club and cannot say anything for it or against it, but I think that on many of the points that he 1045 made he and I are going to reach agreement—as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) rightly said—because we agree on some of the basic principles upon which he touched. That is why I believe that in the Standing Committee the Home Secretary, if he is there, will find an extraordinary alliance between the two sides of the Committee on what we regard as the only possible way to improve this very welcome Bill.
I would begin by associating myself with those who have said that it took courage to introduce the Bill, and I admire the Home Secretary for having done so. I do not know whether my party would have done it, but it was a necessary Bill. It has provided a first-class talking point. This is only the Second Reading, and we can be certain that the Bill that we shall see at the end of the process will be quite different from what it is now.
The knowledge of poker the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet has is extraordinary. Why he wastes his time coming to this House and continually mucking about in the law courts I do not understand. If I had half the skill he claims to have I should spend the whole of my time in some of the famous clubs earning myself a great deal of money. I cannot imagine any greater fun than that, because I am a Cockney and deep down I love a gamble.
I was born in a slum and lived there most of my life, and I have seen for myself—here I am sure I carry with me my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas)—some of the evils and wickedness of gambling, but of yesteryear. I have seen the poverty which it can cause in certain types of families. I have seen the man who will spend all his wages gambling in some form or another. No legislation that we could produce could stop that kind of thing. I will give my hon. Friend an instance. I know some workers even today who will go to premises in my constituency and play dice and go home absolutely broke, irrespective of the consequences which that must bring to their families. Nothing that my hon. Friend could do or that I could say—and we have in Bermondsey a fine group of Methodists who have done a great job of work—would convert them.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
If my hon. Friend had done me the honour of either listening carefully to my speech or afterwards reading what I said last night, he would realise that I did not once indicate that one could make men good by legislation, but I suggested that this legislation was providing opportunities for men to get worse.
§ Mr. Mellish
I respect my hon. Friend for that. I hope to show in my argument that the legislation will not do the sort of thing he fears.
First of all, I want to join the hon. Member for Bebington (Sir H. Oakshott) in defining to the House in simple terms what I regard as a street bookmaker. I have seen many street bookmakers. I know many of them at the moment, as do our local police, and they are illegal at the moment. A street bookmaker is not a man who stands in the street with a board and quotes prices and causes congestion or is in any way a nuisance at all. He is a man who stands at certain known places in certain districts and receives bets which are already written out on pieces of paper. Anybody who thinks in other terms than that of the street bookmaker in arguing the Bill is mad. It makes it illogical when we are arguing about street bookmakers if we do not understand what we mean. The Minister used the term "runner". That is exactly the kind of person I am talking about.
What kind of people are these street bookmakers? In my constituency, in dockland, we have a number of them along the waterfront. They have been there for years. In fact, if they were new boys they would be treated with grave suspicion. They are men who down the years have earned the respect of the dock workers and factory workers because they are certain that if they win—I gather that the docker occasionally wins—they will get their winnings paid on the dot. In fact, they are—I say this frankly and sincerely to the House-very honourable men. There is nothing shady about the sort of fellow I am thinking of who has been there a great number of years.
The one thing that those in the business hate above all else is that because they are street bookmakers and are illegal they have to have men watching 1047 for the police. We know the corruption that goes on because of that. That does not happen in my constituency; I am certain that there is no corruption there. The position is that these men are known to operate and they are left alone and there is no corruption.
The fact is that these people are needed by the sort of population which I represent. I was brought up in an atmosphere where it was a common thing to go round the corner and place a bet with the street bookmaker and later in the evening, if one won, to go round and get one's money. I have always believed that to say that this was illegal was nonsense and an absolute farce, and to say, as hon. Members have been trying to say, that by means of the Bill we shall make it further illegal is asking for trouble. I can tell the Home Secretary now that he will meet grave opposition over this issue. What I want to do is to make the sort of character to whom I have referred respectable.
I will tell the House what I should like to happen. I should like this person to have a badge. I should like him to have to go before a magistrate and apply for a licence, and, when he has got it, to have a badge and then to be able to do exactly what he is doing now—go to his pitch and receive bets. If there were any question of his defaulting he would have his licence taken away and would probably be put in prison. I am all for that. I should like him to pay a substantial fee, not only when he is first registered but every year. The idea of his paying £1 a year is nonsense. These people can afford, and will pay, more. Let us give them a proper licence, recognising that they are part of the betting system that operates in this country today, and let us make certain that we do not keep using the term "street bookmaker" as though he is some weird, extraordinary animal who causes great congestion, and so on.
I would repeat something which I suggested in an intervention to the Home Secretary. The tragedy about passing this Bill in order to try to clear up anomalies is that it will create more. Look at the job of the police. They have a fantastic, silly job in trying to deal with the position, and we shall not make it easier by the Bill.
1048 I asked the Home Secretary to define a "runner". I am still completely bewildered by the many responses which I have now had and I do not understand them all. I gather that a runner will be a man employed by a bookmaker who owns a shop or office. I gather than the runner will have a special permit and that, provided he is on the move or can enter some enclosed premises and receive the bets there, it will be legal, but that if he stands in the street just outside the enclosed premises and has the absolutely scandalous temerity actually to hold out his hand and take betting slips he can be fined £100. Yet the moment he goes inside the premises he can take bets. Do hon. Members really believe that that will improve the law?
Why do not the Government face up to the problem? I do not know who wrote the Bill. It must have been a Nonconformist or someone who has not the slightest idea about what goes on in this respect all over the country. It is ridiculous to say that it is legal if a bookmaker takes bets when he is under cover but illegal if he takes bets out in the street. I gather that the Joint Under-Secretary wishes to intervene, but the Home Secretary is on record on this.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Dennis Vosper)
I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but I hope he will understand that, apart from the increase in penalty, there is no change in the law whatsoever in this respect in the Bill.
§ Mr. Mellish
The penalty goes up to £100 or three months in prison if one is a street bookmaker. That is a little different from the law as it is now, which imposes a £5 fine. This law will not stop the man now called a street bookmaker functioning as he did before. The police will have an even more difficult job to enforce the law.
The criticisms about the betting shops need to be repeated. Whoever wrote the words about loitering in the Second Schedule must be absolutely barmy. If I have the temerity to go into a betting office and ask the bookmaker—who is a licensed character, quite legal and proper—how his wife and children are and he starts to talk to me about his wife and children, we can both be accused of loitering. I must dash into the shop, give 1049 him my bet, and dash out. That is how the law will operate.
There are some policemen who will try to make the law operate just like that. With those policemen, the customer had better dash in and out or the policeman will take action, there will be a prosecution and the shop will be closed. That will make bookmakers more terrified of the police than they have ever been. I do not want to see that and nor do the majority of the police, who want to see the situation cleaned up. But to make the law such that a policeman can stand outside the shop and watch whether anyone stays inside longer than is necessary to make a bet leaves the system wide open to abuse, and we shall have more and not fewer stories of corruption and a more sordid situation than before.
By and large, I do not believe that betting shops will create the sort of difficulties which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West envisaged. Nor will they cause an extension of betting. Most hon. Members probably know, perhaps my hon. Friend does not, that the form of betting today is very different from what it was even when I was a child. In those days, almost everybody betted with the local street bookmaker. Today in dockland, and in most areas of Britain, punters have their own accounts. They telephone their bets directly, because that is much more convenient. Street bookmakers will say that their volume of business is decreasing year by year. What the Bill will do is not to worsen that situation but to compel the bookmaker, who is now standing at a certain point to receive the sort of bets about which I have spoken, to keep on the move, virtually to make him knock on doors asking people whether they want to bet.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I am with the hon. Gentleman, but why should not street bookmakers in dockland, in Bermondsey, be the very first people with an absolute right to apply for one of these shops?
§ Mr. Mellish
I am merely saying that I do not think they want these shops. I do not think that the shops add anything to their business. They are perfectly happy where they are. There is no great demand for these shops. I have not had anyone coming to me asking for these shops to be set up. I do not think 1050 that the public will use them in the way suggested. I do not see the public panting for these shops to open, and I do not think that they will solve anything.
The shops are a waste of time and this talk about their being drab is ridiculous. If the shops are to be opened, I do not see how we can expect them to remain shabby. I do not support the betting shops, but I do not think that the issue is important. Legalising the street bookmaker is the best way of dealing with the situation.
There has been an important argument urging that the off-the-course bookmaker should contribute to racing. Speaking purely for myself—and, of course, the Treasury Bench will not agree with this—I think that all bookmakers should be licensed and should pay a fee of £100 for the licence, which would be renewed every year on payment of a similar fee—subject to any police objection—in the same way that a moneylender is licensed. The money obtained from licence fees should go to racing. I know that the Treasury will not agree with that and will put the money straight into the "kitty". Nevertheless, I think that reputable organisations of bookmakers would agree with me, because they are anxious to remove what I would call the racing "spiv", who is naturally attracted to this sort of business.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has ideas about racing which are very unlike mine. I can imagine nothing more drab than going to a racecourse anywhere in Britain and seeing merely a cold-blooded tote. When I go racing, I want more than that. One hon. Member said that he went racing but did not bet. I cannot imagine anything more ridiculous than that. Fancy going racing and not having a bet on a horse! Who cares which horse wins if one does not have a bet?
The attraction of racing is the colour, the fun, the odds being shouted, the excitement of running from one bookmaker to another to see if better odds can be obtained, then going down to see whether one can beat the tote at the same game. It is the colour of the scene. I do not like the suggestion that there should be drab, cold-blooded figures which no one can work but. We should not even bet on horses. We 1051 would not say, "Two bob each way on Pretty Polly", but "Two bob on No. 7"
§ Mr. Mellish
All right, 4s. I believe that racing is part of our national way of life and I want gayer, happier and cheaper facilities for those who want to gamble.
§ Mr. Mellish
I must confess that I have never been racing in France. In fact, I have not been to France very often. I do not have the money to go racing and I do not have the experience of some of my hon. Friends. I wish that I could afford to gamble more often, but I cannot. That is the only thing which prevents me taking more interest in it. I think that I am about average in this matter, because I am concerned only with what I regard as important races. I could not care less about what happens to most races, and I suppose that the average Englishman is not concerned with every day racing. He is concerned with certain types of racing and certain types of meeting.
It is said of our own national newspaper, the Daily Herald—
§ Mr. Mellish
Do not let us start that one.
It is said that when the flat racing season ends, the circulation of the Daily Herald falls by 50,000 or 100,000 overnight, and that is true of many other newspapers.
I want gambling to be far more respectable as such. Many of us are determined to press for the legalisation of what we call the street bookmaker and not what the Home Secretary calls the street bookmaker. In other words, we think that the runner should have the right to stand in the street acting on behalf of his superior, or on his own behalf. We see nothing immoral in that.
Hon. Members have referred to the gaming provisions of the Bill, and I am 1052 very much concerned that we should clear up that situation. I hope that we shall do so in Committee. I know that what I am about to say will be a terrible affront to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West and the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black). The religious body of which I am proud to be a member is compelled to use forms of "housey-housey" and forms of football pools to get money. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) did a fine job when he helped to make that legal. But for that, we should have fewer schools in Britain today than we have. Since 1945, more than 200 schools in the Southwark diocese alone have been built with money of that character.
We do not like doing it, but the moral responsibility for that rests with those who have put that financial burden on us. If they say to us, "You must find X number of £s", they cannot then have the satisfaction of criticising us for the way we get it. They cannot have the joy of kicking us both ways. "Housey-housey" games are run by millions of our people and there is nothing harmful about that.
I hope that when Third Reading comes, we shall have a Bill which will make the police feel for the first time in years that they have a respectable job and which will make street bookmakers understand that they are recognised and are no longer to be the object of sneers.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
From what hon. Members opposite have said, it appears that they favour what I might describe as unlimited competition. If street bookmaking were made legal the result might well be a large increase in the number of people engaged in this business, to the detriment of the public.
Taking advantage of the Parliamentary lottery which occurs at the beginning of each Session, in previous Sessions I introduced two Bills relating to the subject of today's debate. Both my efforts, I am sorry to say, were unsuccessful, though something on similar lines to the Bill that I sought to introduce subsequently became law. That was the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956. My second Bill dealing with the Racecourse Betting Control Board is covered by the Measure we are discussing now.
1053 One of the things I learnt from these efforts was that both the Churches and the bookmakers are almost always in agreement in opposition to measures that are taken to deal with this subject. But I am pleased to say that from the discussions during the last one and a half days it appears that there is a very real intent in general terms to see whether something can be done to make the Bill work.
It is of no value to discuss the Bill purely and simply on the morality or otherwise of betting. There are many opinions about this, and those opinions are firmly held. It is a waste of time putting forward arguments to alter them.
We have to consider whether we can bring the law up to date on the basis of "expediency" and "order", and hope that as a result of doing that there will be no great increase in the betting habit. I believe that the Bill is a genuine attempt to achieve that object and on those terms I support it. However, I want to deal with betting shops, which are the crux of the matter.
I am appalled at the requirements of supervision which are bound to arise with regard to these shops. Extremely complex problems will arise when it becomes necessary to decide what is a reasonable time for remaining in the shops. There will be varying interpretations of the position about opening hours, the question of the age of those who come to these shops, the time for the payment of winnings, and the matter which was referred to by the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), the question of conveying information. Is it possible to have the position where people would go into a betting shop and no information would be conveyed from the bookmaker to the punter, and vice versa? That is not a realistic position.
I do not think that television or radio prohibition is likely to be effective. It could be effective in the sense that it would not be on the premises, but the result would be that adjacent, if not adjoining, premises would be provided where those facilities were available. We would get just as much congestion and loitering—this has become almost a technical term in the Bill—in the street between those premises which are shops and those which supply the amenities.
1054 In addition to these problems that arise under the Second Schedule, there will also be the difficulty about the positioning of these shops. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) pointed out the necessity for town planning permission. Over and above any such permission, surely there must be limitations on the proximity to certain places. There should be a limitation on the proximity of these shops to clubs, or pubs, or schools, and there may be other places near which these betting shops should not be situated.
It is recommended that these betting shops should be on the ground floor facing the street, with no access to any other part of the building except by the street, and of course no other business ought to be carried on there.
The most important disadvantage of the shop is the possible increase in facilities for betting. I have always thought that the gentlemen who skilfully developed pool betting were extremely clever people, and I do not see why ingenuity should not continue in the future. Generally speaking, bookmakers and their advisers should be able to evolve ingenious methods of increased business in these betting shops. I have never thought that there was very much difference between an interest and a vested interest; but, whether it be the former or the latter, by permitting these shops we will open the door to a great deal of opportunity for ingenuity by bookmakers to find other methods by which the betting instincts of people can be encouraged, and if necessary exaggerated.
As examples, we have the way in which Irish and French racing might well be developed and advertised. We have seen that sort of thing happen in pool betting where Australian football is used as a sort of off-season attraction, and there may be other types of betting which might become possible.
The Bill as drafted cannot prevent those possible developments. This may be a serious problem in the future. We do not know all the implications. Since we passed legislation in the last century in regard to these matters there have been considerable developments. In those days the telephone existed only in a very primitive form, and there was neither radio nor television. All these 1055 developments could easily lead to an increase in betting, which I consider would be an unfortunate result of the Bill.
My solution would be that which was recommended by the 1932 Royal Commission, namely, deposit boxes. In that connection, paragraph 227 of the Report of the 1951 Royal Commission deals rather summarily with the decision of the former Royal Commission. It says, in effect, that the principal difficulty is that the better has no proof that his bet has been accepted, and it might also be that more use would be made of betting boxes by people under age. I cannot believe that those two reasons—important as they are—have as much importance as some of the difficulties which arise in connection with the proposed betting shops. It has been suggested that it might be difficult to shut the box, or that difficulty would arise if two races were run with only five minutes between them. Is that so? We know very well that when we go to the Serjeant at Arms and ask for a ticket he uses a clock stamp, which marks the time and date when a particular document is given out or received. There is no reason why bets made by deposit, through boxes, should not be stamped with the proper time by a clerk who is at the other end of the deposit box chute.
The question of payment also arises. There should not be too much difficulty in arranging universal times for payment. It would be very unfortunate if different times were fixed by different municipalities or county councils. We have only to consider some of the London licensing problems to realise the disadvantages caused by different times of closing in different localities. The same sort of difficulty could arise in regard to the payment of bets. The point about deposit boxes is that there would be no contact between the betting staff and the customer except for the payment of winnings. That is a very important consideration if we are seeking to avoid the consequences of providing a statutory vested interest. There can be no question of creating a vested interest, because there would be little advantage for anybody who sought to create one in view of the absence of personal contact.
That brings me to the question of advertising of shops and facilities. It is 1056 no good relying on the 1892 Act, which provides that nobody under the age of 21 shall receive advertising matter from bookmakers. The Government must carefully consider how far they will deal with advertising problems. I have seen nothing to indicate that that point has been fully considered in this day and age of mass advertisement.
Another matter upon which much further guidance is necessary concerns the duties of justices. If we are to have a licensing system we cannot leave it completely in the air. It would be undesirable to go into too much detail, but more guidance should be given about the relationship between those people who may want newly to go into what has been called "the industry" after the Bill is passed and those people who are in it—whether legally or illegally does not matter. Some clear line of approach ought to be given to the justices with regard to the problems which arise in relation to licensing.
We must provide for some kind of regulations being framed under the Bill relating to the person who has been called the street bookmaker, but whom I prefer to call the runner. I do not understand from what the Home Secretary has said exactly what is the position of these gentlemen in the factories. I do not know whether they will be employed as ordinary runners by the licensed bookmakers or betting agents. There may be individuals in the factories who will get a little for themselves on the side. It must be clearly laid down what their obligations are and what they are entitled to do. We should not have to ask about these matters across the Floor of the House. The position should be made clear in our legislation so that everybody will know exactly where he stands. This may involve some difficulty in drafting, but it is very important.
It has been said that the present Clauses relating to the Racecourse Betting Control Board are on very similar lines to those in my Bill. That is not so. For better or for worse the Clauses in the present Bill create a "monopoly" of tote odds. My Bill did not do that. It sought to ensure that the power to grant authority for the use of pool betting or tote odds by bookmakers should be exercised by the Boardsubject to the general supervision of the Secretary of State1057 and said that it would be the duty of the Boardto grant such authority on such terms and subject to such conditions as to payment and otherwise as the Secretary of State may from time to time determine.I understand that that provision was not acceptable to the Government, but it is of substantial importance. The idea was to provide impartial justice as between the Racecourse Betting Control Board and the bookmakers, with the Secretary of State holding the ring. It was provided that the question should not necessarily be decided by an all-potent monopoly.
Having been in contact with the Racecourse Betting Control Board, I have the greatest opinion of it and I am sure that, generally speaking, it tries to do the right thing. Though I know that there are those who feel that it would not be right, I submit that the Secretary of State should retain some authority and have the final say-so. After all, it is a question of competition, it may well be increasing competition, between the Racecourse Betting Control Board and the bookmakers, and I think that ought to be subject to supervision similar to that which the Secretary of State exercises over the Board in respect of its other functions.
I have not an answer to the question which I asked of my hon. Friend, whether or not starting price betting would be undertaken by Tote Investors, Ltd. Of course, that organisation has always been, and very properly, an excellent arrangement for propagating the Racecourse Betting Control Board tote activities. We ought to know what is the situation regarding Tote Investments, Ltd. and whether it will come into competition with starting price bookmakers under the present proposed arrangements.
Those represent some of my views. I am not a bit despondent about the tone of this debate or about the possibility of overcoming the difficulties and producing something which will be effective. It is most important that we should proceed with the Bill, because the worst thing which could happen would be to leave matters as they are at present, and for that reason I shall vote for its Second Reading.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
In his approach to the Bill the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) voiced many doubts and anxieties which, in my view, were of so great a magnitude as to justify him voting against the Bill. I do not know to what extent the Home Secretary is still interested in the Bill, but I hope that he will study what has been said in this debate.
One of the facts which has emerged is that there is widespread dissatisfaction with that part of the Bill designed to establish betting offices. The Home Secretary was wise to make clear from the outset that he would not allow a free vote for hon. Members opposite. I feel that, had the right hon. Gentleman allowed a free vote, there would have been a sufficient number of hon. Members opposite so opposed to the provisions relating to betting shops that, notwithstanding the other reforms contained in the Bill, they would have been persuaded to reject the Measure and, in that way, force the Government to come to the House with much more satisfactory legislation.
It is quite illogical to argue that it is legal, and perhaps moral, to hand over money in a betting shop or office, but quite illegal and immoral to hand money to a bookmaker who is standing on the corner of the street. I see no difference between the two operations. The erection, establishing and manning of betting shops will superimpose a quite unnecessary additional expense on the whole operation. To that extent the need for the existence of a betting shop has, in my opinion, not been proved.
I think that it will be found that if the Government are determined to establish betting shops they will have to apply the Whips which the Home Secretary has insisted on having, perhaps because a little bird whispered to him that, unless he made this official Government policy, he would not be able to carry his own supporters on this issue.
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) is not present in the Chamber at the moment. I profoundly disagree—this shows the advantage of not being subject to the party Whips; we can talk about these things freely—with that part of my right hon. Friend's speech in which 1059 he agreed with the contents of paragraph 228 of the Royal Commission's Report which, he said, states thatif we removed the present restrictions on street betting and just legalised it, it would appear in all sorts of bad and unpleasant forms."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1959; Vol. 613. c. 830.]My right hon. Friend has accepted the argument of the Royal Commission, but that argument was based on incorrect assumptions. In paragraph 228, the Commission said:Betting in the streets has grown up as a result of the prohibition of betting in offices.How can the Commission know that? It is a purely ex parte statement. The paragraph continues:it is not the natural method of providing facilities for cash betting….What authority has the Commission for coming to that conclusion? I think that we are entitled to challenge the assumptions on which the Royal Commission based its recommendations. We are entitled to say that if street betting, as we understand it, were legalised, that would provide a simple solution to the problem with which we are faced. Why go to all this trouble and the rigmarole which is contained in the body of the Bill if there is a simpler and more practical way to handle the matter?
For these reasons, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) and not with what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to persuade my right hon. Friend to change his opinion, so that when the Bill is discussed in Committee there will be a virtually unanimous expression of opinion by hon. Members from both sides of the House that the simplest way to dispose of this problem and to make the Bill more acceptable would be to cut out all the Clauses relating to betting offices and to repeal the Street Betting Act of 1906.
The Government are nibbling at the problem. They are repealing unimportant Sections or subsections of that Act, but it would be very much better if they repealed the Act altogether. In my view, it would not increase the numbers of people who want to place cash bets. It would save an enormous amount of money and all the wire pulling that 1060 will go on in connection with the establishment of betting offices. Whether we like it or not, the street bookmaker is part of the London scene and also part of the scene in many provincial towns.
The Government have an itch to clear the streets. There is an argument for clearing the streets of prostitutes, and the Government have their Street Offences Act on the Statute Book. The Minister of Transport is worried about Christmas shopping facilities and is trying to do his best to stop motorists coming into the West End of London. Now, the Government come along with this Bill, a further Measure designed to clear the streets, and they intend to clear the streets of street bookmakers. I foresee a time when the only people authorised to walk about the streets and accost people will be Parliamentary candidates in a General Election campaign. That, surely, is not a state of affairs that we should envisage at all seriously.
People are entitled to go about their lawful business in the streets. As street betting is something that the Bill will not abolish and will only complicate still further, I suggest that the best and most practical course for the Government to follow in this connection is to repeal the Street Betting Act, 1906. If the Government are not prepared to do that right away, I have an alternative suggestion which I should like them to consider.
It is common knowledge that in many parts of Britain the Street Betting Act is not enforced, for very obvious reasons. In other parts of the country, it is enforced in a spasmodic sort of way and so long as a certain number of street bookmakers are paraded before the local magistrate's court at regular intervals, everybody seems to be satisfied. It was said yesterday that there will be a hiatus between now and the time that the Bill reaches the Statute Book, in whatever form it eventually reaches it. I suggest that we take advantage of this hiatus to try out an experiment. It can be done without rocking the foundations of morality to any great extent.
I suggest that from now until the time that the Bill reaches the Statute Book there should be no more prosecutions of street bookmakers. Let us try that out and see what happens. Let us see to what extent the general public is 1061 pestered and browbeaten by street bookmakers. Let us see to what extent there is a tremendous increase in betting. Let us see to what extent the evils of gambling are increased out of all measure. My view is that it will make no difference whatever. People who now bet with street bookmakers will continue to do so. The numbers will not be increased to any appreciable extent and the police will be relieved of a disagreeable duty in respect of which they do not have the backing of public opinion. Let us try out the idea of declaring a kind of moratorium from now until the time that the Bill reaches the Statute Book and see what happens if it is generally known that there will not be any more prosecutions for street bookmakers.
The Government put us in this difficulty. We all want to get consistency and uniformity in the law, which are the words used in the Preamble to the Bill, but I do not believe that the Bill will give any consistency and uniformity in relation to betting on race horses. The idea of the Government is to make cash betting legal. It is possible to make cash betting legal without all this elaborate rigmarole of betting offices.
I hope that hon. Members on the Government side who happen to be selected to serve on the Committee which considers the Bill will not be deterred by the threats of the Government Whips. An important responsibility will rest upon them, provided, of course, that by the kind of manipulations that we have seen so often, hon. Members on the Government side who are opposed to betting offices are not kept off the Committee. That also is a possibility. If the Government decide to put on to the Committee only tame "stooges" who will swallow whatever the Government tell them, the outlook is indeed bleak.
I hope that the whole course of this debate will have convinced the Home Secretary and his colleagues that there is a considerable volume of opposition to the proposal for betting offices. A much simpler alternative is available to the Government if they repeal the Street Betting Act, 1906. If they are not prepared to do that, I ask them to accept my suggestion to have a kind of moratorium between now and the passing of the Bill to see what happens in the 1062 streets of London and other large towns if it is known that for a period of six months, or whatever it is, there will not be any more prosecutions of street bookmakers.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)
It gives me great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton), because for a great proportion of his speech I was in agreement with what he said. When, however, we come to decide whether to support the Bill on Second Reading, I would say that most of us on this side of the House, and, I should have thought, most hon. Members opposite, would support anything that was done to help to relieve and change the existing law, which I consider to be thoroughly unsatisfactory. I think I would carry the bon. Member for Brixton with me on that point, at least.
I agree to some extent with the hon. Member that there is a case for examining whether street betting itself should become legal. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who spoke earlier this afternoon, said one thing which should govern our approach to the Bill, that we wanted to do the practical thing. In my view, if we start setting up chains of betting shops in this way all over the country we are not necessarily doing the practical thing. The onus of proof is on those who wish to set up the betting shops and not on those who say that betting shops will not work.
When the Royal Commission reported it said that when examining the gambling laws one of the main factors to be considered was whether the law was in disrepute. It would be fairly common ground that the law is now in disrepute, because it is unenforceable. We all know that the law at present is not being enforced. Street betting is not stopping.
The alternatives that one could adopt when it is realised that street betting is not stopping are either to regularise the position and make it possible to continue under certain conditions or to take steps to stamp it out. I do not think that the latter course is possible because I do not think it would be possible to stamp out betting, particularly street betting. Therefore, we should consider whether, at least, it would be possible to regularise the position.
1063 I do not see why there should not be, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), some system of licensing for bookies' runners. I do not wish to enter into the details of who are bookies and who are bookies' runners, but if my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary thinks that when we talk of street bookmakers we mean a man standing in the street with an enormous board, chalking up things with people standing round him. that is an entirely false picture. I do not consider that the street bookmaker or the bookmaker's runner causes such a great obstruction as has been suggested.
In paragraph 228 the Royal Commission said,The enforcement of the Act is far from effective, but it does have a considerable restrictive effect on cash betting in the streets.If we adopted the interesting suggestion made by the hon. Member for Brixton we should discover whether that were true. The Royal Commission went on to say:If it were repealed, there would be nothing, apart from the law relating to obstruction, to prevent a bookmaker from plying his trade in a crowded street….I think that the law relating to obstruction is strong enough to stop that in any event. Unless my study of the newspapers is wrong, it can be an offence even to stand still in a street, and surely any case of a street bookmaker misusing this right could easily be covered by the law relating to obstruction.
It has been suggested that we should have a system of licensing bookmakers, with their runners. The small bookmaker would perhaps have two or three runners and the larger bookmakers would have more. These runners could wear discs, which the police would recognise. They would be on the streets where, in any event, they have been in the past. We have found that this has worked comparatively happily in the past, fortunately without much police interference. That would be a workable system.
The provision of betting shops will not work for several reasons. The overriding reason is that of cost. If we are to have a workable system of betting 1064 shops all over the country, we shall need very many of them, and I think that in many areas people will not be able to find the necessary shops to buy, or they will not be able to afford the high prices which they will have to pay for such shops. Consequently, there will be insufficient betting shops. If there are insufficient, street betting will continue and we shall be worse off than at the beginning, because we shall have both street betting and betting shops. I do not think that the provision of betting shops would work.
If we must set up a system of betting shops for other reasons than that of stopping street betting—because I do not think that they will stop street betting—it is ridiculous and hypocritical, on the one hand, to set up such shops and, on the other hand, to make them as unattractive as possible to people and to discourage people from entering them. Under the Bill there would be no seats in the betting shop, no runners and no statement about odds.
The Second Schedule of the Bill contains some remarkable provisions. In the first place, I do not think that these would be enforceable, although one of the main aims of the Bill is to make the law enforceable. I draw hon. Members' attention to paragraph 6 of the Second Schedule which states:Neither the licensee nor any servant or agent of his shall, while any other person is on the licensed premises, encourage him to bet or, except in reply to a request by him, give him by word of mouth any information regarding the results of events or the odds offered in connection with forthcoming events:What is the point of that? It seems to me ludicrous that if we are to have a betting shop, the man in it cannot say, "Pretty Polly won the 3.30." In any event, that is quite unenforceable. If the punter wants to know, he will ask, and I do not see what harm is done if the man in the shop is entitled to give him the information without being asked for it. If we examine the Second Schedule we see that we are putting into the law another series of unworkable and unenforceable proposals at a time when the Government are telling us that they are trying to enact a law which will not be unenforceable. I do not believe that the Second Schedule is practicable.
1065 I wish to draw attention to paragraph 7 of the: Second Schedule, which reads:No facilities for hearing or seeing any sound or television broadcast shall be provided….If we are to set up betting shops, I do not see why people in them should not be entitled to see or hear about the races which are going on. If they are not entitled to do so, all they will do is go next door, where they will find a convenient café with a convenient television set and a wireless set and where they will do precisely what they wish.
I do not think that the provision of betting shops will stop street betting, because we shall not have a sufficient number of shops and, secondly, the intention is to make the shops as unpleasant as possible for those who presumably we are expecting to use them in place of street betting.
I view the prospect of these shops with some disquiet. The provision about loitering, for instance, is unsatisfactory. We have been told that there is some possibility of the police being corrupted because they are expected to enforce the present law. Are we to enact elaborate provisions which will mean that police constables have to be stationed near betting shops to see whether people are loitering outside or inside them? If so, we shall create a different problem but just as large a problem for the police force as that which they have at present. I do not agree with the introduction of betting shops.
I very much welcome, however, the provision that in future all bookmakers will have to be licensed. The hon. Member for Bermondsey seems to be under the impression that only those who worked betting shops would have to be licensed. From my reading of Clause 2 it is clear that all bookmakers will have to be licensed. I agree with the hon. Member for Bermondsey that if we are to have licensed bookmakers, who have to pay an annual fee, and if the Jockey Club considers that racing is not receiving a sufficient contribution from them, the licence fees paid by the bookmakers are a ready-made source of revenue for the Jockey Club. If it is part of the case that off-the-course bookmakers are not providing sufficient money for the encouragement of the sport on the survival of which they 1066 depend, and if we are to license them, and if only approved people of a certain standard of recognised honesty are to become bookmakers, then the money which they pay each year will be a ready-made source of revenue to be ploughed back into racing. I very much hope that the Peppiatt Committee will consider that point.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
I do not know very much about this subject, but I understand the hon. Member to be suggesting that the licence fee paid by bookmakers should be ploughed back into horse racing. I understand that many of these bookmakers make a book on motor racing, cycle racing, dog racing and other kinds of racing. Is it suggested that all the money should go to horse racing?
§ Mr. Channon
From the figures given earlier in the debate it appears, as far as I can discover, that about 2 per cent. of the turnover of the average off-the-course bookmaker is on dog racing, while over 90 per cent. is on horse racing. I am prepared for other sports to put in their claims, if these can be worked out. but I believe that over 90 per cent. of the off-the-course bookmaker's turnover depends on a sport which he does nothing to help but on the survival of which he depends. If there were no horse racing he would not be able to depend on revenue received from dog racing or cycle racing or any other form of racing. There is a case for the licence fees being ploughed back into horse racing instead of having some elaborate system of collecting money which the Jockey Club may have in mind. I have no brief for the Jockey Club, but I hope that this point will be considered by the Peppiatt Committee.
The Bill suggests an annual licensing fee of £1. This, I agree with the hon. Member for Bermondsey, is far too low. I do not see why we should not have a system by which the fee could be worked out on the bookmaker's turnover during the last three years, or some similar provision.
I turn to a point on which I know that many of my hon. Friends disagree with me—the provision about tote odds. I like the opportunity to bet both at tote odds and at starting price odds if I have a bet at all, or at least an opportunity of 1067 betting. I know that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) probably thinks that it would be highly immoral for me to have a bet at all, but if we recognise that I shall be immoral enough to have a bet, why should I not have it either at starting price or tote odds?
If the law is to be such that off-the-course bookmakers will not be allowed to use tote odds, a large section of the community is thereby deprived of the opportunity of having a bet at tote odds, unless another elaborate system of offices is set up for the tote. If hon. Gentlemen accept my case that it will be difficult enough for betting shops to get going, they will accept without question that it will be equally difficult for adequate betting offices to be established for the tote.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State gave some very interesting details of what would happen in the future with the tote possibly quoting different odds in different parts of the country. I was very interested to hear that if I bet in Birmingham I could perhaps obtain different tote odds from those obtainable in Manchester or London. However, that was what my hon. and learned Friend said. I wonder if that is what the tote has in mind. It would certainly be highly controversial and would penalise people in certain parts of the country. It is a proposal which would require very careful consideration before it was generally welcomed.
§ Mr. Renton
I was describing what the tote could do under the Bill. My hon. Friend will appreciate also that it will be possible for the tote to give single tote odds on each race by collating the tote pools from all over the country, each of them being separate, and making the tote odds price analogous with the starting price, which is also done on a national basis. That would be possible, but it would be for the tote to decide. The point is that we feel that we should give the tote freedom to decide the matter either way.
§ Mr. Channon
I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for that explanation. I hope that the tote will continue to have, as at present, one odds rather than a series of regional odds, result- 1068 ing in people from various parts of the country winning different amounts for the same stake. I am opposed to any lessening of the power of the individual to obtain both tote and starting price odds. Although it is fair that off-the-course bookmakers should make some contribution to the tote for the right to use tote odds, I hope very much that the contribution will not be so high as to prohibit off-the-course bookmakers giving tote odds.
Now that we are considering all the betting and gaming laws and we have a Measure which proposes vital changes in them, I agree with my hon. Friends who have said that the time has come to make them enforceable. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said yesterday that the Royal Commission had reported against betting debts being enforceable. What the Commission said was that, in principle, it thought it was a good thing for wagering contracts to be enforceable, but that the practical details were too great. Is that the Government's view? If it is and if a workable system could be devised to make wagering contracts enforceable, would the Government at least give it sympathetic consideration? That was the only ground on which the Royal Commission recommended that wagering contracts should remain unenforceable. It stated that in principle there was a very good case for making them enforceable.
As many hon. Gentlemen have pointed out, at the moment it is only the punters who escape, because every bookmaker must live on his good name. If he does not pay his debts, people do not go on betting with him. If there is to be a licensing system and bookmakers are to be controlled to such an extent that only those bookmakers who pay their debts will be licensed, can there not be another check on their behaviour? All the dice are loaded the wrong way. Bookmakers can never get away with it because they may lose their licences, whereas punters can always get away with it and know when they are betting that they may well not be called upon to pay their debts.
As was pointed out to the Royal Commission, that is perhaps an inducement to gambling rather than the contrary. People may be induced to bet more than they can afford, knowing full well that if the worst comes to the worst they 1069 may not have to pay. I emphasise again that I hope the Government will give sympathetic consideration to any system which is worked out for making wagering debts enforceable.
I would support any Bill that would do something to clear up the tangle of the betting and gaming laws which for far too long have been left untouched. Therefore, I welcome the Bill on Second Reading. As I am sure my right hon. and hon. Friends realise, many legal and technical points will be raised in Committee which I am sure the Government will want to examine very carefully before the Bill in its present state is passed into law.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)
I am not wildly excited about the Bill one way or the other. I am certainly not emotionally involved, like my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), whose speech was the most entertaining and sensible made so far in the debate. My knowledge of betting and racing is not so peculiar and extensive as that of the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon). He is the hon Member for Southend. West, is he not?
§ Mr. Delargy
There are two hon. Members for Southend present, in spite of my efforts. Some time before polling day I travelled to Southend to make a powerful speech to prevent their coming here.
§ Mr. Delargy
I am sorry that my eloquence and powers of persuasion did not have a better effect.
No one could describe me as a betting man, since I do not suppose that I have made ten wagers in the last twenty years. I have never even seen a horse race, except on television. I have nothing against horse racing. If someone arranged to convey me there in comfort and also ensured that I could see the races in comfort I would no doubt find it a very pleasant experience.
It seems strange that every person who has spoken in the debate today and 1070 yesterday, with the exception of the Home Secretary and the Joint Under-Secretary of State, has been critical of the Bill. Every person has drawn attention to dangers of abuses, dangers of corruption, weaknesses and shortcomings.
I propose to speak about the very worst feature of the Bill. Its worst feature is the manner of its passing, the method by which it is being rushed through the House. The Leader of the House has refused to allow his supporters to have a free vote. Even those who do not approve of the Bill—obviously there are many—will be obliged by the right hon. Gentleman to vote in favour of it.
When the right hon. Gentleman was asked why he had made that decision, he gave a most curious reason. He said that he had reached that decision because it was a Government Measure. Of course it is a Government Measure. Every Measure introduced by the Government is obviously a Government Measure. Whether the Whips are on or off does not make the Measure more or less of a Government Measure. By putting on the Whips what the right hon. Gentleman has done is to make it a party Measure.
Many observers in the House and outside have expressed surprise that the right hon. Gentleman should have refused a free vote. They expected that with his enormous majority he would have encouraged the initiative of back benchers and would have been glad to give them more independence. They were surprised, but I am not. The right hon. Gentleman is very consistent and is running very true to his own form. I remember very distinctly a debate in the last Parliament on a Private Member's Motion which sought to improve and bring up to date the procedure of the House of Commons. The Home Secretary thought the Motion so important that, even though it was on a Friday, he came to listen to the debate and to reply to it.
During that debate, I said there were too many votes in the House altogether, but not nearly enough free votes. I said that it was absurd for the Opposition to oppose a Measure merely because it was introduced by the Government, but that it was even more absurd for the Government to treat everything as a Motion of confidence. I argued that if 1071 there were more free votes it would establish the integrity, the independence and the power of the ordinary back bencher.
What did the right hon. Gentleman reply? He said that I had missed the whole point of Parliament; that all these numerous votes on often seemingly trivial issues, all this waiting, and sitting during the night was essential, because—and I shall quote him verbatim, because what he said impressed me profoundly, but most unfavourably—… if we were to relax we might lose the very point of the struggle—and that is the preservation of power."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January, 1958; Vol. 581, c. 760.]The preservation of whose power? The preservation of the power of the Executive. The right hon. Gentleman does not care a scrap about the power of Parliament. The Executive, in fact, is in a conspiracy against Parliament, and it has proved it tonight with this Measure, which should not be a party Measure. I, and some of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite who agree with me on this, am very alarmed at the growing power of the Executive. My own party is not altogether blameless in the matter, but, in fairness, I must say that my Executive is less rigid, less tyrannical and less brutal than is that on the other side.
I can prove that by one compelling argument. During the fourteen years that I have been in this House I do not recall a single occasion when a Conservative Member has ever voted against his party on a three-line Whip; not once in fourteen years, to my recollection. Several hon. Members on this side have done so—I have done so myself. The most that any hon. Member opposite has done on a three-line Whip has been to abstain—and what happened to them? What happened to Mr. Nigel Nicolson and to Sir Frank Medlicott—only for abstaining?
I do not for a moment pretend that when we voted against three-line Whips we were the pin-up boys in the Whips' Office. Harsh things were said to us. I remember the late William Whiteley sending for me, but he did not kick me out. At the end of our meeting he said, "I hope that you will not make a habit of this." I replied, "I hope that you are not going to put me in the 1072 necessity of having to make a habit of it"—and, of course he did not.
I warn the House that trampling on the rights of private Members as the Home Secretary is doing tonight is a very serious matter. We are not here to support Front Benchers. It is we who are Parliament. The Executive is not Parliament—it is a small part of Parliament.
People are saying that the prestige of Parliament has fallen in the eyes of the nation—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member. To make reference in passing to these things is all very well, but this is the Second Reading of a Bill dealing with betting and gambling. I hope that the hon. Member will relate some of his speech to that subject.
§ Mr. Delargy
Very good, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. My sole point is that I am sorry that on the Second Reading of a Bill on betting and gaming the Government have not allowed a free vote. I deplore it.
To return for a moment to the Bill, I think that it is a hotchpotch affair. Everybody thinks so. We know that the present laws on the subject are absurd, and should be replaced, but they should be replaced by something that is clear and logical. I have never been in favour of hotchpotches, so I shall not vote tonight either for or against this miserable thing. I will, however, carefully watch it in Committee and on Report—and if I say "I" all the time it is because this is a private Member speaking, and all hon. Members in the same position should be taking part. As I say, I shall look at the Bill carefully during those stages before deciding whether or not to vote for it on Third Reading.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Sir Cyril Black (Wimbledon)
Like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), I am a Nonconformist and, like them, I speak for myself, and for myself alone. I agreed with some of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and with nearly all of the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West. There is much that I should like to say following 1073 on the lines of their contributions to the debate but, as other hon. Members wish to speak, I will compress my remarks as much as possible.
As some of the things that I want to say may appear considerably critical of the Bill it might, perhaps, be regarded as gracious were I to begin by congratulating my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on having tackled this subject at all, and on having addressed himself to endeavouring to secure some consistency in and some consolidation of the betting and gaming laws.
It will probably be agreed that the Bill is based on the assumption that, since betting and gambling appear to be ineradicable, what cannot be removed must be put under effective legal control. To that general objective there would probably not be much objection in the House. But since I read the Bill—and the more I have studied it, and particularly the more I have listened to the debate yesterday and today—the more doubtful I have become about whether some of its provisions are likely to prove either workable or effective in securing this purpose.
I refer particularly to the proposals for the establishment of betting shops; proposals that have already been strongly assailed on both sides of the House, and will certainly be further assailed if the Bill gets a Second Reading and goes to a Standing Committee. I have been very greatly impressed by a number of the speeches. When I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), and also the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—and I agree at any rate with that part of his speech that dealt with this point—it seemed to me that the proposals for the establishment of betting shops were very unlikely to achieve the objectives which we understand the Government have in view. Unless we contemplate the establishment of betting shops in literally astronomical numbers, I think that at the end of the day we shall be left both with betting shops and with street bookmakers, and our last condition will, therefore, be worse than our first.
It would be a great mistake for the Government or for this House to underestimate the opposition there is to betting shops from various quarters. Let us 1074 recognise the fact that there is still a considerable Puritan element in the British character. The Nonconformist conscience may, unhappily, be weaker than it was, but it is still very far indeed from being dead.
The idea of betting shops has dismayed many who accept the other provisions of the Bill. Even many racing men dislike the proposals, for varying reasons. I was interested to read in my local newspaper a protest by important elements in my local chamber of commerce. The members did not object to the establishment of betting shops on any moral considerations, but took the view that the establishment of such shops in high-class trading areas would undoubtedly have a harmful effect on the interests of the genuine traders and would, therefore, be a bad thing for business and something that business interests could reasonably and properly oppose.
I think that it will be a great mistake if the Government ignore the extent of the opposition in this House and in the country to the particular part of the Bill that deals with the proposal to establish betting shops. If, on the other hand, the Government are unable to find any other alternative, I want to suggest, very briefly, five additional safeguards which it seems to me it is essential should be written into the Bill if the worst evils of betting shops are to be avoided.
First, I think that consideration should be given to the establishment of some system of local option in this matter. If it is the case that there is a majority of public opinion in, say, London and in Glasgow in favour of betting shops, why should they be imposed on Anglesey or Inverness if there is a majority of opinion in Anglesey and Inverness against such a proposal? It would be a mistake to assume that because, in some parts of the country, betting shops illegally exist and there is a demand for them in some of the urban parts of the country, necessarily their establishment would be acceptable or welcome in all parts of the United Kingdom. It seems to me that it would not be unreasonable to find some means of ascertaining local opinion on this matter and giving effect to that local opinion when it had been ascertained.
Secondly, I want to make the point that other hon. Members have made that 1075 if there are to be betting shops no advertising should be permitted in any circumstances. It is one thing to provide facilities for a demand for betting which already exists and quite another thing to allow all the resources of mass advertising and mass propaganda to be employed in an endeavour to increase the demand. If the purpose of betting shops is to provide a more desirable alternative to the street bookmaker for those who wish to place their bets and who will not be persuaded not to do so, then there may be a case for the establishment of betting shops, but there can be no case for giving the right to the proprietors of betting shops to advertise in the Press, on hoardings, on television and in other ways in order to stimulate powerfully the demand beyond what already exists.
Thirdly, I think that it is essential to write into the Bill a complete prohibition of canvassing by agents for betting businesses. As I understand the Bill as at present drafted, I believe that it is the case that the milkman, or the baker, or the insurance man would be able as a sideline to act as an agent for a betting shop and to undertake betting business as a canvasser or agent for the proprietor of a betting shop. It seems to me to be highly undesirable that that kind of canvassing should be permitted.
Fourthly, I believe that it is essential that there should be no multiple holding of betting office licences and that such licences as are granted should be personal to the holder and not transferable. Experience in Dublin and in Eire shows that there is a very great tendency for betting shops to fall into the hands of two or three large groups. It becomes a big vested interest—big capital is involved—and that seems to me to be an undesirable feature in enterprises of this kind.
It seems to me to be quite wrong also that the man who may be fortunate enough to secure what is a near-monopoly and gets a licence to open a betting shop in some particularly favourable district should be put in the position perhaps the day after he has secured that monopoly licence to secure for it so many thousands of pounds from a third party merely as the result of securing the licence. I think that it would be entirely reasonable to prohibit multiple licence holdings, to give 1076 one licence to one man and to make the licence not transferable when it has been granted.
Fifthly, I should like to suggest that in any licensing area the number of betting office licences should be limited by reference to a population factor. I believe that if betting offices were established in this country in the same density and on the same scale as in Dublin and in Southern Ireland, in the Greater London Area alone it would mean the establishment of some thousands of betting offices. I understand that in the comparatively small town of Wimbledon, with a population of under 60,000, on the Dublin scale there would be some ten or twelve betting offices, and I should have thought that it was reasonable and, indeed, essential to limit the number of licences by reference to the population factor in a licensing area.
May I, in conclusion, come to the wider aspects of this matter? I was sorry to hear the Joint Under-Secretary of State say in his speech this afternoon that the moral issue does not arise on this Bill. Whenever a subject of this kind is debated in the House, a moral issue does arise and must arise. I am reminded of a statement by one of the greatest of Nonconformists, who was a leading Methodist of another age, who said that that which is morally wrong could never be politically right. That is a principle which Nonconformists generally and a great many other people would be prepared to accept.
I was greatly impressed by what the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton said about what he described as the unproductive waste of the betting and gambling business. It is reliably estimated that the turnover last year on all forms of betting and gambling was £568 million. This enormous turnover of money and the large number of people employed in one way or another in the business added nothing positive to the good life of man or of society.
May I draw the attention of hon. Members who are in doubt as to the moral issue of this matter to the evidence tendered by the late Dr. William Temple, who at the time was Archbishop of Canterbury, before the Royal Commission of 1931–. This is what he said in 1077 a paragraph which has always very greatly impressed me:Gambling challenges that view of life which the Christian Church exists to uphold and extend. Its glorification of mere chance is a denial of the divine order of nature. To risk money haphazard is to disregard the insistence of the Church in every age of living faith that possessions are a trust, and that men must account to God for their use. The persistent appeal to covetousness is fundamentally opposed to the unselfishness which was taught by Jesus Christ and by the New Testament as a whole. The attempt (inseparable from gambling) to make profit out of the inevitable loss and possible suffering of others is the antithesis of that love of one's neighbour on which our Lord insisted.If this Bill passes into law I shall hope for the best but fear the worst. At the very least I hope the Home Secretary will heed the advice which he is receiving from many responsible and disinterested quarters as to the need for additional safeguards. Otherwise, there is a very real risk that in seeking to do a little good the Government may in the result find themselves doing a great harm.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. A. V. Hilton (Norfolk, Southwest)
I want, first, to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) on the fine stand that he took on this issue. Like my hon. Friend, I am a Nonconformist, a member of the Methodist Church, and, like my Church, on principle I am opposed to gambling.
If I am opposed to anything I like to know a bit about it. Some years ago, never having bet on a dog or a horse, I thought that I ought to know from firsthand experience a bit about it; so I went first to a dog track and then to a racecourse and on neither occasion did I have a bet of any size on any of the races. I went to see what it was all about. During my visits to both tracks nothing there convinced me that the principle in which I believed in opposing gambling was wrong. I am just as firmly opposed to it now as I was those years ago.
I want briefly to discuss the position of youth in relation to the opening of betting shops. I am not one who subscribes to the view held and expressed by many people in responsible places that the majority of young people are hooligans. I believe, from long experi- 1078 ence in youth work, that the majority of our youngsters of both sexes are decent, but I believe that if there is anything which would tend to send them in the wrong direction it is betting and gambling. It is because I am concerned at the likely effect that the Bill may have on our youth that I have risen to speak.
I do not agree with the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) on betting. I am in no doubt that gambling is a bad thing. At present, people who wish to bet make their own arrangements. I know this because last Saturday week, when I was at home, my telephone rang in the afternoon and when I answered it a voice said "This is Brown. I want to put two bob each way on Brown Jack", or whatever the name of the horse was, "for the 2.30." I had to explain to him that he had the wrong number. We all know that people who want to place a 2s. bet on a horse or a dog make their own arrangements.
There is, however, a difference between living in a town and in a city where circumstances are altogether different from what they are in a rural area such as the one that I represent. I believe that the betting shops which it is proposed to set up will result in an increase in betting. The hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) said that only a very small percentage of people's incomes is spent on betting. I am not in a position to refute what he has said; I am prepared to accept it. But what I do not want to see is any increase at all in betting in this country.
I am convinced that if betting shops are opened, as is proposed in the Bill, it will be an added temptation to the people who want to bet and it will be a big temptation to our youngsters. Goodness knows, it comes to them quickly and easily enough under the present set-up, and I should hate to think that it is to be made easier for our young people to participate in any more gambling.
The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) referred to the morals of the matter. I confess that this is why I am speaking in this debate, for I am convinced that gambling is morally wrong. To legalise it and to open betting
1079 shops cannot make right anything that is morally wrong. That is the point of view that the Methodist Church takes and to which I am proud to subscribe.
I said earlier that I am a Nonconformist and that I am proud of the Nonconformist conscience. Unfortunately, we do not hear so much about it these days, especially in this place. I wish we did. There is a matter which has disappointed me. It was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) and by other speakers, all of whom have regretted the attitude of the Home Secretary in not allowing a free vote on this matter. I do not know much about betting, but I understand that part of the set-up is to have a good tipster.
I am sorry that the Home Secretary is not here now. It is only about six weeks ago that he came to Norfolk, to my own constituency, and he set up there in his own right as a tipster, not on the racecourse but on the political platform. These were two of the tips he gave his audience on that occasion: first, that my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch), when the election was over, would be taking a well-deserved rest, and, secondly, that I myself would lose my seat to the Tories.
§ Mr. Hilton
I do not know about the odds.
Those were the right hon. Gentleman's tips. Both tips went down. He is giving us some tips in this Bill, but, on this occasion, to make sure that they do not go down as did his other tips in Norfolk, he is putting the Whips on. It is obvious from the speech made by the hon. Member for Wimbledon that, on moral grounds he would like to oppose the Bill, and I suspect that the same applies to other hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
It would be very interesting to know how many hon. Members from his own side of the House support the line which the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton) is now taking.
§ Mr. Hilton
Yes, it would be interesting. I hope that all of them will.
1080 When I first thought of coming to Parliament, and I discussed the procedure with friends, I was informed that there was such a thing as respect for conscience in some of the debates, and that, where a matter of conscience arose, there was a provision enabling an hon. Member to exercise a free vote. Had this Bill been introduced by my own side, I should, on grounds of conscience, have voted against it. I can do no less now that it has been introduced by the party opposite, and I intend to vote against it tonight.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
I am grateful for the opportunity of speaking at nearly the end of our two-day debate. It is interesting that my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) and the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton), neither of whom believes in gambling, and I myself, who does believe in gambling, have come to the same conclusion, in company with every other hon. Member who has spoken in the debate, namely, that the betting shops as proposed in the Bill are completely unworkable, and that something must be done drastically to amend the proposals in this respect. I have not heard a single hon. Member say, "This is just the ticket. This is just what we want. How clever of the Government to bring it forward". On the contrary, everyone, so far, has had criticism, large or small, to make of the Bill.
Therefore, I shall be interested to hear from my right hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State exactly who are the people who want betting shops. As I understand, the bookmakers' associations have made it perfectly clear to the Home Office that they are opposed to the introduction of betting shops. I do not imagine that the Methodist Church has made strong representations in favour of their introduction. Indeed, I am quite sure that the Methodist Church has made strong representations to exactly the contrary effect.
Why are the Government, at this stage, anxious to press on with the provision of a facility for betting which, as the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), ably reinforced by the hon.
1081 Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), has clearly shown is quite unnecessary at the present time? I think that my right hon. Friend would do well to bend his attention to how betting is conducted in this country. He should recognise that the pattern of betting has changed considerably since the Royal Commission investigated this matter and recognise that the average man who wants to have a bet can have a bet on credit no matter what is his employment or his income. There is no difficulty whatever about it. In the Bill, so far as the possibility has been created for the opening of a deposit account with a bookmaker so that a man need not bet beyond his means if he does not want to, facilities have been created which still further enhance the opportunities for people who wish to do so to pick up the telephone and place a bet with a bookmaker.
As I understand, the marginal problem of betting in this country is said to be occasioned by the number of people who, during their lunch hour at work, or at some time during their morning break, pick up, as the right hon. Member for South Shields said, the noon Star—to be impartial, I will say the mid-day Standard or, at any rate, a racing paper—and then decide the kind of bet they want, placing it before racing commences. Really, this is a lot of nonsense, and I suggest that there is not a widespread demand in this country for betting shoos to be opened where people may be able to place their bets all the time that racing is on.
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has ever been to see any betting shops. I have seen the betting shops in Glasgow, and I certainly would not like to see anything of that kind in this part of Britain. Anyone who goes there will see clearly that the people who are engaged in industry are at work, getting on with their jobs, and the betting shops are, in the main, on working days, full of "lay-abouts" who have nothing else to do but to sit around and make up their bets from race to race.
I do not think that it is at all necessary for this House of Commons to legislate for "lay-abouts". I should have thought that we should be far better concerned with striving to make it possible to get rid of the nuisance which undoubtedly does exist. That is the nuisance caused 1082 by the antiquity of the law in having to lock up men who are doing no more than acting as street bookmakers, which the ordinary man in the street regards as a perfectly right and proper thing, and which causes no trouble to the country at all.
Does anybody seriously suggest that street bookmakers are causing obstruction and preventing the free flow of traffic? Those who live in working-class district know that when one first moves in, one has to find someone to tell one where the street bookmaker is to be found, because it is very difficult to find him. I should like my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary, who is to reply to the debate, to find out how many street bookmakers there are in Runcorn, and where they are situated, or whether it is not the truth, as I believe, that they are hard to find and are not doing any serious harm at all.
I cannot understand the Government adding to their difficulties by introducing a complicated Bill of this kind, and I think that they ought, as the hon. Member for Bermondsey and other hon. Members have suggested, to introduce a system whereby we should license street bookmakers and recognise that what is already going on is not causing a grave scandal. I believe that it would be quite wrong now to open betting shops. The bookmakers have made it perfectly clear that they do not want them. The Churches do not want them, and it appears that the only people who do are members of the Racecourse Betting Control Board.
The reason for that is not very hard to find. The Racecourse Betting Control Board, I should have thought, was set up to control all betting on racecourses, but the Board is rather jealous—and I can understand it—about a lot of money that is being invested in racing by people who never go to the racecourses. I can well understand the natural and proper desire which the Board has to get its hands on other people's money if it can, but I do not think that it is right that this House should be bulldozed into passing legislation which will have the effect of making it possible for the totalisator to drag into its coffers this extra money which at present is outside them, at the expense of setting up an elaborate machinery of this kind.
1083 I am all in favour of those who are earning a living as the result of participation in bookmaking or racing making a contribution to the sport in which they are engaged. I think that sometimes a lot of "chi-chi" is talked about the great sport of racing, and one gets the impression that it is only kept in existence as a result of the efforts of a few indigent noblemen at great sacrifice to themselves. I do not believe it. It might have been true at one time, but it is not true now. Practically every person who has built up a business and floated it off on the public has, out of his tax-free gains, bought some racehorses. Every theatrical impresario, including one member of the Socialist Party—Jack Hylton—has gone in for racehorses. Hon. Members of this House who have appeared successfully on television also have racehorses.
It may be that all these people are animated by one desire, and that is to improve the bloodstock of the country. I do not think so. I think that they are anxious to win races, among other things, and to enjoy some of the social prestige which is associated with being a racehorse owner, to have the opportunity of entertaining their friends to lunch at the races, and, incidentally, to enjoy a free lunch themselves at the expense of the racecourse association if they have a winner.
It is important that the House should realise that this is a business, and a very important and useful business, and one which I enjoy. While it is right, and I should support any practical measure, to attract into the racing business money which is, after all, derived from its operations, I do not think that the establishment of licensed betting shops is the right way to do it, especially in the form in which it has been drafted in this Bill.
The recommendations which have been made by those associated with racing to try to divert money from off-the-course bookmakers into racing have been largely ignored by Her Majesty's Government. They have opposed the introduction of betting shops, but the Government want to set them up, and it is proposed to do so in a way which will not work fairly in the interests of the betting public. The Long Title of 1084 the Bill states that it purports to amend the law, to make it consistent and uniform for all. Has anybody looked at Clause 8? Is it really suggested that this Clause, which would, in effect, give a monopoly to the totalisator, confers any benefit upon the public? Is it not the fact that it confers a benefit only upon one side of the betting industry?
I am surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite have not jumped up in wrathful indignation at the suggestion that this monopoly should be conferred upon the tote. It cannot possibly be in the interests of the working man who, in the main, does not want to bet in the multiples of 4s. which are compulsory for the totalisator. Those of us who have lived in working-class districts know that the interest of the ordinary working man in racing is rather fleeting. He likes to have a bet now and again—3s. each way cross treble and 1s. each way cross double. He does not want to get involved in multiples of 4s. a time, and it would be wrong to bring about a state of affairs which would encourage him to bet beyond his means in multiples of 4s. Also what guarantee have we that once the totalisator has established a monopoly in betting by cash betting offices throughout the country it would not increase the stake from 4s. to 10s. or to £1? We have no such guarantee.
It would be wrong for us to shut our eyes to the fact which was clearly revealed by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and in another place by Lord Astor, although it was denied in this House by Mr. J. J. Astor when he represented Plymouth, Sutton. There have been too many instances of those who are associated with racing and with the Racecourse Betting Control Board saying that they are anxious to have a complete monopoly of the tote to make it seem entirely coincidental and the product of individual minds tonight happening upon the same thing at the same time. I would be strongly opposed to the introduction of a complete monopoly for the tote in this country because I do not think that it would benefit racing and I am sure that it would not do what it ought to do.
I also want to draw attention to the question of the issue of betting office licences. Under the terms of the Bill 1085 a betting office licence can be secured by any person who, at any time during the three years prior to 2nd November, 1959, has operated as a bookmaker. If he has operated for only a week he is entitled to a licence under the terms of the Bill. This should be altered to apply only to persons continuously employed in the business—I do not call it a profession—for a period much longer than three years prior to 2nd November, 1959. As I see it, there is no provision in the Bill for the collection of bets by runners at factories and similar places. Therefore, that point must be looked into carefully.
There are many other substantial aspects of this legislation on which I promise the House that, if I am fortunate enough to be appointed a member of the Committee, I will comment during the Committee stage of the Bill. Now it is only fair to the House, especially to those hon. Members who have been here for some time, that I should give way so that at least one more speaker may have the opportunity of addressing the House before the debate is concluded.
Because I am convinced that the House as a whole is dissatisfied with this Measure, I hope that in the succeeding stages of the Bill we shall make it clear to Her Majesty's Government that they are taking to themselves altogether too heavy a hammer to crack the small administrative nut of street betting, which does not cause any major offence to the people, although it may offend the susceptibilities of the Racecourse Betting Control Board
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan Brown (Tottenham)
I assure the House straight away that I am one of those speakers who have no axes to grind whatever in relation to the Bill. I do not belong to the Jockey Club, the Punters Club—if there is such a thing—or any other club connected with gambling.
However, there is one aspect of the Bill which causes me very considerable concern, and actually no small measure of surprise. I refer to the provisions which allow young persons of 18 not only to frequent betting shops but to work in them. I consider these provisions to be highly undesirable, and I find it extremely hard to believe that 1086 they can possibly meet with the general approval of those of us who are engaged in welfare work relating to children and young persons.
Surely it is not necessary for me to remind right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House that the whole country is at present gravely perturbed at the rapid increase in the past few years in the incidence of delinquency among young people. I have heard a great deal about "modern requirements" during the debate, and I would remind the House that there is among them one of very high priority—the prevention of juvenile delinquency. The House may be surprised to know that the number of young persons in the 14–18 age group alone found guilty of indictable offences rose from 14,926 in 1955 to 23,692 in 1958. Yet we adults who are deploring the increase in juvenile delinquency seem to persist with an almost resolute continuity in placing as many temptations as possible in the path of the youngsters. This is yet one more instance. I am fully aware that this is not a debate on delinquency on the part of juveniles or young persons, but it is impossible to be other than conscious of that problem in such a debate as this.
The Home Secretary referred to gambling as an indulgence. The unfortunate fact remains that it is from the practice of such indulgences as this that the courts derive most of their work. It is all very well for right hon. and hon. Members to state, as they have done, that gambling as a factor in or as the cause of crime is of little significance and that its effect on social behaviour is of less importance than has been suggested. After all, that is a repetition of the Royal Commission's Report, in which that very opinion is stated.
Up to a point, many of us would agree with that opinion, but I would qualify my concurrence by stating that in my view the happy fact that we can say that is due in no small measure to the positive steps which our fathers took to prevent young people coming into contact with gambling and other indulgences. As one who has devoted much of his time to the welfare of children and young persons in Middlesex, with respect I must say that the fault lies not so much with the youngsters of this generation as with the adults. Whether we like it or not, we 1087 are the adults. We are the people whom posterity will judge when the figures of juvenile delinquency—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. What the hon. Member is saying is in order so long as he does not spend all his time making a speech about juvenile delinquency and excluding the Bill, which is about gambling.
§ Mr. Brown
The point I was making was that adults of the present day seem to have a genius for placing temptation in the path of youngsters, and I maintain that the case of betting shops is a further example of that.
The Bill allows young people of 18 years of age to frequent betting shops and to work in them. That situation is fraught with danger, for we all know that young people, even up to the age of 20 and 21, are going through a very impressionable period of their lives. We all know that children are natural mimics and act like their elders, in spite of every attempt to teach them good behaviour. That is something that we can well remember.
I said that there was an aspect of the Bill which caused me concern and surprise. I have already explained the reason for my concern. I now turn to the cause of my surprise. Since 1892, when the Betting and Loans (Infants) Act was passed, it has been illegal for anybody for reward to send any documents or circulars or notices to an infant for the purpose of inviting that infant to make a bet or a wager.
The term "infant" means a person under the age of 21 years. The law courts established that a long time ago. Section 7 of the 1892 Act says:In the application of this Act to Scotland,The word 'infant' means and includes any minor. .In an Act with which I frequently come into contact, the Adoption of Children Act, 1926, the definition is even more precise. It is quite definitely laid down that an infant is a person under the age of 21. We therefore have the situation that by virtue of Clause 7 of Part I and of the Second Schedule of the Bill, people of 18 years of age are allowed to work in and frequent these betting shops. On the other hand, by virtue of the Fifth 1088 Schedule the penalties for offences under Section 1 of the Betting and Loans (Infants) Act, 1892, are increased.
Much has been said about anomalies in the old regulations. As my interest is with children and young persons, that does not worry me at all, but I would not like to see anomalies in the Bill relating to these young people. In addition, I do not want these young people to have any more temptations flaunted before them, especially temptations which could so easily give rise to an even higher incidence of delinquency with the inevitable consequence of still more agitation from certain sources for the reintroduction of certain punitive measures.
Prevention is better than cure. It is cheaper and more effective. I ask the Home Secretary to reconsider the provisions to which I have drawn attention. I plead with the right hon. Gentleman to prohibit any person under 21 years of age from having any contact with these betting shops.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
I am grateful for being permitted to speak for a minute or two. I am sure that the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. A. Brown) will not mind if I do not follow his argument of which I thought he made full play.
The Royal Commission's Report on which the Bill is based has been out of date for a long time. I am surprised that the Home Secretary has based a Bill on the findings of such a Commission. The Home Secretary has set up the Peppiatt Committee, but its report will not be completed until the Committee stage of the Bill is completed.
The Royal Commission is so out of date that at the time when it sat there was not a telephone racing service. Nowadays if I like to pick up a telephone and ring a bookmaker I can find out what the odds are, who is riding what horse, and even what the betting is at the time, and make up my mind whether I am going to back a horse. I do that when I have the opportunity of getting away from the House for an hour.
We are now trying to change the structure of betting. The Englishman is conservative at heart, as he showed at the last election, and does not like 1089 having his habits changed. I dislike having ray habits changed. For two days I have sat here listening to speeches, and I think that the majority of hon. Members on this side are dead against these betting shops. I do not mind if they are called betting offices or betting shops. They are not what the British public is used to.
There are betting shops in France, as there are in Ireland. No one likes them. I do not think the Englishman will like them. Why should the Home Secretary and the Government force people into betting shops? British people have had a perfectly good arrangement with the police and everybody else for a long time and have done just as they liked, and have not done an awful lot of harm in doing so.
The Government are now going to encourage genuine registered betting shops and make it all thoroughly legal. I saw a cartoon by Osbert Lancaster the other day in which the lady said:It is no good going to play chemin now; it is legal.We should put the Englishman right off betting if we legalised betting shops, as the Government propose to do.
The General Election showed that the public does not want nationalisation, yet hon. Members opposite want to nationalise betting and bookmakers. They would nationalise the lot, and ruin horse racing in no time. I know that the Government also want to do so, but we can stop them. Once the Home Secretary hears that there is a movement to nationalise this, I know that he will be on my side. Hon. Members opposite, however, will go on nationalising to the last ditch.
I suggest that betting has been carried on quite reasonably. Reference has been made to street bookmakers, but these people are no more street bookmakers than my foot is. They are runners for bookmakers. They pass on the bets and pocket the little bits of paper. Occasionally a shilling is dropped and a man gels pinched by the police. That is just too bad. It gives the policeman a job to do, and everybody is happy. If the man gives the policeman a couple of bob, the policeman probably does not look the next time.
My right hon. Friend has said that he wants everybody to have a reason- 1090 able chance to have a bet, and he wants to stop illegal betting. I agree with him entirely, but why stop a system which has been going on for so long? Why not legalise it? Why not let the man who wants to put his shilling on take it along with a little bit of paper to the man in the street? He will get his money the next day if he wins.
By putting up betting shops the Home Secretary will require 15 policemen to do the job which one has been doing up to now. Instead of the police being relieved of their burden hundreds more will be needed to do the job, and no one will like it. The Church will dislike it. All we have to do is to say that street betting is legal and allow the people to get on with it.
If we want to provide some money for racehorse owners we can do so. Here I must declare an interest. I own a portion of a horse. I have the front end. There is a way in which the Home Secretary can help the horse racing business. He can charge a reasonable fee for licensing a bookmaker. This idea of £100 the first time and £1 for each subsequent year is absolute nonsense. Does my right hon. Friend realise that bookmakers pay as much as £40 a night at greyhound stadiums, on two nights a week, all through the year? That is £80 a week coming out of one man's pocket in order that he may have the privilege of making a book. He does not mind paying £1,000. Some of the money thus collected could go towards defraying local government expenses, and I believe that justices of the peace also want a penny or two out of the fund. We should charge the bookmaker £1,000, his agent £100 and the runners £25 each. That would not cause the country to be flooded with new bookmakers. The system could run perfectly well and could provide something for the racing industry.
I would point out that it was the party opposite which in 1947 first put a tax on greyhound racing. I am a director of a greyhound racing track, so once again I must declare an interest. The tax goes to the Government, but nothing goes back to the greyhound industry at all, although it is a very large one. About 120,000 people in the London area alone go to greyhound racing every week. That is a greater number even than patronise 1091 horse racing. It is not quite so respectable, but it is just as interesting and exciting and just as good a way of losing one's money as having six holes in a roulette board and seeing which hole the ball will fall in.
There are no jockeys to "pull" the dogs and there is every possible way of seeing that the dogs are not doped. I think that it is an industry which, by and large, is run in a straighter fashion than horse racing. I should like the Home Secretary to come greyhound racing with me. I extend that invitation to him. I will give him a good dinner, and I hope that he will see how many people enjoy this form of sport and spend a small sum on having a good evening out at the dogs.
Dog racing does not interfere with a man's work, which is something that can happen with horse racing, and, by and large, I consider it the lesser of the two evils, if one is prepared—as apparently is the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas)—to think that anyone who enjoys himself is doing something wrong. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) gave us a long lecture tonight and said—[Interruption.]I am afraid I have only a minute or two more in which to speak—[HON. MEMBERS: "Are you on the Committee?"] I have no time, I have got to go racing. I used to go racing a lot when I was a soldier, but since I became a politician I hardly go to a race meeting at all, except Ascot. [Laughter.] I am afraid that the hilarity which I have caused has spoilt the theme of my speech.
I should like my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to look into the fact that at the moment we do not allow dog racing bookmakers to transmit money back to the tote, whereas horse racing bookmakers can do so. That seems to me to be quite unfair. My right hon. Friend says that he wants to make all this straight, above board, clean and the same for all. I say that the poor man's form of racing—dog racing—should have equal chances for all. I am afraid that I have spoken for three minutes longer than I ought to have done. I apologise for that, and probably I shall not be called again.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)
The task of one who joins in this debate at its very end is a difficult one in view of the many excellent speeches which have been made—including the one by the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) to which we have just listened—in which diverse points of view have been expressed and, I think, every facet of this problem explored. We have had speeches by experts, speeches by those who are the reverse of experts, and speeches from some who, shall I say, are neither one nor the other. I certainly cannot claim to come within the category of the experts.
While I entirely respect and understand the point of view of hon. Members like my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) and the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) I do not share it. I am not what I think would be described as a betting man, not on principle, but largely because I am too lazy, and possibly because I am too mean. I am, perhaps, ill-qualified to take part in this debate because I have never yet won a bet. I do not say that I shall not try one of these days, and I do not know how long I shall go on trying before I desist.
This is an important Bill. I think it is to the merit of the Government that at least they have brought it on—I would not say by any means underneath—the carpet. It is fair and square in the middle of the drawing room and we can walk round the problem and look at it. My difficulty is added to by reason of the fact that, whereas when this debate began I thought I had made up my mind as to what I was going to do, which was to support the Bill—
§ Sir F. Soskice
—I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. Gentleman—as the debate proceeded, and I heard the various criticisms which were adduced of the Bill, I came to the conclusion that it was an extraordinarily ill-thought-out Measure and that there was a great deal of ground almost entirely unexplored. My state of mind at the moment is that I propose to put to the Minister who is 1093 to wind up the debate various questions and to vote according to his answers.
My first question to the Minister, and to the Home Secretary, is this. How far are the Government wedded to the idea of a betting shop? Are they of an open mind with regard to it? If the Bill goes to Committee, on the Government's decision and intentions are we really committed to the principle of a betting shop or will the Government be receptive to alternative ideas and ready, if the argument preponderates in that sense, to abandon the whole scheme of betting shops?
Betting shops are obviously the focal point of the Bill. But before I say what I have to say about them, I should like to deal with one point which has been dealt with I think only by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). That point refers to Part II of the Bill, which deals with gaming. I should like to say what I have to say about that, to unburden myself of it first, and then pass on to the more interesting and exciting aspects of the Bill.
If I understand accurately the effect of Part II, which deals with gaming, it is this. We start with the position that under Section 4 of the 1845 Gaming Act and Section 4 of the 1854 Gaming Houses Act, it was, to paraphrase the effect of those Sections, an offence against the law to maintain premises for the purpose of habitual gaming at those premises—that is to say, taking part in games of chance for money. That was the old common law. It was enshrined in those two Sections and for a hundred years it has been the law of the country that if anybody, whether in his private home, in a club or elsewhere, kept premises so that persons, whether his friends, club members or customers, might habitually resort thereto for the purpose of gaming for money, he was committing a criminal offence.
The first thing that Part II of the Bill does is to jettison those provisions. As far as the old common law and 1845 and 1854 position is concerned, it is no longer to be an offence merely to keep premises so that people may habitually resort thereto to game. All that has gone overboard.
When one looks at Part II to see what is substituted, one finds in Clause 10 that a person may, in effect, game as 1094 much as he likes, for stakes as high as he likes, as long as he likes and where he likes, without any restriction whatever, subject to two conditions. One is that the game that is played must be, to put it loosely, fair as between all the players. That is, no doubt, an admirable provision. The second condition is that those who organise the game must not take a cut. If the game is played in a club, one finds in Clause 10 (7) that those who organise the game, although they must not take a percentage cut on the amount staked, are at liberty to take a fixed amount predetermined before the game starts. If that is a fair summary of the position as it is left by Part II of the Bill, speaking for myself I foresee considerable dangers.
What was the purpose of the gaming legislation? Looking back on it historically, it was, as I conceive it, to prevent excessive gambling, to prevent people from throwing away large sums of money over the gaming table in one evening which they could not possibly afford, beggaring their families, impoverishing their offspring. That was the object. When we look back to the 18th century we see that that was the evil against which the gaming legislation was designed.
I cannot help thinking that when we jettison that great safeguard which consists of the prohibition of the regular gaming house, and when we permit everybody, in their homes or in club premises or anywhere else, to congregate and game as much as they like, with stakes as high as they like, subject only to the provision that the game must be fair and that no cut must be taken by the promoters, we are venturing on to extremely dangerous ground. If this sort of thing is to be allowed, how many people—the improvident, the young fools, as they are sometimes called—will be ruined in the future? Just as many as were ruined in the past before this legislation was originally introduced.
Part II of the Bill is the only part to which I shall refer, other than Part I, and I point to it at the outset of my speech as containing the seeds of great ill. I put the question to the Government and I should like to know what the Joint Under-Secretary of State thinks about it: in the future are we to have 1095 a new crop of clubs, some well run and some badly run, at which gaming can go on hour after hour, for enormous stakes, without any control, subject only to the limitation that certain games which are unfair as between the promoters and the players are not to be played therein and that no cut is to be taken by the promoters? The sole safeguard in the Bill is that the game must be fair and that the promoter must not take a cut.
If that sort of club is to be set up in the future and incautious and improvident people are invited to join, I apprehend—I may be wrong and I may be pessimistic—that many people will be fleeced night after night. It seems to me that in opening the way to that kind of thing the Government are very much to blame. I hope that I have misunderstood the position, and I ask the Minister to enlighten the House on the position as he sees it. What is to happen? What does he expect will happen as a result of this change in the law? I can speak only for myself, and speaking for myself I cannot see my way to support the Second Reading of the Bill if the interpretation which I have put upon Part II is the right interpretation, unless the Minister in his reply indicates that the Government are ready, when the matter is further investigated in Committee, to retreat radically from that position.
I leave that part of the Bill and, as I said I would, I come back to the more colourful part dealing with betting shops. I do not think that betting is an evil thing in itself. As long as it is conducted in moderation, it brings pleasure. When I was listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West, I thought of a benign old gentleman, aged nearly 90, in my constituency, who regularly every Friday morning takes his stick and walks boldly into Newport and places his modest bet. He has done this for the last thirty years. I do not know where he goes, and I had better not ask. Nor shall I say where he comes from, except that he is one of my constituents. Every Friday morning he places with somebody a modest bet.
I feel that if my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West met this gentleman and saw his benign countenance, his 1096 sprightly step and his eager look of anticipation as he comes back from his Friday morning walk, even he would hardly find it in his heart to say that my constituent had been engaged on an evil and immoral course. If he did say that, I should have to come to my constituent's rescue. He is a fine old man, independently minded, and I do not suppose that he has ever done a thing wrong in his life, certainly none of which I know. He is engaged on a harmless proceeding every Friday. I hope that hon. Members would not be thought to be engaged on an evil and immoral course in not legislating to prevent that old gentleman from walking down to Newport every Friday and placing his bet.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will not misrepresent the position. I have said that for those who believe as I do, it is an evil thing. Other people have their own convictions. I was giving the House my convictions and those of the Church to which I happen to belong.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I can only interpret that intervention as meaning that my hon. Friend's conviction is that the old gentleman is committing a sin every Friday morning. I hope that my interpretation is wrong, because I do not believe that he is.
If I am frank with myself, I am bound to confess that I feel a kind of prejudicial distaste for betting shops. I rather share the point of view of the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West. The hon. and gallant Gentleman obviously did not like them because they were betting shops. I do not like them for rather similar reasons. In a sense, there is something indecent and improper about them. That is a feeling which one should put aside. If somebody asked me if I would prefer to see a betting shop in a crowded street rather than a furtive-looking gentleman slipping round the corner when a policeman arrives, I suppose I would have to confess that one spectacle is just as distasteful as the other.
I suspect that I would dislike betting shops rather less if they were not called "shops". I am glad that the Bill calls them "betting offices". The fact that I 1097 have that preference indicates how unjustified is an approach to the Bill based upon that type of purely emotional reaction. I think that a great many of us have it. I do not think that I am alone in this. Very large numbers of people dislike the idea that walking along a crowded street, through a quiet housing estate, through any type of residential area or in or out of Richmond Park one might pass a place which is a betting shop with people going in and out to bet. That is an irrelevant consideration which one should put on one side. One should look at the practical issues. One should ask oneself whether there is a problem.
The Home Secretary told us the history when he made his opening speech and indicated very clearly what he had in mind. Before 1853, Victorian society was gravely disturbed at the proliferation of betting dens. By Section 1 of the Betting Act, 1853, the Government of the day prohibited people from keeping a place with the object of persons resorting thereto for betting. The effect of that was to drive betting on to the streets and in the 1870's, 1880's and 1890's street betting developed on a large scale. Then came the Act of 1906, designed, I gather, to protect persons of modest income from the effects of their own folly in consorting with street betters. Street betting has gone on since 1906 almost entirely unchecked.
Obviously, there is a serious problem. I do not want to read, because I know that hon. Members have read it over and over again, the Royal Commission's Report, to which I pay my tribute of respect or to recite the evidence of the Police Federation about the present administration of the law as regards the 1906 Act. Police officers dislike it. It cannot be enforced. It is not enforced. It is easy of evasion. It leads to the most undignified scenes of people scurrying down streets with the man in blue after them. It leads to a great deal of time being taken up in the courts on rather piffling and futile prosecutions. Worst of all, it leads to the constant allegation of corruption on the part of the police.
As I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West I felt very naive and innocent. He told us that, as a Nonconformist, he knew that book- 1098 makers could say exactly when the police would descend upon them. In the course of my professional life I have been in contact on and off with the police for many years. I have known many of them. I have had many conversations with them. All I can say to my hon. Friend is that I did not know it.
I do not know whether that is true. Frankly, I do not believe that it is true. It is so easy to throw about allegations of corruption. The Royal Commission reports the evidence of the Commissioner of Police that, in point of fact, the corruption is on a very small scale. He is speaking, of course, as at 1951, but I still believe that to be the case.
As I say, it is so easy to make allegations, and so difficult to disprove them. The fact is that the police are under suspicion—I believe, unjustified suspicion. The whole of our social fabric depends on trust. There is a Victorian-Edwardian expression, sometimes overworked— "A man of honour". Nevertheless, in our daily life we proceed on the basis that those with whom we come into contact are, broadly speaking, men and women of honour. They may not be perfect but we can rely on them, broadly speaking, to do what they conceive is their duty.
The police are trusted by the public; they ought to be trusted and they deserve to be trusted, and it is a very serious thing that because people vaguely throw about these allegations there is this ugly atmosphere of suspicion which tends to poison relationships between the police and the public.
I ascribe that situation largely to Acts of this sort that are habitually and constantly evaded. If one Act of Parliament is evaded, others can be. There is the constant temptation. It is a matter of prime importance, and many hon. Members have expressed the same view in this debate, that the law must not be brought into disrepute. If the law is wrong, it must be changed by Parliament. It must not be changed by the practice of disobedience to it.
Therefore, I start my consideration of this question in the firm conviction that there is a serious problem here, and one that needs to be tackled. Is the betting shop the right answer to it? The Royal Commission examined the alternatives.
1099 Speaking for myself, if I put aside the emotional dislike that I have for betting shops, I have an equally radical suspicion about it. I really doubt whether the betting shop is the right answer. I confess that my own inclination is to the scheme of licensing runners. That is what I would far prefer.
I concede that if one simply repeals the 1906 Act outright there is the danger, to which the Royal Commission called attention, of street betting multiplying, and obtruding itself on the notice of the public. The sort of example that the Royal Commission gives in paragraph 228 of its Report is of the street bookmaker at bus queues and factory entrances, making himself generally noticeable and obnoxious. The Royal Commission expresses a view that I should have thought well justified that, on the whole, the presence on the Statute Book of the 1906 Act does exert some restraining effect.
I would like to see it repealed but not just repealed simpliciter. I should like to see the street bookmaker and his runner subject to the obligation of asking for and being granted a licence. That would ensure, at any rate, that unsuitable, disreputable people were, broadly speaking, excluded from the confraternity of street betters.
The licence could be granted upon terms. The licensing authority could introduce terms to the effect that holders of licences should not go to particular places, or should not go to particular places in more than certain numbers; should not ply their trade except at certains hours, and subject to certain conditions as to behaviour, and so on. I should have thought that such conditions could be inserted in the licence, and a breach of the conditions could lead to the summary withdrawal of the licence after the holder had been given reasonable opportunity, of course, to state his defence. That is the remedy that I should prefer.
One has to answer the question whether, if one adopts that system, one will repeal or leave on the Statute Book Section 1 of the Betting Act of 1853. Are we, in other words, to leave the law in the position in which the bookmaker cannot invite members of the public to his office. Speaking for myself, I would 1100 prefer to do that. If we repeal the Act of 1853, which this Bill does, then we are right in the area of the betting shop. If we repeal the prohibition which prevents a bookmaker from inviting members of the public to go to his office or premises, then we have, in effect, a licensed betting office.
I am, I hope without disrespect to the House, thinking aloud. I should myself like to see the Act of 1906 repealed and runners licensed, but Section 1 of the 1853 Act kept upon the Statute Book. That would mean that a bookmaker would have his office from which he would operate, the public could not go to that office, but he would have his runners who could go on the streets, subject to the terms of the licence, they themselves being respectable and not disreputable persons, and they could thus bring business to the bookmaker's office. I should have thought that that was the most desirable answer to this very difficult and perplexing problem.
As it is, I think that we cannot leave the Act without some major change. To have a system whereby one can do credit betting on the telephone but one must not bet in the street is completely illogical. If people disobey the law, they do so because they think that it is a stupid law. On the whole, they are law-abiding and they do not like disobeying the law unless they have a very strong, impulsive motive for so doing. I should prefer that as a remedy.
Another remedy discussed by the Royal Commission was that of cash betting by post. The Bill allows that, but the general opinion that I would support is that it trenches only upon the very outline of the problem. It does not answer at all the problem of street betting as it is.
Legalising the deposit of cash bets is another suggestion. I should like to see that rather more fully explored. It was, after all, the remedy preferred by the first Royal Commission which sat in 1933. I myself think that it has been perhaps rather too summarily rejected by the 1951 Royal Commission, and that there is more room for inquiry into it. It may be said against it, although it has not in fact been said by the Royal Commission, that the process of inserting bets through the letter box would have something rather dead and wooden about 1101 it, that it would lack the human contact which gives flesh and blood to the bet, and that it would not have any appreciable effect on the volume or character of street betting. That may be so, but I should like to see it further examined.
I hope that I have indicated some reasons why the House will not think me unreasonable when I say that I shall feel obliged to vote against the Bill if the Minister does not answer the questions I should like to put to him.
I should like to ask the Minister—I know that he wants to get on his feet—why the Government have decided that runners should be allowed to continue as at present in terms of the 1906 Act, in spite of the recommendation of the Royal Commission, which was quite specifically and definitely put forward, that they should be prohibited and made illegal. It seems that if one does that one is in danger of getting the worst of both worlds. If we concede betting offices, is the bookmaker who occupies the office to be allowed to send out a whole number of agents who will be allowed to wander about housing estates and residential and densely crowded areas? If they are to be allowed it seems to me that one is getting the worst of both worlds.
There is another argument that I wish to bring before the House. I think that there is a serious danger of the chain shop in the concept which the Government has introduced to the House and I would draw attention to the effect of Clause 3 (2, c) of the Bill. The effect of that Clause is that if a man wants to get a licence to run a betting shop, if he is a bookmaker not merely can he get it in his own name but if he is prepared to sponsor some other individual as his agent he can get it in his name. Surely that is opening the way for the chain betting shop such as we see in Dublin. I think that it is undesirable and unnecessary to include that provision in the Bill.
Obviously, control is of the greatest importance. I should like to echo a point made by the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) when he asked the Government if they really thought there was much chance of enforcing obedience to the provision of the Second Schedule about not giving information. I find it very difficult to 1102 envisage a kind of dumb show in these betting shops. A man goes in and asks a question and the person behind the counter, a benign-looking gentleman, puts his hand over his mouth. How is that to be enforced? That is an example which shows that the Government have not thought about the problem properly.
I should like the Minister to answer those questions, which I think are important. There are many others that I should have liked to put to him, but I am bound to say that if he cannot give me satisfaction on these I shall feel obliged to vote against the Bill.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Dennis Vosper)
My hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Sir H. Oakshott), in a kind reference to me last night, said that this would be a tricky ride on my return to the saddle. Certainly, this is not a flat race, and I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) that there are plenty of fences to be encountered. I shall endeavour, though, to carry him with me into the Lobby by answering his questions.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, in opening the debate, said that he would seek the collective wisdom of the House in debating and discussing the Bill. My only complaint might be that I think the speeches that we have heard have underlined the difficulties of finding a common solution to what is a very difficult problem without coming to any particular agreement as to what is the right constructive alternative.
Three features have emerged from the debate—a hesitation or reservation about the proposal to establish betting offices, a plea for the repeal, or partial repeal, of the Street Betting Act, 1906, and almost complete lack of debate on Parts II and III of the Bill, which is to my satisfaction.
My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson) last night said he hoped that my right hon. Friend would listen to those of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite who had more time to experience the delights of racing and gambling. He knows that I have some experience at least of Part I of the Bill. I would not wish in the short time available to me to comment 1103 upon many speeches, but I should like to say a word to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), one of my predecessors in this office, for his brilliant and helpful speech last night, and to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson), who made a delightful speech, I think his maiden speech from the Opposition Dispatch Box, last night.
Most interest in the Bill is centred on betting shops. That is quite understandable because it is something novel and disturbing. However, the object of the Bill is not to establish betting shops but to devise a workable and modern code of legislation. Betting shops are, at the moment, one of the end products of this operation.
I do not intend, with respect to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), to enter into an argument whether gambling is a sin. One of the arguments before the House is whether gambling should be suppressed by legislation. I think it is a fact that both Royal Commissions, the Government and the House in this debate have had three alternatives before them—whether they should seek to suppress still further gambling by legislation, whether they should leave the present legislation alone, or whether they should seek to modernise the existing process.
The proposal to suppress gambling still further has few advocates. I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House face the realities of the situation, realities of credit betting, realities of the waste of police manpower, and the reality that the instincts of our fellow men and women, or many of them, lie towards having a gamble now and then.
The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) took the rather unexpected view that we should be well advised to leave the present law alone. I have studied what was said in previous debates on the subject, for instance, in 1956 when the Royal Commission's Report was debated, and I have looked at the Press comments. I believe that the opinions expressed in our debate are in favour of taking some action, and taking it now.
The Bill takes the third course. By it, we seek to prevent injustice and ex- 1104 ploitation and to limit excesses. Above all, it is intended to clarify and modernise a law which, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just said, has fallen into disrepute, which the authorities cannot enforce, and which, I believe, the man in the street does not understand. Many hon. Members have expressed the fear that the Bill might encourage gambling. My right hon. Friend reminded the House that the annual report of the Churches' Council on Gambling showed that the turnover on all forms of gambling appeared to drop from £725 million per annum in 1950 to £568 million in 1958. This, of course, is the figure of turnover.
More realistic, I think, is the figure for personal expenditure. This was estimated in 1950 by the Royal Commission to be £70 million, and it would seem reasonable, if the turnover figure has dropped—unless the punters have been less successful—that the figure for personal expenditure also will have dropped. An estimated figure for 1958 would be in the region of £56 million. The point I make is that this has happened over a period when incomes have risen appreciably and expenditure on other forms of entertainment has shown a big increase.
I wonder whether the process of diverting gambling instincts to other channels, a point mentioned by the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) yesterday, has begun. All this was dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford in his reference last night to a responsible society. We must not, I think, try to cover everything by legislation. It does not follow that betting shops, which the hon. Member for Cardiff, West said were so evil in 1853, need be so bad in a civilised age a century later. It is my hope that education, public opinion and more information can lead to a further reduction in gambling. The Bill brings gambling into the open. It could be—I put it no higher than that—that some of the lure and attraction of gambling will disappear when it becomes more legal, and there may be a reduction, not an increase.
The Royal Commission, having considered all the alternatives, came to the conclusion thatthe object of gambling legislation should be to interfere as little as possible with individual 1105 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.We have endeavoured by the Bill to measure up to this aim. We seek by it to impose a strict control over the provision on a commercial basis of all major forms of gambling facility, and we seek to apply the law fairly. Also we seek to provide for as much information as possible.
This last point, which was referred to yesterday by the right hon. Member for Smethwick, is something which the Government intend to follow up. There is no provision in the Bill for the publication of information, but it is intended to make every possible use of the facts which become available about gambling as a result of the legislation. Without the registration of bookmakers, there is a real gap in the statistical information available.
To the three principles laid down by the Royal Commission, the House will, perhaps, wish to add a fourth, that gambling facilities for young people should be limited. The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton) and his hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. A. Brown) both spoke on this point tonight. I have a particular interest in this matter, and I am comforted by the fact that the present statistics of young people's expenditure do not show much tendency to spend money on gambling. But I agree that in the consideration of the Bill we must adopt every precaution to prevent any increase in gambling by young people.
Bearing these principles of the Royal Commission and this Bill in mind, I now turn to the Bill and to the various arguments advanced during this debate. The real change in the Bill is the decision to legalise cash betting, and everything follows from this decision. If I sensed correctly the feeling of the House, and I have listened to all but two speeches, it is to the effect that cash betting should be made legal, and on that I think we are agreed. The debate has centred round possible methods of doing this.
As a preliminary to the legalising of cash betting, it is intended to register bookmakers. I think that this would be a good thing in any case, even if there were no further clauses in the Bill, but 1106 there seems to be a little misunderstanding about the registration fee, as expressed in some speeches. It is not intended as a revenue raiser. It is designed to make a person think twice before deciding whether or not to set up in business as a bookmaker on his own account. A small bookmaker will have to provide his £100 at the outset as a token of good faith, and thereafter his permit will cost him £1 annually.
I have listened with interest to three speeches with conflicting arguments that this fee, following the Royal Commission's decision, is either too high or too low, but this is a fair point for consideration in Committee. This registration fee, and this is the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley applies to all bookmakers, credit or cash, on or off the course. My hon. Friends the Members for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison) and North Fylde (Mr. Stanley) suggested that bookmakers should have to be accepted by the business or profession before registration. I doubt whether this would be acceptable to the House, but they possibly know that before any application can be approved by the licensing justices it is open to anybody to make objections.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick suggested that this was a charter for the big bookmakers, but I believe that the provisions in the Bill where the licensing authorities will give preference to those already in business will work in the other direction. Of course, the main question is how to provide for casn betting, and the Bill, following the advice of the Royal Commission, proposes betting shops as the only adequate outlet to replace the present illegal practice.
I am aware that many hon. Members have said that, in fact, the Royal Commission reported eight years ago and that betting habits have changed. During that period, my evidence is that there has been an increase in betting shops rather than the opposite, and that, in fact, if there has been a change, it has been a change towards the betting shop, and away from the street bookmaker or runner.
In the debate, several alternative suggestions have been canvassed. The right hon. Member for Smethwick showed a preference for the Report of the 1933 Royal Commission about postal 1107 betting and betting boxes. The right hon Gentleman went a little further, if I understood him correctly, and suggested that these betting boxes should be fairly widely distributed. I believe 'hat there are serious practical difficulties in doing that, as one or two hon. Members suggested in yesterday's debate. I also believe that they would be open to great abuse by young people but I do not rule out entirely the possibility of doing something in this direction. The last Royal Commission did not consider that this proposal in itself would be adequate to meet the demand.
My hon. Friend the hon. Member for Bebington, yesterday, and many hon. Members in today's debate, in particular, have made a plea for either the total or partial repeal of the street betting provisions in the 1906 Act. I have not the time to develop the possible arguments for or against that proposal. It was, of course, rejected by both Royal Commissions, and it was rejected rather emphatically by the earlier Royal Commission. I refer to that because several hon. Members have preferred the opinion of the first Royal Commission. On this issue, it said:We are satisfied that an intolerable situation would arise if persons were allowed to conduct betting businesses in streets and public placesI think that it is open to the objection that there would be no control of betting by young people. Street runners and bookmakers would legally be able to carry on the business openly, and it would be difficult to prevent them from soliciting custom.
I should have thought that we would give further consideration to this, but the last Royal Commission was right when it said that the street is not the natural place for the collection of bets.
§ Mr. Vosper
I am quoting the opinion of the Royal Commission. Of course, this is tied to the question of bookmakers' runners, and undoubtedly there has been some confusion in the debate about their position under the present legislation and under the proposals in the Bill. This is partly due to the fact that there are two kinds of runners: those who operate in the street on behalf 1108 of bookmakers and those who operate in factories and other places of work.
The position of both is preserved under the Bill, the only change being that the penalties in respect of street bookmaking or street running are increased. The activities of the street runner are unlawful at present and the Bill retains this provision. The activities of the factory runner—and this is where the confusion arises—are, on the other hand, in general, lawful under the present law. The Street Betting Act does not extend to private property. The Betting Act of 1853 forbids the use of a place to which persons can resort to make bets with the occupier of that place or the use of a place for the reception of cash.
Unless the factory runner localises himself in a particular room to which other employees can come to place their bets he cannot be said to be using a place within the meaning of the 1853 Act. I am sorry if this sounds complicated, but I want to place on the record the existing practice which is preserved exactly under this Bill. It is perfectly lawful for bets to be received casually as the agent goes about his ordinary business round the factory. No change, therefore, is made as regards the runner.
In his speech yesterday, my right hon. Friend gave the reasons for not implementing the recommendation of the Royal Commission that it should be illegal for bookmakers to pay a commission to factory runners, but it has been suggested both in the House and elsewhere that runners should be registered in the same way as bookmakers and that there should be a scheme for registering factory runners. This proposal has been put forward on both sides of the House. It has been put forward to my right hon. Friend on previous occasions. We will consider the proposal, but it is only fair to the House that I should put before hon. and right hon. Members the objections I see at the moment.
§ Mr. Vosper
I have dealt separately with street runners and we are resisting the proposal that street runners should be legalised. I am now dealing with the position of the factory runner.
§ Mr. Vosper
I agree that the risk to young persons applies in all connections. It applies least of all though in the opening of a betting shop.
If I may pursue my original point, I think that the registration of factory runners is open to the objection that enforcement would be difficult. I am very doubtful if it would be acceptable to both sides of industry, but I am prepared, with my right hon. Friend, to see whether there is any means of providing a limited registration of factory runners. At the moment, neither he nor I are convinced that there is a practical way of undertaking what would be a very vast operation, which will place a great burden on the licensing justices who would have to carry it out.
We must face the fact that the factory runner will continue to be a large part of the betting system. He may well be the principal user of the betting office, and this strengthens the argument that betting offices need not be too numerous or too attractive. At the same time, unless the number of runners is to increase enormously in the absence of street betting—and for the moment I am taking that as assumed—many people will prefer to call personally at the betting office, about which I will briefly say a few more words.
It is quite understandable that as we get nearer to the establishment of these betting offices more people will be apprehensive, but, equally, in this debate the view has been expressed that these betting offices will not catch on. I am certain that owing to the extent and increase of credit betting, the use of the telephone and of the factory runner there will be nothing like the same need for betting offices in this country as there is in other countries where they are already established. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why have them?"] I am asked: why have them? The answer is, to provide an outlet to meet the demand which is at present met through illegal channels. If, in fact, the demand can be met by credit betting or by other legalised forms 1110 of betting or running, there will be little demand for betting offices.
The Bill does not seek to promote betting offices. It seeks to provide them as an outlet which cannot be fulfilled by other methods. The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked me if the Government had made a firm decision. I must tell him that, of course, betting offices exist at present. They exist in my own constituency at this moment, where they are patronised to a great extent. They exist to the extent of 1,100 in Scotland. We are not instituting anything further. However, I can tell him that if it is possible, after consideration of these arguments and any further consideration of the Bill, to develop constructively any of the other alternatives put forward, then it may well be that the betting office will not become the principal item in the Bill, as it appears to many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen at the moment.
Many of my hon. Friends and many hon. Members opposite have expressed doubts about the conditions laid down in the Second Schedule, doubts about the hours of opening. I have not time, in this debate, to deal with this matter except to say that, generally speaking, there is plenty of room for manoeuvre in discussion of the Second Schedule in Committee. The Royal Commission gave much consideration to hours of opening. There is a case, of course, for moving further towards the closing of betting offices during part or all of the hours of racing. The reasons for not doing so are clearly set out in the Royal Commission's Report, but we are, of course, prepared to consider a move in that direction.
I should like to sum up the arguments in respect of Part I of the Bill, the part which is really the concern of the House, the difficult part of the Bill. Betting offices seem to me necessary if we are to establish cash betting. They provide the only adequate outlet if other forms of undesirable betting—I include in that street betting—are to be prohibited. But, again. I say that, used in conjunction with the telephone, with credit betting and with the factory runner, their number will, I believe, be limited. Again, my right hon. Friend is prepared to consider the arguments that are advanced, and he will consider such things as the 1111 safeguards which my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) advanced in his speech.
I would just say one word about gaming, which is dealt with in Part II of the Bill. I think that that is to the satisfaction of the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Newport raised a point about clubs. I believe that we have gone as far as is necessary to allow for the legitimate clubs without giving rise to the growth of mushroom clubs, which I accept is undesirable.
§ I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading. We are grasping the nettle, which has been urged upon us by more than one national newspaper. I realise that by our doing so a certain amount of hardship and discomfort may be caused to many people, but I believe that if we grasp the nettle firmly we shall be enabling something better to grow in its place.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 311, Noes 49.1113
|Division No. 3.]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Cunningham, Knox||Hendry, Lt.-Col. A. Forbes|
|Allason, James||Curran, Charles||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Currie, G. B. H.||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Dance, James||Hiley, Joseph|
|Atkins, Humphrey||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)|
|Barber, Anthony||Deedes, W. F.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Barlow, Sir John||Deer, George||Hocking, Philip N.|
|Barter, John||de Ferranti, Basif||Holland, Philip|
|Batsford, Brian||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Holland-Martin, Christopher|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Hollingworth, John|
|Beaney, Alan||Doughty, Charles||Holt, Arthur|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Drayson, G. B.||Hopkins, Alan|
|Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks.)||Driberg, Tom||Hornby, R. P.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||du Cann, Edward||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Duncan, Sir James||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Toxteth)||Eden, John||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Bidgood, John C.||Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Elliott, R. W.||Hurd, Sir Anthony|
|Bingham, R. M.||Emery, Peter||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Bishop, F. P.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Blyton, William||Errington, Sir Eric||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bossom, Clive||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Finlay, Graeme||Jackson, John|
|Bowles, Frank||Fisher, Nigel||James, David|
|Box, Donald||Foot, Dingle||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Foster, John||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Brewis, John||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Freeth, Denzil||Kaberry, Donald|
|Brooman-White, R.||Gardner, Edward||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Bryan, Paul||Gibson-Watt, David||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Bullard, Denys||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Kirk, Peter|
|Burden, F. A.||Glyn, Col. Richard H. (Dorset, N.)||Kitson, Timothy|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Godber, J. B.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Goodhart, Philip||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Gough, Frederick||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Callaghan, James||Gower, Raymond||Lawson, George|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Grant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside)||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Leavey, J. A.|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Green, Alan||Leburn, Gilmour|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Gresham Cooke, R.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. H.|
|Chataway, Christopher||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Grimston, Sir Robert||Lilley, F. J. P.|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Gunter, Ray||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Gurden, Harold||Longbottom, Charles|
|Collard, Richard||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Cooke, Robert||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby|
|Cooper, A. E.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||McAdden, Stephen|
|Cordle, John||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||MacArthur, Ian|
|Corfield, F. V.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||McInnes, James|
|Costain, A. P.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||McLaren, Martin|
|Coulson, J. M.||Harvey Anderson, Miss||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hay, John||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute&N. Ayrs.)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||McMaster, Stanley|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Percival, Ian||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Peyton, John||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Maddan, Martin||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Temple, John M.|
|Maitland, Cdr. J. W.||Pilkington, Capt. Richard||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Pott, Percivall||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Powell, J. Enoch||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Mapp, Charles||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Marshall, Douglas||Ramsden, James||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Marten, Neil||Rawlinson, Peter||Turner, Colin|
|Mason, Roy||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Renton, David||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Mawby, Ray||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Ridsdale, Julian||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Millan, Bruce||Roots, William||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Wade, Donald|
|Mills, Stratton||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Russell, Ronald||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Scott-Hopkins, James||Wall, Patrick|
|Morgan, William||Sharples, Richard||Ward, Rt. Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Morrison, John||Shepherd, William||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Simon, Sir Jocelyn||Watts, James|
|Mulley, Frederick||Skeet, T. H. H.||Webster, David|
|Nabarro, Gerald||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Neave, Airey||Smithers, Peter||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Smyth, Brig Sir John (Norwood)||Whitelaw, William|
|Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Snow, Julian||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Noble, Michael||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Nugent, Richard||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Wise, Alfred|
|Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Stanley, Hon. Richard||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Stevens, Geoffrey||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Osborne, Cyril (Louth)||Stodart, J, A.||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Oswald, Thomas||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Woollam, John|
|Owen, Will||Storey, S.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Page, Graham||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Studholme, Sir Henry||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|Partridge, E.||Symonds, J. B.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Talbot, John E.||Mr. Legh and Mr. Chichester-Clark.|
|Peart, Frederick||Tapsell, Peter|
|Abse, Leo||Grey, Charles||Randall, Harry|
|Ainsley, William||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Rankin, John|
|Awbery, Stan||Hannan, William||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Boyden, James||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Lipton, Marcus||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Logan, David||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Collick, Percy||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Stonehouse, John|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Monslow, Walter||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Morris, John||Watkins, Tudor|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Mort, D. L.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Williams, Rev. LI. (Abertillery)|
|Fletcher, Erie||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Probert, Arthur|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Proctor, W. T.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Houghton and Mr. Hilton.|
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.