HC Deb 27 July 1960 vol 627 cc1750-68

Lords Amendment: In page 15, line 29, at end insert new Clause "A": A.—(1) Section eighteen of this Act shall not apply to the playing of dominoes or cribbage

  1. (a) on premises in respect of which there is for the time being in force a justices' on-licence granted under the Licensing Act, 1953, or a hotel certificate or public house certificate granted under the Licensing (Scotland) Act, 1959; or
  2. (b) on premises in any district specified in Part 1 of the Ninth Schedule to the said Act of 1953 or in Part 1 of the Eighth Schedule to the said Act of 1959 which are being used for the sale on behalf of the Secretary of State of intoxicating or, as the case may be, exciseable liquor for consumption on those premises.

(2) The licensing justices for any licensing district within the meaning of the said Act of 1953, or the licensing court for any licensing area within the meaning of the said Act of 1959, may at any time, if in the case of any particular premises such as aforesaid situated within that district or area they think fit so to do, by order impose such requirements or restrictions with respect to the playing of the said games on any part of those premises to which the public have access as they consider necessary to secure that the games are not played on that part of the premises in such circumstances as to constitute an inducement to persons to resort thereto primarily for the purpose of taking part in gaming at those games and that any such gaming on that part of the premises does not take place for high stakes.

(3) The justices or court aforesaid may at any time by a further order vary or revoke any previous order made under this section.

(4) An order under this section with respect to any premises shall come into force upon notice thereof being given—

  1. (a) in the case of premises such as are mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of this section, to the person who is for a time being the holder of the licence or certificate aforesaid in respect of those premises;
  2. (b) in the case of premises such as mentioned in paragraph (b) of that subsection, to the Secretary of State,
and the justices or court shall send a copy of the notice to the chief officer of police for the police area in which the premises are situated; and, subject to any further order varying or revoking it, the order shall continue in force so long as the premises continue to be premises such as are mentioned in the said subsection (1).

(5) Section one hundred and sixty-six of the Licensing Act, 1953 (which relates to the application of that Act to the Isles of Scilly) shall have effect as if the reference therein to the functions of the licensing justices under Part VII of that Act included a reference to the functions of those justices under this section."

Mr. Vosper

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

I have reason to believe that this Amendment will be acceptable to both sides of the House. It departs, of course, a long way from the Report of the Royal Commission, which recommended that no gaming should be allowed in public houses; in other words, a continuation of the existing state of affairs. The Government took the view that that was not logical, and was not likely to be acceptable or enforceable. In Committee, I moved a series of Amendments that went considerably beyond that to create what I hoped might be an acceptable and reasonable state of affairs.

In doing that, I was aware that two games which were played in public houses—dominoes and cribbage—were excepted from my Amendments. That was discussed on Report, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that he accepted that these two games were played frequently in public houses but that, as they were not games of skill but games of skill and chance—and there could be no dispute about that—they were not covered by the Government Amendments. By this somewhat ingenious Amendment from another place, dominoes and cribbage have been brought into the Bill, and can be played in the bar of a public house—something which, I believe, will be acceptable.

However, one condition has been imposed, which is that the justices have power under subsection (2) to impose conditions if, in brief, the gaming on these games gets out of hand. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) suggested that this should be left to the licensing justices. The matter was discussed with the Magistrates' Association, which took the view, I think rightly, that this issue should be decided by Parliament. We have therefore written these two games into the Bill—the first and only two games to be named in the Bill—as games which may be played legally in the bar of a public house, in addition to those previously legalised in Committee as being games of skill. I think that it is desirable to do this, as it is common knowledge that these games are played all over, generally for small stakes, and it is a practice which, while one might not want to encourage it, one should accept.

Miss Bacon

As the mover on Report of an Amendment to legalise the playing of dominoes in public-houses, I want to thank the right hon. Gentleman for facilitating in another place the passage of this new Clause. It means that people everywhere, who now have a harmless bet on a game of dominoes or cribbage, will, in future, be able to do so without breaking the law. We shall no longer have the anomaly between the game of darts and the game of dominoes.

I understand that some of my non. Friends are a little concerned about the extent of the powers given by subsection (2) to the licensing justices. I gather that the intention is that they shall exercise that power only if the game of dominoes or cribbage has got rather out of hand. As the new Clause now stands, that might be interpreted rather differently, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to give some assurance on that point. The new Clause may not be logical or in conformity with the Royal Commission's Report, but it has the great merit of being sound common sense.

Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)

I welcome this new Clause, mainly because, as I said on Report, my own constituents have always believed that these two games were in any case legal. They have never believed that either was a game of chance. After all, in dominoes, the only chance is in the dominoes that one draws. After that, skill comes into it, and the average person has believed that he was not doing anything illegal in going to the "local" and playing a game of dominoes or cribbage. Parliament has, at least, now made something legal that everyone thought was legal previously.

I hope that under subsection (2) the magistrates will not view too narrowly the point about the games constituting an inducement to persons to resort to the public house primarily for the purpose of taking part in gaming. We all know that there are many people who go to the "pub," not necessarily to consume drink therein but to join the company of their friends and neighbours and to take part in a harmless game of dominoes and cribbage. Personally, I do not think that the ordinary justices will use this power where it is obvious that a group of men are going to a pub, not necessarily to drink large quantities of beer but to join together in a game of dominoes or cribbage.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. William Blyton (Houghton-le-Spring)

I am pleased that the Minister has legalised the playing of dominoes in public houses, and that a breath of fresh air has blown around his advisers who have previously found it impossible to legalise the game. I am pleased that the new Clause means that participants in a game of dominoes can, if they play for a stake without being liable to prosecution if they are caught, but what worries me is that the licensing justices have the power to fix rules. Are we to see different rules fixed according to the lights of the licensing magistrates? If that is so, we are likely to see restrictions on the game in one place and not in another, which would spoil all the good done by legalising the game.

Subsection (2) says that the magistrates must … secure that the games are not played on that part of the premises in such circumstances as to constitute an inducement to persons to resort thereto primarily for the purpose of taking part in gaming at those games and that any such gaming on that part of the premises does not take place for high stakes. Does that mean that the magistrates can lay down what the participants may play for? If so, we may find some magistrates saying that the participants can play for 6d., others, Is., some 2s. 6d., and so on. It would be much wiser to say that the participants can play for any stake they like. I emphasise that here I speak only of the participants.

No magistrates can fix the stakes. If people want to play for 5s. a corner, they will do so, no matter what the magistrates may lay down. They will have an understanding among themselves to play in public for the figure laid down by the magistrates, and pay the rest later. Let those playing the game decide their own stakes rather than be tied down by magistrates' rules, which will differ from place to place. We do not tie down anyone to a maximum stake in the betting shops, so why adopt a Mrs. Grundy attitude to the game of dominoes that we are legalising?

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain what part of a public house constitutes an inducement to resorting for gaming? In the main, the bar of a public house is the place where dominoes and cribbage are played. Will the bar be regarded as part of the premises for pun poses of gaming? If that is the case, and if the magistrates make rules debarring the playing of dominoes in the bar, we will only make things worse for the participants in the game as, under the present Act, they play dominoes in the bar.

On the other hand, if the Minister aims at side betting on a game of dominoes in a public house, he has my full support Side betting spoils the game being played by the participants. It leads to many shady tricks that cause much trouble. If four men are playing the game, and side bets are made by those not playing—by backing each of the four to win—it spoils the game because tic-tacking goes on behind the players' backs.

The side backers can see the hands of at least two of the players. They stand behind the players, and they can tic-tac Pulling a handkerchief out of a pocket may mean that the man who is following in play is holding the double six, or a scratching of the nose may mean that he has the double five. No matter how a person may play in front of another, tic-tacking means that the man is not getting a fair chance in his game.

I have seen countless troubles caused by this practice, and I should have liked side backing to be made illegal. I should like to see the responsibility put on the licensee to see that no side betting takes place on his premises. If that were made an offence in this Bill it is certain that the licensee would, to the best of his ability, see that the law was not broken.

Again, if the Bill contains no definition, magistrates may, in different places, make different rules even on side betting. Whether the side betting stakes are high or low, I think that side betting should be made an offence. I am not a prude. I sometimes have a bet on a horse. I play dominoes. I take a glass of beer. It will therefore be appreciated that my attitude to side betting is not actuated by any motive other than to see that those who play a game can play it fairly, without it being spoiled by those standing around backing a certain player to win.

I want to make it clear that this does not happen in all public houses, but it does go on in many. We should make it clear that the purpose of this Clause is to allow only those who are playing to play for a stake, and not those who want to make side bets as to who will win the game. If the Minister cannot see his way at this late stage to do that, can he make it clear to the magistrates that side betting has to be an offence in any order they may make under the new Clause?

I can assure him that if he does this, he will be helping those who enjoy this game as a relaxation, and he will ensure that they are not subject to side betting, which undoubtedly spoils the game and causes very many unnecessary troubles in public houses. I have made this speech tonight to find out, in particular, whether the Minister can do something about side betting.

Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)

Like all hon. Members on the benches opposite, I welcome this proposed new Clause, but I should like it better without subsection (2), which seems to be of a vague character. I do not understand whether the magistrates are to go round and investigate, or whether they have to wait until they receive complaints that the game of dominoes is being played for excessively high stakes, and then investigate and make regulations to prevent this happening.

Then the magistrates are given the extraordinarily difficult task of deciding what are high stakes. It would be much more simple if this subsection could be omitted. I for my part do not believe for a moment that the game of dominoes will be played for high stakes on licensed premises. I think that there is a good deal to be said in favour of what the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) has just said, but I think that it is almost impossible for any magistrates to define what are high stakes.

Mr. Fletcher

As I understand it, the House is in this position. Despite the criticisms of my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) and the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson), there are no Amendments to this new Clause which reaches us as one of the Amendments from another place.

Mr. Blyton

We cannot amend it.

Mr. Fletcher

Therefore, the only alternatives before us are to accept this proposed Clause or to reject it. We have either to accept the Lords Amendments in toto or to disagree with them.

I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) has said. Despite the practical difficulties that have been pointed out, we should welcome the fact that the Government have adopted this new Clause. We pressed for it in Committee and our pressure was then resisted. We pressed for it again on Report when my hon. Friend moved her Amendment. We were then told—in fact, we have been told repeatedly until tonight—that there were almost insuperable objections to permitting gaming in respect of dominoes or cribbage in public houses.

We were also told that it was contrary to all accepted evidence to try to prohibit the playing of games if they were identified by name. Both Royal Commissions were emphatic about that and the Minister told us that repeatedly. The point was pressed home by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). We were told that if we started to identify any particular game by name in a Bill, it would lead to all kinds of unfortunate consequences because it would be possible to introduce some variation of the game and still call it by the name which was put in the Bill.

I am glad to find that all those objections have now been swept aside. I regard the acceptance of this Amendment as a victory for common sense. It would have been ridiculous if the Bill had gone forward enabling people to have a wager on a game of darts in a public house but preventing them from having a wager on a game of cribbage or dominoes. It would have been an intolerable interference with the recognised habits of those who frequent public houses. As I say, this is a victory for common sense and for realism, and I hope that we shall have an opportunity of hearing what the Minister wishes to say. I am sure that the House will give him leave to answer any points which have been made.

I should like to state the position as I see it. It is part of the concession that we have obtained by forcing the Government to allow dominoes and cribbage to be played in public houses, that there should be this reserve power which would in some circumstances—which perhaps may never arise—allow the justices to intervene if the playing of dominoes and cribbage were to develop into something quite different from the kind of harmless recreation as we now know those games to be.

As I understand it, the justices will have no power in any circumstances to prohibit gaming in dominoes and cribbage in any public houses. I imagine that it is unlikely that their intervention will ever be required. In the ordinary case things will go on as the public wish. I hope that these powers that are given to the justices will be treated as reserve powers, and that they will not lead to any restrictions or conditions being laid down in any ordinary case. Therefore, I hope that there will not grow up some variation of practice as between one set of licensing justices and another. If that were to happen, it would be unfortunate.

I agree with the remarks made at an earlier stage that this is a matter on which Parliament should pronounce, and that, now that Parliament has pronounced, that should be the end of the matter. I imagine that justices will wish to be guided by the general consensus of opinion which has led the Government, belatedly but happily not too late, to accept this Clause.

Mr. Ede

I, too, welcome this Clause and I support the line that has been taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) who is a constituent of mine and has given me some interesting sidelights on the conduct of the people in the licensed houses in my constituency.

One of the difficulties that confront us is this. We are not now dealing with an amendment of the gaming laws. We are dealing with an amendment of the liquor licensing laws, and the justices who are alluded to here are not the justices who will serve on the authority that will settle where betting shops and so on ought to be. These are the justices who will deal with liquor licences.

I am not quite clear how the thing works. Subsection (2) gives me some trouble. After all, the fact that we have an Amendment at all is a proof that if a Government are determined to get something out of a draftsman they will get it, and then the licensing justices have to see what they can make of the words that have been put into the Act of Parliament. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will tell me if I am wrong in any particular when he replies but I gather from the Clause that when it becomes law it will be possible to play dominoes or cribbage in any public house or hotel.

But if it comes to the notice of the licensing justices that some public house has been turned into a gambling den by the playing of dominoes or cribbage to such an extent that people, instead of going to the licensed premises to consume intoxicating liquors, or even temperance drinks as I do, go there mainly for the purposes of gambling, the justices can do something. I am not quite sure what, and I am not sure who will tell them, or when they will tell them and how they will tell them. Similarly, if it reported to them that high stakes are being played for they can make an order, which I understand may prohibit the playing of these two games on the premises or may limit the stake or in some other way bring the playing of the games into conformity with the justices' wishes.

8.30 p.m.

I can see the kind of argument that would go on in a justices' room when the licensing justices are considering a complaint. Half-a-crown would not be a high stake in a first-class hotel in a district but it is a high stake in the bar or games room of some particular public house. Have the Government given any thought to the exact way in which it would be possible to administer this law? I imagine that what will happen will be that the complaints, if any, will be made by the chief officer of the police for the district on a report that he has received from one of his subordinate officers. The complaints will appear at the annual licensing sessions but as far as I can see no offence is created in the Clause.

The police do not bring a case in the magistrates' court or before the licensing committee at one of their regular sittings but they say, "At the Barley Maw high stakes are being played for" or, "The Barley Mow is developing into a gambling den. The brewers are very perturbed because they cannot sell any beer and there is some rake-off for the landlord on the stakes." I repeat that, as far as I can see, no offence is created under the Clause and the justices do not have to adjudicate on any prosecution of that kind. I think that they will rely on a report from the police when the licence comes up for renewal.

Mr. Wigg

It is not a question of when the licence comes up for renewal. The Clause says that it is at any time.

Mr. Ede

I have been chairman of a licensing committee. My ban. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is knowledgeable about bookies and the Jockey Club and I regard his experience and opinions with great esteem, but it has been my complaint throughout about the Bill that it has never been looked at from the point of view of the magistrates' court. During earlier stages of the Bill Ministers have paid me compliments at which I blush about the way in which I dealt with the practical aspects of this matter. I want to see the Bill work out, but work out in the only proper way if its provisions are to be enforced.

I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring said about the iniquities of those who stand round the game and make their own bets on the way it is developing. If anyone has ever seen that going on, he will know that some of the bystanders at any rate think that one player has mare skill than another.

Sir J. Duncan

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is absolutely illegal under the Bill.

Mr. Ede

I hope it is.

Sir J. Duncan

The right hon. Gentleman will surely have read Clause 18 (1) and also the first line of the Amendment which we are discussing, which says that Clause 18 shall only apply to the playing of dominoes and not to side bets on the game.

Mr. Ede

That is just the kind of point on which a defending barrister before the licensing justices will make a good effort to show that the words are not quite as clear as the hon. Baronet thinks.

I am merely seeking to obtain assurances about how this provision will work. It is now so late—the first complaint that I made immediately after the House proceeded to the Orders of the Day was that the Lords Amendments are left to such a late stage—that if we are to get the Bill at all we cannot make any amendment which is worth-while. I very much doubt whether it would be reasonable of us to ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to accept a manuscript Amendment, and I would not ask you to express an opinion about what you would do if anyone made such a request.

I hope that this provision will not mean that there will be police spying on the games which are being conducted, and that one publican, finding that he has lost trade because there happens to be a very popular games room in another house, will be able to incite the police to ascertain whether things are going on quite correctly in that house.

As the Clause stands, I do not believe that it is reasonably workable. We might just as well have said that dominoes and cribbage will be allowed and left it at that, because if there is to be effective supervision of the games there will have to be some machinery devised and some offence will have to be created and the case will then have to go before the licensing justices, or, more probably in the first place, before the main court in the area and its decision will be reported to the licensing justices. However, I see in the Clause as drafted no offence, but a power vested in the licensing justices if they think that the Clause is being abused, to make an order that will restrict activities in a certain house. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some reassurances about the way the provision will be administered.

Mr. Wigg

Once again, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has placed the House in his debt because he has brought to bear upon the Clause a wealth of experience and understanding which has been lacking in previous speeches. Of course it is desirable, if one can, to liberalise the Bill in accordance with public demand. But the Clause is a perfect example of hasty reappraisal of what is, I agree, a difficult position for the Government. They are under considerable pressure to make it legal for cribbage and dominoes to be played on licensed premises. However, I do not think that they stopped to think how the provision will work out. My right hon. Friend thinks that proceedings will came before the licensing session. The Clause does not make that provision. It is an open invitation to competitors in the same street, rival brewing firms or any person who wants a "down" on the licensee to go to the bench and denounce him.

Forthwith, this provision should be withdrawn. It is not in accordance with our traditions that here, by a side wind, we seek to amend the licensing laws. This is an astonishing move. I cannot understand the leaders of my party acquiescing in a proposal of this kind. If we want to revise the licensing laws there will be an opportunity in the next Session. Do no let us do it by a side wind when dealing with gaming. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields that it is so late, and we want the Bill to get the Royal Assent tomorrow—

Mr. Ede

I do not.

Mr. Wigg

I do, because, on balance, it is a step forward. I do not want to throw away six months' hard work. We must, therefore, either take this or leave it. In taking it, I hope that the justices will keep this provision under review—indeed. I hope that the Government will do the same. It may well be that those we think we are serving will be wiser than we and that same of the fears expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields will prove to be groundless, but this could be fruitful of a great deal of friction and could prove to be a thoroughly retrograde step in practice.

I do not think that dominoes and cribbage are quite the innocent games that the innocents on my Front Bench think they are, but then, unlike them, in my youth I was a bit more steeped in vice. These games could be sources of a great deal of gambling in the worst sense. While they look innocent, they can be anything but innocent, although I agree that the intention is innocent. I hope that we shall at least get from the right hon. Gentleman an assurance that the situation will be watched, and that if abuses become evident the Government will take action.

Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)

I enter this discussion not because I am interested in the Bill as a whole, but because of what has been said during the few minutes in which I have been in the Chamber. What I have heard has created interest for me in the subject.

I had always understood that the Bill was in no way framed with the idea of encouraging more gambling, but for the simple purpose of regulating whatever betting was taking place in the country. Yet, from the discussion to which I have just listened, it appears that Amendments are now being made to extend facilities for gambling in public houses. One hon. Member mentioned that it was not legal to gamble with dominoes in public houses. Now, however, we are making it legal.

My hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton)—whom I generally support, although I am not able to do so tonight—seemed to object to placing any limitation upon the stakes that can be placed on dominoes in public houses. Gambling is now to be allowed where it was not allowed before, and in that respect it seems that we are departing from the Bill's original intention. To judge from the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring, a great deal of illegal gambling is already going on.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Blyton

And, perhaps, in my hon. Friend's constituency.

Mr. McKay

There is any amount of it in my constituency. We are now to provide greater facilities.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

And greater control.

Mr. McKay

My hon. Friend is now advocating that there should be no limitation on the stakes in a game of dominoes.

Mr. Blyton

No, I was dealing with the participants in the game and not with the spectators.

Mr. McKay

Even with that restriction, if there is no limitation on the stakes, gambling on dominoes in public houses will increase and public houses may become gambling rather than drinking places—although neither is very good, because occasionally people go to extremes. I believe that the licensing authorities should have power to intervene and make restrictions if they have reason to believe that gambling in a public house is becoming excessive. I prefer an arrangement like that to increasing facilities with no limitation on the amount of gambling, which, I believe, would be a departure from the initial intentions of the Bill.

Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)

I have the maximum possible sympathy with the views expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who pinpointed the difficulties and problems which will inevitably arise from subsection (2) of the Amendment. The licensing justices—in Scotland we call them the licensing magistrates— may at any time, if …they think fit so to do, by order impose such requirements or restrictions with respect to the playing of the said games on any part of those premises… The situation which I visualise developing is the licensing justices in one town imposing certain conditions and restrictions, while magistrates in another town impose different conditions and restrictions. Throughout the country there will be a hundred and one different types of restrictions about what one can and cannot do when one goes to play dominoes. It is unfortunate that no amendment has been proposed to the Amendment from another place. I think that every hon. Member would like to amend the proposed new Clause so that it would operate satisfactorily.

The latter part of the Amendment provides that the magistrates may also deal with the question of location and decide whether the game is being played where it constitutes an inducement to other people. We are somewhat unfortunate in Scotland because we have public houses of one apartment only, with no waiting, or side rooms, or anything of that kind. I wonder what the licensing justices would say if they went into a one-apartment pub. Would they forbid the playing of dominoes in that apartment because it would attract or induce other people to participate in the game?

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields, I visualise a thousand and one difficulties arising from this. It is unfortunate that we have either to accept or reject the Amendment. It would not take very much to convince me that it was necessary to reject subsection (2), but, if I did, according to my right hon. Friend I would be accused of not being reasonable in my attitude. For that reason, I have to accept the Amendment.

Miss Bacon

I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who does not, after all, possess a monopoly of wisdom in the matter of betting and gaming, that I am by no means an innocent in these matters. Perhaps he did not hear my original speech, when I invited the right hon. Gentleman to explain how subsection (2) will work. It may be that magistrates will not have the power to come in, except in exceptional circumstances. If that is so, it is a pity that something of that kind was not included in subsection (2).

Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, as I hope he will, I should like to ask why it was thought necessary to include subsection (2) in the new Clause dealing with dominoes and cribbage, when, as I understand, it is not necessary to include a subsection, or these recommendations, in the case of those games which in any case will be legal because they are games of skill. I refer to darts and shove-ha'penny. Without these restrictions it seems that we will allow the undesirable practices which the Government think might arise out of the playing of dominoes and cribbage to arise in the case of darts and shove-ha'penny.

I am sorry that subsection (2) has been included. In spite of that, I hope that the new Clause will be accepted, because, on Report, many hon. Members on both sides of the House were very keen that the law should not make an ass of itself, which is what it would do if the Bill were not amended. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us an assurance about the justices, and say how this will work.

Mr. Vosper

If I may speak again, by leave of the House, I think that I can give the assurance which the House requests, although I doubt whether I can bridge the gap between the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) and his hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) whose speech I very much welcomed because it expressed the attitude which impressed the Royal Commission and presumably made it come to the conclusion that the existing law should be maintained and that there should be a complete prohibition on all forms of games in public houses. We have come a long way from that position, but it was obviously the point made by the hon. Member that the Royal Commission had in mind.

When the Government followed the advice of the Commission and introduced a Bill on those lines it was not criticised at any time during the Second Reading debate, despite the fact that that debate took two days. In spite of that, as the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) said considerable Amendments were moved in Committee, because it was felt that the operation of this law was not practicable, and that some easement should be made to bring it into line with what was really happening. The object was to make all games of skill legal, because, under the definition of the Bill, that is not gaming. By the wording of the Amendments anything which was not gaming became legal in the bar of a public house. A game of skill, such as darts or bar billiards thereby became legal.

Secondly—and I think that this is an answer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring—the Amendments moved in Committee allowed dominoes to be played in a room set apart in a public house and enabled the game to be played under conditions laid down in the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, and by hotel residents. The Amendment did not cover the playing of dominoes and cribbage in the bar of a public house. I was aware at the time that these games were excluded, but if the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) refers to the report of our proceedings in Committee he will find that not many hon. Members shared my view at the time. Most of them thought that dominoes and cribbage were games of skill and would therefore be included in the terms of the Amendment that I was moving. I shared their anxiety that these games should be included, and my right hon. Friend said that he would do his best to overcome any difficulties in this connection.

That there were difficulties is shown by the inclusion in subsection (2) in this new Clause, which worries so many hon. Members. The point is that there is no definition of a game of dominoes. As hon. Members on both sides have played it, it is an innocent game but, as the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) suggested, it need not always be so. In Committee hon. Members were most impressed by the expertise shown by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), who repeatedly said that it was possible for a wise man to invent almost any form of gaming given a name, and that with no definition of dominoes there is a danger of advantage being taken of this provision to produce some form of gaming which would not be acceptable to the public or to the House. That is the reason for the insertion of subsection (2).

Nevertheless, I do not think that, initially, any public house will be subjected to any impositions under this subsection. As has been said, it is a reserve power to be used if at some time someone seeks to take advantage of this liberalising move to produce a form of dominoes which is pure gaming and is designed to introduce a gaming den under the guise of a public house. To the extent that this form of dominoes excluded all other social amenities from the public house, then and only then—and the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) is right in this—would the police approach the licensing justices with a request that some conditions should be imposed upon the licensee of the public house concerned.

I must tread delicately when I discuss the activities of magistrates in the presence of the right hon. Member for South Shields, because I value very much his experience of these matters. Nevertheless, I should have thought that the matter could be raised at the annual meeting of magistrates, or elsewhere, and that magistrates could then impose a form of conditions in a case where a form of dominoes had been invented which was an inducement to gaming and was not a form of social activitiy.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I am not concerned with some other form of dominoes. I could not define dominoes, although I have played the game. It is like the case of the elephant. The boy attempted to define it by saying that it was an animal with a leg at each corner and a tail at each end, which, while it described it, was not accurate. I should know when the game of dominoes was being played if I watched it. I have had policemen come before me charging people for gaming on Epsom Downs by playing a game of chance, to wit, nap. I had no idea what that meant, and neither had the policeman nor the defendant. I do not want to ride off on that kind of thing. I want to know how the administration of subsection (2) is to be carried out. May I make one suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman? When the Bill becomes law, he should try to draft some model arrangements to send round to the justices for their consideration.

Mr. Vosper

I am always glad to take advice from the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). The last thing that I want to see happen is what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) feared—different benches imposing different conditions. My conception is that no bench will start by imposing any conditions at all, and that the use of this power will be very rare and unusual. I will certainly consider whether some further advice should be given in the light of this debate and of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but I gladly give the assurance that while I believe this reserve power is necessary, if one wants to make this step forward there is a possible risk for which one must provide safeguards, and I would suggest that subsection (2) should be retained in the Bill.

The other point was that raised by the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) who expressed anxiety about side betting. I value his experience in this matter and I know it has caused him some anxiety. I think it is a matter to be examined, but I am afraid that I must disappoint him, because this provision would not prohibit side betting. What we are dealing with here are provisions about gaming, and what the hon. Member has in mind is private betting. Nowhere in the Bill do we seek to prohibit private betting. The hon. Member has in mind private betting on a game of dominoes or cribbage, or it might be private betting on a game of darts, or upon the extent of the Government reshuffle tonight. All that might take place in a public house. So far, the Government have not thought fit to intervene in private betting, and it would be difficult to intervene in the limited sphere of private betting on dominoes and cribbage which he has in mind—and in no other game.

I value the hon. Gentleman's experience in this matter, but I think there would be difficulty if Parliament thought fit to intervene in this sphere. I have no experience of side betting on dominoes and cribbage, though I will accept what he says as correct, but the Bill as drafted could not deal with that problem. Some other form of legislation, if Parliament thought fit, would have to be introduced. My final word in answer to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is that this has not been an easy Bill. It is easy to say now, "Why did not you do it originally?" It still is not easy. There are still difficulties, and these must be watched most carefully.

Question put and agreed to.