§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, after "1874", to insert:'the Street Betting Act, 1906', in so far as it affects England and Wales".
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
Perhaps it would be convenient if we also discussed the Amendments in page 1, line 11, at end insert:(2) (a) It shall be lawful for the holder of a bookmaker's permit or for his servants or agents duly authorised by him in writing:
- (i) to accept in a street or public place written instructions accompanied by cash from persons desiring to bet with him or his principal, and
- (ii) on a day subsequent to the event upon the result of which the bet has been made, to hand over to persons who have made winning bets an envelope containing their
1302 winnings together with a statement of the bet in respect of which payment is made.(b) It shall be an offence for any person to frequent or loiter in a street or public place on behalf of either himself or any other person, to do anything by way of or for the purpose of furthering or completing any betting or wagering transaction other than those expressly permitted by paragraph (a) of this subsection and it shall be an offence for such a person to display any sign or notice or advertisement or to call the odds or to do anything likely to cause any nuisance or obstruction in such street or public place.(c) For the purpose of this subsection the word "street" shall include any highway and any public bridge, road, lane, footway, square, court, alley, or passage, whether a thoroughfare or not; and the words "public place" shall include any public park, garden, or sea-beach, and any unenclosed ground to which the public for the time being have unrestricted access, and shall also include every enclosed place (not being a public park or garden) to which the public have a restricted right of access, whether on payment or otherwise, if at or near every public entrance there is conspicuously exhibited by the owners or persons having the control of the place a notice prohibiting betting therein.(d) This subsection shall not apply to Scotland;In Clause 6, in page 5, line 27, leave out from beginning to "be" in line 29 and insert:(2) of section one of this Act shall".In Clause 8, page 6, in line 13, after "permit", insert:or any servant or agent of such holder".In page 6, line 17, leave out "subsection (2) of".
§ Mr. Ede
That would be convenient, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I will also deal with the other Amendments you have suggested should be taken with this Amendment.
We had 25 sittings of the Committee and the first seven were devoted to the problem which this Amendment raises. The Times had a leading article yesterday headed "Better Betting". I want to direct the attention of the House to a couple of sentences in that article. It said:Throughout the first seven sittings of the committee the Government was challenged on its decision to force cash betting off the streets into betting shops, and in the course of that debate that began to appear that neither the royal commission of 1949 nor the Government in drafting the Bill on lines recommended by the commission was fully acquainted with the betting habits of the nation. It may be doubted whether the Minister in charge of the Bill had the better of the argument.1303 I never mind being beaten in Committee. What I object to is a feeling that I ought to be beaten.
Sometimes I have sat on the Government side of the House and gone into the Division Lobby feeling that I ought to be beaten. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that in Committee we had a reasonable attitude on both sides. There was no violent denunciation of one side by the other on any of the matters which were raised. But I agree with the estimate made by The Times yesterday, that the Minister in charge of the Bill did not have the better of the argument on this matter. Therefore, I am very grateful that it has been possible to raise it again on Report.
In the Bill, we are engaged on the very difficult task of trying by legislation to regulate the social habits of our people. In the 700 years or so that the House of Commons has been engaged in legislation, it is very difficult to find cases where the House has undertaken the task of regulating social habits, what may be called either the feelings or the prejudices of the population, and been able to achieve success.
At the moment, there are two forms of cash betting in Great Britain, both illegal. It is illegal to have a betting office, what is more colloquially called a betting shop. I understand that they are very popular in Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes); who is a person of very great experience in the administration of the law in Scotland and in his knowledge of the social habits of the people, and the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), are convinced, so far as one could ever convince a Scotsman of anything about which he ought not to be convinced, that the betting shop has been taken to the warm heart of the Scottish people and that the crofter's Saturday night is now engaged in considering what he is going to do in his visits to the betting shop during the coming week. Therefore, we are not trying to upset any of the habits which the Scottish people have formed.
However, when we come to England and Wales the position is by no means as simple as it appears to be in Scotland. There are some cases in which there are numerous betting shops known to Mem- 1304 bers of Parliament representing the constituency but unknown to the chief constable. In fact, one hon. Member assured us that he had consulted the chief constable who had said that there was none in his constituency. The hon. Member then found one of his supporters whom he believed occasionally to venture sums of money on the speed of horses and he inquired whether it was possible to put the money on. He was then taken to a number of places whose exact object to the innocent onlooker and visitor did not appear very plain, and inside and behind the heavily painted windows he found that betting transactions could be carried on, particularly on a Saturday afternoon, when there was no football match at home by the local team.
The hon. Member for York (Mr. Longbottom)—a place represented in previous Parliaments by a very distinguished Member—also went round and found that there were 40 betting shops in that cathedral city, every one of which he said he visited, and that there had been no prosecutions in York in respect of betting.
Undoubtedly, this is a phenomenon which has grown in recent years, but there is still a great part of the country where betting shops or betting offices have not made their appearance and where the ordinary population of the country who desire to bet carry on their transactions with people whom they find in the streets. What the Bill does is to say that in future the first system is to be allowed and the second is to be prohibited, and, in addition to being prohibited, the penalties in respect of carrying it on are to be made much bigger.
I regret that it should be sought while legalising the one to suppress the other. I make it clear that I do not follow the line of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)— that I dislike something and would therefore sooner have something else. If people like to bet in an office, let them do it, but if they wish to carry on the tradition of their locality and bet in the street, let them do so. But let the arrangements for doing it be under such regulations as will enable us to ensure, first, that there shall not be continuous betting, and, secondly, that there shall be proper control over what is done.
1305 The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary is honouring us with his presence this afternoon. We did not have the benefit of his presence in Committee. I point out to him the great difficulty which will confront him when we get to Third Reading. He cannot repeat on Third Reading the speech which he made on Second Reading, because most of the things which he pledged himself to maintain have been whittled away at one time or another and in some of the new arrangements it is difficult to see how continuous betting can be prevented and how youth can secure immunity from this temptation.
At one time, I favoured betting shops. I thought they might relieve us of the problems which confront us with street betting. I no longer hold that view, but I accept the position that there are some places in the country where betting shops and betting offices appear to have established a hold and to have become a recognised way in which people indulge in this particular social habit.
Therefore, I am prepared to accept them if the Government can control their use so that continuous betting is prevented and the access of youth to betting facilities can be prevented. I know that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton does not agree with that, for he said that the minimum age at which people should be allowed to bet was six, and that he started at that age. I doubt whether he is holding himself up as an example, although I am sometimes astonished at the way hon. Members hold themselves up as examples of what flogging can do and, in my hon. and learned Friend's case, what an early acquaintance with betting can do.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
At the age of six one is hopeful enough to think that by the time one reaches a reasonably old age one will have recouped all one's losses.
There was a time when I thought that the betting shop would be the answer to this problem, but during the Committee stage of the Bill I had the advantage of hearing a number of speeches and a number of points made by my hon. 1306 Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), who has the great advantage of being able to convey the thoughts of his constituents in language that is both simple and convincing. His phraseology is human and shows the way in which his constituents look at things of that sort.
Among the ways in which it is hoped to get rid of street betting is an arrangement by which there shall be what is called a factory runner. I doubt whether employers will welcome a recognised factory runner. When I was about the age at which my hon. and learned Friend thinks that one ought to start betting, I used to see a man—and very often it was not man, but a youth—carrying a broomstick leave a building site. He would return about half an hour later with the broomstick festooned with cans of beer.
It was a recognised thing on every building site in the area where I lived, where factories were unknown. That was the regular way in which refreshment was obtained during the morning. Anybody who suggested such a thing while on the job now would be asking for his cards, and his remarks would be as unpopular with his workmates as they would be with his employer.
I know that some employers have expressed the fear that in some way we will give people permits that will enable them to go on to factory premises for the purpose of getting bets there. I am sure that that is not the Government's intention, and nothing in the Bill—or, as far as I can see, in any other Bill that is likely to go through the House-will achieve that.
It is suggested that this is the answer to street betting. It may be in towns where there are factories employing people in sufficient numbers to make the employment of such a runner worth while, but the greater part of England consists of small towns and villages where there is not a large aggregation of workpeople, and in those places there will have to be either a betting shop or a street bookmaker.
The social habits of our people must be borne in mind. I do not want to repeat what I said on Second Reading, except to say that in my experience as a magistrate the evidence shows that most of the betting in such places takes 1307 place after the appearance of what are generally called the noon editions of the evening papers in which the runners of the day are set out, and certain advice as to those which are most likely to win are given.
People make their bets and those bets are enforceable only by the standard of conduct maintained by the locality. The street bookmaker can continue in existence only if he is known to be a man who honourably meets his obligations even when he has had a bad day. He is dependent on the good will of his clientele and he is scrupulous in maintaining it.
I repeat now the example that I gave in Committee because the other night I saw on television a representation of that great play, "Love on the Dole" which describes the social habits and experiences of our people during the great depression. There one has a community which is mainly unemployed. There is one lad who has the bright idea that he may be able to win the 3d. Treble, and, as it is necessary for the play to proceed, he succeeds in doing so. His neighbours then say, "You think that you are entitled to £25, but you will find the bookmaker's runner has a £5 limit on this, and the most you will get is £5".
Then the great bookmaker, obviously much better fed than any of the other members in the play, comes on and makes a great oration when a sufficient number of the population has been assembled. He announces that with Sam Grundy the sky is the limit. The boy is placed on a barrel beside the bookmaker, who then says, "I am going to pay you £25; put your cap out", and very slowly and deliberately, to the great admiration of the bystanders, one after the other he puts 25 £1 notes into the lad's cap.
The bookmaker turns to the assembly and says, "The sky is the limit" and three old women, who, in this play, seem to play the part of the three witches in Macbeth, say, "You have forgotten the 3d. stake money". As an anti-climax he then deliberately pays out one, two, three pennies, to maintain his standing in the community. That is the social basis on which the street bookmaker works and operates, and there are very few quarrels in the course of his business.
1308 The provisions contained in my Amendment, in conjunction with those put down by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Northampton, my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), will make it possible to carry on this system in a well-regulated way, which will enable many decent citizens to back their fancies occasionally in the way that they prefer. The other day I had a visit from a man who was against betting shops. He said, "I bet with the bookmaker in the street." He even told me the name of the street, and although I have walked along it a good many times my appearance always seems to cause the disappearance of all the bookmakers. That is the disadvantage of having been a justice of the peace too long.
This man went on to say, "If I had to use a betting shop I would have to get my wife to put the money on. What is more, she would have to go to collect the winnings." There are some things that even the best of husbands like to conceal, and a little fortuitous good luck on occasion enables them to feel that although they are married they can still live an individual life.
I ask the Government to realise that we are not putting down these Amendments in an effort to spread street bookmaking. I do not believe that it will spread. On the other hand, I believe that the creation of betting shops may induce many women to bet who ordinarly do not do so. Concessions were made during the Committee stage enabling ordinary shops to have betting rooms adjoining, although with separate entrances, and that will enable women who have never done so before to bet during the hours of the day when they are out shopping.
I have received a document from some bookmakers in South Wales. They appear to have been in rather close negotiation with the right hon. Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary. I am bound to say that he led them up the garden path in exactly the same way as he led the Jockey Club up it in Committee, until the hon. Member whom we understand to be its principal representative had to complain that it was being led up the garden. Provisions dealing with the Jockey Club are now postponed 1309 until next year, but the street bookmaker and his clientele are due for execution this Session.
By means of the provisions contained in the Amendments that we have put down it should be possible to introduce a system which will control the street bookmaker in every desirable way. As he will have to operate in public, and he will be more closely under supervision than he is now, it will be possible to prevent him from recruiting his clientele from youths of such tender years that the House generally would desire them to be prohibited from having any connection with betting transactions.
During the lunch hour I had a visit from Mr. Beesley, the street bookmaker, who was the principal witness—in fact, I believe he was the only witness—from the street bookmaking fraternity appearing before the Royal Commission. He tells me—and who am I to differ from so renowned an expert, with so many convictions that if he applies for a licence under the Bill he will have no difficulty in getting one?—that the street bookmaker pays at least £2 a week to the look-out man, whose job it is to signal to the bookmaker when the police are about to make a raid on the street.
Mr. Beesley put a practical point to me, and I will put it to right hon. Gentlemen, because I want them to understand how closely their activities in this matter are being watched by the practical experts. Mr. Beesley said, "It would be far better to pay a licence fee of £100 a year and do away with the look-out man". I cannot help thinking that that is a sound and practical way in which to deal with some of the difficulties that confront us.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Did he ask if Mr. Beesley could tell him how much the look-out man sometimes has to pay the police in order that the police can tell the look-out man that they are coming?
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
If the police want to find street bookmakers they can find them at the St. Stephen's Entrance to the House of Commons, waiting for a formal interview with the Joint Under-Secretary of State, who has sent an official invitation from the Home Office to their organisation, calling itself the Street Bookmakers' Federation, to discuss this legislation with him.
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Member must not inquire into his right hon. Friend's activities any more than anybody else's.
The right hon. Gentleman had his opportunity. I do not know whether the police got in touch with a few street bookmakers and said, "It would be very convenient if, at the luncheon interval on a certain day, you could be in a certain street. You may see us there, but you will understand that it will not be a business engagement as far as we are concerned." In Committee, I inquired whether any prosecution occurred in relation to what the police and the right hon. Gentleman saw on that occasion. So far, I have not received an affirmative answer.
I would remind the Home Secretary that this is a country whose people are reasonably well conducted, and where the law is complied with if it is reasonable. But where the law does things which the people regard as foolish and vexatious there is a strong social feeling that no great turpitude is involved in breaking it. I do not suppose that any hon. Member in the House this afternoon thinks that the placing of a bet in the street is an act of moral turpitude, although it is against the law.
It is a social habit which people like to practise in this country. Where it is the reasonable way to bet and in conformity with the tradition and practice of the neighbourhood, I cannot think that there is anything which can be regarded as so earth-shaking about it, especially 1311 as we are proposing to have licensed betting shops and give them a lawful position. At the moment, betting shops are not legal. Everyone knows that the betting shops in York, Bolton, and other towns and cities which have been mentioned are being conducted outside the law. There will be a great deal of capital expenditure involved on buildings if these legalised betting shops are ever started and a number of people will be employed at a time when we need everyone we can get to be engagd in productive industry. To introduce betting shops and to shut down this other form of betting which admittedly is also illegal, but which mets the social needs of many people, seems to me the sort of thing which no Government should undertake.
I apologise to the House for the length of time during which I have spoken. But this is a matter about which I feel very deeply, because I fear that we shall find ourselves getting further involved in class legislation. The wealthy, the reasonably wealthy and the people of certain social habits may make use of credit betting facilities. Another class of the community will use the betting shops. Those who work among large aggregations of people can use the factory runners. We are proposing to create a third category whose social habits are to be repressed because they do not conform with the other categories and because their lives are not conditioned by the sort of things which enable people to use credit betting, and the betting offices or shops which it is proposed to create.
Even at this late stage, therefore, I ask that this form of betting in which some of our fellow countrymen wish to indulge, this social habit, may be permitted and brought within the law. I ask that it may be made subject to regulation and control. I should imagine that the last thing any of us wants to do in these days is to allow a certain class of people to be driven into a course of conduct which is regarded as illegal simply because they happen to live in streets where there are no front gardens and under conditions of that kind.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
I wish to support the Amendment moved so ably by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). If we could have secured a free vote during 1312 the Committee discussions on this Bill, I am certain that the point of view of hon. Members on this side of the House regarding street bookmaking would have prevailed. I sincerely believe that. One has only to read the speeches made by hon. Members opposite on the question of legalising the street bookmaker— which is what this Amendment is all about—to see that there is a genuine belief among many Conservative Members that, in practice, that would be a right and proper procedure.
I wish to pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Vosper) who, as Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, took part in the Committee discussions on this Bill. As the discussions proceeded my respect for the right hon. Gentleman increased. I consider that his behaviour, and the way he acted on behalf of the Government, does him a great deal of credit. I say that today in the presence of his superior, the Home Secretary, whom we did not see at any time throughout the Committee proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman promoted this remarkable Bill, but he having done so, we did not see him during the Committee proceedings and we have not seen him until now, when all the hard work has been done. The right hon. Gentleman may take solace from the fact that his right hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary did a first-class job of work.
Like the Joint Under-Secretary, I learned a great deal from our Committee discussions. I learned, for example, that in certain parts of the country we have an unofficial system of betting shops, in addition to what occurs in the southern part of the country—of which I was aware—about street bookmakers. In Committee we tried to legalise the status quo in the southern part of the country, and we advanced what I considered serious arguments in support of the activities of the street bookmaker.
There was only one objection to them from the Conservative Party and it was voiced by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). The hon. Gentleman said that if street bookmakers were legalised there would be a return to the conditions of yesteryear, when the old race gangs operated; there would be fights for pitches, and so on. I took the remarks of the hon. Gentleman very 1313 seriously because I did not want to be associated with any change in the law which would create such a situation, and I propose later in my speech to deal with that argument which the hon. Gentleman advanced.
Let me put to the Home Secretary the position as I see it. I am convinced, as was said by my right hon. Friend, that we shall have an extension of betting throughout the country if this Bill becomes law. I do not believe that was what the Government had in mind in introducing this legislation. I feel certain that the whole idea of the Bill was to try to legalise betting but not to do anything which would extend the area and range of betting. I am certain that the Government, with all the good will in the world, are supporting a proposal which will extend betting in a manner they have never visualised.
In a constituency like mine—I have cited examples from my constituency again and again because one can speak only from one's own knowledge on these matters—there is an area in which about 60,000 people live, and into which every day there come about 150,000 to 200,000 people to work. In the main they are engaged along the London waterfront or perhaps in the well-known factories in that area. So that in my constituency there is an enormous industrial population. How are the betting needs of these people catered for at the moment? Let us be honest about this, because the Home Office knows it to be true. The betting needs of the area are catered for by about sixteen street bookmakers who operate on different pitches in a way which is not offensive to anyone. During the time I have been a Member of Parliament I have never had a single complaint about them from any religious body or from the local authority and, so far as I know, there has never been any complaint from the police about the way in which these people conduct their business.
As was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields, the social habits of our people are formed over a great number of years; they are not formed suddenly overnight. I think that what happens in my constituency represent what goes on in the whole of London. These social habits have grown up over the years, and the troubles of 1314 yesteryear are well behind us. Were there any question of incidents occurring, such as happened during the days of the old race gangs and so on, one would expect it to arise while street bookmaking activities were illegal, rather than when they were legalised.
Those who operate as street bookmakers now, and who have been doing so for a considerable number of years, remain on their pitches because they are honest people who can be relied on to pay their clients. Those of the 200,000 workers in the Bermondsey area who bet do so between the hours of midday and 1 o'clock or 2 o'clock. That is the time the bets are placed. If they win—and some of them must win or they would not go on betting—they draw their winnings the following day from the same bookmakers with whom they laid their bets.
I suggest that if we take away street betting as it is and replace it by the Home Secretary's idea of betting shops in the main road and down side streets, with runners in factories, and if we legalise the type of betting which he wants to see, betting will extend, and not be confined, as it is at the moment, mainly to between the hours of midday and 2 o'clock. I say to the Home Secretary frankly that in those circumstances betting will be extended. It will encourage, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields rightly said, people who have now no idea of having a bet— women going shopping, for instance—to go into a betting shop and bet. Under present conditions I defy any hon. Member to visit my constituency and find a street bookmaker. One would not know where to start. The street bookmakers are discreet and they want to carry on as they have done hitherto.
I want to see these street bookmakers licensed and have to pay a very substantial licensing fee—£100 has been mentioned. I am sure that I can speak for many of them when I say that they would be prepared to pay more than that. They should be licensed on a yearly basis and apply to a magistrate for their licences. The police would know whether, during the previous year, they had behaved themselves or not. Every year the renewal of their licence would be subject to police approval.
1315 The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet says that race gangs would come back into the picture if there were legislation such as I have suggested. But does he believe that a bookmaker of the present type is likely to get involved with race gangs when his own licence is at stake? He would be the first to demand the protection of the law because he would have become a member of a legal profession. I suggest that the hon. Member has introduced a "red herring" and that his argument is not justified. He has clouded the position.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I know that the hon. Gentleman has given deep thought to this matter and that there are many bookmakers in Bermondsey. The reason they are able to operate at the moment, although they are all known—the police know their pitch and everything about them—is that they are properly conducting themselves and causing no trouble to the police. Therefore, the police wink an eye and permit this to go on. In the event of betting in the streets becoming legalised there would be an immense potential value in the pitches. One cannot license a particular pitch—
§ Mr. Mellish
If bookmakers were licensed and had to give an account of their stewardship and conduct each year they would want to avoid any friction which would lead them into trouble with the police. That seems so obvious.
At the present time street bookmakers are decent people. They want to remain so, and in the event of any trouble such as the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet has in mind, they would seek the protection of the police. I do not believe that such trouble would happen.
I think that the Home Secretary should look at it in this way. What he is proposing must be compared with what is now being done. Does he honestly believe that we shall not get an extension of betting? Does he not see that, whereas the present position is under control, if the proposals are carried out ordinary decent citizens will become involved in this betting racket? I would plead with him to reconsider this matter even at this late stage.
1316 It is a problem of recognition. I know that in parts of the country we have betting offices, but I did not realise this at one time. I am a typical Londoner and anything which goes on outside London does not greatly interest me. It is what goes on in the areas which I represent that is important to me. I recognise the anomalies. I do not know why we should not have had legalisation of betting shops and street bookmakers.
What will happen now is this. Street bookmaking will be illegal but as I understand the Bill—and I hope that the Home Secretary will correct me if I am wrong— a man can in fact take bets provided he does not loiter and stay in one place as he does now. The milkman has been mentioned. He will be able to go round blocks of flats quite legadly and lawfully to collect bets. I do not think that the Home Secretary realises that we shall get a betting gang going to the homes of people, knocking on the doors, ostensibly selling milk, in order to get bets. The right hon. Gentleman is a shrewd politician, but he will be dealing with people who will know how to get round the Government's proposals quite easily.
One anxious bookmaker said to me, "I understand that I cannot stand still in the street to take bets." I said, "I am afraid not. As the Bill stands you will be arrested and fined £100, and probably on a second offence get three monhs' hard labour." He said, "If I move about selling laces and have a little box in front of me, will that be legal?" I hope that I was right in suggesting that it would be legal because I told a bookmaker that it would be, provided he was selling laces, moving around, or knocking on people's doors. There is nothing illegal about that. In order to destroy these terribly evil men, these wicked criminals—there are sixteen in my constituency of 200,000 people—the Government say that they shall not stand still and remain in one place.
We had the most ludicrous example of how bookmakers operate. It was in the early days of the Bill that the Joint Undersecretary said this; later he became more intelligent; and I think that he now realises what would happen. If we legalised the street bookmaker he thought that he would be a man dressed in a check suit with brown boots and a bowler hat, going up and down Oxford Street, 1317 trying to get bets. I do not know how he could have thought that. Does he believe that the British public would place bets with that sort of person? They would want to see the man in the check suit and brown boots in Oxford Street the following day. At the present time, the street bookmaker is in the same place each day, and the factory worker, who generally does not bet much, perhaps three, four or five shillings, when he comes out in the lunch hour knows that "Joe Snooks" will be waiting.
I think that we have to cut out all that nonsense. I admire the Government for having the courage to bring forward a Bill to tackle this subject. I doubt whether my party would have done it had it been in power—there are so many Nonconformists in it. I have been speaking like a Nonconformist because I do not want to see gambling extended throughout the country in the way in which I think the "wide boys" would operate. I want to see a system by which bookmakers apply for licences. They would have to gain the approval of the police authorities, whom I want to be involved up to the hilt. The police would have to say that from their knowledge an applicant was a decent man who should be licensed as a street bookmaker; he would have a licence number and a badge, which he would be compelled to wear. He would have a pitch allocated to him by the police.
I see no reason why this could not be done. I can well imagine that those at Tower Bridge Police Court would know exactly where the pitches should be because they know the area well. The bookmakers would operate in certain areas and would pay a very substantial fee for the licence. Every year they would come before the magistrate to apply for renewal of the licence, the police would be asked if there was anything known against the man and, if not, it would be renewed.
Apparently that is all too simple, and in place of it we must have betting shops and factory runners. When we went into the argument in Committee we got into very deep water about what sort of shops were likely to be licensed. I know the Under-Secretary was acting on behalf of his superior, but we have never seen such a fine performance, as he made 1318 with a completely dead bat. He either did not see or missed completely everything which was bowled at him, but the umpire would not give him out, so that by the end of the day he was not bowled. Yet almost every speech made by hon. Members opposite supported our view. I support my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields, and at this late stage I urge the Government to accept this Amendment. Otherwise the "wide boy" will get round the provisions.
§ Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)
I spoke more than once in favour of a similar Amendment in Committee upstairs, but I am ashamed to say that eventually I voted against it. I have discussed this matter with a great many people connected with racing and I am convinced that this Amendment is a good one.
I hoped that the Government would go further and make their decision more acceptable by allowing bets to be collected in licensed premises, shops and places of that kind. I do not think that we are right to attempt to change the social habits of a large section of the community by choosing between two methods of betting, both of which are illegal, and saying that from now on one will be legal and one will not be legal. For the life of me I cannot understand why it should be better in any way to bet in a betting office than to hand a bet to a runner in the street. All that was necessary in the Bill—and what would have saved us an immense amount of time from the start—would have been to say that in future cash betting would be legal.
I agree, in the main, with what the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) said about street bookmakers. I would have gone further—this is something which the Government did not accept upstairs—and would have licensed, not only street bookmakers, making them pay a large fee for their licence, but also their employees and runners, and those licences would not be at all cheap. By doing that and allowing people to collect their bets where they thought fit, by charging a heavy fee and making the principal responsible for his runners' actions, a great many possible dangers in street betting would have been removed.
1319 I am convinced that that would be a better way to deal with the matter. I hope, though with very little confidence, that my right hon. Friend will see his way to change his mind. I am sure that what is proposed in the Amendment would be supported by practically everybody who has any close connection with racing. I shall not oppose this Amendment.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Wigg
I have added my name to this Amendment, which was moved so ably by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). I express my gratitude to the Chair for giving us a further opportunity of discussing this matter, even though we have spent many hours on it already.
Although I have grave doubts about the wisdom of the policy of the Government, I very much hope that it will succeed because, if it does not succeed, not only the Government, but the country, will find themselves in some difficulty. We are glad to see the Home Secretary with us today. It is a great pleasure to have him here. I wish to add my compliments on the very able way in which we were assisted in the Committee by his right hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary, but his right hon. Friend is no substitute for the genuine article.
I wish to remind the House of what the Home Secretary said on Second Reading, because it is a great problem with which we are dealing:The existence of a restrictive law which is outmoded and unpopular cannot but lead to attempts to corrupt the police by street bookmakers. The Royal Commission reckoned that while such attempts are occasionally made, the number of police officers who succumb to them is very little. But the temptation is obvious, and it is one of the most deplorable features of the present law that the police should be exposed to suspicion, particularly when that suspicion has very little foundation in fact."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1959; Vol. 613, c. 811.]I agree with every word that the Home Secretary said. Allegations are made about the police, but I believe that the overwhelming majority of the police are honest, able men who do their job in most difficult circumstances and that they need the support of all of us.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) speaks for 1320 Bermondsey and I speak for Dudley and Stourbridge, whose habits are not very dissimilar from those of Bermondsey. When my constituents have a bet I should like to assure them that I do not think they are doing wrong. I am not mealy-mouthed about it, but I say that I hope they will not extend the practice. I do not think that going racing and having a couple of shillings each way is a worse character-forming habit than sitting in front of the T.V. and watching the kind of muck which is put over the air. I make no bones about that.
Equally, one must accept that not all police forces or policemen are as incorruptible as they are in Dudley and Stourbridge, and even in Bermondsey. The right hon. Gentleman has the backing of the House in putting forward this legislation to bring the law into conformity with the social habits of the great mass of our population. During the Committee stage, which the right hon. Gentleman did not have the privilege of attending, he would have learned that in parts of Britain, namely, in Scotland, no attempt whatever is made to enforce the law. Betting shops and every form of non-adherence to the law in whatever form exist and are practised in Scotland.
I have always had a sneaking feeling that the English should separate themselves from Scotland. I became absolutely convinced that in the interests of the English and English nationalism the further we are from Scotland the better. So far as I could see, not a single policeman or magistrate in Scotland has not been "straightened" in some way or other. The habits of postal betting and of the betting shops go on in Scotland and I regret to say that the habit has come south of the Border. It only pays out when one gets two or three hundred yards from Berwick, and the further South one comes the better it becomes.
The issue before the House is not one of "wide boys". That is an expression which my hon. Friend borrowed from a song. The overwhelming majority of bookmakers are not "wide boys". His bookmaker, like mine, is not a wide boy; bookmakers are hard-working men, working on commission. Indeed, they are often not even bookmakers. They are men who, on average, take 1s. 6d. in the £.
1321 The crux of the Home Secretary's problem is: what do they do with that money when they have collected it? The right hon. Gentleman, in his innocence and remoteness from the habits of ordinary people, imagines that when the runner, or the so-called bookmaker who is merely a prosperous runner, has had a few losing favourites and has received the money, he will feed it into the betting shop. He will do nothing of the kind. There will be a war. We have moved on from the days of the gang warfare which my hon. Friend envisaged, but the signs of the new war are to be found in the Sporting Life today.
A few weeks ago, if an hon. Member had a bet each way, it would have been at one-quarter of the odds irrespective of the number of runners. If he had the privilege of betting on credit—which my hon. Friend apparently has not—and tried to back a horse each way in a race for two-year-olds, he would be told, "You can jump in the river." But all that has changed. The prospect of the Bill becoming law has already started a war. One can now get one-third of the odds if there are 16 runners in a handicap. Moreover, one is paid for first, second, third and fourth if there are 22 runners.
There will be a war of commissions. Indeed, the war of detergents will be as nothing compared with the war between William Hill and David Cope. Nothing will be merely "whiter than white" when it comes to these gentlemen. There will be a battle of commissions and for monopoly. What do Mr. Cope and Mr. William Hill want? They want a situation created in which they can control starting prices. We should then go a long, long way towards a monopoly position, and that is one reason why I think that the local bookmaker fulfils a very important social function. What are fun and games and what is almost a joke or a habit to the millions of people who have a bet each way becomes big business to Mr. Cope, written in very big letters indeed in neon lights.
That is why we want to be careful about this. We have already got into a dangerous position when Littlewoods and the other czars of the pools world and the emperors of the bookmakers have far too much say in our economic life. We have almost reached the point 1322 when no Government—certainly in an election year—could do anything which was inimical or would be regarded as inimical to the interests of the big pool operators.
That is one danger. The next concerns the Government's proposal to put all their money on the efficacy of the betting shops, as it were. That is the gamble which they are taking. I told the Committee, and perhaps I should repeat it to the House, that I have an interest in this matter, although not a financial interest. Following fourteen years of the very distinguished service by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), I am the nominee of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the Race Course Betting Control Board. The Board, very wisely, has looked at this problem with very great care. I told the Standing Committee the results of some of its researches. It has gone into the economic possibilities of trying to operate betting shops.
I do not know my hon. Friend's constituency as well as he does, but from the little I know I do not see where, physically, the betting shops will fit in. The accommodation is not there to be utilised. Let hon. Members think of their own constituencies. What are the possibilities of shops or other accommodation being found in places where people congregate? Such places must be in the High Street, the main street, where people meet. If the rents are very high, and if the bookmakers not only have to have central premises but have to conform to fairly strict conditions which will be laid down as a result of the passage of the Bill, it will not be easy to provide the betting shops. Taking the average of a bet as about 6s. a person, it is clear that the number of people who will be required to bet so that the shops should break even is so high as not to make the betting shop an economic possibility.
I hope that I am wrong and that the betting shop system, which has grown up in Scotland, will rapidly spread in the South over the breathing space which the Government have allowed themselves. But let hon. Members stop for a moment and think of the position in the House and the immediate vicinity of the House. As the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary no doubt knows, this is one of 1323 the easiest places in which to make a bet. If he were ever so tempted, Mr. Speaker, I do not doubt that an hon. Member would probably not even have to leave the Chamber before facilities were available to him if he wanted them. He certainly would not have to leave the Palace of Westminster, When we go outside, however, into Whitehall, I assume that the Home Secretary is most anxious that there shall be a betting shop next door to the Home Office for the use of the Permanent Secretary and his staff.
But all that will present very great difficulty. What the Home Secretary has done is to shut his eyes and hope. He hopes that these betting offices will be established. All of us who are interested in these matters hope that he is right, but we have the most serious doubts, and I think that he would have been far better advised to have had a more flexible system, particularly in those areas in which the habit of the betting shop has not taken root.
In Scotland, they are so obviously lawless that it was a comparatively easy matter. The police were bribed there in the first instance, about 4th August, 1914. We were informed in Committee that this happened in Scotland because of the superior social habits of the Scottish people. I felt some pleasure in rebutting that, and perhaps I may weary the House by explaining why, on 4th August, 1914, the social habit which had been practised by a considerable number of the Scottish people was changed. The habit had been for them to send their bets over the water, possibly to Switzerland or Holland, but on the outbreak of war in 1914 the exercise of censorship and the delay consequent upon it, with the restriction on sending money out of the country, brought ruination, or possible ruination, to a large number of advertising bookmakers who relied on postal betting. What they did was quite simply to bribe the police in Scotland, with the result that the habit of postal betting has been centred on Scotland.
If hon. Members doubt what I say, they should go into the Smoking Room where, if it has not been taken by a Member, they will find a copy of the Sporting Life. They will find that all the advertisements for postal betting are advertisements inviting them to send 1324 money to Scotland. This has gone on for the last forty or fifty years, since 1914, and it goes on now. I cannot believe, however, that this habit which grew up in the emergency of the war and which has lasted for fifty years and taken root in Scotland, will do quite the same thing in the South, because people's habits have changed.
There are very many ways of betting. To reflect credit on the right hon. Gentleman, we ought to make a list of the possible ways in which people will be able to bet. They can have a credit account, and use the telephone, and for this purpose they need not have a banking account. The bookmakers will open an account for anyone, with a possible restriction on amount, so that he can bet with the greatest possible ease. They will be able to send a bet through the post not only to Scotland, but to addresses in England when the Bill becomes law. There will also be the betting shop. That is not the whole story, because there are also the facilities of the racecourse and the dog track.
When one examines these statistics I think that one will find that they have a clear similarity with those for Army recruiting. The number of people who want to join the Army will always remain constant. It is just a question that if they join in January, they do not join in June or December. Similarly, the amount of money spent on betting remains constant. If it goes into football, it does not go into racing and there is none available for dog racing. It remains constant, and though it can be diverted here or there, the overall amount remains the same.
Therefore, I do not anticipate any vast expenditure on betting. I have felt that there is a very great danger indeed that the position from which the Home Secretary was anxious to escape—and he framed his Bill to escape from it—will, in fact, be recreated as a result of the Bill, and that the betting shop will not take root in the South, because in some areas it is not physically possible for it to do so and in others the economic conditions will be such that the charges would be so high that the street bookmakers will continue to carry on in defiance of the law, despite the Home Secretary and the good wishes of all of 1325 us who want to see the Home Secretary's courage in this field rewarded.
The other factor all the time is that, with the emergence of the great advertising bookmakers and the propaganda possibilities of the pool promoters, there are large economic forces at work here which may be too strong for the Home Secretary. So far as I am concerned, I think that the small bookmaker—one of the 16 men defended by my hon. Friend —even though he is not a bookmaker in the old-fashioned sense of the word, is performing a social function and is engaged in a business which has a very important social value. I believe that if we were to carry out tests, and it might be a worthwhile piece of research, it would be found that productivity is probably better, particularly by people doing humdrum jobs, because of the hope that they might bring off a double, or that the 4.30 might produce a winner, because that is something they can look forward to. I do not regard it as a profound social evil, and I hope very much that the right hon. Gentleman's courage in this legislation will be rewarded.
I must say to the Home Secretary that I hope that he is right contrary to my doubts, and I sincerely hope that I am wrong, but if he is wrong, and is shown to be wrong, I hope that he will come back to the House at the earliest possible moment and seek fresh powers as a result of his experience. I wish that he had included in the Bill powers to vary the Act by regulation over a considerable number of fields. In 1956, when we were having debates on the Royal Commission's Report, I said that I did not believe that any Government would tackle this problem. I freely acknowledge that. I will not say that I agree with my hon. Friend, who was so despondent about our leadership as to say that if we had won the election we should not have done it.
There are very real difficulties for any Government, including a Conservative Government, even if all the Members of the Cabinet were as courageous as the Home Secretary. It is very difficult to tackle such problems in the third or fourth year of a Government, and, therefore, if the Bill becomes law and becomes operative half-way through this Parliament, and in the course of a year or eighteen months—and we shall not 1326 have to wait too long in Bermondsey or Dudley to find out how it works—it does not work, it will be another five years before anything can be done about it. To my mind, that is wholly deplorable.
I believe that one of the major factors in handicapping the work of the police and in bringing them, as it were, into conflict with public opinion in the performance of their duties, is the fact that the police have been asked unfairly by successive Administrations to carry through an unpopular law, which the public have come to regard wholly with contempt. We start here by being contemptuous of the police and by thinking that this matter is just a joke and that it does not matter if a policeman gets half-a-dozen bottles of whisky. That is the foundation of disrespect for the law which subsequently leads to gang warfare, not only about betting, but also in other ways. If those of us who are now getting a few grey hairs about juvenile delinquency, and about prisons being too full, pressed our researches into this matter we might find that these problems are not as complicated as we tend to make them, and that the truth is much nearer home than we have thought, and arises from the fact that we have allowed out-of-date laws concerning the social habits of the people to remain on the Statute Book, so that not only the police but the general law have been brought into contempt.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his Bill. I am certainly appreciative of the efforts of his right hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary during the Committee stage, but I hope that the Home Secretary will give the House the firmest assurance that if he finds that we are right and he is wrong, he will come back to the House and ask for the additional powers which may be necessary.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I believe that the Home Secretary will be right, as the Home Office has, in my view, been right over the Street Offences Act. I have not varied one whit, as those who served on the Standing Committee know, in the very strong view that in this respect we should have betting offices and that street betting should end. I hoped at that time to carry a number of Member of the Committee with me, and, to some extent, the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish).
1327 What is it that we all want to achieve? I think we can restate it simply. First, we want an adequate opportunity to be able to place our bets. Secondly, we want to be able to bet with the certainty of payment; and I mean by that, not only the punter but the bookmaker. Thirdly, we want to get an easy enforcement of the law for the police, and also the creation of respect for that law. Fourthly, many of us—I am one of them and the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is most certainly another—want to do everything we can to help the sport of horse racing.
These four things can be done only by betting offices. This is a new approach to the matter. First of all, when I was carefully considering how we could get the benefit of what is proposed by the Peppiatt Committee, it became quite obvious to me that nothing could be done to ensure that bookmakers paid a contribution for the benefit of racing unless, first of all, we could get them all licensed. The only way we could get them all licensed would be to ensure that we would get them somewhere where we could license them. I will deal in due course with the question of the allocation of pitches mentioned by the hon. Member for Bermondsey. Therefore, it seems to me that the first thing we have to do is to try to turn the bookmakers' trade into a decent profession, and what I want to do is to try to better them and give them a greater sense of responsibility and respectability.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I believe that there is adequate opportunity to place bets if there is the opportunity to do it on the telephone, on the course, by means of a factory runner, or by going to some office or shop set up for the purpose. It cannot be said that then there is not an adequate opportunity, and that one has to do it in the street. That is against the whole tenor of our legislation. We have not only taken the girls off the street, but we are taking the street vendors off She street except in certain recognised public fairs, mainly in country districts. I know that there is Petticoat Lane, but the whole tenor is against that. If betting goes off the street but offices are licensed there will be adequate opportunities to bet.
1328 Secondly, I come to the certainty of payment, which I think would be so much better at the betting office, for this reason. If we license the offices, one of the conditions will be that they shall be properly conducted, and if these offices are not properly conducted, the following year the application for that licence may be opposed. During the Committee stage, we were very careful to see that one of the grounds for opposing a man's licence in the following year should be that he was financially unstable. If he does not meet his obligations, he will lose his licence the following year. Thereby, we shall undoubtedly meet the condition of getting a greater guarantee of payment for the punter and the guarantee of payment for the bookmaker.
Once the bookmaker has established his licence, the National Bookmakers' Protection Association will become a real trade association. At the moment it is nothing. It will become a very important body, because it will be necessary for each licensed bookmaker to become a member of the trade. The Association will lay down a decent code of conduot. As bookmakers will all be members of a licensed trade, they will become very much like the publicans and have very much the same standards. That is What I want to see.
I think that not only will the object be achieved of securing better payment for punters, but that bookmakers will soon have lists, so that anyone who has big debts and fails to pay will not be able to get his money on with any bookmaker. In a short time that object will be achieved.
§ Mr. Paget rose—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I will give way in a few minutes, but I want to follow this point through.
As to police enforcement, every police force in the country seems to be unanimously of the view that supervision will be very much better and easier for them. It must be conceded that it is much easier to supervise a law where there are licensed offices and rules laid down than to try to exercise effective supervision in the streets. It cannot then be done so easily. Not only can enforcement not be carried out so easily, but respect cannot be maintained.
1329 That leads me to the topic which has been of such deep concern. There is no doubt that there has been a certain amount of police corruption. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Dudley that nothing causes more juvenile delinquency than the belief that the police can be bribed; not necessarily that they can be bribed, but the belief that they can be bribed. In my experience in the courts I have come across many cases recently of young men who seem to be of that opinion, namely, that the police are corrupt.
We must take every step to ensure that there is no opportunity for corruption. There is a much greater opportunity and temptation for corruption where betting can be conducted in the streets than when it is conducted in properly set up offices. The opportunity for corruption, the opportunity for underhand things to go on and the inability properly to supervise, will arise if street betting is legalised much more than they will if there are properly set up licensed betting offices. On that score, the office is better than the street.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) takes me with him almost completely, yet he has not faced the core of my argument, namely, that conditions are such that betting offices may not take root because of the economic conditions which exist in the South of England, high rent charges, and the fact that the places are not physically available.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I will come to that.
Having talked about the opportunity to bet, enforcement of bets, respect for the law, and police supervision, my next point is the levy. I want to see horse racing benefit. Every one of us in the House and almost every one in the Jockey Club and everywhere else has been trying to achieve that. We have discussed every conceivable method to try to assist. We have talked about having a tax on the blower and of trying to find a method of general taxation on turnover, and so on. Archie Scott— God bless him—and those who have worked for him, applying their minds to it, recognise that the Government can only license. Bookmakers have to get a licence. Till we can have some method whereby one can determine who the bookmakers are and get the bookmakers, 1330 by virtue of their desire to have a licence, to disclose their turnover we shall not be able to hinge on to it the wanted levy.
Of course, I do not want to see the system go out of the window, because I want to see the money, and the hon. Member for Dudley, who is interested in the Totalisator, also wants to see the money. Of course, he wants to see the system work, because if it works the money will come.
The Scots have introduced a startling number of successes into our law. One of them is known as the law of diminished responsibility in our present law on murder. Many of the laws the Scots have passed have been for our benefit. I am minded to think that the Scottish system as it operates at present can be introduced and reborn in this country.
§ Mr. Paget
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has made the point that the system proposed by the Bill should be maintained because it involves licensing bookmakers. Licensing bookmakers is common to both schemes. Licensing is the same whether the betting shop is the centre, with the runners in the factory and on the milk round, or whether it is a betting office, with the bets taken in the street. The Amendment in page 1, line 11, standing in the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends and my name, provides that the bet must be paid on the subsequent day and be accompained by an account. That imposes upon the bookmaker carrying on street betting the obligation not only to have a licence, but also to keep accounts, which have to be passed to the customer. If there is a breach of those provisions by the runner, the bookmaker's licence is imperilled.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I appreciate the points made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and I was going to conclude with that aspect. The hon. and learned Member sought to forestall what I wanted to say briefly about it. I do not believe that the subsection he has put down is enforceable or could be supervised in any manner. It says:It shall be lawful for the holder of a bookmaker's permit or for his servants or agents duly authorised by him in writing …1331 If a police officer stops someone in those circumstances, that person can produce a piece of paper. The words are:authorised by him in writing".The proposed subsection continues:to accept in a street or public place written instructions accompanied by cash from persons desiring to bet with him or his principal …The whole of this very complicated setup, giving rights to hand over winnings on the following day, is quite impracticable. I can well visualise someone printing a whole lot of forged slips with the names of bookmakers on them in order to produce them in the streets. I can see a whole industry growing up around this system. I do not think that that is required, necessary, or enforceable.
Street betting is offensive and undesirable for the future. At present it is illegal. It is, therefore, at the discretion of the chief constable of the neighbourhood. Consequently he may say, "We know that the men who meet at the dock gates in Bermondsey or outside the factories in Dudley are perfectly respectable agents for bookmakers."There is no such thing as the street bookmaker. There is only the runner for the street bookmaker. The bookmaker is never caught. He always stays behind in his own private premises.
§ Mr. Paget rose—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I do not want to be interrupted any more.
The hon. Member for Dudley talked about premises. The street bookmaker already has premises. His own premises, which are his own offices at the moment, will continue to remain the official licensed premises which he will take in many cases. I do not share the view that it is necessary to have betting offices in main streets, as Burtons and the Fifty Shilling Tailors are in main streets. Many people will want and be prepared to go to offices upstairs, round the corners, in the small streets. Many women may not want everyone to know that they are having a bet every day, and will be very happy to go to small offices like that.
Let us turn to future dangers. Betting in the street is today virtually legal. The men carry on normally, and there are therefore no troubles. In the main, 1332 the police close their eyes to this betting, and these people carry on. Every now and then, there is a raid, a fine of 40s. or, perhaps, £5 is paid, and on it goes again. If these street transactions become illegal, there certainly will be troubles.
Let us take it the other way round and suppose that we legalise street betting. We could not legalise a particular pitch. We could not say, "You are licensed to have Hyde Park Corner"—that is a public highway—so the idea advanced by the hon. Member for Bermondsey is not possible.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Because one cannot license someone to have part of the public highway on which to do business—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
The street vendor is not entitled to say, "I am a street vendor, so I am entitled to have a pitch in Piccadilly Circus or the Haymarket." If we give these people a licence to be licensed street vendors, I promise the House that we will get a war. If two of these big men are given a street licence in a particular area of the East End of London, each will try to push the other out, and we shall get the same system.
We have the precedent in the point-to-points. It is well known that the failure of the National Hunt Committee to get proper control over point-to-points leads to wholesale bribery and rivalry between gangs to get the best pitches. The result is the wretched odds obtained at point-to-points. If one is trying to place a bet on a race at a point-to-point and there are six runners on the board, one finds that it is two to one on the favourite and two to one against all the rest. The reason for that is the large sums of money being paid for these pitches, and the fact that it is in the hands of strong-arm men. The whole point about the Comer case was the fights which were going on in that connection.
I really believe—and I would not say it if I did not, and I am not wholly without experience of these matters— that if street betting is made lawful there 1333 is danger of gang warfare among these people, thereby making supervision difficult for the police and enforcement really impossible. My main point, however, is that adequate opportunities to bet in these offices, and on the telephone and on the Tote, will provide a better chance of enforcement. The man in the office has to be respectable. We shall be able to get our levy for the benefit of horse racing, which we all want, and we shall make enforcement easier for the police. For those reasons, I hope that both here and in another place the Government will stand absolutely firm on this.
I entirely agree with Mr. Curling's letter in the Daily Telegraph. I made the point in Committee, and I repeat it now, that if there is any criticism of the Bill it really turns on whether or not one wishes the offices to close in the afternoon—to have limitation of betting hours. It is, however, quite idle to say that to permit street betting would do anything to discourage the quantity of betting. To limit betting one would have to close these places in the afternoon. To accept the Amendment would be unwise. I do not think that there is a social evil here, and I believe that, on the whole, the present system is well framed.
§ Mr. F. Harris
I, too, feel that street betting should have been legalised. I have expressed that view to the Undersecretary of State, and I am only too sorry that our debates in Committee did not bring about that result. Like the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), I hope that the Government are correct and that the Bill will achieve what we all so much desire. What I am strongly opposed to—and I want to make myself very clear about this—is the creation of betting shops. They are not wanted— certainly not in the South of England.
In thirteen years I have never had a single request from anyone at all for the establishment of a betting shop in Croydon, and I very much doubt whether any other hon. Member has had a single similar request. I can only share the view of the hon. Member for Dudley that, apart from any other problem, it will be most difficult to create such shops in a place like Croydon, where there just are not the premises available.
1334 Apart from the fact that I have not had a single request for betting shops, I am sure that if they come into being hon. Members will have a lot of trouble. Imagine the situation of anyone who has to live near a betting shop, or has premises almost next door to one. However well-controlled the shop may be, it will be most difficult to ensure that there is no loitering there, with all the consequent disturbance.
I do not know exactly to what the Government will eventually decide about hours of opening, but if the shops are to be kept open during racing hours it must encourage increased betting. Young people will be tempted to go from work in order to hang about the betting shops to put on extra bets—
§ Mr. Harris
Yes, and the housewife who goes shopping is almost bound to be tempted to do likewise.
This must increase the amount of betting which, I understand, is the last thing that the House wants, it must increase the amount of annoyance and, as I say, hon. Members will have a great deal of trouble, particularly in the South of England. I am extremely sorry that the Government have not seen their way clear to legalise street betting which, I think, does very little ill to anyone at present, but have succumbed to the creation of betting shops. Speaking at least on behalf of my part of Croydon, I am certain that betting shops are not required, and I sincerely hope that they do not come into being.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I support the Amendment because, since our Second Reading debate, I have changed my mind on this subject. On Second Reading, I tended to be influenced by the views of the Royal Commission and, on the whole, to favour betting shops and to be against offices, but I found the Standing Committee on the Bill a very liberal education. I am sorry that the Home Secretary did not share that education; his right hon. Friend is now a better educated man than he in this important matter.
I do not think that there is any substitute for what we went through in that Committee for learning about people's betting habits. Only when we had hon. Members from all parts of the country 1335 contributing to the discussion did we discover the real facts. I learned a tremendous amount about betting shops in the North, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) told us, in particular, of street betting in the South. I was also much educated by speeches from hon. Gentlemen opposite. In the end they did not always vote as they had spoken, but I was greatly influenced by what many of them told us.
Eventually, it seemed to me that the right thing to do was to let these reasonably harmless and decent habits find their own level; that it was wrong to try to coerce people into using only one form of cash betting. Though at present illegal, street betting as it now occurs seems to be just as reasonable and harmless as betting in betting shops, which is also illegal at the moment.
I came to the conclusion that we ought to let things find their own level and not push people around. What I really object to is that the Government are compelling people to use betting shops whether they want to or not. I regard this as wrong. It is wrong in the South. It is perfectly all right in the North and in Scotland. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State telling us that there are many other ways of betting, that people can bet in betting shops, through factory runners, or through the milkman, about whom we talked a good deal. That makes the argument worse. If there are all those other ways of betting, why not have one more, the one which many people in the South really like and want, namely, betting in the street?
Since we started this operation, we have had a credit squeeze. There is no doubt that betting offices will involve much larger capital expenditure than street betting in the South. We should consider very carefully whether we ought to do this now and really drive people to this new method, whether they want it or not, with all the force of the law. We should not compel people to act in defiance of the law if they wish merely to go on with their ordinary social habits. Yet this is what we shall finish by doing.
In the South, many people want to go on betting as they have been used to bet and they really will be compelled to 1336 act in defiance of the law if they continue. We should not bring about such a situation. The arguments which have led us, on the whole, to say that the betting shop in the North and in Scotland is a good idea because it fits in with social habits there ought to lead us to say that we should allow street betting in the South because it is an established, decent and reasonable social habit.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I expected the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) to continue for one of those marathons which so much typified the work of the Committee.
§ Mr. Butler
None at all.
In reply to the right hon. Member for Smethwick, I should like to say that I quite agree that the education which can be derived from an association with such a number of sittings in Committee as were taken by Standing Committee D must provide one of our finer forms of education. I am sorry that this university course was not mine. I have, however, spent the whole time since I have been at the Home Office pondering on these matters, day and night, and I have done the penance of reading all the OFFICIAL REPORTS of the Committee's proceedings, which, I think, is more fatiguing than listening, because, in listening, one sees the different, glistening forms of human nature, whereas the columns of HANSARD are not all so enlivening.
My right hon. Friend the Joint Undersecretary of State has received many compliments during the debate today. I, also, wish to thank him for the work he did together with my hon. and learned Friend the other Joint Under-Secretary of State and the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. I wish to make this further general observation. I have spent a good deal of my public life either in public office or out of it, and I have come to the conclusion that the work must be shared, yet the very people who tell me sometimes that I take on too 1337 much are the very people who tell me that I must spend the whole of my time on the Betting and Gaming Bill.
When I was again asked to take on the duties of the Home Office, I was only too glad to know that my right hon. Friend would be able to help me. In the ancient British tradition, the division of labour is an extremely good thing. It takes the credit with it, and the credit for the work on this Bill goes to my right hon. Friend and my other colleagues, not to myself. I am equally satisfied, nevertheless, that I have been able to exercise my duty as Secretary of State in this matter, and I hope that I shall be able to answer the debate without having had the advantage of the education to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.
I must tell the right hon. Gentleman, who has had this fine, advanced, university education, that he came out with an absolute "whopper" in his five-minute speech. He made a totally ignorant remark, saying that the Government were compelling people to bet in betting shops. I noticed, in the general atmosphere of the House, the sense of disgust which hon. Members felt at the right hon. Gentleman's ignorance after his long period of education.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well what I meant. It is my general education which is lacking, not my education in this matter. What I meant was that the Government are driving them off the streets in a way which really is wrong.
§ Mr. Butler
I gather that the right hon. Gentleman has agreed that there are certain defects in his education. I once wrote to congratulate him on his book on philosophy. The real trouble is that he comes from a university called Oxford, which does not provide him with sufficient training adequately to express his opinions, although, in the case of his recent book, I felt that he really did deserve our attention.
The decision we have to make here is an extremely difficult one. While from the point of view of pure procedure it could be said that the matter had been sufficiently argued in Committee—it was argued for about seven sittings in Committee—it is good that we should have an opportunity to consider it further 1338 today. The only regret I have is that there has not been more participation by hon. Members in the House as a whole. To that extent, it is a slightly disagreeable abuse of our procedure; it would have been very agreeable if hon. and right hon. Members who had not been on the Committee had brought their minds to bear on the subject.
The question put by the Amendment is whether we amend the law in the sense suggested by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and his hon. Friends in the various Amendments we are discussing, whether we leave things as they are, or whether we reform the law in the way suggested, which has been majestically and triumphantly secured by the passage of the Bill through Committee. It is a very difficult decision. Listening to the debate this afternoon, I could well understand the reason why certain hon. and right hon. Members have hesitations. Indeed, at least two right hon. Members have had a change of mind in the course of their consideration of the issues involved.
I feel sure that the right hon. Member for South Shields, as he said in his speech today, was at one time, some years ago, tolerant of the idea of betting shops. He now has doubts. The right hon. Member actually spoke in favour of them during the Second Reading debate, and he is now doubtful.
§ Mr. Ede
I am not opposing betting shops. I want to make that quite clear. For people who want to use them, they should be available. But I know very many people who speak the English language well without having been to a university who prefer to use the street bookmaker. I wish them to have their chance. If they do not, they may use the English language far too coarsely.
§ Mr. Butler
The right hon. Gentleman has made his position quite clear on this matter. I have followed, through his speeches, exactly what he feels, and I appreciate the conclusion which he has now reached in this matter.
I listened with interest to the speeches made in the debate. I have tried to understand the motives of the supporters of the Amendment. As far as I can follow it, their motive is to make it possible to legalise the status quo. Why not, they suggest, leave things alone and let people go on as naturally as possible? 1339 Then we may be able to achieve some improvement.
I wish to summarise briefly the reasons which move the Government not to accept this point of view. Very briefly, the reasons—we feel them strongly—are these. The street is not a proper place in which to bet. That is a consideration which, to my mind, overweighs and smothers the licensing difficulties referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), although those licensing difficulties are very great. Our second reason is that any relaxation would allow further solicitation for betting to take place.
Thirdly, it would, I think, be difficult to prevent betting with young persons, about which, in my opinion, we have not heard enough in this debate today. Next the legalisation of street betting would mean that bookmakers on the streets would no longer have to be unobtrusive. They would have to be obtrusive. The mover and supporters of the Amendment have suggested that they should be licensed and should have pitches. Nothing can be more obtrusive than that. Lastly, we believe that alternative means of betting are being provided in the Bill. It is on the basis of those arguments that I want to persuade the House to reject the Amendment.
It is simple to feel that by accepting the Amendment we would make agreeable and pleasant the present position. But what I have just said in the summary of our main reasons as a Government emerges when one examines the matter more closely. By accepting the Amendment we would make the street the place in which betting took place. The supporters of the Amendment say, "Yes, and you would, therefore, make legal a situation which is at present illegal. You will have no police trouble." I dare say that we would not have police trouble, but we would have other trouble of a social character which I think would be just as bad for law and morality as we are suffering from now.
I would go so far as to say that the Street Betting Act has, in a curious sort of perverted way, controlled betting rather more than would any alternative suggested by the Amendment. For example, the Royal Commission on 1340 Lotteries and Betting, in 1932-33, stated, in paragraph 283:In our view, those who propose that the Street Betting Act should be repealed are blinded, by the serious partial failure of the Act, to what the Act has in fact effected.The Act, in fact, had the following effect, that it instituted a considerable degree of control by the police. If I had to choose between the present very unsatisfactory situation under the Street Betting Act and the Amendment, I am not sure that I would not rather leave things as they are. But I am not prepared to leave things as they are because of the difficulty with the police. Rather than take up the Amendment, I would prefer to take up the proposal that we have in the Bill.
To make my case absolutely strong and clear, I should like to dismiss the present situation. The right hon. Member for South Shields, who has a life-long interest in this matter, interviewed a gentleman, whose name he gave, who represented the street bookmakers. This gentleman told him about the money that he paid the look-out man and the general racket that goes on today. The right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to tell us that the gentleman he interviewed would prefer to alter the system, but I must ask the House to consider how thoroughly unsatisfactory is this system.
As, in this age, I am asked to take general responsibility for law and order, I can tell hon. Members that while I delayed the Bill's introduction because of the difficulties I came to the conclusion that I could not leave either the Metropolitan Police or the provincial police in the position that they are. This would bring the law into contempt. The picture given by the right hon. Gentleman shows how contemptuous one can be about the present position, and, therefore, we have to find the alternative.
In looking for the alternative, it is attractive to think that we should just leave things as they are but legalise them. One or two of my legal friends recommended that course to me, but I think that that shows an underestimate of our real motive. We do not want betting in the streets or public places. We do not want it for moral reasons and we do not want it because we believe that the streets are not the place for that 1341 sort of thing. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet mentioned the Street Offences Act, and the trouble that we have had in dealing with the problem of the girls in prostitution. I do not want to put these two matters in the same sentence or paragraph. They have nothing to do with one another at all. The only similarity which they have is that in neither case is the street the right place to carry on activity.
We have, therefore, taken perhaps a stronger line in objecting to street betting than hon. Members, whose doubts are quite legitimate, realise. It is on the basis of objecting to street betting that I want now to proceed. I want to refer to the recent Royal Commission, having referred to the one of 1932-33. Paragraph 228 of the Report of the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming, of 1949–51, reads:If it"—that is, the Street Betting Act—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, before a bus queue, at the entrance to a sports ground, or wherever he might hope to attract customers. The imposition of a licensing system and the provision of penalties for solicitation might do something to reduce inducements to betting, but there would undoubtedly be a great increase in the opportunities for betting in the streets which would hardly be welcome to those who did not wish to take advantage of them. Moreover, control by the police and the prevention of betting by young persons would be very difficult.
§ Mr. Mellish
Because the ladies and gentlemen of that Royal Commission said that, it is absolute nonsense to think that, in fact, a bookmaker would get clients, who had never seen him before and were never likely to see him again, by going to bus queues and outside sports grounds. It is nonsense to think that the British people are so dull-witted that they would give money to such people, and the Home Secretary, whose intelligence I rate extremely highly, cannot ask us to accept that argument. I do not know what sort of people they were on this Commission. They sound "barmy" to me.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Butler
The hon. Member has made his speech, and we did not interrupt him. The beauty of interruptions is that they do not enable one to proceed 1342 with the argument that one was developing. I feel much indebted to the hon. Member, however, for allowing me to follow up what he said.
I knew that if I quoted the Royal Commission of 1932-33, which has a very great deal of colour and information attached to it, or the second Royal Commission, I should, be characterised as being associated with some fusty and out-of-date but really academic people and as having no knowledge of how the British people work, bet, live, eat, drink, or do anything else. I have been a Member of Parliament for thirty-one years, and if I do not know how my people behave I want to find someone who does. There may not be so much betting in Saffron Walden as there is in Bermondsey, but we understand other aspects of life better.
Having disposed of the hon. Member's argument that I am associated with fusty and academic people, I come to the real point of his intervention, which is that this is a rather exaggerated picture. It is. I was about to say so. The hon. Member said it better than I could say it; and if I have a dog to bark, why should I bark myself? As I say, I am grateful to the hon. Member. It is an exaggerated picture. The only way not to make it an exaggerated picture and to stop the bookmaker from going to the steps of St. Paul's or outside any of our sacred edifices is to have a licensing system.
We examined the question of a licensing system extremely carefully. We considered whether we could place this matter on the shoulders of the justice of the peace. We considered whether there could be a definite defined number of pitches. We considered whether we thought this would work. Nothing that I have heard today has convinced me that a licensing system could be made to work. What my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet said about the difficulty of a licensing system was proved by all our discussions before we brought in the Bill. We discussed the question with the representative interests and with all those of whose information we could have the benefit, and we came to the conclusion that it would not work.
I want to get back to the main point of what I was saying earlier. Even if we found a licensing system which 1343 would work, the objection to betting in the street is, in my opinion, the one by which we should stand. As that is our view, I do not see how we can possibly accept the Amendment.
The question of juveniles is very difficult. We have done our best, thanks to Government Amendments and certain others now on the Notice Paper, to try to stop the extension of betting to juveniles. We shall not be entirely successful by what we are trying to do, but I believe that it will be easier to control juveniles by the system of offices that we have introduced. What we have done is all set out in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Joint Undersecretary in Committee at c. 107.
We have made possible every sort of betting facility to the British people except betting in a public place. That is the effect of the work done by the Committee upstairs. I would not like the right hon. Gentleman or any hon. Member of that Committee to underestimate what it has done. They have made the law much more realistic. They have improved the position of the factory runner. It is possible to place a bet with the agents of bookmakers if it is not done in a public place and there is a great variety of Amendments, which I have studied in detail, which the Committee carried through. This has made the law much nearer what I wanted it to be than when the Bill went upstairs to Committee.
One thing, however, to which neither I nor the Government are prepared to agree is that we should encourage betting in the street. I hope, therefore, that the House will accept the fact that we cannot accept the Amendment. I hope that hon. Members will also accept that this has been a reasonable debate.
I am left with only one remark by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). He asked whether the Government would reconsider the matter if they were wrong. We have had to take some fairly drastic action in other spheres, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet pointed out, and so far our judgment has been vindicated.
I come back, however, to what was said by the right hon. Member for South Shields. To legislate for our social habits is a difficult thing. We shall cure some 1344 evils by this Measure and I hope that it will work, as something similar to it has worked in the north of England, in Ireland and in parts of Scotland. I believe that it will be better than the existing system.
I do not know who will be in office at the time we bring the Bill into operation. All I can say is that any Government of the day—I certainly speak for the present Administration—should watch the social laws and be prepared to be elastic in dealing with abuse. If one is elastic in dealing with abuse, all I can say is, god speed to us in the improvements made by the Standing Committee. But I cannot, and will not, preside at the Home Office and encourage further betting in public places.
§ Mr. Paget
I found myself in agreement with almost only one point made by the Home Secretary. That was when he said that the existing system was profoundly unsatisfactory. It brings the law into contempt. Therefore, I have always greatly wished to see a Government with the courage to deal with the betting law. I find all the more regret, therefore, that the Government should have done so in a way which is so bad in its present form that I shall have to vote against the Third Reading of the Bill. Unsatisfactory as the present position is, for the reasons which I shall give, I believe that after the Bill comes into operation the position will be even more unsatisfactory.
Both in Committee and in the House, the question has been debated at length. Save for the Government Front Bench, however, the only speech in favour, either in the House or in Committee, was that of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). In effect, he speaks for the big bookmaker. These proposals, of course, are the point of view of the big bookmaker, who is their only friend.
One matter can be disposed of. In Committee, this issue was very much fogged by the question of the Peppiatt proposals being in the background. Hon. Members opposite, whose main and very proper interest was to secure a subvention to racing, did not wish to interfere with the scheme put forward by the Government for fear that the Peppiatt solution might be prevented from becoming available for the financing of racing. Now, we have had the Peppiatt proposals. We 1345 know that they are not coming into the Bill, and we further know that the proposals which we are now bringing forward would in no way obstruct the working of the Peppiatt proposals.
Another point has been made strongly. Indeed, this was almost the basis of the speech of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet. He said that a licensing system was necessary and that we could only have a licensing system if we had betting shops. I find that particularly difficult. The Home Secretary is introducing a licensing system. We are providing that anybody who makes a book without a licence commits an offence, but we are not providing that the holder of a licence must have a shop. The holder of a shop may employ runners. Those runners must not operate in the street, but they can operate in the factory, without any supervision at all, where they are in breach of factory discipline and where, if they are found out, they can be dismissed—I raised this point in Committee —for gross breach of industrial discipline; and for that gross breach, proposed and encouraged by the Government, their unemployment pay will be suspended.
In that factory, the runners will have unlimited access to juveniles. We are also providing that the bookmaker who has to be licensed, but does not have a shop, can employ canvassers, such as the milkman, who can go round without supervision from house to house collecting bets. This is a system which it is said, is preferable to betting in the streets, where it can be controlled.
The general principles on which I approach betting are these. I do not regard betting as morally wrong in any way unless it is taken to excess, but what in life does not become morally wrong if it is taken to excess—even virtue? Whilst I regard betting as morally neutral one way or the other, I regard it as a mug's game. I was chided with saying that I was in favour of children betting. I am not in favour of children betting any more than I am in favour of children having measles or chickenpox, but I am in favour of them getting over measles, chickenpox and betting as young and as cheaply as possible.
§ Mr. Paget
Probably he is at least educated to the point that he takes the bet to where the odds are in his favour.
Leaving that aside, however, what I think about betting in the main—this is my greatest objection to the betting shop system being imposed and being free from street competition—is that it is unproductive and sterile, as all gambling occupations are. I disagree somewhat with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) in saying that the amount of betting remains constant. That is contrary to all experience. When there is a new vehicle of gambling and when there is a new gambling concession, gambling is always created in the process.
I point first to the pools. They are a sufficiently obvious influence in our lives today. The pools are an interest which no Government can ignore. They have become a power in the land because they represent an awful lot of money. They are not—let us face it— very ethical people who run this; they are rather a rough lot. To create an interest of that sort in our community is unhealthy in the body politic.
Then there is dog racing. Once, in a small way, a hare was wound up and run round by an old car engine. Now more than £100 million of capital is invested in greyhound tracks—more than the Government lost over Blue Streak. That is more than £100 million of sterile, unproductive capital in the greyhound racing racket, which is no more than an animated roulette wheel.
How people are prepared to have the greyhound form of gambling and yet object to a municipal casino is beyond my belief. Let us look at what happens at greyhound racing tracks. There is the level of luxury in the admirable restaurant and the waiter who comes to the table between each race to take one's bet; there is the comfort and pleasantness of the whole thing.
These shops will be a new gambling concession. They will not be shops like the weekday Shops of Glasgow or York, but new concessions which will be protected because the street bookmaker, like 1347 the prostitute, will be driven off the streets. They will be protected by a licensing system which will build up monopoly values. Before very long, big new capital—sterile and sterilised— will be brought in under this Bill. It will be very big money indeed.
Added to the power of the pools and of the greyhound tracks, this new big money interest linked with gambling will come into our body politic. That is what I really fear about this Bill. We see how property prices are rocketing. This is a new demand for that sort of industrial property. We shall further force up those prices through the provisions of the Bill, with its utter fatuousness in stating that one may have the blower but not television. That sort of thing will not be maintained. The gambling shop will do what the greyhound track does.
Under this Bill, it will be legal to book a cinema or a restaurant and to have the blower, or the tape coming through from the dog tracks. They will be able to serve refreshments and to have waiters going round the tables and collecting bets. These waiters will, of course, be agents of the gamblers, and they will stroll next door to the betting shop, where they will hand the bets in over the counter. That is the sort of institution we shall have, perfectly legally, under this Bill, involving great new capital, competing for property in short supply and for power within our community and body politic. That is a dangerous thing to do.
As that new money comes in, so will it require to build up the amount of gambling. This can be done through advertising. They will be able to build up a market. Advertising is perfectly legal under the Bill, and we are providing something which has never been lawful before—canvassing. Under this Bill, the bookmaker, whether he be a man who also sells milk or matches or other goods, can canvass, can go from house to house or from factory to factory, building up a market to bring the earnings which the new capital coming in will require to attract if it is to be rewarded. This new system of collection will be a creation of the Bill.
I wish to deal with the four reasons put forward by the Home Secretary as 1348 to why he rejects this Amendment. Firstly, he says that the street is not the proper place. For the greater part of England, and of this great City, it has been a proper place for a couple of generations, and what harm is there in handing over a piece of paper with some coins in it? It is really much better for the bookmaker to be at the gate of the factory rather than inside, dodging the foreman and being a nuisance to everyone. He is better in the street than canvassing houses.
The second point concerned further solicitation. This Bill, for the first time, legalises solicitation. It will create the circumstances through which new capital interests can bring advertising and canvassing, because they will be legal.
The third point concerned young persons. It is infinitely easier to control these runners in the street than it is in the factory. In this Amendment we would be introducing an entirely new sanction; they would no longer have to be obtrusive. They would be far more unobtrusive and far better behaved because the sanction against them would be so enormously larger.
What did they care if they paid that periodical visit to the magistrate and produced their couple of quid? They had far more expensive things, including bribery to the police. But if the sanction were an annual appearance before the licensing magistrates and the loss of licence by the principal, if the runner did not behave himself, that would keep order on the streets and would enable the police to see that this was orderly. That is what enables the pitch system to work.
The runner is authorised. He must be authorised as to a particular place. If he were out of that particular place then he would be outside his authority and committing an offence. Because these chaps would have to behave in a manner which does not annoy the police and does not annoy neighbours and make them complain to the police, because they would have to behave themselves or otherwise imperil their licences, we would have an ideal and self-policing system within this.
I think that my right hon. Friend's proposals were supported in the speeches, 1349 if not in the votes, of every Member of the Committee with the single exception of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, who was putting the big bookmaker's joint of view and not much else. As it stands, the Bill is a tremendous charter for the big bookmaker, and before two or three years have passed there will be only Copes and Hills. In that monopoly situation, they will be able to build up because they will be powerful enough to buy up the other firms, possibly installing the former owner as a manager. This is a very dangerous social experiment, and if we go on with it we shall create a situation even worse than that which we now find.
§ Mr. Fletcher
May I trespass on the indulgence of the House for two or three minutes to express my own personal point of view? I do so because it differs from that of my hon. and right hon. Friends and because I, too, listened to a great deal of the debates in Committee.
I agree with much of what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said in his criticisms of the Bill's proposals. I share his doubts about the way that the Bill will work out and I think it may create monopolies and a situation with which the House will have to deal at a subsequent date. My hon. and learned Friend said that he intended to vote against the Third Reading. I intend to vote against the Third Reading, although not for precisely the same reasons.
I part company from my hon. and learned Friend because, although he has given valid reasons for voting against the Third Reading, he has not given valid reasons in support of the Amendments which we are now discussing and which would have the effect of licensing street betting. I was very impressed with the lucid way in which the Home Secretary marshalled the arguments against street betting. I agree with
§ him and I think that we are in real difficulty in dealing with this social problem.
§ We must all realise that there is no ideal solution and that there will be defects in whatever solution we ultimately reach. However, I cannot bring myself to believe that a system of licensed street betting will be any improvement on licensed betting offices, much as I understand the objection to licensed betting offices and much as I dislike the thought that people in London and the South of England will be driven to using betting offices and adopting a form of betting which is not characteristic of their habits.
§ However, there is a world of difference between preserving the status quo with all its anomalies and licensing street betting as my hon. and learned Friend proposes. With licensed street betting, we do not preserve the status quo, but introduce something quite different. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) pointed out in Committee that one of the reasons why the present system worked was precisely because it was not a legalised system. As the Home Secretary said, it was subject to control. There may be many offences, but the system works.
§ If we had legalised street betting, we would not be preserving the status quo, but introducing a different system in which we would get all the disadvantages of solicitation and opportunities for young people to bet, and we would make betting obstrusive. Fundamentally, as the Home Secretary said, the street is not the right place for betting.
§ Those are my main reasons for not sharing the views of a great many of my hon. and right hon. Friends.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 25, Noes 137.1351
|Division No. 79.]||AYES||[7.44 p.m.|
|Baird, John||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P.C.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hale, Laslie (Oldham, W.)||Mulley, Frederick|
|Blyton, William||Hayman, F. H.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)||Hunter, A. E.||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Chetwynd, George||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Stross,Dr.Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent. C.)|
|Deer, George||King, Dr. Horace||Wigg, George|
|Driberg, Tom||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Ede, Bt. Hon. Chuter||Marsh, Richard||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Mellish and Mr. Paget.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Allason, James||Glover, Sir Douglas||Peel, John|
|Arbuthnot, John||Goodhart, Philip||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Goodhew, Victor||Pitman, I. J.|
|Batsford, Brian||Green, Alan||Pott, Percivall|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Bidgood, John C.||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Bingham, R. M.||Hendry, Forbes||Ramsden, James|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hiley, Joseph||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Bossom, Clive||Hooking, Philip N.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Box, Donald||Holland, Philip||Renton, David|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hornby, R. P.||Roots, William|
|Braine, Bernard||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Brewis, John||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Sharpies, Richard|
|Brooman-White, R.||Hughes-Young, Michael||Shaw, M.|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Iremonger, T. L.||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Jackson, John||Smithers, Peter|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Jennings, J. C.||Talbot, John E.|
|Chataway, Christopher||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Temple, John M.|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Kershaw, Anthony||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Collard, Richard||Kirk, Peter||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Kitson, Timothy||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Corfield, F. V.||Langford-Holt, J.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Costain, A. P.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Turner, Colin|
|Coulson, J. M.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Linstead, Sir Hugh||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Critchley, Julian||Litchfield, Capt. John||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Crowder, F. P.||MacArthur, Ian||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Cunningham, Knox||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Wall, Patrick|
|Curran, Charles||Maitland, Cdr. J. W.||Ward, Rt. Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Marten, Neil||Watts, James|
|Diamond, John||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Mawby, Ray||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Duncan, Sir James||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Elliott, R. W.||Mills, Stratton||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Emery, Peter||Morgan, William||Woollam, John|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Neave, Airey||Worsley, Marcus|
|Farr, John||Noble, Michael|
|Fisher, Nigel||Owen, Will||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Fletcher, Eric||Page, A. J. (Harrow, West)||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Page, Graham||Mr. Whitelaw.|
§ Mr. Vosper
I beg to move, in page 2, line 6, to leave out "the purpose of effecting" and to insert:any purpose connected with the effecting of".
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that it would be for the convenience of the House if we also discussed the Amendments to lines 17 and 18, and the two Amendments to line 35.
§ Mr. Vosper
I think the Amendment to line 17 and the first Amendment to line 35 ought to go with the Amendment I have moved, but the Amendment to line 18 and the second Amendment to line 35 in the name of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland deal with a separate point.
§ Mr. Vosper
These three Amendments deal with a small and simple point. They are almost of a drafting nature. 1352 Clause 1 makes it an offence to keep an illegal betting office. It also makes it an offence to resort to an illegal betting office. The Clause, as drafted, makes no reference to any staff who may be employed in the office and not employed in a betting transaction. There could be someone like a chalker-up, or someone of that nature, who is on the staff of a big office but who is not taking part in the betting transaction. It seems right that the offence should extend to a person in that category. That is the purpose of these Amendments.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
The Question is—
§ Mr. Hale
Before you complete the putting of the Question, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may I say that some time between 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon and 2 o'clock this morning I tried to read through 1,280 columns of the 1353 Report of the Committee proceedings. I derived much more enjoyment than enlightenment, and I have now had the inestimable privilege of hearing five hon. Members of the Committee repeat much the same speeches in the course of the last two hours. I appreciate therefore that to intervene at all is perhaps a tactless act, but in the course of this point on this Clause the very real question was raised and discussed that here was another addition to our criminal law in which people would have to prove innocence instead of guilt—
§ Mr. Vosper
On a point of order. I think the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) is on the wrong point. He is dealing with the next group of Amendments.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 17, leave out "the purpose" and insert "such a purpose as is".
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 18, to leave out from "was" to "connected" and to insert:on the premises for bona fide purposes which were not".Perhaps it would be convenient, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to deal with the second Amendment to line 35 at the same time.
§ Mr. Renton
The only difference between those two Amendments is that one refers to subsection (4), which relates to England and Wales, and the other to subsection (6), which concerns Scotland.
Under those two subsections as they are drafted at the moment, as the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) was pointing out, the burden of proof is on the accused when he is found by the police on premises illegally used for betting by people resorting to them, and the burden of proof passes to the accused, the police having proved that he was found on those premises and that illegal betting was going on, to prove that he 1354 was not there for any purpose connected with the effecting of a betting transaction. As the hon. Member pointed out, we had a considerable discussion about it in Committee.
Since the Committee stage we have considered the two subsections to see whether we can make the burden of proof easier for people to discharge when they happen to be present for an innocent purpose although illegal betting may be going on. These Amendments are the result of our thoughts, and we hope that they are a considerable improvement. As a result of our Amendments a person found on premises illegally used in this way and charged with an offence under subsection (3), which is the substantive subsection, will be able to prove merely that he was there for some bona fide purpose other than betting—
§ Mr. Hale
What does the hon. and learned Gentleman mean by "merely"? In one case the accused man must go into the witness box and say, "I was not doing this," and in the other case he must say, "I was not doing that." In neither case can he call a witness to support him, because the other people present will probably have been charged with an offence. What difference does it make? How can a person exculpate himself if the evidence is that he was on certain premises, and he has to go into the witness box and say, "I was not there for a particular purpose"— whether it be purpose A or purpose B?
§ Mr. Renton
If the hon. Member will give me an opportunity to deploy my argument he will obtain an answer to his question.
The person who is charged will find, first, that the prosecution must make out its side of the case by proving that he was on the premises and that the premises were being used for illegal betting. If the prosecution succeed in this, the onus is passed to the accused, and he is able to discharge it and turn the burden of proof back to the prosecution—as often happens in our law, in practice— by saying that he was there for a bona fide purpose. How can he do that? Obviously it must depend upon the situation, but there are two examples which spring readily to mind. Let us assume 1355 that an electrician was called to the premises to mend a fuse or to carry out some kind of electrical work. The point may not depend only upon his evidence; he will no doubt wish to give evidence, but his employer or, if he is a small man in business, somebody working with him, or his partner, can corroborate his story that he went to these premises for the purpose of carrying out some electrical repairs. He will then have shown that he was there for a bona fide purpose and will have discharged the onus of proof upon him.
Again, let us assume that betting is going on illegally in a public house, which was the example referred to by the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) in Committee. Let us further assume that a person has gone into the public house, alone or with friends, in order to have a drink. Having a drink in the public house is a bona fide purpose for being there, and it is a different purpose from illegal betting. He will be able to discharge the onus first put upon him merely by saying that he went into the premises for a drink. If he has friends with him they may be able to support what he says.
If the defence discharges the onus in that way it returns to the prosecution. The practical effect is that subsection (3), under which the charge will be laid, can be used against people if they are on premises for a bona fide purpose only if they are caught red-handed.
§ Mr. Paget rose—
§ Mr. Renton
I am doing my best, and with your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I may be able to reply to any further points that are raised later.
§ Mr. Paget
In those circumstances, I should like to raise a point in connection with the example just given by the hon. and learned Member. If there is illegal betting in a public house and a man is charged with being on the premises, he may go into the witness box and say, "I went there for a drink." That is a legal purpose, and the burden then reverts to the prosecution. The prosecution may ask him, "Were you also having a bet?" The witness may say, 1356 "I decline to answer that question, on the ground that the answer may incriminate me. You have no other evidence and I am entitled to be acquitted". Does the hon. and learned Member say that the effect of the Amendment is that the man is then acquitted?
§ Mr. Renton
That would be the effect. That is what is intended. In other words, if a person has some other bona fide purpose for being on the premises in which legal betting is taking place, and he proves that he has a bona fide purpose, the prosecution will be able to obtain a conviction only if he is caught red-handed.
We feel that that is a much less burdensome position for a person to be in when found on premises illegally used for betting than the position he would be in under the Bill as drafted. We regard this as a considerable concession to the views expressed by hon. Members on both sides in Committee, and we feel that the provision is both workable and just.
§ Mr. Hale
I confess that I have not done my homework on this Amendment, and I am therefore speaking a little from memory when I say that it was in the year 1865 when this House, on arguments rather similar to those put forward by the Minister, passed a Measure which provided that anyone found in possession of Government property should, on proof being given to that effect before a court, be liable to conviction unless he could convince the court that his possession of that property was innocent. I have no doubt that at that time, when the last war was the Crimean War and most people who went there had died anyhow, possession of Government property could not easily be explained. It was then fairly reasonable to say, if a person was found in possession of Government property, that a convincing argument could be put forward to show that the possession was not lawful.
But then we moved forty years forward to the Great War, when almost every male had Government property in his possession, it having been issued to him, and then forward still further, to the period when Ministry of Supply sales meant that almost every person was wearing surplus war clothing. We went through that period, and we had to defend highly reputable people on 1357 charges of being in possession of Government property merely because, as so often happened with mass sales, the orders to remove the identification marks had never been carried out, and the goods still had the W.D. sign upon them.
Accused persons then had to go through the misery of the police courts, with cross-examination, and so on, and often had to say, "I just do not know. I bought lots of this stuff from time to time over the years, and I am not sure where this item came from. I could not present to the court a completely convincing explanation how it came into my possession." That is the situation which existed in the years following 1918, as I remember very well. And it made an impression upon me.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State asks us to suppose that there is a raid on some premises upon which betting is not allowed. Suppose the prosecuting authority—presumably the police—sees some evidence that betting has taken place. If there were thirty people present, in the very nature of things perfectly honest police giving perfectly honest evidence might be able to say, "We can identify about four, five or six, but we know there were more and we cannot actually identify just how many." Although these transactions were taking place there might have been other people present who might have been in another part of the room.
The hon. and learned Gentleman says those people should come to court and say, "I was not a party to the betting. I knew nothing about it." Let us look at the explanation which the hon. and learned Gentleman gave. He said that if there happened to be an electrician working on the premises, with his step ladder, he could go into the witness box and say, "I am an electrician. I was there doing a job of wiring."
Let us take the standard case of the "pub" selling drink after hours. I do not know how many hon. Members have been in a "pub" when drink has been sold after hours. In Oldham we had a healthy rule that so long as one went in before 10 o'clock and locked the door, nobody would inquire into what one did after that, and it worked extremely well —just as street bookmaking has been working extremely well.
1358 I do not take the view that this House should associate sin with crime, and had I made any observation on the proposals made by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) it would have been on the lines of an intervention during the Second Reading debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) when he wondered whether we should prosecute for these things at all. I think this House spends a lot of time in manufacturing unnecessary crime and that we should look rather carefully at this technique and wonder whether we are not using it unnecessarily.
What is the position? The police raid a licensed house where drink is being sold after 10 o'clock, if that be closing time. The result will be, mutatis mutandis, that the court will assume that all the people there are guilty unless they can go into the witness box and give some evidence of their innocence. The Minister says that if they go into the witness box and say, "We are prepared to give evidence that we were there for some other purpose," that evidence would shift back the onus of proof on to the prosecution. I fail to see how it works in accordance with our normal legal procedure. We have rules of evidence, which means that evidence for the Crown comes first, evidence in defence is given second, and evidence in rebuttal and so on is given within limitations.
But where does this business of the electrician come in? Is the Undersecretary of State going to say that if the police raid a public house, and if they find thirty people and twenty-five dirty glasses, it is a great concession to say that if one of the five who claims to be a supernumerary can establish—
§ Mr. Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it in order during the discussion on this Amendment to discuss the question of selling drink after hours? Surely this Amendment deals with the question of having betting transactions in an illegal place.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I understood the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) to be using this illustration to advance his argument. Certainly it would not be proper just to discuss the question of drinking after hours.
§ Mr. Hale
I have read the speeches of the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) on this subject with a great deal of interest and approval, but I think that his intervention reached less than his usual standard. I think it was apparent to every hon. Member that I was trying to cite what is a perfectly parallel example. Indeed, it may almost certainly be following the raiding of licensed premises that the provisions in this Clause will be applied. So I say let us look at the existing law, if the police raid licensed premises and charge people with drinking under the existing licensing law, and not discuss a betting law which does not yet exist. I must take my example from what exists.
Is it suggested that if there are twenty-five dirty glasses on the premises and thirty people, one witness may have the great advantage of going into the witness box and saying, "I was painting the roof. I had a step ladder and some planks and scaffolding there"? He will not have them. All he will have is no empty glass, or he may have been in a lonely part of the room. All that he would have in those circumstances would be the chance of going into the witness box and saying, "I was one of the people who were not drinking." If he does that, his example may be emulated by one or two who were drinking. Here there is no security of any kind.
In this Clause we are saying that if people are on premises which are raided and where betting transactions are taking place, they are liable to be convicted unless by chance they have some quite exceptional evidence not normally open to any persons found on premises in such circumstances. It may be that they have a little coterie of friends who do not bet but who happen to be present, but it would be no use such a person saying he was a Member of Parliament who went into the premises to see how the betting legislation was working. The court would say, "Nonsense" and "Really?" It would be no use a person saying, "I am the local clergyman and I looked in because I rather resent this type of thing." This provision means introducing a law which says a conviction will follow proof of presence unless a person can give in his defence exceptional evidence which is not likely to exist.
§ Mr. McAdden
During the Committee discussions I contested the proposals advanced by the Government on this issue of the onus of proof and I think it only fair that I should say to my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Undersecretary that the onus of proof that he has carried out his obligation to have a look at this matter is, presumably, justified by the form of words he has now found it possible to put forward. I will not pretend that this is entirely satisfactory or meets the points which I raised in Committee, but my hon. and learned Friend has carried the onus of proof that he tried to do his best, and in that sense I thank him for what he has done.
I think that it has been indicated tonight that if anyone wishes to bet illegally and to get away with it, the best place to do it is in a public house. I hope that anyone who wishes to take part in an illegal betting transaction will take the advice of my hon. and learned Friend and confine his activities to public house premises, where he will be able to prove that he had an acceptable reason for going to the premises.
§ Mr. Paget
This Amendment will cause a great deal of trouble. It seems to me that either the subsection means everything, or nothing. No one goes anywhere for a single purpose. We go to any place either to sit down, stand up or to breathe, or to have a drink as well as having a bet, or to take part in gambling. There is always some purpose for going to a place—if we take a wide enough definition of "purpose"—other than betting.
On the other hand, if we take a narrow definition of "purpose"—and my view, for what it is worth, is that that is how it will be construed by the courts—it would apply only to the sort of example of the electrician, given by the Minister. If there is gambling in a public house, everyone who was doing the usual thing in a public house, having a drink, would be entitled to an acquittal. So, if a man is found at a private gambling party, he can say that he was there to have supper and to have a drink provided by the manager. Thereupon the burden of proof is upon the prosecution and it would be extraordinarily difficult to show that a person was actually gambling. There will always be a secondary and bona fide reason, whether it be a drink, a 1361 supper, or any of the other amenities there, that can be proved. On the other hand, if we construe it too narrowly, as I believe that the courts, in practice, will construe it, it means nothing at all.
Take the case of the electrician, the man who is arrested because there is gambling on the premises and who says, "I am not a gambler. I am a workman. I am employed by a firm of electricians. I am here in my working clothes to mend the electric light." He has performed the burden which is required by subsection (4). He has proved his innocence. If we construe this narrowly, then this sort of bona fide purpose which has to be proved is a purpose which would bring about acquittal under the Clause as it is.
On the other hand, if we give it its wider form, that the people in the "pub" are also there for a drink and the people at a gambling party axe also there for some supper, the subsection ceases to have a meaning.
Frankly, I am in favour of subsection (4) in its present form. That is a form which is well understood by the courts and which will not lead to the amount of litigation which this new form of words, which has been dreamed up, will, I think, certainly bring about. I believe in subsection (4) because, generally speaking— and here I differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale)—our criminal law provides much too much formal defence for the accused. The conditions imposed on the police are too hard and to get over those difficulties as to formal matters the police, not occasionally, but continually, as a matter of practice, go into court and tell a pack of lies. All who practise in the courts know that.
If, in fact, we put the burden of the prosecution on the police in these gambling cases, we would find that they have either seen each person whom they have arrested handling the money, or that these people had made a convenient admission when they got to the police station, and there would be some very indignant people. That is how the police, in practice, get over the difficulty of the unfair burden which is being imposed upon them.
1362 I believe that it is far better to impose the burden of proof on the person who knows best, that is, the man who is gambling. He has an explanation that he was there for an innocent purpose. Otherwise, the evidence will be invented. I believe that that is wrong. A great deal of the reason for the complaints we hear about the unreliability of police evidence —motorists come across it all the time— is that the burden of proof upon the police is an unfair one and they correct it by giving evidence as to matters which are not really in dispute and which are very difficult to prove. I should like to see this subsection left as it is.
§ Mr. Ede
This subsection has given me a great deal of difficulty. I approach it with the knowledge that I had to deal with similar Clauses when I was Secretary of State. In Committee, I defended the Clause as drafted because of that experience. I now try to read it as I would if I were still a justice of the peace sitting on the bench. The subsection, as amended, will say:For the purposes of the last foregoing subsection proof that any person was on any premises while they were being used as mentioned in that subsection shall be evidence that he resorted to the premises for such a purpose as is so mentioned unless he proves that he was on the premises for bona fide, purposes which were not connected with the effecting of a betting transaction.I think that we may very well go astray, if we still talk about this on the analogy of drinking after hours.
A man is charged with being on betting premises. Betting premises are very different from a room in a public house. They will be so arranged as if one were not going there to bet. Unless a man has some workman's job, such has been supposed, it is difficult to see why he should go there at all. Of course, he may be the husband of the cleaner who is cleaning the premises after they have been closed for the day, but there is hardly likely to be any illegal betting going on at that time.
On the assumption that there is, does the fact that a person goes there for a bona fide purpose—to collect his wife instead of his winnings, which he might very often regard as being two quite separate things—mean that he then has a bet as well? It seems to me that the exact wording of the subsection might lead to very serious arguments in the 1363 magistrates' room when the justices are considering what they are going to decide on the case, if someone suggests, "He had a bona fide purpose for going there and that lets him out".
I think that it would be much easier to prove betting having been done by the individual, because presumably when a bet is made a record of it, in some form or other, will in most circumstances be made. Therefore, it may be assumed that if a person is being charged with being there unlawfully for the purpose of making a bet, the police will probably be able to prove from the documents they seized in the course of the raid that he had in fact made a bet. If he had not made a bet there would be no record. I imagine that a few seconds after the bet had been made, it would have been registered.
It appears that if a person has got on to the premises during unpermitted hours for a bona fide purpose not connected with betting he has to produce some evdience to the justices to show that he was there for a bona fide purpose and had not gone there for the purpose of effecting a bet.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Renton
We are discussing a fairly narrow point on this Amendment, not whether or not the onus of proof should be shifted. That has already been written into the Bill in subsections (4) and (6). We are discussing whether, when it is shifted, it should be shifted in the stringent way as put forward in the Bill as drafted, or in the less stringent way as would result from the Amendment I have moved.
It seems to me that the Amendment should be a lesson to anyone who ever tries to pilot a Bill through the House, because of the danger of trying to please everybody. Although we have reached a compromise I like to think that it is a workable compromise and, in answer to the points which have been raised, I shall try to show why I think it is a workable compromise. When the police raid premises where illegal betting is going on there will be two types of potential offender, those who are caught red-handed and those who are not caught red-handed, but who most probably have been engaging in illegal betting.
1364 In regard to those caught red-handed, there is no trouble at all. The police will bring them into court and the onus of proof is against them. There is no need for us to talk about the onus of proof being shifted, for the onus remains on the prosecution throughout and there is no need to have it in any other way.
The difficulty arises in regard to those not caught red-handed who ought not to get off scot-free. It would be quite wrong for us to legislate in such a way that only those caught red-handed were punished and only those equally guilty but not caught red-handed got off scot-free. In trying to provide that those who were not caught red-handed should be dealt with, we were in a dilemma, because we did not want to place too great a burden on them to discharge, but the proof should be shifted to them because they might have been on the premises illegally.
We have said that when there is a good reason for being on the premises, and persons can show that there was a good reason for being there, the burden of proof shifts back to the prosecution, who must then try to show, either from circumstantial evidence or such direct evidence as they have in their possession, that although those persons were there for a bona fide purpose nevertheless they engaged in illegal betting as well. I hope that answers the question posed by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) when he asked: does the fact Chat a person is there for a bona fide purpose, but behaves illegally, entitle him to be acquitted? The answer is, of course it does not, but the burden is passed back to the prosecution to prove that the person had engaged in the illegal transaction.
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. and learned Gentleman perhaps gets out of the difficulty by the use of the two words "of course" which assumes that what he is going to say must be right. I want to find what there is in the Clause which says, "If he went there for a bona fide purpose and, also, while there, acted illegally, he should be convicted by the justices before whom he is brought."
§ Mr. Renton
As so often happens, it is a question of interpreting the exact words we have used. If the right hon. Gentleman will study subsection (4) 1365 having written in, as I have done, the Amendment that I have proposed coupled with the earlier Amendments dealing with another point written in by my right hon. Friend, I think he will agree that the words in the last three lines, as amended, deal with his point. Those words are:unless he proves that he was on the premises for bona fide purposes which were not connected with the effecting of a betting transaction.Those words have to be read in the light of what went before. As I understand their effect, it is as I stated—that it is up to him to show that he was there for bona fide purposes notconnected with the effecting of a betting transaction.But that does not end the matter, because it does not say previously that he shall be either convicted or acquitted on those grounds. It says that it shall be evidence. We are not dealing with the final question of guilt or innocence but with evidence which can go towards proving either guilt or innocence. I hope that that explanation answers the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Renton
I should like to consider that suggestion. There is no Amendment before the House to that effect, but I will consider it, and if we find that a small adjustment is necessary we can make it at a later stage. I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman.
I am grateful to the appreciation expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden). Unfortunately, he has not remained in the Chamber to hear me say that. He raised a point of substance to which I should reply. He said that it would make illegal betting very easy in public houses, but that is not so, and it is right that I should make it clear that my hon. Friend is not correct when he says that it is so. As I have already explained, in nearly every case there will be the people who are caught red-handed. In addition, there will be those people who were nearby when the illegal betting was taking place. They may well be run in and 1366 caught unless they can discharge the onus in this way.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) made a most interesting speech, which was very similar to that which I made in Committee when trying to justify the original wording of the Clause. I have managed to keep an open mind about this and, having consulted my right hon. Friend and taken advice, I have come to the conclusion that it is right to meet the representations which were made in Committee. In spite of what the hon. and learned Member says, I believe that the corn-promise which we have reached is workable.
I do not accept for one moment his broad and, I feel obliged to say, not highly responsible statement that the police are in the habit of telling a pack of lies to get a conviction when the onus of proof is too difficult for them to fulfil. I do not accept that for one moment. In any event, no such circumstance can arise here, because whichever view we take of these Amendments, the onus of proof will have been shifted away from the prosecution.
I am grateful to those hon. Members who have addressed the House on the matter. I hope that the House will now pass the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Niall Macpherson)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 35, to leave out "the purpose" and to insert "such a purpose as is".
This is a consequential Amendment.
§ Mr. Wigg
On a point of order. It is appropriate at this point to make a protest about the absence of the Secretary of State for Scotland. [HON. MEMBERS: "And others."] I am not responsible for the absence of my hon. Friends, although I regret that the House has not a larger attendance on both sides. The Home Secretary has done us the honour of appearing today and giving us the benefit of his views, and in view of the obvious maladministration of the law in Scotland—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The hon. Member is going much too far. He has voiced his protest, and that is all he can do on this small Amendment.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am obliged for the opportunity of voicing my protest, but I have not yet finished voicing it. I will be very brief. In Committee, on occasion after occasion, the administration of the law in Scotland in connection with betting and gaming was called into question. We have the utmost sympathy with the Joint Under-Secretary of State in the difficult position in which he finds himself, but one would have thought that as the Home Secretary had come along we might at least have had the assurance that the Secretary of State for Scotland has read the proceedings in the Standing Committee, or that he would have had the good taste to come along and face the music at some stage of our proceedings. I quite agree that I should be out of order in pursuing the matter, and, having made my protest, I resume my seat.
§ Mr. N. Macpherson
Whatever may be thought about the necessity for the presence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, surely it would not be necessary for him to be present to move this Amendment. In point of fact, I do not think that any occasion has arisen so far when had he been here he would have had occasion to speak. I take note of what the hon. Gentleman says, and I shall inform my right hon. Friend, but I hope the hon. Gentleman realises that the duties which my right hon. Friend has to perform are very many and various. I am quite certain that if possible, he will be present on the next occasion when we debate this matter.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I must remind the hon. Gentleman that we are not in Committee, and that the hon. Member is not allowed to make more than one speech.
§ Mr. Wigg
I was not making a speech, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The Joint Undersecretary was kind enough to give way, and all I wanted to do was to thank him and say that I was very well aware of the onerous duties which the Secretary of State for Scotland has to fulfil, but that I wanted to point out that the most important duty of all was attendance in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Mellish
I do not necessarily agree with the Minister that this Amendment is so unimportant that the Secretary of State need not be here to move it. This is a matter of degree. The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is valid. As he knows, we bitterly complained during the Committee stage about the absence of the Home Secretary. Indeed, we had a whole meeting in which we discussed his absence from the Committee proceedings. We did not talk about the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I admit that it was an omission on our part, because—[An HON. MEMBER: "We did not know where he was."] It is fair to say that on this occasion, on Report, we might have had the Secretary of State for Scotland here.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that we are dealing now not with the whole Report stage, but purely with the Amendment before the House. He is going far beyond that.
§ Mr. Mellish
I am only following on the point made by the Joint Undersecretary that it did not need the Secretary of State to intervene to move these consequential Amendments that we are now discussing. I hope that I am completely in order in making the point that, in my view, we should have had the Secretary of State for Scotland here for this Amendment, because by this gesture it would show the House, on Report, that the Secretary of State regards the Bill as somewhat important.
I conclude by saying that one of the things which came out of the Committee stage, and which you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will be intrigued to hear, was the fact that in Scotland the most appalling state of affairs was disclosed about illegal betting. Therefore, we thought that the Secretary of State for Scotland would have come along.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I have asked the hon. Member to remember that this is quite a narrow Amendment, and that he is not entitled to discuss these general matters on this narrow Amendment.
§ Mr. Mellish
I accept your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and will not pursue the matter any further. I have backed up the protest of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, and I hope that the 1369 Joint Under-Secretary will convey to the Secretary of State for Scotland that, as humble Englishmen, we should like to see him now and again.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 35, leave out from "was" to "connected" in line 36 and insert:
on the premises for bona fide purposes which were not".—[Mr. N. Macpherson.]