§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Dr. Donald Johnson (Carlisle)
I beg to move, in page 2, to leave out lines 44 to 46.
I intervene in the Bill with a sense of diffidence. I am highly conscious of my own lack of expertise on the majority of subjects under discussion. I have felt very great envy at the depth of knowledge shown by several hon. Gentlemen to whom I have listened this evening, and I have gained very valuable instruction. I only regret that, being a book publisher, I have little need to satisfy my gambling propensities in other directions. Therefore, I shall be very unlikely to benefit from what I have heard.
I am, however, moved to put forward the Amendment by the sense of injustice which I feel on behalf of a large number of my constituents. Viewing the Bill, as I have done, rather from a distance, it has seemed to me that those hon. Members who have helped to construct it and have discussed it have had a fine old time with the types of gambling and betting which have engaged their interest. I have no objection to that, but I feel that I must raise an objection when I see them specifically excluding a popular way of carrying on betting in my constituency of Carlisle. That is the use of offices, which is in a way rather the equal and opposite of the street runners of the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish).
As we have heard, customs in the North vary from customs in the South. In Carlisle and in other northern towns pools agencies have been established in recent years in which people have laid small pool bets. They have been of great use and service to many people —old-age pensioners and others—who place bets of 2s., 1s. 6d., 1s. or even 6d. The bets have been collected and for- 1370 warded to the pools collectively, rather than being sent individually by postal orders.
These agencies have met a need, if this is considered to be a need. We would not be legislating for it if gambling were not considered to be a basic human need. The agencies have been a convenience to many people and have resulted in a considerable saving to those people who place very small bets. They are relieved of the absurdity of having to buy a twopenny postal order and a threepenny stamp—
The hon. Member for Carlisle (Dr. D. Johnson) is going further than he is entitled to on the Amendment. As I read it, it is merely to exempt certain people from getting a second permit.
§ Dr. Johnson
In view of my lack of expertise, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am open to correction, but, as I understood them, these lines forbid the setting up of offices for pool agencies.
§ Mr. Vosper
Perhaps I can help the House, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I understand the point that my hon. Friend wished to make—and has, in fact, made —but, with respect, you are quite right in saying that it is not relevant to the Amendment, which deals purely with premises for bookmakers or football pool promoters and not in any way with licensed offices.
§ Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)
Whilst I recognise that the Pool Betting Act, 1954, does not cover the type of transaction mentioned by the hon. Member for Carlisle (Dr. Johnson), I suffer from the same disability. As I explained in Committee—and we had a long debate—the pool coupons shops that exist all over Scotland are somewhat similar to the betting shops. By this Bill we are making betting shops legal, but we are making no effort to legalise the football pool coupons shop. It may be out of order at this juncture to discuss that, but the right hon. Gentleman has had some formidable representations made to him, and I should like to know whether he proposes, either here or in 1371 another place, to take the opportunity of rectifying that position—
§ Mr. Wigg
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Perhaps you might like to clear up the curious position that now exists. We have evidence that in Scotland—which is not a surprise—and in Carlisle, a pernicious and horrible practice is carried on in complete defiance of the law. Then my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Mc-Innes) and the hon. Member for Carlisle (Dr. Johnson) put on the Order Paper an Amendment that has not the faintest thing to do with the practices they seek to legalise. Then, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, they prostitute your indulgence by carrying on a discussion that is completely and utterly out of order.
Order. The hon. Member for Carlisle would be entitled to rise on a point of order, but he would not be entitled to make a second speech.
§ Dr. Johnson
On a point of order, then, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I say, quite briefly, that anything that happens in Carlisle is absolutely as nothing compared with what we have heard about Bermondsey this afternoon.
§ Mr. Mellish
I do not want to get involved in that. I have not been to Carlisle, but I do know that they have State pubs, and I can imagine no greater iniquity. I believe in nationalisation as a principle, but the hon. Member for Carlisle (Dr. Johnson) can keep his pubs —all I want is to keep my street bookmakers. This Amendment must be in order, otherwise it would not have passed the Table, which is most efficient in these matters.
The hon. Member for Carlisle, whose knowledge of racing, I understand, is very small, seems to think that one has to be a great bettor to know anything about street bookmakers, but the fact is that if one knows anything about them one does not bet at all. One does not have to gamble to know of them. I hardly ever have a bet at all—
§ Mr. Mellish
I am making some preliminary remarks.
If I understood the hon. Member for Carlisle correctly, he would like a bookmaker, having been given a permit to operate a betting shop under the Clause, to have it made legal for him to do the sort of pool bets which hitherto have been passed in an illegal way. That is a perfectly proper question to ask. I know the answer, but I think that the representative of the Home Office should say something about it.
§ Mr. Vosper
I feel that I should reply briefly to the Amendment on the Order Paper. Perhaps you will allow me to say, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Dr. Johnson) succeeded in making his point, that he felt that the collection of football coupons should be allowed in offices where it is at present prohibited not by this Bill but by the Pool Betting Act, 1954.
As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) said, representations have been made to my hon. Friend and to myself, but they were made only this week, far too late for consideration at this stage. They will, of course, be considered, but I should not like the House to think that I am particularly favourably disposed to them.
The simple point of the Amendment is that it would, if accepted, require football pool promoters to be registered under this Bill in addition to the 1954 Act. That would be a perfectly pointless operation and would duplicate machinery which is working perfectly well now. I am sure that my hon. Friend does not want that. I hope that he will not press the Amendment.
§ Mr. McInnes
The right hon. Gentleman confesses to having received these representations which he and the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland are considering. Do I take it that if they take a favourable view of the situation, they will take steps in another place to incorporate something appropriate in the Bill?
§ Mr. Vosper
I did make clear in an intervention on Second Reading that this practice was illegal. Five months have elapsed for the omission to be discovered.
§ Dr. Johnson
I thank my right hon. Friend for saying that he will consider these representations seriously, which, I admit at once, have been very late indeed in coming to him.
In view of what has been said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.