HC Deb 05 May 1960 vol 622 cc1377-91
Sir James Duncan (South Angus)

I beg to move, in page 5, line 25, at the end, to insert: (5) If, save in a licensed betting office or in such manner as may be prescribed on premises giving access to such an office, any advertisement is published—

  1. (a) indicating that any particular premises are a licensed betting office; or
  2. (b) indicating where any such office may be found; or
  3. (c) drawing attention to the availability of, or to the facilities afforded to persons resorting to, such offices,
then, in the case of an advertisement in connection with the office or offices of a particular licensee that licensee, and in every case any person who published the advertisement or caused or permitted it to be published, shall be guilty of an offence: Provided that it shall be a defence for any person charged with an offence under this subsection to prove—
  1. (i) that he did not know and had no reasonable cause to suspect that the advertisement was, and that he had taken all reasonable steps to ascertain that it was not such an advertisement as aforesaid; or
  2. (ii) if he is charged by reason only of being a licensee, that the advertisement was published without his consent or connivance and that he exercised all due diligence to prevent the publishing of any such advertisement in connection with his office or offices.
Those of us who served on the Standing Committee will remember that at its nineteenth sitting we had a long discussion on whether the Bill should contain any provision for the control of advertising for the business of bookmakers. There were two Amendments. One was in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), who wanted to control the advertising in connection with licensed betting offices. There was another Amendment, which went wider, in the names of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Hobson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes).

After a long discussion, my right hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary undertook to consider in what form any kind of prohibition of advertising should be imposed at a later stage of the Bill. I have always been in favour of control of advertising this sort of business, but up to now, in dealing with credit betting, I do not see that any evil effect has arisen as a result of the limited amount of advertising which credit bookmakers do in the sporting papers, by sending calendars, and in other ways.

Now, however, we are entering a new phase, in which the street bookmaker is becoming legal in the sense that he will now go into an office. He will possibly be opening, as the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) says, a wide new extension of betting. I do not want to encourage the extension of betting if betting offices are set up. I want to see the least amount of advertising possible in this new system.

All I should like to see is, on the door of the office or round it, the name of the man, the words "bookmaker" or "turf accountant", the hours of opening, and very little else. That is the purpose of this Amendment. I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept it. The Council of the Churches has sent us a further memorandum since we considered the Bill in Committee. It says: We strongly support the forbidding of advertising betting offices, and consider that a much wider restriction of the advertising of gambling is both practicable and desirable. I have not gone quite as far as that, but this Amendment is an attempt to meet the point of those who have a real objection to betting. We should remember them. There are people like that, and they do not want glaring advertisements which will, possibly, attract people into these betting offices more than is necessary.

In addition, there is something to be said for restricting advertising on the ground that we should not make it easier for young people to be attracted to these betting offices. There is, of course, a prohibition on betting by young people, but we should not encourage them, by glaring advertisements and neon signs, possibly to go into a shop and attempt to have a bet when they are below the legal age.

For these reasons it would be worth while making this Amendment as the maximum which we could accept. Its wording is somewhat inverted, but I drafted it in that way on advice. I understand that it is intended that, if the law is amended in this way, the amount of advertising allowed in the betting office will be governed by regulation. This has to be put in an inverted way but I believe that it would work, and that it would be enforceable.

Mr. Paget

This seems to me to be a somewhat irrational and muddled premise. I think that all gambling is a sterile occupation, but it is something which we should not allow to be promoted artificially and I would therefore ban all advertising. The Government are far too frightened of the Press to do that. That would get them wrong with the Press Lords, so we can take that as out.

9.15 p.m.

If we are not to ban all advertising, it is somewhat comic to have the situation now proposed. The Press is to be kept out of it. We can advertise as much as we like and as widely as we like, certainly in all the newspapers and possibly on television, that "Duggie never owes"; but what Duggie must not say is where he never owes. "Duggie never owes", but he must not say that he never owes at 15, Balham High Street, or whatever it is. That is absurd.

Again, the Amendment says: drawing attention to the availability of, or to the facilities afforded to persons resorting to, such offices". If one resorts to Douglas Stuart's office, is the fact that "Duggie never owes" a facility afforded at that office? I do not know. Is it banned by the Amendment, or is it not? Are not the statements of the odds, and paying places on one, two and three when there are 16 starters, and on the first four if there are 22 starters, a facility? If it is a facility, does it come within the ban on advertising? It is difficult to see what a bookmaker can advertise if it is not to convey that he will accept bets. Accepting bets is a facility afforded at his office.

This sort of compromise always results in a muddle. If the Government had the courage to stand up to the Press and to risk its criticism, and were to say that, if not morally wrong, betting is none the less socially sterile and the sort of thing which involves money which could be better used elsewhere, this sort of difficulty would not arise.

However, by this very Bill, by the betting office system, we are probably promoting a larger and even more sterile investment than Blue Streak. Let us face that. If we are to allow advertising, why ban this sort of thing? It is an illogical muddle. It will get us nowhere.

Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)

I am very pleased to see the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) back in his place. I am sure that we were extremely sorry that he was not able to take part in the Committee discussions on this aspect of the Bill. I shall not allow myself to be led away by the wiles of his arguments, because I have been enmeshed by them once before. I shall seek to place before the House cogent reasons, which, I think, will find acceptance with my right hon. Friend, for this limited approach to the control of advertising.

I have the honour to support my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) in what he has said about the Amendment. I acknowledge that this is a limited approach, but it became clear from our discussions in Committee that the Committee was not prepared to accept a ban on all advertising, as has been advocated by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton.

I stress the fact that the Council of Churches is in full support of the Amendment. Also, the Amendment follows the Clause which I had the honour to put forward in Committee, and further follows the Amendment suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden). In moving the new Clause in Committee, I said that the line of this Amendment follows closely the Northern Ireland Betting and Lotteries Act, 1957. Prior to the Committee stage of the Bill I took the opportunity of visiting Ireland and I found that these provisions were working extremely well there.

I am certain that there is general agreement in this House that there is no wish to encourage betting throughout this country as a result of this legislation. I am reinforced in that statement by the leading article in The Times yesterday entitled "Better Betting?", which said: The farthest the Government has gone is to promise to look into the possibility of prohibiting the advertisement of particular betting shops, a form of advertisement rendered unnecessary anyway by the ordinary observation of the citizen. That is a fair statement that it will not be necessary to advertise these betting shops, because, if I know punters aright, they will have no difficulty in finding where these facilities exist.

In Committee, my right hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State said: … the betting office will not need to advertise …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 22nd March, 1960, c. 971.] My right hon. Friend and The Times agree that the advertising of betting offices is unnecessary. The point I should like to make is that we are not taking away from anybody anything that they have hitherto enjoyed. Prior to this legislation betting offices have not been in existence in this country. Therefore, these licensees will not be losing any business to their competitors by reason of not being able to advertise, because they will all be in the same position. Neither is the status quo with regard to advertising to be affected. I do not accept that there is pressure from the Press in this respect. The Press might be in favour of the Amendment not being accepted, but I do not think that it would be seemly to have advertisements for local betting offices in the local papers. Who would gain by that being done? The short answer is, nobody.

The Times mentioned one other very important feature, high-pressure advertising. It might well be that if betting office chains were introduced into the country those chains might find it extremely profitable to advertise their betting offices because they would have to take only one section of advertising space in a newspaper and advertise a series of offices. Therefore, I believe that unless the Amendment is accepted it will be an encouragement to the betting chains to set up and advertise a series of offices.

I think that it is perfectly clear that not only will betting on horse racing be effected through the betting offices, but that all kinds of betting will be effected. No one can say what facilities will be offered, or what amount of betting will be encouraged through these offices. Therefore, if we make a general prohibition on advertising of betting in these offices we will cover all possible forms of betting advertisements which may be placed in the newspapers, and any other form of advertisement by the licensees of these betting offices.

I have asked myself whether this advertising will be of any benefit to the people of our country. My answer is that quite definitely it can be of no positive advantage. For that reason, I advocate this prohibition on the advertisement of facilities in betting offices. I listened to the earlier debate about street bookmakers, when it was generally agreed that punters had no difficulty in finding them. Those bookmakers have never advertised, and there is, therefore, a strong case for the prohibition of advertising of betting offices. I am sure that the ingenious punter will find them whether or not they are advertised, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept the Amendment.

Mr. William Blyton (Houghton-le-Spring)

This is the first time I have spoken today. I rise only because of the arguments put forward by the hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) certainly put a case against having any betting shops at all. If betting shops are to be made legal, I cannot see any objection to the persons running them advertising that they have no limit, or that they have a limit, or that they give better place betting than others.

The hon. Member referred to the views of the Council of Churches. If that argument is carried to its logical conclusion, I would point out that that Council is against people having a glass of beer, but every time one goes to a public house one sees outside an advertisement saying, "Drink Newcastle Brown Ale", or an advertisement stating that 5 million glasses of Guinness are drunk every day. If the brewers are entitled to advertise their beer, why should not the bookmaker have the same facility and be entitled to advertise his business, when it is legalised by the Bill?

What about the so-called freedom of the people? When we were discussing the Television Bill hon. Members opposite said that Independent Television should be able to advertise any article so that the people could buy it. I like to bet, and if I can read in the newspapers that I will get the best odds at a certain place in London I will place my bets there. If betting shops are legalised, I can see nothing wrong with advertising them; a man is entitled to advertise his business if he wants to extend it.

I would prefer to see the existing situation legalised. Then there would be no anomalies. But, if betting shops are to be legal, I do not see how we can tell the brewers that they are free to advertise their beers but that bookmakers should not advertise the odds they are prepared to give. The argument put forward by hon. Members opposite is sheer humbug.

Mr. Costain

I attended all the meetings in Committee, and I have attended practically all this debate, but this is the first time I have heard a Member arguing for an increase in gambling, even to prove a political point. The object of the Bill is to legalise gambling, but not to encourage it, and I am rather worried about the wording of paragraph (c) of the Amendment, which refers to drawing attention to the availability of, or to the facilities afforded to persons resorting to, such offices. The one thing that attracts people's attention is to suggest that other people have won large prizes, especially on the pools. As the Amendment is drawn, it might be legal for the owner of a betting shop to have a large notice placed on the back wall of his shop, visible through the front window, stating that Mr. Smith of such-and-such a road won a 40–1 double the week before. I wonder whether the Amendment would allow that. That would be an ingenious and effective form of advertising, and it is the kind of advertising that we want to stop.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Fletcher

May I begin by observing how refreshing it was to hear the contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton), who threw a new light upon the problem. He pointed out, with perfect truth, that there was no logic in some of the speeches made by hon. Members opposite, or in this Amendment. I may say to my hon. Friend that if he had been more familiar with the debates which took place during the Committee stage he would have realised that no one has ever pretended that there was any logic in the Bill. Almost throughout the whole of the proceedings on the Bill it has been recognised that logic is the last thing one looks for in it.

The Bill is full of anomalies and inconsistencies, as has been admitted and there is a complete absence of logic. One after another, hon. Member's have pointed out that by the Bill the Government are trying to do something which, logically, is impossible; but they are trying to make the best of a bad job, realising that there is no ideal solution, and they are trying to avoid as many inconsistencies as possible. As a matter of logic, if the Home Secretary says to the House, "We want to legalise betting shops", one assumes that there is nothing wrong with betting shops and, therefore, one assumes that they should be free to advertise. But, as the Home Secretary made clear during the Second Reading debate, although he wants to legalise betting shops he also wants to make them places which are as unpleasant and as uncomfortable as possible.

The right hon. Gentleman does not want to see any comfortable chairs in these betting shops, or any facilities provided for watching television. He wants the shops to exist, but to be as plain and drab and inconspicuous as possible. The object of the Bill is to provide facilities for cash betting in a shop, but it has always been recognised that, combined with the desire to provide facilities which experience shows the public will take illegally if they are not provided legally, the other object is to try to prevent any increase in the total volume of betting.

That is not because betting is sinful or criminal, but because, as was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), it is a sterile occupation and not a particularly edifying way in which to spend one's time. Therefore, consistent with providing the minimum facilities we must legislate in such a way as not to stimulate a tremendous increase in the volume of betting.

For that reason, I support the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), although I do not think that it goes far enough. I agree with what he said. In its leading article yesterday The Times drew attention to this. I do not, therefore, think it fair for my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton to say that the Government are afraid of the Press not dealing as fully as it might with this important aspect of preventing advertising. The Times drew attention to the fact that the advertising of betting offices was perhaps one of the subjects which the Standing Committee had not examined as fully as it might during its discussions.

The Times said: It now falls to the House to repair the omission, with an eye to the proportions which belting advertising might assume in the future if left entirely without restriction. It draws attention to the danger that, if nothing in the Bill is done to check it, there is a serious danger that the betting habit may be stimulated by high-pressure advertising after the manner of the football pools. That is something we wish to avoid.

Mr. Paget

This Amendment does not avoid it.

Mr. Fletcher

I said that I am not sure that this Amendment does avoid it. I think it is designed to achieve part of that object. I hope that the Government will accept it and will also share my view that it does not go far enough. If the original object of the Home Secretary, revealed in his Second Reading speech, is to be fulfilled it will be necessary for the Government to do something further to ensure that the Bill does not, through the medium of advertising, lead to a wholesale increase in the volume of betting.

Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)

I may be completely wrong about this Amendment, because I was not present during the Committee stage of the Bill. I thought that the Bill was designed to bring about some parity between the man who could take up the telephone and bet on credit and the man who wanted to place his bet in some other way.

By this Amendment there would be nothing to prevent a credit bookmaker, who did not want to obtain a licence, carrying out all the advertising that he does at present—giving all the prices, stating that he is prepared to give one-third of the odds for a place, and so on. Yet his counterpart, running the same sort of business but for a different type of person, would be precluded completely from advertising because there would always be the possibility that he might be caught under the provisions of this Amendment.

I believe that if the principle of the Amendment were accepted it would have to apply to all forms of betting. Otherwise, we shall never achieve a position in which men such as I, and probably a number of other hon. Members, who want to put a bet on in cash are in a reasonably equal position with a person who has a credit account with a bookmaker. Even if the Amendment were accepted, the bookmakers would be able to carry on substantial advertising and it would make no difference to the present position.

Mr. Wigg

The hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) touched on a point which I was going to make. I want particularly to address my remarks to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher). He complained of the lack of logic in the Bill. It does not make him more logical because he substitutes for a lack of logic a severe injection of humbug, because that is what it is. It all came out in one word.

My hon. Friend does not happen to regard—and here he is on common ground with hon. Members opposite— the operation of having a bet as edifying. What has that to do with it? I think that writing bad books about philosophy is not very edifying. I think that my hon. Friend would gain a great deal in logic and get rid of some of the humbug if he had a bet, because he would then be brought up against the logic of his own action. What he does is to hive-off any metaphysical arguments and does not even begin to find out what is the situation.

The hon. Member for Totnes put his finger right on it. The man who has credit, or wants a credit account, can get all the information he needs not only from Sporting Life, but almost every daily paper. But these gentlemen who pride themselves on their high moral standards say that it is wicked to advertise a betting office or where it is likely to be found—and this, presumably, because they are not only superior moral beings but superior logicians. I do not get this at all.

If the Government are to introduce betting shops and make them legal, why should the public not be made aware of where the betting shop is? If the hon. Member for Islington, East wants to stop—and I am with him here—the growth of the monopoly bookmaker and his use of television, let him put down an Amendment and I will support him, but do not let him have a foot in one camp and a foot in another and then pretend that he is a superior being because he is trying to straddle the universe.

My hon. Friend is suffering from physical and mental schizophrenia and that does not pay any tribute either to his logic or his morality. He should come down on one side or the other I hope very much, not in the name of logic or morality, but in the name of that very rare quality, common sense, that the Government, without more ado, will reject this Amendment for the sloppy half-baked tendentious humbug that it is.

Mr. Mellish

The main argument of the Bill has been lost, because the street bookmaker has been wiped out. With all the heaviest penalties which can be devised, he will be punished as the most evil criminal. Instead, we are to have the betting shop. I could not agree more with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). Now that we have destroyed this little "bloke" in the street, this evil character, and cleaned our streets, we are to allow betting shops to take his place. But what kind of betting shops are they to be?

I wonder that the Government did not decide that the betting shop should be painted dark grey, so that it would be like a morgue. They have tried to ensure that there shall be no facilities for sound or television broadcasting in them. We know how that will be overcome by the man who can afford it. He will buy the shop next door and use it as a refreshment room where his clients can have a cup of tea and then come from next door to place their bets.

I believe that nothing is too good for the workers. If we are to have betting shops, let us have the best, let us have the most comfortable chairs, with television and all laid on, and go in for it in a big way, with no more of this humbug. Let us have no more of the idea that if the places are made uncomfortable fewer people will go into them to bet. That is the wrong way to teach the workers that betting is a bad thing. I believe in gaiety about this. I have never believed in churches which are devoid of everything. I like everything to be lively. Let these places be lively. If there is advertising, it cannot be worse than the stupid advertisements we see now. On the matter of the stupid strictures in The Times, what it is mad about is that it does not get any advertisements. That is one reason why it is kicking up a fuss.

We want good, well-designed, clean buildings, where ordinary folk can go and have a bet. To poke around like this and tell people how to do it makes me sick. I see no party political argument in this. Some people can go to the finest clubs in the West End where they have a ticker-tape going and they can sit with a fat cigar and have their drinks. The best of luck to them; I am only sorry I cannot afford it. That is all legal, but the moment it comes to doing it in a betting shop people go into the horror of it. Let us have good betting shops. I am the rogue elephant on this issue; in my opinion, only the best is good enough for the workers. Let us have the finest betting shops possible.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Ede

My hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) has reduced this debate to its proper perspective, and, in company with the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby), has established the undeniable fact about the Bill that it increases the class distinction which was all too evident already in the gambling facilities of this country.

In my view, in politics and in religion the real difference is between the liberal and the illiberal, and not, as some people think, between the liberal and the conservative. It is important, above all, that the Secretary of State for the Home Department should have a liberal outlook on these social questions which have been brought so prominently before the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey.

Now that this subject is being cleared up, I regret that there should still be the distinction between the person whose financial position enables him to bet by credit and the humbler people who in future, if they want to bet, will have to do it through the betting shops. If the person who wants to bet by credit can peruse the advertisements to see the place in which he can do it, why should not the person who wishes to place his bet and does not know quite where the betting shops are, and what their transactions are, have the same facilities?

A Home Secretary who preceded me was always in favour of things being orderly and tidy. The present Home Secretary thinks that the street is not the right place in which to bet. He says, "Let us have orderly streets. Let us have tidy streets. If a person is so situated that he can neither bet by credit nor get to the betting shop, he ought to be punished for being so poor that he cannot do either."

Mr. Vosper

I join my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. Temple) in welcoming the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) back to our debates. This is the first opportunity I have had of welcoming him. We missed his interventions in the later stages in Committee.

I should like to welcome to the debate, too, the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) and thank him for his refreshing intervention. I also welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby). It has been disappointing in debates on Report so far that the only hon. Members to speak have been those who took part in Committee. On this Amendment it was desirable that we should have a further expression of opinion. I wonder whether we have made much progress in the debate.

The history of this issue is that the first Royal Commission recommended a complete prohibition on all advertising in respect of betting. The most recent Royal Commission took exactly the opposite view and said that there should be no prohibition either in respect of credit betting or in respect of licenced betting offices. When the point was discussed in Committee, the Committee showed itself evenly divided among those who felt that no action should be taken at all, those who, like my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), thought that limited action should be taken, and those who felt that we should go the whole way and prohibit advertising. On that occasion, on the instigation of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), I promised to con- sult my right hon. Friend and decide whether the Government should take any further action. In view of the undecisive nature of that debate, we decided not to table an Amendment at this stage, but we welcomed the Amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus, which we thought would give a further expression of opinion on this evenly balanced subject.

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton advocated that we should go the whole way, as did the first Royal Commission, and he suggested that the Government were afraid to do this because of the Press. I would point out that one would be banning an existing practice of many years, and it is a little difficult to see how the credit bookmaker is to exist or to expand his business if he is not allowed to advertise. There is a practical difficulty, even if we are not extending the prohibition beyond this Measure to all advertising. I take the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes. The reason for resisting any attempt to go further is that it would then be very difficult for the credit bookmaker to carry on his business successfully.

One therefore comes back to the more Limited proposal—and it is a very limited proposal—in the Amendment, which seeks to prohibit advertising in respect of licensed betting offices. Those hon. Members who have been to Dublin know that advertising is carried there to an extreme beyond that which would be desirable in this country. I am by no means convinced that the same practice will apply in this country, even if this Amendment is not carried. The Northern Ireland Administration, in their Act, have a provision roughly similar to this, which I understand has been fairly effective.

The House has quite clearly shown that it is about evenly divided on this issue and by no means in support of the Amendment. I have consulted my right hon. Friend and we should like to consider once again the views expressed in the House and decide whether any action should be taken in another place. I do not think that there has been sufficient support to justify the House in accepting my hon. Friend's Amendment at this stage, but we will consider it further. It is for my hon. Friend to decide what he should do. He will have heard the doubts expressed about it and perhaps he feels disposed to withdraw his Amendment.

Sir J. Duncan

I have the right to reply but I will take only one minute. The hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) has gone. He blew in, and now he has blown out. I intended to read to him the first few words of the Royal Commission's Report: The law … is obscure, illogical and difficult to enforce. What we have been trying to do in this Amendment, and throughout the Bill, is to try to make it less obscure, less illogical and enforceable.

The object of the Amendment was to try to make the law both enforceable and as far as possible logical, bearing in mind what has been said in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) raised a point which had been raised in the Standing Committee. It was raised during the nineteenth Sitting of the Committee, and if he had read the Report, he would have seen that we opposed it at that point. I agree that it was also challenged by the right hon. Gentleman at that point. There are exceptional circumstances, and so I hope that my hon. Friend will have a look at the Report of the nineteenth Sitting of the Committee, because these are all very difficult matters, and there is a good deal to be said for taking some limited steps to control the amount of advertising in connection with betting offices. I am not talking about outside, but in connection with betting offices.

My right hon. Friend has undertaken to consider whether there should be further action taken in another place. The Times has been quoted, but I deliberately did not quote it, and I hope that will be borne in mind by the Government. I hope that if I withdraw the Amendment my right hon. Friend will consider taking action. I think that, although the circumstances are illogical —I do not pretend that we have worked entirely in the interests of logic in this case—this is the sort of British compromise which I think will work, and if it will work, I think it will be worth while. In the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.