HC Deb 04 April 1963 vol 675 cc620-1
26. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many betting shops have been opened in England and Wales since they became legally permissible; what information he has in respect of the increase in betting because of those facilities; and what recent representations he has received in respect of keeping the number of betting shops within reasonable limits.

Mr. Woodhouse

The number of betting office licences in force in England and Wales on 1st June, 1962, was 11,558. My right hon. Friend has no means of assessing the volume of betting either before or after betting offices were lawfully established, Apart from Questions by hon. Members and the Motion which stands on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) and others, my right hon. Friend has received representations in favour of amending legislation to provide additional control over the number of betting offices from one association of local authorities and in a few letters from members of the public.

Mr. Sorensen

May I ask whether the hon. Gentleman has not received communications from public bodies interested in the ethical side of betting? In view of the fact that there has been a considerable increase in the number of betting shops, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that whatever may be said on the ground of the public desire or need for the lesser of two evils, to increase the number of betting shops is likely to increase betting as a whole to the detriment of the nation? Cannot the hon. Gentleman therefore inquire more fully into the whole matter?

Mr. Woodhouse

It is true that apart from the representations to which I referred in the original Answer we have had some letters from members of the public protesting against gambling generally rather than specifically referring to betting shops. The number of betting shops in existence does not exceed and is in fact a bit below the figure which was expected at the time when the Act was passed. That expectation was based on experience gained elsewhere, particularly in the Irish Republic, from the practice of betting shops.

As for looking at the legislation again, it has been in force for less than two years and my right hon. Friend has already indicated in Answers on earlier occasions that he regards it as premature to re-examine the whole Act.

Mr. A. Lewis

In his original Answer the hon. Gentleman quoted the figure for June of last year. Why cannot he give a later figure? Is he not aware that since June of last year there has been a spate in the setting up of these shops? Can he not show the figure at least to the end of last year?

Mr. Woodhouse

I am sorry that I cannot give a more recent figure because returns under the Act are due only after 1st June each year. The current figure will not be available until the summer. While it is true that new shops have been opened since June last year, it is also true that there have been closures.